This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

Deep into night on Feb. 23, 1991, the U.S. military and its coalition partners launched the long-anticipated invasion of Iraq with a three-pronged attack that crippled Iraqi command and control, isolated and devastated enemy units, and resulted in one of the fastest land wars in military history as the U.S. secured victory in 100 hours.


But the three-pronged attack consisted of two real prongs — an infantry assault as well as the famous “left hook” of tanks cutting through the Kuwaiti and Iraqi deserts — and one ruse attack. The ruse was an amphibious assault of Marines hitting the beaches of Iraqi-occupied Kuwait and pushing west towards Baghdad.

 

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
The USS Wisconsin fires a Tomahawk cruise missile during Desert Storm. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

If the ruse was successful, the Iraqi units would continue to look east, orienting defenses and their attentions towards a fake amphibious assault as light infantrymen and paratroopers secured positions to their rear and one of history’s greatest armored thrusts smacked them right in the capital.

The Navy called on two of its greatest weapons to ensure that the Iraqis looked east, the USS Wisconsin and the USS Missouri, massive battleships taken out of retirement in the early 1980s by Ronald Reagan.

The two Iowa-class battleships bristled with guns and had already seen heavy fighting in the mine-laden waters off the coast of Iraq and Kuwait. They took part in the initial Tomahawk cruise missile attacks that January. They also provided naval artillery support to American and coalition troops on the ground by hurling shells of up to 2,700 pounds against Iraqi artillery and bunkers.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
The USS Missouri fires during Operation Desert Storm. (Photo: U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Dillon)

In the weeks leading up to the invasion, U.S. commanders kept everyone’s eyes on the big ships, calling in shots from the battleships throughout the fighting and getting the effects of those 16-inch guns onto the front pages of newspapers like The New York Times.

The NYT even reported on the likelihood that America would invade by sea, saying in the second paragraph of an article on February 4:

Powerful guns aboard the battleship Missouri lobbed 2,700-pound shells against Iraqi command bunkers near the Kuwaiti coastline, military command officials said, describing the shore bombardment as a further indication that an American-led amphibious assault on occupied Kuwait might be drawing near.

On Feb. 23, the battleships cleared their throats once again. A targeting drone from the Wisconsin was flying over the coast as the shells ripped into Iraqi positions once again, softening up the coast and sowing panic into the defenders.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
The Pioneer drone is moved on the USS Wisconsin during Desert Storm. The small aerial vehicle was used to observe naval artillery and its effects during the war. (Photo: U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate John Kristoffersen)

The bombardment was so effective that, when the drone flew back over the target, Iraqi troops attempted to surrender to it by waving small white flags.

But the U.S. wasn’t done.

Just a few hours later, the ground offensive began. The British Special Air Service was the first military unit to cross into Iraqi territory, but multiple troops poured over the border by the thousands throughout the morning.

Throughout the day on Feb. 24, coalition forces hit ground target after ground target and American tanks began tanking out bunkers in the armored thrust that would stun the world.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
USS Wisconsin fires her main battery during Desert Storm. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

But America still wanted Iraqi commanders too scared to pull their forces back from the coast to counter the growing threat of armor and infantry. And so the battleships were called up once again.

On Feb. 25, the Missouri once again fired into Iraqi-occupied Kuwait. And this time, the Marine Corps sent in 10 helicopters to simulate a landing force. The Iraqis launched anti-ship missiles at the Missouri, but a British ship shot down the only one that actually threatened the battleship. Coalition planes quickly found the launch site and destroyed the missiles based there.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
Abrams tanks and a Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle move out during Operation Desert Storm. (Photo: U.S. Navy D. W. Holmes II)

The Iraqis near the coast stayed put even as coalition armor was slamming into their best units. On Feb. 26, then-Cpt. H.R. McMaster fought the famous Battle of 73 Easting that saw one armored cavalry troop of Abrams and Bradleys wipe out 44 enemy tanks and armored vehicles with no losses.

A ceasefire was declared on Feb. 28, halting the fighting until Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein accepted the terms of the peace deal. The coalition forces lost 300 troops in the fighting, much fewer than they would have lost if the Iraqi forces had been able to concentrate on the real threat.

The Iraqi forces lost an estimated 8,000-10,000 killed.

MIGHTY HISTORY

8 things you didn’t know about the Battle at Teutoburg Forest

In the year 9 AD, the Roman Empire suffered a devastating military defeat. In the dark forests of Germania, three entire legions were wiped out in the span of a few days, by an enemy that the Empire didn’t even know existed. This battle changed the very course of Roman history. Here are 8 things you didn’t know about the Battle at Teutoburg Forest.

1. It was a revenge plot

Under Julius Caesar, the Roman Empire had conquered large swaths of Western Europe. One of the Empire’s frontiers was the Rhine River, east of which were the “barbarian” Germanic tribes. This arrangement, however, left the emperor Augustus unsatisfied. He sent his adoptive son Drusus to conquer the barbarian land that the Romans called Germania, and Drusus succeeded in subjugating Germanic tribes east of the Rhine. The Romans thought that these tribes were under their control, but only a few short years later, these tribes would strike back at the Empire in the Teutoburg Forest.

2. It was a betrayal

One of the Germanic tribes conquered by the Romans was the Cherusci, whose chief was forced to send his son Arminius to Rome as a hostage. Despite being a barbarian, Arminius was treated well; he acquired a military education and became a Roman citizen, even earning the command of his own forces. Many of these soldiers were Cherusci tribesmen like himself. Because he was a German, Arminius was stationed in Germania, where he could communicate with the Germanic tribes on Rome’s behalf. However, during those visits to the Germanic chiefs, Arminius was plotting with them to attack the Empire that had raised him.

3. It was a trap

In the autumn of 9 CE, Arminius reported to the Roman commander in Germania, Quinctilius Varus, that a rebellion had broken out in northwest Germania. Varus was persuaded to march his legions into unfamiliar Germania to crush the supposed rebels. Arminius was even given leave to rally support from the Roman-allied Germanic tribes. There was, however, no rebellion. In the previous months, Arminius had created an alliance of Germanic tribes and fabricated a rebellion to lure the Romans into unfamiliar territory and decimate them. 

4. The Romans were unprepared

Before 6 CE, the Romans had eleven legions in Germania. However, just a few years before the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, there was a revolt in the Balkans that forced the Empire to withdraw eight of those legions. This left only three for Varus, who on the way to the “rebellion” marched all of them through the Teutoburg Forest. The legions were formidable, but their fighting style was suited to wide, open plains, not the dark, claustrophobic German forest. On top of that, they were marching through torrential rainfall, on muddy and slick ground, and not in fighting formation. It was the perfect opportunity for an ambush.

5. The Germans used guerrilla tactics

During his time in Rome, Arminius studied Roman military strategies. He knew exactly how to hit the Romans where it hurt the most. The battle began shortly after the Romans entered the Teutoburg Forest, in a line of men that stretched for miles. Germanic warriors stood on high ground, hurling javelins down on the legions and sending out small bands of warriors to pick off isolated groups of soldiers. Many survived the barrage and were able to set up camp for the night, but spent the next day under continuous barrage of German attacks from the trees.

6. Arminius set a second trap

In order to escape, the Romans had to cross a small strip of land between the Kalkriese Hill and a large swamp. What they didn’t know was that the Germans had already constructed walls along this pass to attack the Romans from above. The Romans tried to storm these walls and failed miserably, and when the Germans came pouring down from these walls, military discipline collapsed. One commander deserted with his men, only for them to be caught and killed; Varus and his commanding officers committed suicide, the only honorable way out for a disgraced Roman commander; and the remaining legionaries were entirely slaughtered.

7. The emperor was personally devastated

By the end of the battle, between 15,000 and 20,000 Roman soldiers were dead. Three entire legions were wiped out. When he heard the news, the emperor Augustus was horrified. He was said to have beat his head against the walls, crying out “Quinctilius Varus, give me back my legions!” It was one of the greatest Roman military catastrophes of Augustus’ long rule.

8. It changed European history

The Germanic tribesmen under Arminius succeeded in sweeping their territory clean of Roman soldiers and outposts. The Rhine River became the boundary between the Roman Empire and the free Germanic tribes for hundreds of years. The Romans’ inability to conquer the Germans laid the foundations for the Western Empire’s fall, when Germanic tribes started carving their own kingdoms out of Roman territory. The Battle of Teutoburg Forest occurred nearly half a millennium before the Romans started to fall, but in an interesting way, the Western Empire’s collapse in 476 AD was sealed all the way back in 9 AD.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 absolute BAMFs who saved lives in Vietnam War

This article is sponsored by The Last Full Measure, now playing in theatres! Get your tickets here.

There are two primary ways to end up a hero on the battlefield: either slay the enemy in such stunning numbers that even Frank Miller starts to think the story sounds exaggerated, or else place your own body in harm’s way repeatedly so as to save the lives of friendly forces (bonus points for doing both).

These six men put themselves in mortal danger to rescue their peers.


This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

Airman 1st Class William Pitsenbarger poses with his M-16 in front of a rescue helicopter.

(National Museum of the U.S. Air Force)

1. Air Force pararescue joins the ground fight under mortar fire

On April 11, 1966, an Army company became separated and found itself under fierce fire. With mortars landing in their perimeter and machine gun fire racing in, the casualties started to mount. When Airman 1st Class William Pitsenbarger arrived for the wounded, it quickly became apparent that the infantry was losing the ability to defend itself and conduct medevac at the same time. So, he requested permission to join the ground fight.

In the jungle, he directed the evacuations under fire until it became too fierce for the helicopters to stay. Given a last chance to fly out, Pitsenbarger gave up his seat to a wounded man and stayed on the ground to serve as a medic. Overnight, he kept giving medical aid and resisting the enemy until he succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds.

In September, 1966, he posthumously became the first enlisted airman to receive the Air Force Cross. It was later upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

Now, his bravery and the struggle to have his valor honored at the highest level is set to hit the big screen. Check out the trailer below for The Last Full Measure, landing in theatres on January 24th.

The Last Full Measure Official Trailer | Roadside Attractions

www.youtube.com

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

Navy Lt. j.g. Clyde E. Lassen

(U.S. Navy)

2. Navy helicopter pilot turns his lights on in a firefight

When Navy Lt. j.g. Clyde E. Lassen went out on June 19, 1968, he must have known that it was a risky mission: pulling two downed aviators out of a night time firefight.

But when he arrived on site, it was worse than he expected. The downed pilots were repeatedly hampered by thick underbrush, and a firefight was already raging around them. He managed to land his helicopter the first time but the pilots couldn’t get to him. He came to a new spot under an illumination flare, but the flare burned out and Lassen struck a tree in the darkness.

He barely saved his own bird from crashing but, rather than heading home for fuel and repairs, he came back in under another flare. When that burned out, Lassen turned his own lights on, making him a beacon for enemy fire. Doing so let him land long enough to pick up the other pilots and skedaddle for home. He reached the ship with only five minutes of fuel left. He later received the Medal of Honor for his bravery.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

Army Maj. (Chaplain) Charles Liteky, far right of four men lined up, waits to receive his Medal of Honor from President Lyndon Johnson in 1968.

(White House Photograph Office)

3. Army chaplain goes full beast-mode and rescues infantry

Army Capt. Charles James Liteky was supposed to hang out in the back and administer to the spiritual needs of the infantry, but on Dec. 6, 1967, a large enemy force suddenly assaulted his battalion and one company was nearly overwhelmed — and so the chaplain ran into the machine gun fire to help.

First, Liteky found two wounded men and carried them to safety. Then he went back out and began giving aid to the wounded and last rites to the dying. When he found a wounded man too heavy to carry, he rolled onto his back with the man on his chest and inched his way through heavy fire to safety. He was credited with saving 20 men despite wounds to his own neck and foot. His Medal of Honor was approved the following year.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Allan J. Kellogg, Jr.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

4. Marine rallies his men under machine gun fire, then jumps on grenade

Gunnery Sgt. Allan Jay Kellogg Jr. was leading a platoon on a risky rescue operation on the night of March 11, 1970, when his company was assaulted by a large North Vietnamese force. As the firefight intensified, one enemy soldier slowly crept to the platoon and managed to get a hand grenade into its midst.

That grenade glanced off the chest of Kellogg. He recognized what it was and had the chance to dive away, but he instead dove onto the explosive and hoped that his body and the Vietnamese mud would save his platoon. It worked, but the weapon inflicted severe injuries upon Kellogg.

He survived and would later receive the Medal of Honor for his action.

5. Navy SEAL leads small team to rescue downed pilots after other attempts fail

In early 1972, a pilot was downed behind enemy lines, triggering a race between the U.S. and North Vietnam to reach him. American attempts from the air were a catastrophic failure. In one week, 14 Americans were killed, seven more aircraft were lost, two were captured, and another aviator was stuck behind enemy lines.

So, U.S. Navy SEAL Lt. j.g. Tom Norris put together a gutsy ground extraction with his Vietnamese Sea Commando counterparts. They rescued the first isolated pilot on April 11, the first day of the SEAL extraction plan — but the other pilot they were trying to rescue couldn’t reach the river. Over the next three days, the commandos lost four members to mortar fire on a second rescue attempt.

With dashed spirits and a depleted force, only Norris and the Vietnamese commander were willing to continue. They dressed up as fisherman, stole a sampan, and grabbed the missing pilot. They were nearly discovered by enemy patrols multiple times, and Norris was forced to call in a series of airstrikes to save them at one point, but it worked.

Norris would receive the Medal of Honor for his actions. The Vietnamese commander received the Navy Cross and later became an American Citizen.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

Army Spec. 5 James McCloughan receives the Medal of Honor from President Donald J. Trump for actions in the Vietnam War.

(U.S. Army Eboni Everson-Myart)

6. Army medic continuously ignores orders and runs towards machine gun fire

In May, 1969, Army Spec. 5 John C. McCloughan was part of a combat assault that went sideways right away. Two helicopters were downed and the ground fire became too thick for helicopters to conduct a rescue. McCloughan, a medic, was sent in to help extract the air crews from the ground. When he arrived on site, he immediately dashed over 100 yards across open ground to recover one soldier, despite a platoon attacking towards him.

Then, he charged through American air strikes to rescue two others and gave them medical aid even after he was torn up by shrapnel. He was specifically ordered to see to his own wounds and stop charging into danger, but he just kept charging. Over the course of the 48-hour firefight, he was credited with saving at least 10 men and with destroying an RPG position with a hand grenade.

He received a Medal of Honor in 2017 for his actions.

This article is sponsored by The Last Full Measure, now playing in theatres! Get your tickets here.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happens to North Koreans caught trying to defect

Scott Kim first escaped North Korea at the age of 17 in 2001. At the time, he and his mother only wanted to get across the border to China so they could eat hot meals. Growing up during North Korea’s deadly famine in the late ’90s, Kim had spent much of his childhood starving.

Today, Kim owns a business trading automobile and railway parts in South Korea. He is currently working on an English-language memoir about his experiences with the help of Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR), a volunteer-run organization in Seoul helping defectors develop English skills.

But it was a long and dangerous six years in and out of China and North Korea before he got to Seoul.


Most North Koreans defect by crossing North Korea’s northern border to China via the Tumen or Yalu rivers. Then they must smuggle their way across China’s vast expanse to its southern border with Laos or Vietnam. From there, they cross into Thailand or Cambodia and go to the South Korean embassy to ask for help. It’s a journey that can cost up to $5,000, which must be paid to “brokers” in each country to arrange the escape.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
Inscription stone marking the border of China and North Korea in Jilin

Paying $5,000 to make it to South Korea or the United States was far out of reach for Kim and his mother. Instead, he and his mother lived as undocumented immigrants and worked as farm laborers. But one year after escaping North Korea, Kim’s neighbor reported his status to the police, who brought him and his mother back to North Korea. Kim was taken to a detention center, where authorities determine where to send defectors next.

“When we reached the detention center in North Korea, we lost all our rights as human beings,” Kim told Business Insider. “We were treated like animals, literally. We had to crawl on the floor to move from place to place.”

Kim was put in a cell with 20 other defectors. There was one toilet in the corner and no space to lie down. Day and night, the defectors sat on the ground.

“It was our punishment because we were sinners. I don’t know why we were sinners,” he said.

When he or other defectors were told to down the corridor to the warden’s office, they were made to crawl on their hands and feet. Officers beat them with gloves and sticks as they went.

An estimated 100,000 North Koreans or more currently live in detention centers, political prisons, or labor camps where they endure hard labor, torture, and starvation.

Kim’s description of his experience comes amid President Donald Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has been accused of killing his own people. But when asked about the North Korean dictator’s human rights violations, Trump appeared to be an apologist for the dictator’s actions.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

The first time Kim was caught, he got lucky.

Despite the fact that one of North Korea’s biggest reeducation camps is in Chongori, near his hometown in Musan, Kim was sent to a center further south. Because no one knew him — and internet and phone service was nonexistent at the time — he was able to lie about his age. He told the guards he was only 15 years old and had been in China looking for his mother.

Rather than send him to one of the country’s brutal labor camps or political camps, he was sent to a medical center for orphaned children. Shortly after arriving, he escaped and went back to China, where he got work as a farm laborer near Helong, a city in northeastern China.

“Everyday, I planted, farmed, logged on the mountain. Corn, beans, potatoes,” he said. “Life was better because I was not starving. I could eat and be full at meals. It was enough food for me … At the time I left North Korea, I was starving.”

Kim was caught a second time when he visited a friend in China looking for his mother. A neighbor again reported him to the police. The second time he was sent back to North Korea, he wasn’t so lucky. He was sent to the concentration camp near his hometown. From there he was sent to a labor camp, where he chopped down trees on a mountain for months.

He escaped one day when he realized that all his fellow laborers were at the top of the mountain chopping while he was at the bottom. He ran away as fast as he could until he found a train that he could take him north to cross the border with China again.

After some time in China, he was caught a third time and sent to a camp for political prisoners — the worst place to be sent, as imprisonment there is interminable. He escaped the camp by bribing the authorities through a broker, who helped him make it across the border with China a final time.

After six years, Kim reunited with his mother and made it to South Korea

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
Seoul, South Korea

In China, he went back to work to pay off his debt to the broker. One day, he got a call from a North Korean woman from Musan who told him that he had to come visit his mother. She was dying of cancer. For the first time in many years, the two saw each other.

“When I opened the door of my mother’s house, I froze, and couldn’t say anything, because my mother looked incredibly different,” he said. “There was no fat on her, and her whole body looked like a triangle, I just went outside and cried for a long time and came back again, and I embraced my mother and we cried together.”

Several days later, a friend of his mother offered his mother the opportunity to escape to South Korea via Laos and Cambodia. A broker was taking a group through; they had an extra space.

Unable to walk, Kim’s mother told Kim he had to go and become educated. Once he was settled, she said, he could bring her and help others in need. He decided to go.

The night before Kim and the group of defectors were to cross the border into Laos, he received a call telling him that his mother had died. The man on the phone said he had to come back for the funeral.

“After hanging up, I couldn’t say anything, I just cried all night. I really, really wanted to go back, but I thought that if I go back there, I couldn’t do anything for her,” he said. “I decided to go to South Korea, believing that my mother would agree with my decision.”

In 2007, six years after he first escaped, Kim finally made it to South Korea.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Taste the favorite drink of the most legendary American mercenary airman

Dean Ivan Lamb was many things in his life, but first and foremost, he was an accomplished aviator. Having (more or less) dueled one of his best friends in the world’s first-ever dogfight during the Mexican Revolution, he went on to serve in many more air forces in his time behind the stick.

But his most lasting contribution to the world has a little more kick – the Pisco Sour.


This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

Dogfighting in these would make anyone thirsty.

Lamb had been flying almost as long as men had invented heavier-than-air flying machines, attending an aviation school in 1912, less than a decade after the Wright Brothers’ first flight. Before he even graduated, he made his way down to Mexico as an airman for hire, coming into the employ of Mexican General Benjamin G. Hill. He was ordered to take down the opposing pilot, another American mercenary airman named Phil Rader. This was the first-ever dogfight between planes, but the men didn’t really try too hard to kill each other, eventually both made their ways back home. But Lamb continued the aviator-for-hire business, making his way to England in time for World War I.

In the Great War, Lamb allegedly performed wonders for Britain’s Royal Flying Corps, becoming an ace before the war’s end. After the war, he started running letters for the post office by airmail. But postwar life was a little boring for Lamb, as it can be for many veterans, so he went down south. Way down south. To South America.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

Dean Lamb traveled around the continent, helping establish the Air Force of Honduras and flying missions in conflicts in Paraguay, Brazil, and Uruguay in his time there. From Panama to Bolivia, the southern hemisphere knew the name of Dean Ivan Lamb. But his most enduring accomplishment has nothing to do with war or death, unless you have too much. Lamb, it turns out, was an avid drinker.

The pilot enjoyed good ol’ American whiskey and fine French champagne when it was available in mass quantities. He loved rum and cokes at a time when Coke was something entirely new, and he always sampled the local liquors. Ten-year-old tequila was his favorite in Mexico, in Brazil it was cachaça, and in Lima, he drank Pisco. He may not have created the Pisco Sour, but he certainly helped it find an audience in the United States.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

Which should include everyone.

When the skies were too overcast to take to the air, Lamb would take to the bar. The bar serving the strongest Pisco Sours in Peru, the honor of which belonged to a place called Morris’ Bar in the Hotel Maury, according to Lamb’s autobiography, The Incurable Filibuster: Adventures of Col. Dean Ivan Lamb. The cocktails at the Hotel Maury – especially the Pisco Sour, where the drink was first created – were allegedly so strong the bartenders weren’t allowed to pour more than one for anybody. When Lamb argued his way to another round, he got so belligerent he had to leave Peru the next day.

I have hazy recollections of an argument about another one, something of a fight in a Chinese restaurant, police, soldiers, more battles and crowds of people waking in the hotel with a guard of soldiers holding off people with bills for damages,” he wrote.

And with that, Lamb was on his way back to the United States, fueled by a drink that can only get you kicked out of the Peruvian Air Force.

popular

A sixth grade history project exonerated the captain of the USS Indianapolis

In 1945, the USS Indianapolis completed its top secret mission of delivering atomic bomb components to Tinian Island in the Pacific Theater of World War II. The heavy cruiser was sunk on its way to join a task force near Okinawa. Of the ship’s 1195 crewmembers, only 316 survived the sinking and the subsequent time adrift at sea in the middle of nowhere. Among the survivors was the captain of the Indianapolis, Charles B. McVay III.


McVay would be charged with negligence in the loss of the ship. Even though he was restored to active duty after his court-martial and retired a rear admiral, the guilt of the loss haunted him for the rest of his life. He committed suicide with his Navy revolver on his own front lawn with a toy sailor in his hand.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
Even he doubted his own innocence. (US Navy)

McVay did everything he could in the wake of the torpedoing of the Indianapolis. He sounded the alarm, giving the order to abandon ship and was one of the last men off. Many of the survivors of the sinking publicly stated he was not to blame for its loss. But this wasn’t enough for the family members of the ship’s crew, who hounded McVay year after year, blaming him for the loss of their sons.

The Navy was partly to blame. They didn’t warn Indianapolis that the submarine I-58 was operating along the area of the ship’s course to Okinawa. They also didn’t warn the ship to zigzag in its pattern to evade enemy submarines. When the Indianapolis radioed a distress signal, it was picked up by three Navy stations, who ignored the call because one was drunk, the other had a commander who didn’t want to be disturbed, and the last thought it was a trap.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
(National Archives)

Three and a half days later, the survivors were rescued from the open water, suffering from salt water poisoning, exposure, hypothermia, and the largest case of shark attacks ever recorded. It was truly a horrifying scene. The horror is what led to McVay’s court martial, one of very few commanders to face such a trial concerning the loss of a ship. Even though the Japanese commander of I-58, the man who actually destroyed the Indianapolis, told the U.S. Navy that standard Navy evasion techniques would not have worked – Indianapolis was doomed from the get-go. Even that didn’t satisfy McVay’s critics.

It wasn’t until sixth-grader Hunter Scott began a history project in school about the sinking of the Indianapolis. He poured through official Navy documents until he found the evidence he needed to conclusively prove that McVay wasn’t responsible for the loss of his ship. His project caught the attention of then-Congressman Joe Scarborough and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich who helped pass a Congressional resolution exonerating McVay. It was signed by President Bill Clinton in 2000.

USS Indianapolis
Admiral Raymond Spruance, Commander, U.S. Fifth Fleet, awards a Purple Heart to RM1c Joseph Moran and his fellow survivors of the loss of USS Indianapolis (CA-35) at Base Hospital #18 Guam. The other two Sailors pictured are BGM3c Glenn Morgan (left) and S1c Louis Bitonti (right). (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Hunter Scott, the onetime sixth-grader and eternal friend to the crew of the Indianapolis, is now a naval aviator. He attended the University of North Carolina on a Navy ROTC scholarship and joined active duty in 2007. He even spoke at the dedication of the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.


Feature image: US Navy photo

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces

There is a lot to say about Israel and its Defense Forces. Like most armed forces in the world, it has a significant history, even despite its relative youth. And like all armed forces in the world, not all of this history is good (despite what some might say), and not all of it is bad (despite what some might say).


From the get-go, Israel needed a miracle — and it got plenty. They came in the form of WWII veterans, brilliant generals, and a civilian population dedicated to preserving the idea that they belong there.

 

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

And their operation names are freaking cool.

1. Operation Spring of Youth

Spring of Youth was part of a larger operation with a cooler name (Wrath of God. Awesome). It was Israeli Mossad’s (intelligence service) response to the 1972 Munich Massacre. Israeli agents systematically hunted down and assassinated those involved with planning the Olympic massacre.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

I know this is from the movie Munich, but still – anyone who kills a bunch of Israelis shouldn’t look so surprised that they died.

In 1973, Israeli commandos from Sayeret Matkal, Sayeret 13, and Sayeret Tzanhanim – elite special forces squads – came ashore in Lebanon near Beirut. Mossad agents drove them to buildings where senior members of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and Black September terrorist organizations lived. The commandos were disguised as tourists, some even dressed as women.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

All three Palestinian targets were killed in the raids, along with hundreds of bodyguards, some Lebanese troops and policemen, and an Italian neighbor. One team of paratroopers met heavy resistance attacking the PFLP building, and so ended up destroying the whole building with explosives. The Israelis lost two soldiers in the raid. The commandos were then casually driven back to the beaches for exfiltration.

2. Operation Thunderbolt

When an Air France passenger jet bound for Paris from Tel Aviv was hijacked by the PFLP in 1976, the hijackers ordered the plane to be flown to Idi Amin’s Uganda. When the dictator welcomed them to Entebbe Airport, the PFLP demanded the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and a $5 million ransom, due July 1st, 1976.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

The hostages were separated into Israeli and non-Israeli groups. As the Israeli government negotiated the release of the hostages, the hijackers freed 153 non-Israelis. Amin and the hijackers agreed to extend the deadline for the deal to July 4th., giving Mossad time to debrief the released hostages in Paris and get information on the hijackers’ numbers and weapons. They also got a layout of the building from an Israeli firm – the one who built the airport.

On the day the hostages were to be executed, a 100-man task force took off from the Sinai (then controlled by Israel). Four C-130 Hercules cargo planes, followed by 2 Boeing 747s landed undetected at Entebbe. Then, 29 Israeli commandos from Sayeret Matkal, led by Lt. Col. Jonathan Netanyahu left the cargo planes in a black Mercedes and a squad of Land Rovers, resembling the motorcades used by Amin. Amin later told his son that the ruse was not as clever as the Israelis thought.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

They approached the terminal, killed the Ugandan guards, then assaulted the airport. Three of the hostages were killed in the firefight, along with all the hijackers. Armored personnel carriers took the hostages to the waiting 747s as the commandos battled Ugandan troops and destroyed Chinese-built Ugandan fighter aircraft to prevent their pursuit. Colonel Netanyahu was killed in the firefight and five others were wounded.

In an operation lasting 53 minutes, 102 hostages were rescued, 45 Ugandans were killed, and 11 MiGs were destroyed on the ground.

One more hostage, a 75-year-old woman who had been taken to a hospital in Kampala during the crisis, was killed in her bed by Amin’s troops after the raid. Her body was found buried in a sugar plantation three years later.

3. Operation Opera

In 1981, eight Israeli F-16s and six F-15s flew right into Iraq to destroy the nuclear reactor at Osirak. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was using the site to develop his nuclear weapons program – a potentially huge threat to Israeli security.

The fighters flew 2,000 miles from Israel to Iraq and back without refueling. The U.S. could not help them and Israel wouldn’t have in-flight refueling until 1982, when Iraq’s reactor would be online. Hitting the reactor was not a problem, it was getting back to Israel that presented the difficulty.

To this day, how Israel managed to get all her planes and pilots home is still classified.

Ten years later, Iraq fired a number of Scud missiles at Israel during the Gulf War in an effort to break the American-led coalition by inviting Israeli counterattacks. Ironically, a majority of the Scuds landed in either Haifa or the Ramat Gan area of Tel Aviv – home to many Iraqi descendants.

4. Operation Stout-Hearted Men

The Yom Kippur War touched off when Israel was attacked by an Arab coalition led by Egypt and Syria and consisting of Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Algeria. The Arabs wanted to push Israel out of the Sinai and the Golan Height and allow Egypt to re-open the Suez Canal. This war did not go well for the Arabs – both the Golan and the Sinai not only remained in Israeli hands, the Israelis pushed deep into Syria and into Egypt, across the canal.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

How they crossed the Suez is the miracle.

Under cover of darkness, an Israeli paratroop brigade crossed the canal on rubber boats between the 2nd and 3rd Egyptian Armies. Meanwhile, Israeli armor fought to open a corridor in the Sinai through which more units could pass safely to the front – including a series of floating bridges. The bridges allowed two IDF armored brigades to cross into Egypt.

Within a week, the IDF destroyed Egypt’s anti-aircraft umbrella and completely surrounded the Egyptian 3rd Army. This precipitated an end to the war and led to the Camp David Accords, Egypt’s recognition and peace treaty with Israel.

5. Operation Mole Cricket 19

Mole Cricket 19 was one of the largest air battles since World War II and probably one hell of a sight in 1982. To this day, it is the IDF’s most decisive victory, so one-sided it went down in history as the “Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot.” But it didn’t seem like such an easy win at the time. Mole Cricket 19 would be the first time a surface-to-air missile battery was defeated without ground troops.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

Syria moved a number of SAM batteries into Southern Lebanon as Lebanon was in the grips of a civil war that was then seven years old. Israel had launched a number of incursions into Lebanon in support of Christian militias and against PLO positions. The Syrian SAM batteries were a threat to Israel’s ability to control the airspace near its borders.

Israel soon annexed the Golan Heights, which led Syria to condemn the act as a declaration of war. On June 6, 1982, Israel launched a full invasion of Lebanon. Israeli PM Menachem Begin told the Knesset (and Syria) that if the Syrians kept the cease fire, the IDF would too. The Syrians didn’t. They halted an IDF advance and the Israelis used that to launch Mole Cricket 19.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

Within two hours, the Israeli Air Force destroyed 15 of 19 SAM batteries while shooting down 90 enemy aircraft. The Syrian defeat in the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot caused alarm among Soviet defense experts. It caused them to question may even have led to the Glasnost ˆ(openness) policy and to the fall of the Soviet Union.

6. Operation Focus

In 1957, Israel declared that any closing of the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping would be considered an act of war. Then the Soviet Union misled Egypt into believing an Israeli pre-emptive strike was imminent. It was when Egypt began to mass its troops at the Egyptian-Israeli border that Israel began to consider a preemptive strike. When Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser closed the Tiran Straits to Israeli ships, Israel began preparing for that strike.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

Operation Focus was the Israeli Air Force operation that launched the Six-Day war in 1967. In less than four hours, 450 Egyptian, Jordanian, and Syrian combat planes were destroyed on the ground. Egypt lost some 18 airfields and was rendered largely ineffective for the rest of the war. Operation Focus used every single attack plane in the IAF and gave Israel complete air superiority on every front.

Articles

This man in Georgia restores WWII airplane turrets in his garage

Plane turrets got their combat debut in World War II but were nearly obsolete by the time the war ended as jet planes could fly too fast for most gunners to hit them.


Most turrets were scrapped after the war, but one enthusiast in Georgia is collecting those that survived and restoring them to working conditions.

In his workshop in Georgia, Fred Bieser has thousands of turret parts and, as of 2013 when this video was shot, had restored seven turrets. Most of them are kept in his workshop, but some have gone on display at military museums.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
American ball turret gunner Alan Magee poses in his station. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Force)

In this video from Tested, Bieser takes a video crew through his workshop and shows the guts of turrets and how they worked.

The video includes a lot of cool history on turrets, like how pilots worked with gunners to ensure accuracy and how Britain and America used different technologies for power and control.

Check out the full video below:

MIGHTY HISTORY

WATCH: What was the Missouri Mormon War?

Between August and November of 1838, the Mormons and non-Mormons of Missouri got into a pretty serious conflict. These days, that conflict is known as the 1838 Mormon War. Sometimes, it’s also called the Missouri Mormon War. But if you’ve never heard of it, don’t feel bad. Lots of people don’t know a single thing about this conflict.

First, a little history. The origins of the conflict date back to 1833. That’s when members of the Latter Day Saint movement settled in Jackson County, Missouri. They wanted to call the Show Me State home but were quickly persecuted and evicted by the area’s non-Mormons.

It sure wasn’t easy being Mormon in Missouri

Maybe if the Mormons had a chance to resettle elsewhere, the war wouldn’t have happened. Maybe everything would have remained peaceful if the Mormons had a chance to establish and call MO home. But that’s not what happened. Just like before, the citizens in their new settlements didn’t want the Mormons around either. Queue repeat montage of the Mormons once again going on the hunt for a place to establish roots. So by 1836, Missouri decided to appoint Caldwell County specifically for the Mormons. The authorities thought if they could keep the Mormons in one place, all would be fine. But that’s not what happened. The Mormons settled and soon had really big families. That meant that their population started spilling over to neighboring counties. This caused tension between Mormons and non-Mormons once again. 

The Missouri Mormon War officially began after an election in Gallatin, where William Peniston was running for office. During the election on August 6, 1838, Peniston threatened the Mormons with violence, saying that they either would vote for him or not at all. Of course, the Mormons had to defend themselves, so the fight was on. 

A Mormon’s gotta do what a Mormon’s gotta do

Mob violence increased against the Mormons after this brawl. Mormon settlers were increasingly attacked and forced from their homes, until one day, the Mormons decided they wouldn’t take the persecution anymore. So began Mormon raids on non-Mormon towns, including Gallatin and Millport. Then the non-Mormons returned with even more violence, going into Caldwell County and taking Mormons as prisoners. 

The peak of the 1838 Mormon War was the Battle of Crooked River, where the Mormons were up against who they thought was an angry mob. Three Mormons and one non-Mormon died in the battle. Unfortunately, that mob was actually the Richmond County Militia, so Joseph Smith, the leaders of the Latter Day Saint movement who had come to help his Missouri settlers, was tried for treason for attacking the State. 

The Mormons say goodbye to Missouri once and for all

Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs then issued Executive Order 44, or the “Extermination Order.” It authorized the state militia to give the Mormons an ultimatum: either leave the state or be killed. An unauthorized organized mob then took it upon themselves to attack a small Mormon town called Haun’s Mill on October 30, 1838. The mob brutally killed 18 Mormon men and boys. 

Joseph Smith surrendered on November 1, 1838 at the Mormon headquarters in Far West, a major town inside of Caldwell County. Luckily for him, he was able to escape, at which point he immediately fled to Illinois. Left without any other choice, 10,000 Missouri Mormons followed Smith’s lead and crossed the border into Illinois to establish a new settlement there. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

15 photos of the first black Marines in US history

The U.S. Marine Corps didn’t allow black men into its ranks until 1942, months after America joined World War II and decades after the Army and Navy began accepting black troops. But that delayed start means that cameras were common when the first black Marines earned their Eagle, Globe, and Anchors. Here are 15 photos from those first pioneers.


(Writer’s note: These images come from the National Archives which have a whole section dedicated to black troops in World War II with over 250 images. The captions below were updated for language and clarity, but the information contained comes from that archive. You can find more images and historical context by visiting them here.)

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
MIGHTY HISTORY

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

Bigger isn’t always necessarily better. Military history is replete with examples of Goliaths falling to Davids. Sometimes the bigger army is the agent of its own failure, like the restrictions placed on American troops in Vietnam. Sometimes the hubris of a leader who seldom loses leads an otherwise formidable force to destruction the way Napoleon did against the Russians. And then some armies just bite off more than they can chew.


This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

At last try to stand up when you surrender your superior force after 18 minutes.

1. Mexico tries to put down Texian Rebellion; gets owned

In March 1836, the Mexican Army under the dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna attacked a rebel stronghold near San Antonio in an effort to keep Texas under Mexican domination. In an effort to send a message to the Texians, Santa Anna slaughtered the defenders of an old Spanish mission known as the Alamo, almost to a man. The next time the Texians met the Mexicans in a fight would be a month later at the Battle of San Jacinto. Outnumbered, the Texians took all of 18 minutes to defeat the Mexicans, killing, wounding, or capturing almost all of them – including Santa Anna himself. Texas was soon an independent nation.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

If you want to end French supremacy right, you have to do it yourself.

2. Frederick earns title “The Great” after ending three great powers

The Seven Years’ War was the first true “world war,” involving five major powers and a number of lesser ones, pitting a coalition of the British Empire and Prussia against France, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Austria, and many other German states. On the high seas and in North America, Britain reigned supreme, but on the battlefields of Europe, tiny Prussia would be forced to do battle almost alone and surrounded by opportunist enemies. Frederick struck neighboring Saxony first, before anyone was prepared. He then knocked the French out of the war in Continental Europe at the Battle of Rossbach, despite being outnumbered by more than two-to-one. When the Austrians failed to take the offensive, Frederick destroyed it despite being outnumbered two-to-one – using the same maneuver.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

Oops.

3. Italy tries to create an empire in Africa; Ethiopia isn’t having it

Italy tried to trick the Ethiopians into becoming an Italian client state by using loopholes in the language of a treaty. When this didn’t work, and the Ethiopians decided they were done with Italian meddling, the Italians were already on the warpath, ready to subdue Ethiopia by force. Emperor Menelik II wasn’t someone who was just going to roll over for a European army because they had guns. Ethiopia was gonna go down fighting, if it went down at all. After a year of fighting, the Italians had failed to properly subdue the Ethiopians and decided to attempt a final showdown at a place called Adwa. In the ultimate bad idea, 17,000 Italians with guns took on 100,000 Ethiopians with guns. And horses. It was just a fight that should never have happened in the first place.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

That face when the child soldier you capture is twice the veteran you are.

4. China invades Vietnam; forgets about the French and U.S. invasions

You might think that the years China spent aiding and arming tiny Vietnam would be a hint that Vietnam had a well-equipped, battle-hardened army with a leadership that was well-versed in bringing down giants who tried to ruin their groove. You’d be wrong. When Vietnam invaded neighboring Cambodia to stop the Khmer Rouge from killing all the Cambodians, China saw an opportunity to attack Vietnam and impose their dominance on the young Communist country. Well, Cambodia collapsed like a senior with heatstroke, and Vietnam was able to quickly turn its attention back to those sneaky Chinese. Within six weeks, Chairman Mao was pulling Chinese troops out of Vietnam much faster than the French or Americans had.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

Only in the Falklands.

5. Argentina thinks the U.K. won’t retake an island full of sheep; it’s wrong

In April 1982, Argentina invaded and occupied a series of islands off its coast that the British had occupied basically forever. Argentina didn’t see it as an invasion, really, just a decision to take what was rightfully theirs. Besides, the UK wouldn’t make such a fuss over a few fisherman and some sheep. It would be an easy win, but for one thing the Argentines didn’t count on.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

In Argentina, “Thatcher” means “buzzsaw.”

Once Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher decided to respond with force, she was all a-go. The U.K. dispatched a naval task force of 127 ships immediately to retake the islands. In less than 20 days after setting sail, British Special Air Service commandos and Royal Marines were on South Georgia. Less than a week later, the Marines controlled the island, and so it went. The Argentinian fleet and air force were crippled in just over two months, the Argentinian dictatorship collapsed, and Margaret Thatcher won a new term as Prime Minister.

Articles

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar

Airman 1st Class John Lee Levitow was a loadmaster on an AC-47 — an aerial gunship and the predecessor to the AC-130 — that was pounding Viet Cong forces on the night of Feb. 24, 1969.


But then disaster struck.

The plane was dropping flares and firing in support of a U.S. base under attack, and one of the Viet Cong mortars firing on the base sent a round up that struck the AC-47 instead.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
Airman 1st Class John L. Levitow’s Douglas AC-47D was struck by a mortar round on Feb. 24, 1969. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The mortar round detonated on impact, sending thousands of pieces of shrapnel through the plane and crew. Levitow was hit with 40 pieces of shrapnel, and the other six members of the crew didn’t fare much better.

But the worst piece of news was still coming. Levitow started to drag another injured crew member away from the door before he spotted an armed Mk-24 flare that was smoking and rolling around near stored ammo.

The flares operate on a timer set to anywhere between 5 and 30 seconds. Once armed, a crewmember would throw the flare out the door and it would parachute down. Magnesium in the flare would ignite a 4,000 degree Fahrenheit flame that illuminated the battlefield.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
Airman 1st Class John L. Levitow saved the life of his crew and the plane they were flying in in 1969 by throwing an ignited flare out of the craft despite his serious injuries. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

But with the flare counting down to an ignition inside the aircraft, it would instead set off nearby ammo, burn a hole through the floor, and cook everything in the cabin, including the seven crewmembers aboard.

Levitow, despite his serious wound from the shrapnel, crawled his way to the 27-pound flare and attempted to grab it three times, but it kept escaping his hands. So he threw himself on it, clutched it to his body, and dragged it towards the door.

“I had the aircraft in a 30-degree bank, and how Levitow ever managed to get to the flare and throw it out, I’ll never know,” said pilot Maj. Kenneth Carpenter.

Somehow, Levitow got the flare to the door and out of the plane just before it ignited, saving everyone aboard. The pilot was able to limp the plane back to an emergency landing.

For Levitow, that was his 181st mission. He recovered from his wounds and completed another 20 combat missions before heading home and receiving his discharge paperwork in August 1969.

Less than a year later, he reported to the White House to receive the Medal of Honor from President Richard M. Nixon. He is the lowest-ranking member of the Air Force to ever receive the award.

An Air Force C-17 was named for him in 1998, “The Spirit of John L. Levitow.” He passed away in 2000.

MIGHTY HISTORY

George Custer’s younger brother earned two Medals of Honor in the same week

It’s funny how the older Custer can be so infamous for his worst military blunder, while his brother Thomas Ward can earn two Medals of Honor and practically be lost to history.


This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
Note, I still haven’t shown a picture of Thomas Ward Custer yet. This is George. (Library of Congress)

“If you want to know what I think of him, all I can say, Tom ought to have been the general and I the captain,” so says Gen. George Armstrong Custer, who was probably right.

Custer’s famous last stand is one of the defining moments in the Indian Wars of the late 19th century. The name Custer evokes the memory of a legendary failure. If you don’t believe it, just read “We Were Soldiers Once… and Young.”

Retired Lt. Col. Hal Moore, commanding the 7th Cavalry at Ia Drang, worried he’d be just like the infamous 7th Cavalry commander Custer and lead his men to certain death.

“Casualties were beginning to pile up. As we dropped behind that termite hill, I fleetingly thought about an illustrious predecessor of mine in the 7th Cavalry, Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, and his final stand in the valley of the Little Bighorn in Montana, eighty-nine years earlier. I was determined that history would not repeat itself in the valley of the Ia Drang.”

Thomas Ward Custer would die with his big brother at Little Bighorn and wouldn’t achieve the rank and notoriety of the elder Custer. He was a good soldier (to put it mildly) enlisting at age 16 to fight in the Civil War and fighting in the major battles of Chickamauga, Chattanooga, and in the Atlanta Campaign. He was enlisted for most of the war before earning a commission in October 1864.

Barely six months later — April 3, 1865 — the younger Custer captured a Confederate Regimental flag at Namozine Church. He did it after being wounded and thrown from his horse. He also took at least a dozen prisoners to boot.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
Thomas Ward Custer, just after the Civil War ended. (Wikimedia Commons)

Capturing an enemy flag was a big deal at the time of the Civil War. If a unit’s flag was captured, there was a good chance the unit’s cohesion would just fall apart. They were held in the middle of the unit and troops looked to them for assurance during the fighting – the assurance that the rest of the unit was still fighting with them.

Three days later, Thomas Ward captured another regiment’s colors at Saylor’s Creek, jumping from his horse during a cavalry charge, over and into the enemy lines. He was wounded in the face for his trouble and awarded his second Medal of Honor. General Charles E. Capeheart, an eyewitness, reported:

“Having crossed the line of temporary works on the flank of the road, we were encountered by a supporting battle line. It was the second time he [Tom] wrestled the colors. He received a shot in the face which knocked him back on his horse, but in a moment was soon upright in the saddle. Reaching out his right arm, he grasped the flag while the color bearer reeled. The bullet from Tom’s revolver must have pierced him in the region of the heart. Captain Custer wretched the standard from his grasp and bore it away in triumph.”

Just three days after Thomas Ward captured his second enemy regimental flag, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse, ending the Civil War.

Also read: These 12 facts might give you a new perspective on the Civil War

When the Civil War ended — at 20 and a brevet lieutenant colonel — Thomas decided to stay on in the Army. His exploits on the American frontier were the stuff of legend, including a tussle with the Western lawman “Wild Bill” Hickok.

It was following his brother George to Little Bighorn that would prove the younger Custer’s fatal mistake.

The site of Custer’s last stand in 1877. All that remained were the skeletons of cavalry horses. (Worst. Family Reunion. Ever.)

Thomas Ward Custer was slaughtered there during his brother’s infamous last stand, along with another brother, Boston Custer and their nephew, Henry Armstong Reed.

Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

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