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

The first aerial bombing run was made by the Italian Army

In November 1911, Italy was engaged in a costly war against the Ottoman Empire in what is today Libya. It worked out for the Italians in the end, easily defeating the Ottoman Empire, who was by then a shadow of its former glory. The war brought a number of new technologies onto the battlefield, most notably the airplane. Italian pilots were the first to use heavier than air aircraft for both reconnaissance and to drop bombs on enemy positions. One pilot was also the first to fly a night sortie.


For the Turks, who had no anti-air defenses, they were the first to shoot down an aircraft with small arms fire.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

The German-built Taube monoplane like the one flown by Lt. Gavotti over Libya.

On Nov. 1, 1911, Giulio Gavotti, an Italian war pilot, climbed into the cockpit of his Etrich Taube monoplane. His mission was to fly over the Ain Zara oasis, occupied by Turkish troops. Instead of just flying over the target, he decided he would throw bombs out of the plane and into the mass of maybe 2,000 enemy soldiers below. The lieutenant would later write to his father that he was really pleased to be the first person to try. His efforts earned him the nickname “the Flying Artilleryman.”

“I notice the dark shape of the oasis. With one hand, I hold the steering wheel, with the other I take out one of the bombs and put it on my lap…. I take the bomb with my right hand, pull off the security tag and throw the bomb out, avoiding the wing. I can see it falling through the sky for couple of seconds and then it disappears. And after a little while, I can see a small dark cloud in the middle of the encampment. I am lucky. I have struck the target.”

And that’s how one pilot ushered in the Air Power age.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

Giulio Gavotti, the first bomber pilot.

The young lieutenant had strapped a number of grapefruit-sized grenade-like bombs into a leather pouch in the cockpit. As he flew over the target, he would toss them over the side. The official history of the Italian Army in Libya says that Gavotti screwed in the detonators and flew at an altitude of just 600 feet as he made his bombing runs. He tossed three over the side at an oasis at Tagiura and then one over the Ain Zara Oasis. No one is really sure how many (if any) he actually killed on his run.

In response, the Ottoman Empire issued a formal complaint. Dropping bombs from aerial balloons was outlawed by the Hague Convention of 1899. The Italians countered that the airplanes weren’t balloons and any heavier-than-air craft was legally allowed to drop bombs as Gavotti had.

“I come back really pleased with the result,” Gavotti wrote. “I go straight to report to General Caneva. Everybody is satisfied.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This airman went from Afghan interpreter to the USAF

Imagine having to conceal your identity in order to feel safe and protect the ones you love. Changing the route you take to work, wearing disguises so you won’t be recognized, or reducing the amount of vacation you take because you know it’s safer to be at work than not.


For many of us, this way of life would seem farfetched or unrealistic, but for one Airman, this was his reality. Airman 1st Class Mohammad Javad, 60th Aerial Port Squadron, transportation Journeyman, used to be an Afghan national working as a head interpreter with U.S. forces at Forward Operating Base Shindand, Afghanistan. As the head interpreter, Javad was relied upon for his expertise, which meant he was on all the important missions.

Also read: This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’

“I would go out on missions and it was like I was actually in the Army,” said Javad. “I would go weeks without a shower, I would carry 100-150 pound bags of ammo, sleep on the ground, walk all day, climb mountains, and jump out of helicopters.”

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
Airman 1st Class Mohammad Javad from the 60th Aerial Port Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., poses for a photo, Feb. 28, 2018. Javad was a linguist for U.S. forces while living in Afghanistan and fled to the United States in 2014.  (Photo by Louis Briscese)

Despite the constant diligence to remain obscured, in 2013, the locals somehow figured out Javad was working with U.S. forces.

“Once they knew who I was, my family and I were no longer safe,” said Javad. “My life was threatened by the insurgents, my wife was accused of helping infidels and was threatened with kidnapping. I knew after that, I couldn’t work here anymore.”

Thus began a courageous and remarkable journey that led Javad to America and enlisting in the U.S. Air Force.

Javad was born in Afghanistan during the war with the Soviet Union. His family fled to Iran because the war between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan made it too dangerous to stay.

“We left in 1989 when I was two during the Soviet-Afghan War because it was too dangerous for my family to stay,” said Javad “We came to Iran under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, so we were discriminated against.”

There were not many educational opportunities for Javad growing up in Iran because of his refugee status. His parents decided to return to Afghanistan in 2004 since it was safer.

Related: 3 fallen JROTC cadets honored for heroism in the Florida shooting

“We came back to Afghanistan so I could seek higher education because neither of my parents had that opportunity,” said Javad. “They wanted that option for me. I got my education, my bachelors and a double major in chemistry and biology.”

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
Airman 1st Class Mohammad Javad from the 60th Aerial Port Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., poses for a photo with his wife Sara, and three children Sana, Yusef, and Benyamin, March 6, 2018.  (Photo by Louis Briscese)

After completing his education, Javad still found it difficult to find meaningful work.

“Afghanistan had a new government and it was corrupted,” said Javad. “It was difficult to get jobs unless you knew the right people.”

Javad had taken classes on computers, language, and received a certification in accounting. This helped him find a job where he could now provide for his family.

“After graduating college, I worked for an accounting firm,” said Javad. “After a year and a half, I was promoted to general manager.”

Unfortunately, after a horrific motorcycle accident kept him in the hospital for six months, Javad lost his job as a general manager with the accounting firm.

“I knew that without knowing anyone in the government, I was going to have to start from the bottom again,” said Javad. “The only other option I had was to become a linguist with U.S. forces.”

The day Javad applied for the linguist position, over 200 others were attempting the same.

“There’s a written and verbal skills test, interview, and security background check,” said Javad. “Only 10 of us made it through those stages. Once you get through that, there’s another few months of security screening with the Central Intelligence Agency and medical exams.”

Javad’s first assignment was with the USAF at FOB Shindand.

More: 5 more of the greatest military heroes you’ve never heard of

“I was assigned to the Base Defense Operations Center for the Air Force,” said Javad. “I was translating all the daily, weekly, and monthly security reports.”

While assigned there Javad met Senior Master Sgt. Michael Simon II, who was serving on a 365-day deployment as a Mi-17 crew chief air advisor.

“Javad was assigned to the FOB as an interpreter, translating from Dari or Pashto to English,” said Simon. “We worked together on several occasions in support of the Afghan Air Force training and advising missions.”

What Javad didn’t know at the time was that Simon would play an instrumental role years later as he transitioned from Afghanistan to America. During his time at FOB Shindand, the USAF was replaced by the Army, and his duties and responsibilities changed significantly.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
Airman 1st Class Mohammad Javad from the 60th Aerial Port Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., poses with some keepsakes he collected during his time as a linguist with U.S. forces, March. 6, 2018. (Photo by Louis Briscese)

“We were given the option to resign or accept new roles,” said Javad. “Sure enough, within a month, I was riding in convoys outside the wire. Things were a lot different now.”

Javad spent three years at FOB Shindand and witnessed some horrific things.

“I saw Army soldiers get shot and killed. I saw Afghan civilians get shot and killed,” said Javad. “I was the head interpreter and was always going out with Battalion commanders and other high-ranking officials.”

Despite the difficulties of his job and awful experiences he witnessed, Javad felt something for the first time.

More reading: A former slave and two-time Olympian just became an Airman

“I was a local,” said Javad. “I wasn’t a U.S. citizen, but they never treated me like a stranger. They trusted me, they worked with me. That was a feeling I’d never had in my life before until I worked there.”

After his identity was disclosed and Javad knew he was no longer safe in Afghanistan, he applied for a Special Immigrant Visa so he could come to America. This wasn’t an easy decision because Javad was living as an upper middle-class citizen in Afghanistan.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
Mohammad Javad, center, an interpreter for U.S. forces in Afghanistan poses for a photo outside Forward Operating Base Shindand.

“I was a homeowner with lots of land,” said Javad. “I owned a car and motorcycle. Unfortunately, I couldn’t sell anything because no one would buy anything built with the money from America. I was choosing between my belongings or my life.”

In the summer of 2014, Javad took his pregnant wife with only the belongings they could fit in a suitcase, the $800 they received for selling their wedding bands and traveled to the United States to begin a new life.

“When we arrived in Colorado Springs, Colorado, we had nothing,” said Javad. “I needed a sponsor for my SIV and Simon agreed. With the help of Simon, we were able to sustain some sort of normalcy until we could get on our feet.”

Simon got donations from his church and the local refugee service in Colorado Springs. Lutheran Refugee Service lined up a starter apartment with basic furnishings.

“My sister had coordinated with a group of close friends and churches to get a lot of items needed outside of the basics already provided,” said Simon. “Then the rest was up to Javad and his determination to succeed.”

Despite having an education, Javad found it hard to find work.

“I had to find a job because I barely could afford a month’s rent,” said Javad. “Nobody would give me a job because I didn’t have a history of work in the U.S.”

After meeting a family who had a local business, Javad found some temporary work, but more importantly, a life-long friend.

“They ended up being like family to us,” said Javad. “They called me son and they were the only ones who came to my graduation at basic training.”

Working in a warehouse didn’t bring in a lot of money for Javad and he struggled to make ends meet.

More: This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

“For the first four months, I didn’t have a car,” said Javad. “I had to walk four miles one way, work eight hours, and walk another four miles back, in the winter, in Colorado Springs.”

After a year in the U.S., Javad felt that serving in the armed forces may provide a better life for him and his family.

“I worked four years with the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan and had a little sense of what life was like in the military,” said Javad. “I know there’s a lot of sacrifices you have to make when serving your country, but in the end, I wanted to give back to the country that helped me a lot.”

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
Mohammad Javad, center, an interpreter for U.S. forces in Afghanistan speaks with a local national outside Forward Operating Base Shindand.

Javad decided to enlist in the USAF and entered basic training in February 2016.

“I wanted to be part of a really big picture,” said Javad. “I did it mainly because the U.S. military saved my life and I wanted to do my part.”

The decision to join the USAF did not surprise Simon because his commitment, dedication and hard work align with the USAF core values.

For Javad, to start from scratch with just a suitcase and dedicate his efforts to providing for his family is the true American dream,” said Simon. “Now he’s a member of the 1 percent club who voluntarily choose to serve this great nation. To say I’m proud of Javad would be an understatement.”

A week before graduating basic training, Javad received an unexpected gift.

“I was notified that I was officially a U.S. citizen,” said Javad. “I was overwhelmed with pride. When I saw the flag being raised at graduation and we saluted, I couldn’t stop myself from crying because I finally had a flag I could be proud of.”

After basic training and technical school, Javad arrived at his first duty station here at Travis Air Force Base, California. He’s enjoyed the people, mission, and the area.

“My unit treats me like any other Airman,” said Javad. “They don’t see me as a person from Afghanistan, they see me as an Airman.”

Javad has yet to deploy since joining the USAF but said he would like to return to Afghanistan as an Airman and citizen of the U.S.

“I would be happy to deploy to Afghanistan because I know the mission over there is important,” said Javad. “I would love a special duty assignment as a linguist and use my language skills to help my fellow Airmen.”

Javad’s short-term goal is to help his parents get to the U.S.

Related: This Pearl Harbor survivor was buried in the ship he escaped from

“My parents had to escape Afghanistan and flee to another country,” said Javad. “I feel responsible because I come from a culture where your kids are your retirement, so now they are struggling until I can find a way to bring them to America.”

Once Javad secures his family in the U.S., he plans on achieving his long-term goal which is to become an officer in the USAF.

“I couldn’t become an officer when I enlisted even though I had the education because I wasn’t a citizen,” said Javad. “Now that I have my citizenship, I will pursue officer training school and get my commission.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

The US is obligated by treaty to defend these 67 countries

There are Americans who are sick and tired of the United States playing “policeman to the world.” There’s good news and bad news for these people. The good news is that the U.S. isn’t actually the world’s policeman. The bad news is that they’re actually the world’s policeman, fire department, emergency medical technicians, doctors, nurses, and any other global-scale first responder analogy you can think of.

The U.S. military is basically the Avengers.


This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

“Avengers Assemble.”

While the United States doesn’t respond to every trouble spot on the planet they sure respond to a lot of them. Of the 195 officially recognized countries in the world, the United States has military members deployed to 150. So if there is a trouble spot, there’s a very good chance that U.S. troops could go handle a large percentage of them. Luckily, Earth’s mightiest heroes are usually reserved for bigger problems, like keeping North Korea in check, punishing ISIS, and trying to bring food to hungry people.

But some of those countries are actually protected by the United States military, even if that protection isn’t specifically promised. For example, the U.S. military has long been considered a pillar of Saudi Arabia’s stability, because Saudi Arabia’s military can’t invade and win against a much-smaller neighbor, even when 20 other countries are helping them.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

Seriously, the Salvation Army could have invaded Yemen and won by now.

But despite how terrible the Saudis are at things like strategy, tactics, and planning, they will never have to worry about being overcome by Iranian interference or military force because they have a substantial force they can rely on to protect their homefront: the United States military. And they aren’t alone.

Treaty obligations tie the U.S. to come to the defense of 67 different countries around the world, going well beyond the 29-member NATO alliance. The U.S. has bilateral defense agreements with six different countries, as well as every individual member of the Organization of American States and the ANZUS agreement.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

While the United States is no longer required to defend New Zealand and West Germany doesn’t exist as West Germany anymore, the United States military still has a pretty big job on its hands. And even though relations with some of the members of the Organization of American States aren’t so hot with the U.S. right now, it’s still a way for Americans to find themselves fighting alongside the likes of Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela or helping defend countries with no military at all, like Costa Rica, Panama, or Haiti.

It might be worth noting that our Venezuelan allies have asked Russia to help with whatever it is they’re planning to do down there, rather than ask the United States. But along with Venezuela, the U.S. has promised to defend a full one-quarter of all the humans on the planet.

That’s a big job.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why US troops didn’t use drum magazines in tommy guns

The World War I-era U.S. Army was unprepared for fighting a global confrontation in the 20th Century. Hell, it was unprepared for any modern confrontation at the turn of the century. As America prepared to enter the Great War, the War Department called on its military minds to develop a lightweight, short-range, trench-clearing game changer. The result was the Thompson submachine gun.


The “Tommy Gun,” as it came to be called, used the Colt M1911 grip and its dependable .45-caliber ammunition. By 1919, the fully-automatic weapon was perfected, and it was capable of using a 20-round block magazine or a 50- to 100-round drum magazine. But the war was over and the surplus was sold on the civilian market to anyone who could afford one – including notorious gangsters.

It was the outlaws and gangsters who made the Tommy Gun iconic.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

Legendary gangster John Dillinger with Tommy Gun.

In nearly every photo of the era, the gangsters can be seen using the drum magazines, which provided them more ammunition for the weapon’s high rate of fire. It makes sense for an outlaw to use more ammo when trying to make a quick, clean getaway from the fuzz. Shouldn’t it make sense for U.S. troops to do the same when advancing in World War II?

The answer is no, and not just because a 100-round magazine will help deplete ammunition much faster than having to conserve 20- or 30-round box mags. It turns out, the Thompson was really bulky and not so easy to carry while slung with a drum magazine. More than just being unwieldy, the rounds tended to rattle inside the drum magazine and produced a lot of unwanted noise, noise that could get an entire unit killed in combat.

But the most important reason was reloading.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

Yeah, gangsters look cool and all, but have you ever seen Marines fighting to take Okinawa?

Switching between a drum magazine and a box magazine required an extra set of tools. To load a drum magazine also required the user to have a special tool that would lock the bolt back to the rear. And, unlike spring-loaded box mags that were already under tension, reloading a drum magazine required a tool to rotate the spring in the magazine enough to put the rounds under the necessary tension.

Worst of all, if you lost any of the tools needed to reload the weapon, you would be hard-pressed to actually be able to do it without assistance. Drum mags also weighed more and took up more space in a very limited kit. Whereas the box magazine could be loaded and dropped from the rifle in seconds, shared with a buddy, and reloaded just as fast.

The difference between 30 second and 3 seconds under fire in World War II could have been the difference between life and death. In gangland Chicago, all you needed was time for your V8 Packard to speed away before the Untouchables swooped in.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the most decorated woman in military history

When Milunka Savić’s brother got the notice that he was to be drafted to serve in the Second Balkan War against Bulgaria, Milunka instead cut her hair and went to serve in his place. It was the first act of bravery and defiance that would come to define her life and her service. By the end of three wars – in all of which she served with distinction – she would be the most decorated female combatant in military history.


This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

The history of women serving in combat is relatively new. Before the mid-20th Century (depending on which army), women were relegated to non-combat roles and medical fields. There are many examples of women who served in combat, however, they just had to hide their true gender, lest they be drummed out of the service. No matter how skilled or valuable, once discovered, they were invariably let go. Not so for Milunka Savić.

Once mobilized, Savić deployed to the front lines an amazing ten times before she was wounded fighting the Bulgarians. It was on her tenth trip to the front that she was wounded in a sensitive area, her chest. Once the medical men got to her, they discovered her secret, and she was sent before her commander. This man wanted to send a very competent soldier to the nursing corps, but Milunka Savić stood at attention for a full hour while he tried to wait her out. Luckily for Serbia, he relented and sent her back to the war.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

After returning to duty, she managed to capture 23 Bulgarian prisoners while earning a promotion to Corporal. By the time World War I rolled around Milunka Savić was still in the Serbian Army. The one-woman wrecking crew fought the Great War from the very beginning in 1914, quickly earning a Karađorđe Star with Swords, which was the highest military honor the Kingdom of Serbia could bestow upon its troops at the time – and Savić earned two of them. This wasn’t the only honor she would earn.

During World War I, she managed to rack up two French Légions d’Honneur, Russian Cross of St. George, British medal of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael, Serbian Miloš Obilić medal. She was also the only female recipient of the French Croix de Guerre. When World War II rolled around, she was no longer in the military, but she chose to keep fighting in her own way. She ran an infirmary for partisans fighting the Nazi occupation.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

After the end of World War II, Savić settled down in Belgrade where she lived the rest of her life with three adopted children. She lived on a small government pension but she never stopped watching the door – just in case some Bulgarian tried to come back for revenge.

Articles

How Germany deployed the first weapon of mass destruction

In World War I, Germany invented and debuted the world’s first weapons of mass destruction — poison gas artillery shells and pressurized tanks that wafted the deadly toxins over the battlefield. They killed and wounded thousands.


The Germans first attempted two attacks in October 1914 and January 1915 that failed due to technical reasons. But the first successful attack came in April 1915.

That gas attack took place at Ypres, Belgium, where German troops released hundreds of tons of chlorine gas through buried pipes across a four-mile front. Over 1,000 Allied soldiers were killed and another 7,000 were injured.

And that was the opening of Pandora’s Box. The British military responded with its own chlorine attack in September 1915 at the Battle of Loos. The Germans introduced mustard gas into the fighting in 1917 and America joined the war — and chemical warfare — in 1918.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
U.S. Army Soldiers put their gas masks on for a simulated chemical attack during a training mission near Camp Ramadi, Iraq, Sept. 25, 2007. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Andrew D. Pendracki)

The war ended with approximately 100,000 chemical weapons deaths and 1 million wounded. The use of chemical weapons was widely banned in 1925 in The Geneva Protocol.

But countries, including some who signed onto the treaty, have used the weapons since. It’s happened everywhere from World War II Italian attacks on North Africa to the modern day.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The insane way Vlad the Impaler turned back an enemy army

In 1462, the prince of a small area called Wallachia went to war with arguably the most powerful military force on the planet at the time, led by one of the greatest military minds of the time. The one thing that the prince knew for certain was he would need an extraordinary plan to stay alive and keep his principality from being conquered.

That prince was Vlad III, the Impaler and he was going up against Sultan Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire, fresh from his resounding victory over the Byzantines, relegating the once-great Roman Empire to the history books, once and for all.


This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

Can’t blame him for feeling cocky, I guess.

In just 53 days, Mehmed II earned the title “Fatih” – or Conqueror – by doing what no Ottoman Sultan before him could: bringing down the vaunted walls of Constantinople and an end to the Byzantine Empire. Now all of Europe was open to the Ottoman Turks, and one of the closest principalities to the new Ottoman Empire was Romania and its small provincial fiefdoms. The Turks would exert their influence by first charging the un-Islamic a jizya, the tax for not being a follower of Mohammed. When Prince Vlad III of Wallachia refused to pay, Mehmed set out to teach him a lesson.

But Vlad Tepes wasn’t about to sit around and wait for the Ottoman Sultan’s tens of thousands of men to come lay waste to his small lands.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

You can probably guess what’s coming.

After a long cat and mouse game, the sultan decided to send an envoy as bait for an ambush. But Vlad got wind of the plot and ambushed the ambush in one of the first European uses of handguns. He took the Turkish uniforms, disguised himself, and moved to the nearest Turkish fortress and simply ordered them to open the gates in Turkish. When they did, Vlad slaughtered the defenders and destroyed the fortress. Then he went on a rampage.

Vlad invaded neighboring Bulgaria and began to split his army up to cover more ground. They systematically rounded up Turkish sympathizers and captured troops in a 500-mile area and slaughtered them. Vlad reckoned killing more than 23,000, not counting those he burned in their own homes. He then routed an Ottoman invasion force 18,000 strong under Mehmed’s Grand Vizier. Only 8,000 walked away from the battle. Mehmed was pissed and decided to go take care of Vlad personally.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

Vlad Tepes, seen here, calling his shot.

The sultan assembled an army so large, historians repeatedly lost count trying to keep it all together. Mehmed requested an army of at least 150,000 men but what he got was anywhere between 300,000 to 400,000 and a naval force to sail up the Danube with them. With this force arrayed against him, Vlad freaked out. He asked the King of Hungary for help, and when none came, he conscripted women and children to fight for him. In the end, he amassed an army about one-tenth the size of the Ottoman invaders. Vlad needed some way to level the playing field and scare the sultan back to Constantinople. When the Ottoman Army closed in on him, he got his chance.

The Impaler poisoned wells and destroyed anything of use that Mehmed might capture. He also sent men infected with the plague and other diseases into the Ottoman ranks to infect as many as possible. But still, the enemy made their way to Târgoviște, where their first night in camp turned out to be an unforgettable one. Vlad and his men infiltrated the camp and wreaked havoc on its sleeping men. As the Wallachians slaughtered the now-confused Turks, Vlad attempted to assassinate the sultan in his tent, missing and hitting the tents of his viziers instead.

But that’s not what drove the sultan out of Wallachia.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

You can probably guess what’s coming.

Sultan Mehmed’s elite Janissaries pursued the Wallachians and managed to inflict casualties numbering in the thousands. The rest of the army pressed on the Wallachia’s capital, prepared to lay siege to the city and destroy it. But instead of a fortified citadel, the Turks found the gates of the city wide open. Inside, as they rode around, they were treated to a “forest of the impaled” along the roadside. Vlad impaled some 20,000 more enemy soldiers and sympathizers. Historical accounts aren’t clear on the sultan’s reaction, if he was horrified or impressed, but they do agree Mehmed decided to leave Wallachia the very next day.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The original stealth fighter absolutely destroyed in Desert Storm

When we talk about stealth fighters today, the Lockheed F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II usually spring to mind. There was one plane, though, that started it all, paving the way for all future stealth aircraft — and did so over a quarter-century ago. That plane was the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk.


The Nighthawk was actually a hard sell to legendary aeronautical and systems engineer Kelly Johnson, the man behind aviation hallmarks, like the P-38 Lightning (the plane Tom Lanphier flew to kill Isoroku Yamamoto), the SR-71 Blackbird, and the U-2 Dragon Lady. Lockheed’s website reports that Johnson famously told Ben Rich the plane would “never get off the ground.” But the F-117 wasn’t designed to look pretty or to have high performance. It was meant to be invisible.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
The F-117 Nighthawk, the world’s first attack aircraft to employ stealth technology, retired after 27 years of U.S. Air Force service. The aircraft made its first flight at the Tonopah Test Range, Nev., in June 1981, just 31 months after full-scale development was authorized. The Nighthawk program remained classified until November 1988, when a photo of the jet was first unveiled to the public. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The F-117 first flew in 1981 and became operational in 1983. The plane was flown only at night to keep prying eyes away — and many of the RD efforts were done in the Nevada desert. In 1989, the plane took some heat after its involvement in Operation Just Cause, where it dropped what were to be, essentially, 2000-pound stun grenades. It didn’t work.

But it was Desert Storm that made the F-117 a legend. On the opening night, F-117s, each with a radar cross-section the size of a marble, slipped into Baghdad and hit vital command and control targets. Saddam’s thugs had no idea that these planes were coming — they had left the city’s lights on.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
An F-117 Stealth Fighter takes off for a mission from the flightline. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

F-117A.com notes that even though only 36 F-117s were in the theater of operations, they hit 31 percent of the targets. There was no other plane the coalition dared to send over downtown Baghdad.

The F-117 serves for 17 years after Desert Storm, seeing action in Operation Allied Force and the Global War on Terror. It was retired in 2008, arguably too soon for this legend to fade away.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 ways the wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan are the same

It’s no secret that America is pretty good at getting themselves involved in wars throughout the world. Historically, we haven’t been the best at coming up with an exit strategy for some of those conflicts, though.


The Vietnam War is considered one of the most politically charged military campaigns in our nation’s history as young men were drafted into service to fight against the spread of communism.

After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the U.S. embarked on an offensive to break up a network comprised of men that take the worship of the religion of Islam into extremism.

Related: This is what it was like fighting alongside Afghan troops

Although these campaigns took place in separate decades against very different adversaries, the similarities from the perspective of the ground forces are impeccable. History repeats itself. Here are four ways in which these two conflicts are the same.

4. For the most part, we didn’t trust our allies

In both wars, American forces were teamed up with local troops to help combat their common enemy. Many Vietnam and Afghanistan War vets have noted that their “friendly” counterparts often appeared distant and were known to have even protected the enemy at times.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
A PF soldier patrol with a Marine unit during the Vietnam War.

3. We fought against an unmarked enemy

Many of the fighters the U.S. went up against in both campaigns were able to disappear as fast as they appeared. This ghostly advantage wasn’t the result of some magical vanishing act, but rather an ability to blend back into the local population — right out in the open.

Since most of the “disappearing act” fighters are from small guerilla militias or surrounding clans, they never wore any distinguishable uniforms, adding to their advantage.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
Are these guys Taliban or friendly members of a local militia?

2. The enemy could live below ground

The Viet Cong commonly used their well-engineered tunnels while the Taliban make use of caves in the mountains of Afghanistan.

These livable structures can house enemy combatants for extend periods of time and conceal deadly weapons.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
Two U.S. Marines search a Viet Cong tunnel. (Image from Flickr)

Also Read: Here was the major problem with the South Vietnamese army

1. Our maps became outdated quickly

When enemy structures are mainly constructed from local vegetation and mud, they can be broken down just as fast as they’re built.

This characteristic makes them incredibly difficult to keep them documented. Map records and mission planning changed constantly.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm
An occupied mud home in Afghanistan.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The body of the first female veteran of the Revolutionary War is now missing

Remains believed to be of a Revolutionary War hero buried at West Point don’t belong to a woman known as “Captain Molly” after all, but to an unknown man.


The U.S. Military Academy said Dec. 5 the discovery stems from a study of skeletal remains conducted after Margaret Corbin’s grave was accidentally disturbed last year by excavators building a retaining wall by her monument in the West Point Cemetery. Tests by a forensic anthropologist revealed the remains were likely those of a middle-aged man who lived between the Colonial period and 19th century.

Corbin was known for bravely stepping in to fire a cannon in 1776 during a battle in New York City after her husband was killed. She was severely wounded during the Battle of Fort Washington, but lived another 24 years. She became the nation’s first woman to receive a pension for military service.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

The location of Corbin’s remains is a mystery. Ground-penetrating radar around the gravesite failed to turn up any signs.

The Daughters of the American Revolution received approval in 1926 to move Corbin’s remains from nearby Highland Falls to the hallowed ground of West Point’s cemetery. The leafy lot near the Hudson River is the resting place for thousands, including Gulf War commander Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S. commander in Vietnam Gen. William Westmoreland, and Lt. Col. George Custer.

The DAR used records and local accounts from the community to locate the remains believed to be Corbin, according to the Army.

“The remains were verified back in 1926. And you have to consider the gap between 1926 and today. Technology has changed tremendously,” said Col.Madalyn Gainey, spokeswoman for Army National Military Cemeteries.

Read More: Meet the badass Revolutionary War heroine who mowed down Redcoats with a cannon

The remains of the unknown man were reinterred at West Point’s cemetery. A re-dedication ceremony for the Corbin monument at the cemetery is scheduled for May.

“Nearly 250 years after the Battle of Fort Washington, her bravery and legacy to American history as one of the first women to serve in combat in the defense of our nation continues to transcend and inspire women in military service today,” said ANMC Executive Director Karen Durham-Aguilera.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Virginia dairy farm that used to hold Army spies is now a winery

Fauquier County, Virginia, might not be the place you think of when you imagine covert ops training, but that’s exactly what’s happened at an isolated farmhouse and working dairy.

In use since 1803, “Vint Hill,” as it was initially known, had several owners before the Army purchased it in 1942 – just in time to train a group of service members in the fine art of espionage. Reframed and repurposed throughout the years, Vint Hill has served as one of the most essential intel-gathering sites you’ve probably never heard of.


History

Vint Hill is situated near the Signal Intelligence Service headquarters in Arlington but was far away enough from the city that its location and its purpose remained a secret. It was here that the Army housed its Monitoring Station No. 1, a covert spy base.

Established by the Army’s Signal Intelligence Service, the 701-acre farm was built in part because the Army needed a secure location near the SIS and a cryptography school.

The geography of Vint Hill was key in the Army’s decision to train there. Not only did it boast a quiet countryside vibe where trainees could really get into their coursework, but it also provided “quiet electromagnetic geology,” which made it the perfect place for intercepting radio signals. During WWII, that’s exactly what service members stationed at Vint Hill did.

Perhaps the most famous is the interception of a message from a Japanese ambassador to Germany. That message, sent in 1943, described German fortifications, contingency plans, and troop strength information.

Once the message was decoded, the information was instrumental in planning the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944.

The NSA recently released documents that further detail the influence that Vint Hill had on WWII planning. It was a crucial intelligence-gathering station throughout all of WWII and beyond.

After WWII

After WWII, Vint Hill became the first field station of the Army Security Agency, an arm of the NSA. The facility conducted signals intelligence operations.

Declassified Army intelligence lists Vint Hill as one of the largest intercept facilities in the world.

Not only did it serve as an intercept facility, but Vint Hill was also a signal school, signal training center, and a refitting station for selected signal units returning from or heading to deployments.

During and following the Korean War, the station’s footprint was expanded significantly, making it a major intelligence hub during the Cold War. Vint Hill personnel intercepted key Soviet diplomatic and military communication sent over teleprints that helped form and shape America’s military posture.

In 1961, the Army Electronic Material Readiness Activity moved to Vint Hill and took over the management of signals intelligence and electronic warfare maintenance for the Army Security Agency.

By 1973 however, Vint Hill’s mission had changed to research. Its main goal was to aid and assist in the development and support of intel and electronic warfare info gathering for the Army, DoD, and our partner allies. The EPA took over operations of Vint Hill’s photographic interpretation center from the DIA, and Vint Hill was renamed as the Environmental Photographic Interpretation Center.

However, that didn’t last long. By the late 1979s, Vint Hill was on the list of installations to be closed, and all projects on site were halted. A change in policy in 1981 reversed that decision, and Vint Hill remained open.

Serving as the “giant ear” of the NSA was the core focus of Vint Hill in the early 1980s and eventually became a development and testing site for signal equipment for the CIA and FBI. IN 1993, Vint Hill was once again on the chopping block. This time, the closure stuck. Most personnel were reassigned to Fort Monmouth and Fort Belvoir.

Vint Hill closed officially on September 30, 1997. Now, the site hosts several engineering and tech companies, including the FAAs Air Traffic Control System Command Center. There’s a Cold War museum open on-site, but most notably, the former intel-gathering installation is home to the Vint Hill Craft Winery and the Old Bust Head Brewery. There’s even a dance school and a gymnastics school run on the property. Talk about reinvention after time in service.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The reindeer that served on a submarine for 6 weeks

A pinnacle of wartime technology, the HMS Trident was supposed to patrol the Atlantic, doing submarine things. Maybe sink a ship or two, enforce the blockade, and smuggle a reindeer from Russia to England. If that last part sounds more like the plot of a Nickelodeon cartoon than a World War II mission, then you clearly don’t understand diplomacy.


Our stage is World War II, 1941. America is the Arsenal of Democracy but is not yet formally part of the war. Russia and England are the bookends to a powerful and super-evil Nazi Germany, and Germany is busily invading the latter while trying to contain the former.

Britain and Russia were not natural allies. Britain had interceded in the Russian Civil War in 1918 on the losing side, and many veterans of that war were still kicking in 1941. Some were resentful. Some, certainly, would’ve cheered if Germany had invaded the British Isles in 1940 and conquered it.

But Hitler made strange bedfellows. And so a Russian bear cuddled up to the British crown, and much canoodling was had by all. But young romances rely on careful gestures, and one side cannot spurn the gift of another. Which brings us to the strange events of the HMS Trident in 1941.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

The Trident was sent to fight and kill Nazis in the Arctic, and its patrol took it into contact with a Russian crew. There, the crews exchanged tactics and had to play nice. A slip up on top of the world could cock up the whole alliance to the south. So, the men engaged with one another, were polite, and then the Trident crew prepared to head out for a fight with more German ships.

The Russian admiral hosted the British leaders, and British Commander Geoffrey Sladen mentioned that his wife was having trouble pushing her pram through the snow in England. The admiral had a great idea: The Brits should take one of the reindeer with them, and the reindeer could haul the pram around in England.

Again: This was the international diplomacy equivalent of a new high school romance. If the cute girl passes you a photo of her, even if it also shows her disapproving grandpa and some unsightly dental headgear, you give the photo a kiss, smile at the girl, and then tuck the photo into the door of your locker.

This fake amphibious assault saved hundreds of lives in Desert Storm

For those who are curious, the reindeer equivalent is: You accept the reindeer, name it Pollyanna, and carefully get it into your submarine by opening the torpedo tube and helping it slip in. You bring a barrel of moss aboard as well, so the young reindeer will have something to eat.

And so the British set sail for another six weeks of wartime patrol. Pollyanna often slept in the captain’s cabin next to his bunk. And, according to the BBC, she would trot to the control room and wait for the hatch to open when fresh air was allowed in. The moss eventually ran out, and the crew fed Pollyanna scraps from their meals.

When the sub returned to England, it took a bit of work to get Pollyanna back out. The moss and the table scraps had taken their toll, and the young reindeer was too large to make it back out of the torpedo tube. Instead, she was winched out through the top.

Polly went to the zoo and was reportedly happy, though she did have a few quirks from her submarine service. George Malcolmson, a Royal Navy Submarine Museum Archivist, said, “It was rumoured that she never forgot her submarine career, for whenever she heard bells or a sound like a submarine tannoy, she would lower her head as though preparing for diving stations.”

Pollyanna died at the zoo five years later, the same week that the HMS Trident was sent to the breakers yard to be reduced for scrap.

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