That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West

They brought the herd of camels into unfamiliar territory as part of an experiment, but when things went wrong, they accidentally let them loose to terrorize the countryside. No, that’s not the plot of a campy, direct-to-DVD horror film, that’s a true piece of US Army history.

Following a siege at Camp Verde, Texas, just before the onset of the American Civil War, nearly forty camels escaped US Army custody. These camels turned feral, reproduced, and roamed the southwest for years, damaging farms, eating crops, and generally wreaking havoc wherever they went. A few of them even ended up as the basis for a handful of ghost stories.


The sad and bizarre history of the U.S. Army Camel Corps
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The experiment technically started back in 1836 when U.S. Army Lt. George H. Crosman came up with a brilliant solution to traversing the stark deserts of the American Southwest before the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Horses could only take them so far through the sands and would eventually refuse to work in extreme heats. His solution? The Arabian camel.

In 1855, his plan began to take shape. In theory, the imported camels were to replace horses in the region. They were far more accustomed to heat, they could go great distances with little water, and they preferred to eat the shrubbery that other livestock and horses wouldn’t.

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
I mean, if it worked for the Ottomans, it’ll work for us… right?
(Imperial War Museum)

Unfortunately, they were still camels. Giant, goofy, smelly camels. As it turned out, they weren’t any faster or able to carry any more weight than a horse or mule — and they had a tendency to scare smaller livestock nearby. But they were able to go more than a few hours without water, so the plan was labelled technically a success.

The Army gave it the stamp of approval and the Camel Corps was unofficially green-lit.

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
Even today, troops aren’t the biggest fans of camels.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James Clark)

The camels were housed in Camp Verde, Texas, which is roughly half way between San Antonio and El Paso. Since camels were very expensive to buy and maintain and had niche applications, the Camel Corps never really went anywhere.

Instead of being useful assets in the desert, the camels were more something that soldiers stationed at Camp Verde just had to deal with. Their smell wasn’t pleasant, to say the least, and were generally apathetic towards doing anything useful. When camels get agitated, which would obviously occur when their handlers mistreated them, they tend to spit, kick, and will outright refuse to do anything. The camels were basically just contained within either Camp Verde or at Fort Tejon, wherever the guy advocating their use was stationed.

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
Imagine you were a 19th century pioneers would have absolutely no knowledge of what the a camel was and you see one out of your ranch… You’ve got yourself a recipe for many horror stories.
(Photo by Pelican)

Then, just months before the Civil War broke out, Confederate troops overthrew Camp Verde on February 28th, 1861. In the chaos of the battle, the camels were set free to cause a distraction. They did exactly that and the camels scattered. Of the over one hundred original camels stationed there, the Confederate troops were only able to capture 80 of them — meaning plenty were scattered to the wind.

The camels were said to be spotted all across the west. Sightings were reported from Iowa to California to even British Columbia. In the following decades, the camels would periodically destroy and the locals would look on, many of whom had no idea what a camel even was. To them, these were odd, giant, humped beasts that occasionally spat at them.

These camel sightings continued until 1941. For the most part, their sightings were often met with confusion or wonder as they would happen upon a random farm here and there. Weird, but they are gentle giants, after all.

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
Just because there’s a logical explanation for it doesn’t mean it’s not creepy.
(True West Magazine)

But the most remarkable tale came from a lonely ranch outside of Eagle Creek, Arizona. It was called “The Legend of the Red Ghost.”

As the story goes, two ranchers went out for the morning and left their wives back home with the kids. The dogs started barking at something and one of the wives went to go check on it. There, she saw a terrifying, reddish monster (one of the Camel Corps’ camels) stampeding through the farm. It is said that the woman’s dead body was found trampled on with hoofprints left behind were larger than those of nearby horses.

A few nights later, a group of nearby prospectors were awoken to thunderous stomping and a terrifying scream (if you haven’t heard a camel make noise, I guess it’d sound creepy on a moonlit night.) They saw the beast and corroborated the ranchers’ tale. Of course, as with all tall tales, there was a good deal of exaggeration involved — one miner said they saw the “Red Ghost” kill a grizzly bear. Camels are tough, but they’re not that tough.

The story continued to evolve until, eventually, storytellers spoke of a ghostly figure riding atop the red beast — but this part might have been true. The “Red Ghost” was eventually tracked down and killed by a hunter nine years later. Oddly enough, the hunter found the beast with a saddle attached. Attached to those straps was a long-deceased corpse.

Who that person was or how long the camel was carrying them is still shrouded in mystery.

Writer’s Note: Some of the information about camels in the original version of this article were a bit incendiary towards the lovable goofy beasts. As a few people who’ve worked with camels have informed me, they’re rarely aggressive unless seriously agitated.

What may have also been a contributing factor to their aggression past that was left out of the original version was their extremely poor handling and maltreatment by the troops at Camp Verde. If you treat them well, they really are gentle giants. If you beat the camels, as was done by their “handlers” in those times, it will definitely win that fight.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Vietnam War was an example of good intentions but bad execution

What happens when the two sides of a war fundamentally disagree?


“Uh…well,” you’re thinking, “that’s pretty much the definition of war and you’re kind of a donut for asking, aren’t you?”

Yes, but hang with me. What I mean is, what happens when the disagreement goes beyond politics or ideology or territorial dispute, when the two sides disagree, on a basic level, about what the war they’re fighting is even about? And as a result, fail to agree on how the war will be fought?

Such cases produce quagmires of horrifying scope and duration.

One such case was the Vietnam War.

 

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
(Photo via Flickr, manhhai, CC BY 2.0)

 

For America, Vietnam began as an earnest attempt to free a small country from unwanted and undesirable Communist conscription. As the war ground on, however, idealism gave way to a more basic agenda, to prove the rightness and righteousness of America as a function of its overwhelming military power.

Also read: Green Beret: The US is fighting a 100 year war

For the North Vietnamese, and the Viet Cong guerrillas who aided them, the war was about finally shaking off the yoke of western colonialism. After years of occupation by the French, American military presence seemed merely the heavy hand of a new foreign master. They were fighting to reunify North and South Vietnam under the ideology of their choice, which happened to be communism.

 

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
(Photo via Flickr, manhhai, CC BY 2.0)

 

In 1956, then Congressman John F. Kennedy was a wholehearted champion of the Cold War-era clarion call to Stop the Spread of Communism.

Vietnam represents the cornerstone of the Free World in Southeast Asia, the keystone to the arch, the finger in the dike.

But after an extensive fact-finding tour through the Middle and Far East, he returned to the U.S. convinced that preventing the threat of a new communist colonialism in Indo-China would require more than simply offering — by friendship or force — an American colonialism as the superior alternative. Much better to promote the nationalistic aspirations of the region’s native peoples, so long as those aspirations tended toward an American-style love of liberty.

But as the stakes were raised on his own Presidency by the Cuban Missile Crisis and the raising of the Berlin Wall, Kennedy felt an increasingly dire need to prove democratic righteousness and might (Mighteousness?). It was a terrifying time. The nuclear prerogative, which had once been ours alone, was now in the hands of nations whose ideals seemed to us not so much foreign, as alien. Vietnam would have to be, for the American Way, a definitive demonstration. Kennedy again:

…we have a problem making our power credible and Vietnam looks like the place.

Had he lived to serve his full term in office, who knows if Kennedy might have have been able to carry out a nuanced foreign policy in Vietnam. He was assassinated in Nov. 1963 and the Vietnam War would become the problem of two more successive administrations. The practical result was a strategy of force, bombardment and attrition that floundered in the face of an enemy who refused to fight by those rules.

The facts on the ground in Vietnam made it clear to American servicemen that there was a grave disconnect between what we thought we were doing there (and the strategy we’d devised for achieving those goals) and how the Vietnamese — allies, enemies, and civilians in between — saw things.

A 1965 skirmish near Danang in which U.S. Marines killed 56 Viet Cong guerrillas put a very fine point on the issue. Among the Vietnamese dead was a 13-year-old boy who, just a day earlier, had been hospitably selling drinks to the Marines. Found on his body were hand-drawn maps of the Marine’s positions and defenses, intelligence for the Viet Cong.

 

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
(Photo via Flickr, manhhai, CC BY 2.0)

 

It’s a hard pill to swallow for soldiers who view themselves as a liberating force, to realize that the people they’ve been sent to help view them as the enemy, as occupiers, as aliens. It’s an issue our troops have faced every day in Afghanistan and on the fronts of the War on Terror. Righteousness is a delicate stance and a dangerous dance.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This WWII ace scored kills from every Axis country – and the US

Army Air Forces Lt. Col. Louis E. Curdes got a piece of every original signatory to the Axis Pact: Germany, Italy, and Japan. If that wasn’t outstanding enough, it’s how he got an American flag kill mark on his fuselage that earned him a place in military history — and maybe even the Distinguished Service Cross.



It’s not a mistake. The young, 20-something pilot earned every single one of his kill marks. He joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 at the age of 22 to fly planes against the Nazis. By 1943, he was a hotshot lieutenant scoring three kills against Nazi Messerschmidt Bf-109s, the workhorse of the German Luftwaffe, in his P-38 Lighting. That was ten days into his first assignment. Within the next month, he notched up two more kills, earning fighter “ace” status.

In August of that year, he ran into an Italian Macchi C.202 and shot that one down. Unfortunately, that was his last combat kill over Europe. He was shot down by Nazi pilots over Italy and captured by the Italians, resigning himself to spending the rest of the war in a POW camp.

But that didn’t happen. Italy capitulated a few days into Curdes’ internment.

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
Then-Lt. Louis E. Curdes.

Curdes was then sent to the Philippines and put behind the stick of the new P-51 Mustang fighter, going up against talented Japanese pilots. He was quickly able to shoot down a Japanese recon plane near the island of Formosa. His hat trick was complete, but that’s not where the story ends.

He and his plane, “Bad Angel,” were fighting over Japanese-held Bataan when his wingman was shot down over the Pacific. Soon after, he saw a C-47 transport plane, wheels-down, headed to land on the Japanese island. When he was unable to make radio contact, he tried to physically wave the transport off, but came up empty. So, rather than allow the American plane and its crew to be held prisoner by the Japanese, he used the option left: He shot them down over the ocean.

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
Baller.

Curdes skillfully took out one engine and then the other without blowing the entire cargo plane to bits. He was able to bring the C-47 down just yards from his downed wingman. Curdes returned to the site the next morning as an escort to an American “flying boat.” The pilot, crew, and its human cargo were completely intact.

Among the passengers he shot down was a nurse Curdes dated just the night before, a girl named Valorie — whom he later married. The story was rewritten by Air Force Col. Ken Tollefson in his book US Army Air Force Pilot Shoots Down Wife.

Internet legends say that he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for downing the unarmed cargo plane, but his citation was so ordered for actions while in the European Theater.

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
(Pima Air and Space Museum)

He still wins the best “How I Met Your Mother” story of all time, though. His P-51 named “Bad Angel” is in the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Pictures from the world’s forgotten Venus landers

On July 20, 1969, the United States won the space race. America had put two astronauts on the moon, secured the ultimate high ground, and put an end to decades of back and forth victories won by American and Soviet scientists. While many Americans saw the space race as a matter of national honor and prestige, many involved in the race for each nation’s government knew the truth: the space race was an extension of the Cold War in every appreciable way, and there was far more at stake than simply bragging rights.


Perhaps it’s because of this struggle for space supremacy, or what felt like the very real possibility that the Soviets might win it, that makes American audiences tend to gloss over the incredible achievements of the Soviet space program. It certainly makes sense not to celebrate the victories of your opponent, but in the grand scheme of things, many of the incredible feats put on display in both Russian and American space programs were victories for the human race, even if the politics of the day made it impossible to appreciate such a concept.

There may be no better example of this idea than the Soviet Venera program that took place between 1961 and 1984. The Soviets’ Mars efforts may have been marred in failure, but many Americans may be surprised to learn that they actually had a great deal of success in sending orbiters and even landers to Venus.
That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West

This might be one of the toughest little space robots you’ve ever seen.

(Venera 10 courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)

Over the span of just over two decades, the Soviets managed to put thirteen probes in orbit around Venus, with ten hardened devices reaching the planet’s hell-like surface to send back scientific data and even images of the planet. Because of the Soviet practice of keeping their space-endeavors a secret until it was politically beneficial to announce them, very little was known about these missions for decades, and it seems that much of the data acquired by these landers was lost during the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, but some treasures did manage to survive. Color photos of the Venusian surface taken by Venera 13, for instance, offer us a rare glimpse of what it’s like on the surface of a world many of us may have never thought we’d get to see.

Unlike the arid and cold environment of Mars that allows for the extended use of landers and rovers, Venus’ harsh environment made the long-term survival of any equipment utterly impossible. Instead, Soviet scientists hardened their landing platforms using the best technology available to them with a singular goal: they only had to last long enough to gather some data, snap some pictures, and transmit it all back to earth. If a lander could do that before the extreme atmospheric pressures and temperatures as high as eight hundred and seventy degrees Fahrenheit destroyed it, it was deemed a success.

It took Venera 13 four months to reach the surface of Venus, but once there, it survived for only around 120 minutes. During that time, it sent back fourteen color photos, eight more in black and white, and it drilled for a few soil samples which it analyzed internally. A duplicate lander, the Venera 14, was launched five days later and also managed to reach the surface, but survived only about an hour before succumbing the extreme environment.

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West

Venera 13 lasted around 2 hours on the surface of Venus before the heat and pressure destroyed it.

(Roscosmos)

While other Venera landers reached Venus, no others were able to transmit back color photographs of the environment. A number of them did. however, transmit back black and white images.

The pictures we have of the surface of Venus taken by the Soviet Venera program may not offer the same sweeping panoramic views we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from NASA’s Martian efforts, but they do offer an almost uncanny glimpse into a world that, upon getting a good look, doesn’t appear as alien as we may have expected. In a strange way, seeing Venus makes it feel that much closer, and although these images were captured by the Soviet Union during an era of extreme tension and a world on the verge of conflict, from our vantage point firmly in the future, it’s hard not to appreciate the incredible accomplishment these photos truly represent.

Besides, we did end up winning the space race, after all.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time a Navy admiral left Marines hanging during a Japanese attack

The Marines on Wake Island had a last stand that belongs with the Alamo in terms of its legendary status. One Marine, Henry Elrod, became a legend during that stand.


What is not as well known is that there was an effort to try to either relieve or evacuate the Marines from Wake Island. Samuel Eliot Morison described that operation in “The Rising Sun in the Pacific,” Volume III of his 15-volume History of United States Naval Operations in World War II.

 

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
Most of the F4F Wildcats defending Wake Island were lost in the initial attack. The remaining would also fall to the Japanese, but not before sinking the Kisaragi battleship. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Within days of the Pearl Harbor attack, Adm. Husband E. Kimmel started the effort to help the Marines on Wake.

Kimmel saw a chance to catch part of the Japanese fleet by surprise using Wake as a form of bait. Given that Wake was 2,300 miles from Pearl Harbor, there was no time to waste.

That said, the expedition still took time. All three carriers in the Pacific Fleet would take part. But there were a few problems. The

USS Saratoga (CV 3) was the carrier that had the planes of VMF-221, 14 F2A Brewster Buffalo fighters (utter pieces of junk, but that is another story). In a fateful decision, Kimmel put Rear Adm. Frank Jack Fletcher in charge of Task Force 14, which had the mission to steam into Wake Island.

Fletcher would command from the cruiser USS Astoria (CA 34).

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
U.S. Navy Brewster F2A-3 Buffalo fighters pictured during a training flight from Naval Air Station (NAS) Miami, Florida (USA). 14 of these planes were slated to reinforce the Marines on Wake Island. (US Navy photo)

Vice Adm. William F. Halsey, in command of Task Force 8 on the USS Enterprise (CV 6), would be held in reserve. Vice Adm. Wilson Brown, on board the USS Lexington (CV 2), would carry out a diversionary raid on the Marshall Islands.

Shortly after the expedition departed, Kimmel was relieved by Vice Adm. William Pye, pending the arrival of Chester W. Nimitz at Pearl Harbor. The expedition made its way towards Wake, but Fletcher was seemingly obsessed with his destroyers’ fuel state. Much as the Civil War-era Gen. George McClellan temporized about pressing the attack against Robert E. Lee in late 1862, Fletcher would take time the Marines could not afford to get the fuel he thought he needed for his ships.

Even after messages from the Marines on Wake reported the presence of enemy dive bombers and their desperate situation, he chose to fuel on Dec. 22. Morison would note that the destroyer with the least amount of fuel still had almost 90,000 barrels of fuel oil in its tanks.

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
Frank Jack Fletcher. (US Navy photo)

Even with the difficult refueling, the USS Saratoga was 425 miles from Wake at 0800 on Dec. 23, where the Marines were in desperate combat with the Japanese. Pye called off the Wake Relief Expedition when word of the landings reached Pearl Harbor. Morison notes that the Marines had actually wiped out the invasion force on Wilkes Island, and it took time to convince the hard-fighting Marines to surrender. They would spend almost four years in Japanese prison camps. Almost 100 of them would be massacred on Oct. 5, 1943.

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West

Inexplicably, Fletcher would still be assigned seagoing commands after the failure of the Wake Relief Expedition. The USS Lexington would be lost during the Battle of the Coral Sea. The USS Yorktown (CV 5) would be sunk at the Battle of Midway (where Fletcher did the smart thing and let Raymond Spruance take the lead).

Fletcher would leave Marines hanging again at Guadalcanal, when a decision to pull back the carriers would lead to the disastrous Battle of Savo Island, where the USS Astoria and three other heavy cruisers would be sunk.

Fletcher was wounded when the USS Saratoga was torpedoed at the end of August, 1942. After that, he’d be shunted off to backwater commands until the end of World War II. He died in 1975.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Hirohito was tormented by Japanese conduct in World War II

When Hirohito assumed the role of Emperor of Japan, the country was at the top of its game. A great world power, fresh off a victory over the Russian Empire, Japan enjoyed a booming economy, the third-largest navy, and a permanent seat at the head of the League of Nations. It soon began to unravel.


A swath of assassinations of government officials, attempts on the Emperor’s life, and a failed coup by a faction of the Japanese military may have left Hirohito suspicious and paranoid. He did little to stem to the rising tide of militarism in the Japanese government and did nothing to stop the military from ending civilian oversight of the Imperial Japanese Military. Most of us know what happened in the years that followed.

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West

Hirohito toward the end of his life.

After World War II, much of Japan was able to move forward. Hirohito was not deposed but remained Emperor. Just how much control he was able to exercise over the governing of the empire is still a subject of debate in Japan to this very day. He claimed he was little more than a figurehead but many believe his god-like status in Japanese society could have done more. Only he, and perhaps those around him, knew for sure.

One of those around him published a book about his time with the Emperor.

Hirohito, now known as Emperor Showa in Japan, lived until 1989, just shy of his 88th birthday. A recently-published diary penned by Shinobu Kobayashi, then one of the Emperor’s chamberlains, one of the men who managed the Imperial household functions, says the Emperor was by no means happy about Japan’s entry in the war or how it was conducted in his name.

It is true that once many in the military government of Japan learned that the Emperor would broadcast a surrender order via the use of his voice recorded on vinyl, they attempted to depose Hirohito and destroy the record. The conspirators were thwarted by the layout of the Imperial Palace and the record was smuggled out by a laundry woman and broadcast the next day. But over the years, evidence and other memoirs have been published that paint a contradictory view of the man, who was certainly one of the 20th Century’s most important, controversial figures.

Kobayashi says the Emperor felt “anguish” over Japan’s entry into World War II, and feared that as his life continued, he would only attract more blame for his country’s actions. When the royal household attempted to reduce his workload after the death of his brother Prince Takamatsu, Hirohito was dismissive.

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West

Hirohito next to Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the days following Japan’s surrender. Many Japanese were offended by this photo, given the General’s casual stance in the face of the Emperor’s formality.

(U.S. Army photo)

“There is no point in living a longer life by reducing my workload,” the then-86-year-old Emperor said. “It would only increase my chances of seeing or hearing things that are agonizing.” Kobayashi tried to console the emperor by pointing to Japan’s miraculous postwar recovery in the intervening decades.

“It’s a page in history,” he wrote. “You do not have to worry.”

Hirohito managed to avoid being tried as a war criminal because Gen. Douglas MacArthur trusted that even the Emperor’s most fervent believers would adopt democracy after the war – with the Emperor’s blessing. Hirohito’s continued presence on the Chrysanthemum Throne became a unifying symbol of postwar Japan.

After Hirohito’s death in 1989, his son, Akihito, assumed the throne as the 125th Emperor of Japan. The line of monarchs can be traced back to 680 BC, with varying degrees of power and responsibility.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These 6 women earned the Silver Star for valor in war

While World War I saw three women receive the Distinguished Service Cross and three more receive the forerunner to the Silver Star, it isn’t the only conflict since 1900 where American servicewomen have been decorated for valor.


Six women earned the Silver Star for valor for actions since “The War to End All Wars.”

1-4. Ellen Ainsworth, Mary Roberts, Elaine Roe, and Rita Rourke

These four women received the Silver Star for their actions on Feb. 10, 1944, during the Anzio campaign. A battle many see as a monumental mess for the allies.

 

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
2LT Elaine Roe, one of four women who received the Silver Star for their actions on Feb. 10, 1944 near Anzio. (US Army photo)

 

According to an official U.S. Army history of the campaign, the initial attacks on Jan. 22, 1944, went very well. The problem was that the Nazi resistance soon tightened up, and the next thing the Americans knew, they were in one hell of a fight.

What had been a promising beachhead instead became known as “Hell’s Half-Acre.” Troops were crammed in as the Germans carried out a counter attack that started on Feb. 3, 1944. According to an official U.S. Army history of the Nurse Corps in World War II, a week later, the 33rd Field Hospital was hit by a Nazi artillery barrage. Two off-duty nurses were killed by one shell. Another hit a generator for a tent used as an operating room, starting a fire that threatened 42 patients.

While 1st Lt. Mary Roberts kept the operating rooms going, 2nd Lt.s Elaine Roe and Rita Rourke used flashlights to evacuate patients that could be moved. CBSNews.com reported that 2nd Lt. Ellen Ainsworth also assisted in that evacuation, but caught a shell fragment and died six days later.

All four women received the Silver Star – in Ainsworth’s case, the award was posthumous.

5. Leigh Ann Hester

Of all the women to be decorated for valor since 1900, Leigh Ann Hester is arguably the best known. She is also the only one not to have ties to the Army medicine.

 

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester waits to be awarded the Silver Star medal during a military awards ceremony at Camp Liberty, Iraq, on June 16, 2005. (U.S. Army photo)

 

According to an AAR posted at BlackFive.net, Hester was a military policeman assigned as part of a squad designated “Raven 42.”

When insurgents ambushed a convoy on March 20, 2005, in Iraq, Hester — a team leader — was among those who leapt into action. Upon their arrival, one of the vehicles was hit by a RPG, and some of the soldiers moved to treat the wounded.

Hester would join then-Staff Sgt. Timothy Nein in clearing a ditch, using M4 carbines and grenades. Hester would later be credited with killing at least four of the 26 insurgents that were dropped on the spot, while Raven 42 also was credited with capturing five others.

The captured insurgents, according to an American Rifleman article, had been on a mission to take American prisoners. That did not happen, thanks to Hester and her fellow soldiers.

On June 16, 2005, Hester received the Silver Star for her actions that day, not to mention a lot of fame.

6. Monica Lin Brown

Monica Lin Brown may be the youngest woman to be decorated for valor to date. On April 25, 2007, she was with a convoy in Paktika Province Afghanistan when it came under mortar fire after one of the vehicles triggered an improvised explosive device. According to the medal citation, Brown, who was an 18-year-old private first class at the time, ignored enemy fire and ran to treat the casualties.

 

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
Spc. Monica Brown gets awarded the Silver Star at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, by Vice President Dick Cheney for her actions on April 25, 2007, during a combat patrol. (US Army photo)

Several times, she shielded the casualties with her own body, treating their wounds less than 50 feet from a burning vehicle loaded with ammunition. As rounds began to cook off, her platoon sergeant arrived and used a vehicle to move her and the casualties to a safer location. Brown continued to treat the wounded until they were evacuated.

On March 21, 2008, she was presented the Silver Star by then-Vice President Dick Cheney.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why there is no Cold War medal

The Cold War was a prolonged state of tension between the U.S. and the USSR, lasting from the end of World War II until December 26, 1991, the day the Soviet Union fell. The two superpowers were rivals on all fronts: political, economic, military, athletics, and, of course, in myriad Hollywood storylines. But the world’s most iconic ideological struggle doesn’t have a medal to call its own.


 

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
SF-88 Nike Missiles with Fort Cronkhite visible, circa 1959. (U.S. Air Force photo)

American veterans of this era were prepared for a potentially catastrophic war at a moment’s notice. They patrolled the Berlin Wall, the Korean DMZ, the jungles of Vietnam, and flew long patrol missions around the Arctic Circle to deter Russian aggression. Despite no direct war between the U.S. and Russia, proxy wars in Korea and Vietnam served as battlefronts between capitalism and communism while Eastern Bloc and American troops did find themselves shooting at each other on occasion. This worldwide struggle went on every day for 46 years.

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
Infographic: VFW Southern Conference

Traditionally, service medals are awarded for prolonged campaigns or for those who fulfilled specific service requirements. Two such current medals are the National Defense and Global War On Terror Service Medals. Those involved in the current campaign against ISIS were just authorized the Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal for the two-year-old conflict in Iraq and Syria. Yet, When the Iron Curtain fell in 1991, American military veterans serving during this period received no authorized service medal, such as a Cold War Victory Medal or Cold War Service Medal. They are not authorized to wear the National Defense Service Medal, despite the high military tension during the time period.

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
Soldiers of the Berlin Brigade in 1983 (U.S. Army photo)

There have been bills introduced in several separated Congresses to authorize a medal (the most recent being 2015 – that bill has been assigned to a committee) but none of them have made it very far. The reasons vary. The Cold War was not an actual “war” but a state of political conflict, according to a 2011 letter addressed to the Senate Armed Service Committee, written by then-Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs Elizabeth King. The letter also states that establishment of a Cold War Service Medal would duplicate recognition of service medals already authorized during the era.

Cost was also a factor according to King’s letter. The average cost of producing, administering, and mailing a Cold War Medal would be $30 per medal. The price would exceed $440 million for 35 million eligible personnel or their next of kin.

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
Serving on the DMZ… just not during declared conflict.

So instead of a medal, Cold War-era veterans can apply for a Cold War certificate. The certificate is available by request for all members of the armed forces and qualified federal government civilian personnel who honorably served the United States anytime during the Cold War, which is defined as September 2, 1945 to December 26, 1991. For those who served during gaps of “peace” and never in a declared combat zone or small-scale operation, this certificate is intended to recognize their service in the era.

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
Cold War veterans Lynn Olson, 75, and Tom Cameron, 76, hold up Cameron’s Certificate of Recognition for his service in the U.S. Army.

Organizations like American Cold War Veterans and other groups have been fighting to authorize a medal for many years. There is a Cold War Medal, but it is not authorized for all and not even official for most of the military. The Cold War Victory Medal is an official medal of the National Guard in the states of Louisiana and Texas and in ribbon form only in Alaska. This medal serves as the unofficial medal for Cold War veterans, but cannot be worn on a military uniform. Since the Cold War Service Medal Act of 2015 has zero percent chance of being enacted (according to GovTrack), a Cold War medal will not soon be authorized.

Articles

The Army bought this tiltrotor aircraft over 30 years before the Osprey flew

When the military adopted the V-22 tiltrotor aircraft in 2007, there were legions of naysayers who thought the military’s first tiltrotor was too unsafe and too expensive to be added to the fleet.


But while the V-22 did have a spotted history during development, it wasn’t the first military tiltrotor aircraft. A few such aircraft were in the early stages of development during World War II, and the U.S. Army bought a tiltrotor aircraft in 1956 — over 30 years before the first V-22 flew in 1989.

Video: YouTube/AIRBOYD

The Doak Model 16 was a vertical take-off and landing aircraft that used ducted tilt-rotors to generate forward thrust and — in the vertical flight mode — lift. Like the V-22, the Model 16 only rotated its rotors when transitioning between flight modes.

The Doak company spent years developing VTOL technologies before it sold a single Model 16 to the Army for further testing and development. For its part, the Army dubbed the Model 16 the VZ-4 and flew it for three years, evaluating its flight characteristics and the potential for full production and deployment.

Cobbled together with parts from other planes and using still experimental tiltrotor technologies, the VZ-4 had fairly impressive stats. It was capable of flying at 229 mph and had a 229-mile range.

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
The Doak VZ-4 hovers during flight testing. (Photo: U.S. Army)

But, the plane struggled with some “undesirable characteristics,” especially during the transitions between vertical and horizontal flight. The most problematic was a tendency for the nose of the aircraft to rise in relation to the tail during the switch between flight modes.

Ultimately, the Army passed on purchasing more of the planes and loaned its single Model 16 to NASA for continued tests. When NASA was finished with it, the aircraft was sent to the Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, Virginia.

Nowadays, the performance of the CV-22 and MV-22 Osprey has left little doubt that there’s a place in the military inventory for tiltrotor aircraft. The Ospreys can fly from patches of dirt or relatively small ships at sea that traditional planes could never operate from. And they can fly for over 1,000 miles without refueling, over twice the range of the CH-47 Chinook helicopter.

These traits have earned the Ospreys spots in special operations units and Marine air-ground task forces around the world. And for the U.S. military, the road to tiltrotor aircraft all started with a single plane purchased in 1956.

Articles

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together

In our post for Part 1 of the MRE season finale, we explored how the task of bringing the Israelis and Palestinians together might, in fact, be facilitated by mutual concern over food — specifically the production of olive oil.


That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
Middle Eastern oil, the happy kind. (Go90 Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Host August Dannehl toured a Palestinian-owned olive farm in the West Bank that was being guided by consultants from the Near East Foundation and USAID’s Olive Oil Without Borders project. Similar aid was being offered to neighboring Israeli olive farmers and, far from begrudging the competition, the Arab farmers seemed relieved just to be able to get on with their livelihoods and happy to wish their Jewish counterparts the same.

In Part 2, Dannehl dives deeper into Israeli military, farm, and food culture, meeting with an Arab gourmet chef who helms a cutting edge restaurant in Tel Aviv, talking to young Israeli Defence Force soldiers about how they view their nation’s foes and learning from diners of both nationalities the frank similarities between Israeli and Palestinian cuisine.

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
“We’re kind of the same people, you know? We love hummus, they love hummus…” (Go90 Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Finally, he returns to West Bank olive country, to the farm of Israeli olive oil maker Ayala Meir in order to attend a traditional kibbutz dinner, joined this time by Meir’s family and a number of their Palestinian friends from across the border wall.

Olive oil is culture. It brings people together. This is now the season that Jewish and Arabs and Muslims and Christians meet together. We all love this product. And it’s a way to know our neighbors. Actually an ancient olive tree is many individuals living in the same house. Every branch has a different root system. —Ayala Noy Meir

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
A toast to friends and neighbors. (Go90 Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

The recent success of efforts like Olive Oil Without Borders, not to mention the more live-and-let-live worldview that can be found among younger citizens of both nations, gives the world a glimmer of hope that this, one of the thorniest conflicts in human history, may one day be no more than a story neighbors reminisce about around a communal dinner table.

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
Magic hour in occupied territory. (Go90 Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Watch as Dannehl finds that hospitality knows no nationality, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Meals Ready To Eat:

Army food will make you feel the feels

This whiskey is a WWII victory, distilled

This is what happens when you run your kitchen like a platoon

This is what it means to be American in Guam

This is how olives could bring peace to the Middle East

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Navy actually had a training video on how to not kill your friends

One of the single worst things that plagues military forces is the phenomenon known as “friendly fire.” Some instances of friendly fire have been momentous, like the time Stonewall Jackson was shot by Confederate troops who mistook him for a Union general.


That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West

There have been tragic, modern instances as well – like the case of Army Cpl. Pat Tillman.

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West
Former Arizona Cardinals football player Pat Tillman. (Photo from U.S. Army)

This was also a problem in World War II — reference the disastrous friendly fire incident off Sicily in July, 1943. In trying to prevent these terrible instances, the Navy put forth a very unique training film, featuring the fictional “Ensign Dilbert.”

No, this isn’t the same Dilbert that’s made Scott Adams very rich, although, Adams admits that the suggestion of the name was, in fact, inspired by a Navy character. This Dilbert is, well… an idiot. A real big one. The type whose sole purpose in life is to be a warning to others.

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West

The film was called, aptly, Don’t Kill Your Friends. In the film, the main character, training to be a fighter pilot in the Grumman F4F Wildcat, looks friendly and likable enough, but he repeatedly makes bone-headed mistakes that could get people killed. It even features one disastrous incident with a supposedly “safe” dummy cartridge, which can do some very serious harm when it falls from a fighter plane.

Check out the film below, complete with a supposedly likable “Dilbert” and the chain of disasters he causes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNOKAd560wc
(Jeff Quitney | YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

How World War I chemical weapons led to a cancer treatment

The grisliest images in the history of warfare are often related to chemical weapons. Images of soldiers and civilians alike blinded and/or covered in blisters highlight the barbarity of chemical weapon attacks and nowhere was this more apparent than during World War I. But even the most terrible wounds of the Great War had a silver lining: doctors were able to find the first effective treatment for an equally horrible disease.

Beware: some of the images of mustard gas can be disturbing.


That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West

No joke.

The history of cancer treatment was as slow a progression as the disease often is. Cancer is a disease older than humanity itself, as even dinosaurs suffered from it. From the earliest days of recorded medical history, doctors have come up with a variety of bizarre treatments for it. Ground coral, lead, and even the lungs of foxes were used as treatment for the disease. Only in the 1800s did surgeons start recommending the removal of cancer tissue if possible.

Even then, the surgeries were often harsh, brutal, and without anesthetics. Then came World War I and the many, many new and innovative ways to kill and be killed on the battlefields.

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West

Back then, no one knew it was part one of two.

Mustard gas is a blister agent that can cause blindness as well as burning and blistering skin and internal organs. Mustard blisters in the throat can seal the airway, making the victim unable to breathe. The agent can also cause pneumonia-like symptoms in the lungs, causing a painful death by slow drowning. The worst part for battlefield medicine was that the effects of mustard gas could often not be fully developed for hours, filling up first aid tents and treatment wards.

Even if it didn’t kill its victims quickly, they could feel the effects of the mustard gas attack for the rest of their lives, as the gas scars their physical body as well as their mind. And remember that World War I troops only had gas masks; there was no full body chem warfare suit during World War I.

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West

Nurses treating World War I troops in the field.

After the war, mustard gas was studied extensively so that militaries could better utilize it on the battlefields and protect their troops against it. In the process of doing that, doctors noticed the bodies of men killed by the gas had lower white blood cell counts. This created enough interest for doctors to take a deeper look. By World War II, researchers were looking into the marrow of the deceased doughboys, where they made an important discovery: the mustard altered cell development in the bone marrow.

Cancer researchers used this information for their own devices. They isolated nitrogen mustard from the deadly gas mix and used the new substance on cancerous lymph notes and found that it would actually shrink cancers.

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West

Doctors isolating nitrogen mustard.

The discovery led to a whole new generation of targeted cancer treatments that were much less barbaric and seemingly random than the centuries of treatments that came before. These chemicals targeted cells that divided at a faster rate than other cells, and eventually chemotherapy.

“Normal fast-reproducing cells usually resume production after chemotherapy is finished, but cancer cells, which have weaker DNA, tend not to.” said Dr. Toni Storm-Dickerson, a breast surgical oncologist. “Chemotherapy has really changed the system of how we fight disease.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why you don’t hear about the German Navy on D-Day

Think of D-Day. What do you see? Probably the U.S. Navy pounding the shores with artillery as Army soldiers landed in boats driven by Coast Guardsmen as German soldiers rained artillery and machine gun fire while Luftwaffe pilots bombed and strafed the landing zones.

Notably absent: The German Navy. You almost certainly have no idea what the German Navy was doing during the invasion, and that’s because they weren’t doing much.


D-Day: Where was the Kriegsmarine? – Normandy Landings (Neptune / Overlord)

www.youtube.com

The problems for the Kriegsmarine dated to well before the war. In fact, a lot of it dates back to the formation of the Earth as well as the last few mass extinctions. Germany doesn’t have a lot of natural resources, especially the ones necessary for large ship construction.

Germany had the iron, but most of its coal is low-quality brown coal, and their oil and natural gas reserves are very limited. Worse, they have very limited port access, so what ships they do have can be fairly easily contained with a blockade. Because of these strategic and industrial limitations, Germany has historically maintained a navy smaller and weaker than its rivals. Germany’s navy was so weak in World War II that they even pressed a sailing ship into active service.

But Germany did have a navy in World War II, and its U-boats were small but lethal, so they still should’ve had an impact at D-Day, right?

Well, they could have, but there were more issues. Britain and the U.S. had gone all out to convince German high command that D-Day at Normandy was a feint, creating an entire fake army helmed by Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. that would supposedly land later at a deepwater port on the French coast.

So, many of Germany’s D-Day decisions were made with the belief that a second, larger invasion could be coming somewhere else. And they didn’t want to risk their minuscule naval forces on what could be an Allied feint. Worse, the Allies had learned about how to kill U-boats on the surface in the Atlantic. So, any underwater boats actually deployed would be extremely vulnerable.

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West

All these ships, none of them German.

(U.S. Army)

So, the submarines couldn’t deploy in broad daylight as D-Day got underway, knowing that any subs spotted leaving the safety of the harbor would be quickly hunted down and killed. One group of three torpedo ships did risk Allied wrath by slipping out to attack at Sword beach, successfully sinking a Norwegian destroyer.

That night, U-boats attempted to slip out and disturb the ongoing landings at Normandy, but they were quickly repulsed with two sunk and four heavily damaged. The Allies had sub-hunting planes that could detect German subs on the surface with radar, even in the middle of a dark night.

So, only U-boats with snorkels — those that didn’t need to surface — were viable. And Germany only had 14 left within range of the beaches. That’s partially because D-Day came in 1944, 13 months after the U.S. and Britain had savaged the German vessels in Black May.

So, for weeks, German U-boats were pinned in, and most of the German Navy was similarly limited. Eventually, they broke out and were able to inflict losses on Allied landing and logistics forces. But only eight Allied ships were lost to U-boats off the coast of Normandy at the cost of 20 German U-boats.

The surface story was similar. The Kriegsmarine was simply too small and too underpowered to take on the Allied fleet, and so it was doomed to failure.

Not that it was a bad thing since, you know, they were trying to stop the invading force that would later liberate the concentration camps.

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