These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

The Air Force is now aged well into its seventies and the branch that started as an offshoot of the U.S. Army is looking at having a child of its own — the U.S. Space Force. Even though the mere need for the U.S. Air Force is one that is still debated in some circles, it’s pretty safe to say the service is here to stay, and for good reason. The men, women, and aircraft of the U.S. Air Force have accomplished some of the most incredible feats in military history.


When you look back at the legacy of the USAF, there are so many important, pivotal events that either established the Air Force as one to be reckoned with, cemented the legendary status of some great American heroes, or made the difference when it was needed the most. There’s a reason these moments will live forever in our collective imagination. Like the mythological tales of great heroes setting out to impress the gods, these are the Air Force’s finest moments.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

You have to admit, it’s ballsy to go into combat in a rig made of canvas and popsicle sticks.

(U.S. Air Force)

1. The St. Mihiel Offensive – World War I

For four years, the St. Mihiel Salient was a giant bulge in the lines of the Western Front. In 1914, the German Army managed to create a 250-square mile indentation on the front while trying to capture the fortress at Verdun. When the United States joined World War I in 1918, General John J. Pershing demanded an area of the front that was exclusively the responsibility of American forces. He got it.

An important aspect of that battle was the air war over St. Mihiel, the largest air battle of the entire war. 1,476 allied aircraft took on 500 German aircraft over four days in September 1918. The First U.S. Army Air Service took command of air elements from the United States, France, Italy, Great Britain and Portugal. Combined force air power destroyed enemy aviation, achieved complete air superiority, and aided ground forces while denying enemy air reconnaissance assets.

The Salient was itself crushed by American ground troops within those four days.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

From the USAF’s raid on the Ploesti Airfields in Romania.

(U.S. Air Force)

2. World War II

An essential element to early Nazi successes in World War II relied on the new tactic of blitzkrieg, which required large but very fast movements of concentrated forces and massive air firepower. Before entering the war, the U.S. Army Air Forces saw the importance of air power in the skies over London and were shown that power in force at Pearl Harbor. After entering the war, the Air Forces were tasked with gaining air superiority, crushing the Germans’ ability to wage war, and prepare Fortress Europe for an allied invasion.

During World War II, being on a bomber crew was deadlier than even landing on the beaches of the Pacific with the U.S. Marines. As the war came home to Germany, the Air Force only stepped up the intensity of the bombing campaign while proving that American airmen and technology were more than a match for the Luftwaffe. By the end of the war, the Nazi air forces struggled to put up a fight as fuel, pilots, and ammunition were in such short supply against the overwhelming air power of the USAAF.

In the Pacific theater, the Air Force immediately brought the pain as fast as they could after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The daring Doolittle Raid started out the war with Japan by reminding them that they weren’t out of the United States’ long reach. The Air Force fought alongside the Navy in as many pitched air battles as were needed, but the real strength of the Air Force came at the end of the Navy and Marine Corps’ island-hopping campaign. As air bases were set up closer and closer to the Japanese Home Islands, Army Air Forces bombers pummeled mainland Japan with firebombs, crippling Japanese industry until two days in August 1945 changed the world forever: the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the Pacific War for good.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

In all your life, you’ll never be this cool.

(U.S. Air Force)

3. The Tuskegee Airmen – World War II

In the days before the integration of the Armed Forces, African-Americans served primarily in support roles, and usually as enlisted men. That all changed in the lead up to World War II when President Roosevelt ordered the Army to begin training black pilots at Tuskegee Army Air Field – in the heart of the segregated South. It was a time when Americans widely believed that black people could not be trained to use advanced technological equipment, especially aircraft.

Not only were the college-educated Tuskegee Airmen able to fly and operate aviation technology, they were really, really good at it. Tuskegee Airmen flew some 15,000 sorties in the skies of Europe and North Africa during World War II, risking their lives and the reputation of their entire race on their performance. Their success rate on bomber escort missions was twice as high as other groups in the 15th Air Force and, over the course of the war, they took down hundreds of enemy planes, thousands of enemy railcars, and even sank an enemy destroyer.

The massive successes of the more than 14,000 Tuskegee Airmen led to the integration of the Armed Forces after the war and Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., one of the first black Amy Air Force pilots, became the first African-American general of the newly-created U.S. Air Force.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

The Original Grubhub.

4. The Berlin Airlift – Cold War

The first battle in the ideological war that pit Western Capitalism against Eastern Communism wasn’t fought with guns or bombs, it was fought with food. After WWII, Berlin was divided into four zones, each administered by one of the victorious European Allies. The area surrounding the city was entirely Soviet-dominated. The German capital was, effectively, nestled deep inside Soviet-occupied East Germany. As Cold War tensions mounted, the USSR cut off all land routes to the Western-occupied parts of the city in an effort to starve out the capitalist allies. Any help to Berlin could only come through a dedicated air corridor.

In the days before massive cargo planes, like the C-5 Galaxy, the U.S. Air Force and the Western Allies launched what became known as the Berlin Airlift, a massive coordinated cargo hauling campaign that (at its height) saw an aircraft land in Berlin every single minute. German ground crews were soon able to unload an aircraft within 20 minutes in order to make sure the city was nurtured with the 394,509 tons of food, coal, and other supplies the city would need to survive the almost year-long Soviet siege of the city.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

5. MiG Alley – Korean War

During the Korean War, the Air Force was again put to the test. The Nazis developed jet-powered fighters by the end of World War II, but even then, it was an imperfect technology. By the time the Korean War saw Communist forces engage the United Nations Coalition on the Korean Peninsula, both sides were still flying propeller driven aircraft. That soon changed. As the war ground on through December of 1950, the United States still had no jet-powered answer to the Soviet-built MiG-15 jet fighter.

Then, finally, came the F-86 Sabre. The swept-wing design and the skill of UN and American pilots were able to make short work of MiG-15 fighters. In the infamous “MiG Alley” – the Northern area of North Korea, near its border with China – where Soviet, Chinese, and North Korean fighters waited at high altitudes to come down raining death on UN fighters, featured massive jet vs. jet air battles. Air Force F-86 pilots had a stunning 10-1 kill ratio.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

Robin Olds is the reason for the Air Force’s “Mustache March” tradition.

6. Operation Bolo – Vietnam War

The early days of the air war over Vietnam didn’t go so well for the USAF. The Vietnam War’s kill ratio is a dismal but disputed 2-1. Air Force sorties coming to the landward side of Vietnam from bases in Thailand were picked up by superior North Vietnamese early warning radar and intercepting Communist planes were able to wait for the incoming Air Force planes. Once inside North Vietnam, Air Force pilots had only their eyes to help guide them. Air Force pilots would always end up on the defensive against skilled North Vietnamese pilots and surface-to-air missile batteries.

Air Force legend and triple ace Robin Olds devised a way to take advantage of the increasing boldness of Vietnamese pilots. In “Bolo,” Olds created what looked like a standard USAF F-105 bombing run to North Vietnam’s radar. Enemy MiG-21s made a beeline for what they thought were the usual F-105 Thunderchief bombers only to find Olds and his fleet of F-4 Phantoms ready for air-to-air combat. Without suffering a single loss, the Air Force downed seven enemy MiG-21s, changing the way the Air Force fought in the air. In the weeks that followed, North Vietnam lost half of its combat planes to U.S. airmen.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

Behold: The reason the movie “Jarhead” has no climactic battle scenes.

(U.S. Air Force)

7. Operation Desert Storm

The air war of Operation Desert Stom was one of the most massive and successful air campaigns ever. Since Coalition aircraft could roam the skies in the region virtually unopposed. The buildup of men, materiel, equipment, and aircraft was one of the largest airlift operations in military history (even bigger than the Berlin Airlift). By the time the deadline for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait came and went, the U.S. Air Force was more than ready to take the initiative.

Now Read: 21 facts about the First Gulf War

Starting Jan. 17, 1991, the Air Force launched more than 100,000 sorties against Iraqi targets and dropped more than 88,000 tons of ordnance. Like a modern-day Noah’s Ark story, the Air Force pummeled Iraq for some 40 days and 40 nights. After the U.S. Air Force smashed some 38 Iraqi aircraft, those pilots still in the air fled to Iran (who they just finished an eight-year war with) rather than face the U.S. Air Force in combat. The Gulf War ended in Iraqi defeat on Feb. 23, 1991.

Articles

This was what it took to fly the world’s first stealth attack jet

The US Air Force’s flight schools have a reputation for churning out some of the best pilots in the world. But not even with that standing, only 558 in the service’s entire history were ever able to earn the title “Bandit” — the name awarded exclusively to pilots assigned to fly the top-secret F-117 Nighthawk stealth jet.


During the first years of the Nighthawk program in the 1980s, candidate pilots were drawn from a pool of fast-jet pilots. Only fighter or attack pilots with minimum of 1,000 hours were considered for the job, though candidates with 2,000 or more hours were preferred, given their extensive piloting experience.

According to Warren Thompson in his book, “Bandits over Baghdad,” stealth program brass struck a careful balance between recruiting pilots with phenomenal service records and pilots who were known to push themselves to the edge of the envelope — constantly demonstrating their prowess in the cockpit of the latest and greatest multimillion dollar fighters in America’s arsenal.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history
An F-117 on display at MCAS Miramar, in 2006 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Early Bandits already in the program, having earned their number, were allowed to refer fellow pilots from other units, based on critical evaluations of their skill and abilities as military aviators. The majority of candidates, however, came from fighter squadrons whose commanding officers were vaguely instructed to cherry-pick one or two of their very best pilots, and send them to Arizona to begin training on a new airframe.

Nobody, including the selectees themselves, had much of a clue what they were about to get involved in.

Further adding to the mystery was the fact that this “new” airframe was actually the A-7 Corsair II, an attack jet which had already been in service with the Air Force for a number of years. Nighthawk program evaluators chose the A-7 for its similarity to the F-117 in terms of handling, cockpit layout and flight characteristics. Upon the conclusion of their flight training, candidates would appear for a final series of check rides and tests in Nevada.

The 162d Tactical Fighter Group of the Arizona Air National Guard handled this segment of the selection phase on behalf of the 4450th Tactical Group. The 4450th was the cover for the Nighthawk’s existence, drafted up by the Air Force as a supposed A-7 flight test unit.

The casual observer, and even other military personnel not read into the Nighthawk program, would merely see this outfit as yet another one of the Air Force’s myriad boring units, though in reality, it was anything but that.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history
An A-7D Corsair II, similar to the ones prospective Bandits trained on prior to being told what they were actually training to fly (Photo US Air Force)

If the candidates survived the A-7 flight course, passed their final tests in their new jet, and were approved by the selection cadre, they were finally told what they were really there for — to be the next breed of American black operations pilots, flying an aircraft the government habitually denied even existed.

The Nighthawk was developed more as an attack aircraft than a fighter, though it was still granted the “F” designation like other fighters the USAF fields today. Built to evade and avoid radar detection, the F-117 was the deadly ghost America’s enemies didn’t see coming or going, even after it was too late and the bombs had already deployed from the jet’s twin recessed bays.

All prospective Bandits were now introduced in-person to their new aircraft at the Tonopah Test Range, a highly-guarded military facility known to play host to some of the most secretive Air Force projects ever undertaken. After strenuous classroom sessions followed by training missions flown in top-of-the-line simulators, pilots were then taken back to Arizona to Luke Air Force Base, where they would train briefly on the F-15 Eagle, learning to perform a ‘no-flap’ landing, which would simulate the Nighthawk’s handling dynamics during approaches and landings.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history
An F-117 in-flight, as seen from the boom operator’s station in a USAF tanker (Photo US Air Force)

After passing muster, the candidates were handed the figurative keys to the F-117 and were allowed to fly for the first time. Upon their first solo in the Nighthawk, each pilot was assigned a number and were officially awarded the title “Bandit.” As no Nighthawk was ever built with a twin cockpit, instructors flew near their candidates in chase planes while maintaining constant radio contact. After further nighttime and daytime training missions which qualified pilots to operate their jets in adverse conditions, a battery of tests and evaluations followed.

By this time, the class was severely depleted in size – the starting quantity of candidates diminished over time either because pilots opted out of the program, or were dropped by evaluators and instructors just because they weren’t good enough to fly this next-level aircraft. If the candidate was successful in his very last round of testing, he would be sent for further training to become combat qualified and would be initiated as a permanent member of the Nighthawk community.

Pilots were then sent to an operational squadron, where they would go on to fly daring missions in extreme secrecy around the world, from Panama to Yugoslavia, and onward to Afghanistan and even Iraq. The Nighthawk has since been retired from service, having been replaced by the F-22 in its role as a stealth attack jet, though the Bandit number has been permanently capped at 558, forever sealing the status of these pilots as some of the most elite military aviators in history.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The first clash of iron fleets was in 1866, and it was weird

In 1862, the Merrimack and the Monitor fought the famous naval battle at Hampton Roads where ships with iron armor fought each other for the first time. That clash is often cited as one of the moments where warfare changed overnight. Suddenly, it was clear that most cannons couldn’t penetrate iron hulls, and so every navy rushed to armor their hulls.


Just four years later, two fleets of wooden and iron-hulled boats clashed in the waters near Venice, and this first clash of iron fleets got weird, fast.

The Battle of Lissa was fought near an island of the same name in the Adriatic Sea, sometimes known as Vis, its Croatian name. A large Italian fleet of about 26 ships, including 13 ironclads, faced off against about 26 Austrian ships, but only seven Austrian ships were ironclads.

But the ironclad numbers weren’t the end of the Italian advantage. The ships that took part were powered by a mix of sail and steam. Like, each ship used both. Some ships were predominantly steam-powered but had sails to make them more efficient on long voyages, and some were sail-powered with small steam engines and paddles to help them quickly turn in combat. The ships predominantly powered by steam were generally more effective in combat, and Italy had a higher mix of those. And the Italian ships were generally larger, as well.

But most importantly, the Italian ships had larger guns and more rifled pieces. At the time, rifle-fired rounds and exploding rounds were about the only thing that could pierce iron armor. And by larger guns, we mean the largest Austrian guns were 48-pounders, and every piece of Italian naval artillery was larger.

So, the Italian ships were larger, better armed and armored, and technologically advanced. Guess the Italians won. Cool. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

The Austrian wooden battleship Kaiser rams an Italian ironclad in the Battle. The ship left its figurehead behind after the clash.

(Eduard Nezbeda)

Except, nope, just wait. Italy sent ships to capture the island of Lissa from an Austrian garrison on July 16, 1866. This assault was repelled, and the Italian ships returned on the night of July 19 to try again. The next morning, July 20, 1866, was rainy and the waters were covered in mist.

But the Italian fleet used the weather as a cover for their coming bombardment and landings right up until a dispatch vessel ran back to elements of the fleet with news that Austrian ships had reached the island. The Italian fleet had been split up to bombard multiple targets and land troops. They were not properly massed for a naval battle.

The Italians were unimpressed, though, and continued to focus on landing troops. With the technological and numerical advantage, it must have seemed that they could bat away any attempts at disturbing the landings.

The sun came out a couple of hours later and burned away the mist, and the Italians had to deal with a real Austrian threat. Three groups of ships, all arranged into arrowhead formations, were bearing down on them. But while this was a threat, it would have seemed like an easily countered one.

Ships are designed with long bodies to minimize resistance and to give stability, but artillery works best when it’s deployed side-by-side with all the guns firing in support of one another. So, when one group of ships charges on another, the group firing broadsides can typically fire many more cannons than the group that is charging. So, seemingly, this would work to the Italians’ advantage.

But then the Italian admiral did something completely baffling. He changed flagships as the Austrians bore down on him. He would later claim that he did this so he would be on a faster ship that could more efficiently relay orders, but the Italian ship crews didn’t know about the change and so would look to the wrong ship for direction for most of the battle.

And then the Austrians got a second break. Their headlong charge was obscured as the naval guns opened fire and began to emit those huge clouds of smoke. The Austrian commander, Rear Adm. Wilhelm von Tegetthoff, charged through the smoke with most of his ships and suddenly realized that he had unwittingly passed through the Italian line of battle.

So the Italian fleet was receiving no clear orders from what the captains thought was the flagship, was obscured by smoke, and suddenly had an enemy literally sailing through their lines. The battle quickly descended into a tight mass of ships circling and firing on one another with little real coordination. As the smoke filled the air and everyone lost sight of nearly everything, it became tough for combatants to tell who they were supposed to fight.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

An illustration shows Rear Adm. Wilhelm von Tegetthoff during the Battle of Lissa.

(Anton Romako)

Von Tegetthoff, though, had issued an order that worked perfectly in this insanity. Remember, Austria’s largest guns in the battle were nearly useless for firing at armor plating. The 48-pound shells that were his most powerful projectile would still need a lucky shot to seriously damage an Italian ironclad. So, von Tegetthoff had ordered his ships to ram Italian vessels whenever the opportunity arose.

And so the spinning, chaotic, smoke-filled brawl that morning was perfect for them. It softened the impact of the Italian artillery advantage, and Austrian crews began ramming everything that looked vaguely Italian.

Yeah, the first clash of iron fleets descended into a battle of naval ramming, a tactic that had lost favor in the decades prior because rammings were hard to pull off as the ships required a lot of time and space to build up speed, but easy to avoid as the targeted vessel could pull out of the way or turn so that an otherwise lethal blow would be a glancing hit instead.

In the melee of Lissa, ships of both sides rammed each other, and gun crews fired on ships that they were locked into combat with. An Austrian battleship rammed an Italian vessel and left its figurehead, a statue of the emperor, in the enemy’s iron armor. The Austrian ship even caught fire when one of its masts broke, landed on its own smokestack, and then became overheated by the exhaust.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

The Italian ship Re d’Italia sinks at the end of the Battle of Lissa.

(Carl Frederik Sørensen)

When the ships were exchanging shells, the Italians generally got the better of the exchanges as they could lob 300-pound shells from some guns. But the Austrian proficiency at ramming claimed a greater toll.

The original Italian flagship, the Re d’Italia, became the target of multiple Austrian ships looking to capture the enemy commander and his colors. Austrian gunners managed a hit that broke its steering, limiting it to forward-back maneuver. And then the Austrian flagship, the Ferdinand Max, bore down on it for a solid ram and scored a hit amidships, punching an 18-foot-wide, 7-foot-tall hole in it with a ram mounted at the waterline.

The heavy Italian ship rolled away, rolled back, and then sank in less than two minutes as sailors and marines struggled to escape the suction of the quickly sinking iron.

The fleets disentangled themselves. The Austrian forces had lost no ships, had only one badly damaged, and had suffered almost 200 casualties including 38 killed. The Italians had lost a prized ironclad and hundreds killed. Worse, a fire was spreading on another ironclad, the Palestro. Despite heroic efforts by the crew to save the ship, including flooding its powder magazines, a separate store of shells and powder was ignited.

The ship blew up like a massive bomb, sending parts of its plating and hull high in the air. Hundreds more Italian sailors died, and the wreckage sank within minutes. Italy had lost a second ironclad, and its death toll for the battle rose to 620. Not to mention, the shores of Lissa were now safe from the threatened Italian amphibious assault.

The aftereffect of Lissa was even weirder than the battle, though. The success of rams led to new ship designs that emphasized the weapon for decades, so even in World War I modern-ish battleships and many smaller vessels still carried iron rams at the waterline. And, maybe even more surprising, the Austrian success at Lissa had become moot before it was even fought.

The Austrian Empire had been decisively defeated on land at the Battle of Königgrätz by Prussian forces on July 3. Prussian forces on the continent kept pressure on Austria for the rest of July, and the war came to an end with Prussian victory.

Germanic tribes, and their Italian allies, were allowed to consolidate their peoples into new nations separate from the Austrian Empire. That empire renamed itself the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and, 48 years later, one of its archdukes was killed while riding in a car in the town of Sarajevo, less than 130 miles northeast of Lissa.

(Today, the island is part of Croatia and is known by its name in the Croatian language, Vis.)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Cannonballs literally bounced off the USS Constitution

If you look at the USS Constitution today, berthed at the Boston Navy Yard, you might find yourself wondering how a wooden ship got the nickname, “Old Ironsides.” The answer to that question is actually very simple: Cannonballs used to literally bounce off the hull of the Constitution in battle, falling harmlessly into the sea below.

The Constitution is currently the oldest active ship in the US Navy today. Launched in 1797, it was one of the earliest ships to enter service with the fledgling Navy. Ordered as a heavy frigate as part of the Naval Act of 1794, the Constitution and five other similarly-configured ships were to be the backbone of the new Navy — heavy warships that other, smaller, ships could support and rally around.

Though slated to carry 44 guns (cannon of varying sizes), sailors often crammed more than 50 aboard the vessel when it put out to sea. Three masts, decked out with massive sails, would provide the propulsion needed to drive the nearly 1600-ton ship through the rough Atlantic waves.


 

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history
USS Constitution under pursuit (Painting by Anton Otto Fischer)

It was during the War of 1812 that the Constitution earned her now-famous nickname, under the command of Isaac Hull. Well-liked and revered by those who served under him, Hull took it upon himself to personally ensure that the Constitution and her crew were ready for combat at all times. In mid-July, 1812, the heavy frigate encountered a small squadron of British ships, who gave chase. With a bit of planning and a little creativity, Hull managed to maneuver his ship away to safety.

The following month, the Constitution encountered one of those pursuing ships — the HMS Gurriere, commanded by James Dacres. This time, battle was inevitable and the two ships began trading blows. Hull quickly repositioned his ship, giving his gunners a clear view of the Gurriere.

Scrambling over the upper and the gun decks of both ships were sailors and Marines, frantically reloading their weapons for the next salvo. Aboard Constitution, sailors watched as 18-pound cannonballs whistled through the air, bracing for an impact that would certainly penetrate the walls of the ship, killing and maiming anybody in their way.

And then, nothing happened.

Though some of the cannonballs did inflict damage, others bounced off and fell into the roiling sea, much to the bewilderment of both sides. An American sailor notably yelled out, “Huzzah, her sides are made of iron!” and thus, the nickname, “Old Ironsides” was born.

 

(US Navy)

A combination of different types of oak layered around each other made the ship’s surfaces dense and difficult to pierce. The multiple layers of wood absorbed the cannonballs’ impacts of the and dissipated the forces quickly. Extra ribbing and bracketing on the internal walls also contributed to making the Constitution so sturdy.

By the end of the battle, the Guerriere was beyond salvage, much to the disappointment of Hull. Broadside after broadside had done the frigate in. The British crew was taken aboard Constitution and salvage parties took what they could off the smoldering Royal Navy vessel before lighting it afire and setting the ship adrift to descend to its watery grave.

Old Ironsides sailed into Boston Harbor, packed with prisoners of war, as jubilant American sailors and Marines celebrated their triumphant return home. After doing battle with more British ships in the following years, Constitution was briefly laid up in mothballs while her future was decided by the Department of the Navy.

Amidst fears that the Constitution would be scrapped, having long outlived its original intended lifespan, public outcry spurred on by a poem written by Oliver Wendell Holmes, entitled Old Ironsides after the ship’s nickname. The powerful poem motivated the Navy to fund a refit and refurbishment of the battle-scarred frigate. The nickname has since stuck, even through the Constitution‘s years of obscurity in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How 9/11 changed the way the Coast Guard protects the US

With the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the War on Terror set in motion dramatic changes to the Coast Guard. Prior to the 9/11 attacks, U.S. ports, waterways, and coastlines were protected primarily by Coast Guard boat stations and cutters. Immediately following September 11, Coast Guard resources were reallocated to fill the additional maritime security functions required in a post-9/11 environment.


In 2002, President George W. Bush signed the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) to protect the nation’s ports and waterways from terrorist attacks. The MTSA provided for a Coast Guard maritime security force to function as part of the Department of Homeland Security‘s layered strategy to protect the nation’s seaports and waterways. That same year, the Coast Guard began forming Maritime Safety and Security Teams (MSSTs), supporting the Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security mission and providing non-compliant vessel boarding capability for service missions. Today, there are 11 MSST teams whose specialties include waterside security, maritime law enforcement and K-9 explosives detection units. MSST assignments have included military force protection, United Nations General Assemblies, national political conventions, international economic summits, hurricane response efforts and major sporting events, such as the Super Bowl.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history
Cutter Tahoma deployed to New York Harbor on Sept. 11, 2001, and smoke emanating from the remains of the World Trade Towers.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

In 2004, in order to fully address the service’s congressionally mandated Maritime Homeland Security responsibilities, Coast Guard leadership merged Chesapeake, Virginia’s MSST-91102 with Tactical Law Enforcement Team-North to form a new maritime counter-terrorism response capability. Originally designated the Security Response Team One (SRT-1), and then renamed the Enhanced-MSST, the unit was formally established in 2006 as the Maritime Security Response Team. In 2013, the service began forming a second MSRT on the West Coast by transforming San Diego’s MSST-91109 into an MSRT. In 2017, the service officially changed MSST-91109 into MSRT-West so that there now exists an MSRT-West and the MSRT-East in Chesapeake.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history
Members of a Maritime Safety and Security Team during fast-rope training from an Air National Guard helicopter.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The MSRTs maintain a ready alert force to support Coast Guard operational commanders and Department of Defense combatant commanders for both short-notice emergent operations as well as planned security events. Examples of MSRT support include subject matter expertise for high-threat security incidents, foreign government law enforcement and security training, national special security events, and a variety of contingency and disaster relief operation support options, including force protection, robust tactical medicine capabilities, and forward reconnaissance and information gathering capabilities. Recent operations have included presidential inaugurations, boarding operations for U.S. Navy task forces, NATO summits and United Nations General Assemblies.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history
Maritime Safety and Security Team members deployed to Houston with a punt boat during Hurricane Harvey rescue operations.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

In 2007, the service stood-up the Deployable Operations Group (DOG) to oversee Deployable Specialized Forces (DSF), such as MSRTs, MSSTs, Port Security Units, National Strike Force teams, Regional Dive Locker personnel and Law Enforcement Detachments (LEDETs). Later, the service decommissioned the DOG and, in 2013, area commands re-assumed operational and tactical control of DSFs, such as the MSSTs and MSRTs.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history
Members of the Maritime Security and Response Team during 2015 nighttime training operations.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The 2001 terrorist attacks reshaped the Coast Guard, including new homeland security units. The service’s response to 9/11 demonstrated its flexibility and relevance to homeland security and rapid response requirements. Moreover, a variety of new units, like the MSSTs and MSRTs, emerged as part of the Coast Guard’s greatest organizational transformation since World War II.

This article originally appeared on the United States Coast Guard. Follow @USCG on Twitter.

Articles

American rebels returned this British general’s dog after a crushing defeat

Going up against the most powerful army in the world wasn’t easy. And the Continental Army knew all too well the smell of defeat at the hands of British regulars during their war for independence.


These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history
What’s this!? A British general’s dog? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Bitterness at suffering a loss could drive most troops to lash out at the victor in any way they could — even to hold a British general’s dog hostage to snub the victorious commander.

But fortunately for the American rebels, their commander had the moral fortitude — and an abiding appreciation for man’s best friend — to do the right thing.

And there’s even a book about the exchange.

After losing the American revolutionary capital at Philadelphia to British forces lead by Gen. William Howe in September 1777, Washington tried to knock out part of the Red Coat force camped at nearby Germantown. The attack launched Oct. 4 collapsed under its own complexity and the Continental troops were driven from the field by Howe’s forces.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history
General Howe beat the pants off of Washington, but he lived the rest of his life fighting criticism of his conduct of the war in America. (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

The Continentals lost an estimated 1,000 men to Britain’s 500 and it was the second defeat of the American army under Washington’s leadership.

But it turns out the rebels captured an important asset of the British general who just dealt them a crushing blow.

“A dog … which by collar appears to belong to [Howe] accidentally fell into the hands” of Washington’s army.

Washington was well known as a dog lover, with a host of precarious pooches kenneled on his estate at Mount Vernon in Virginia. And though his men were inclined to keep Howe’s dog in retribution, Washington would have none of it.

He ordered a courier to take the dog through British lines and deliver him to Howe with a note written by his aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history
General Washington’s letter to British Gen. William Howe accompanying his recently-returned dog.(Photo from US government)

“General Washington’s compliments to General Howe, does himself the pleasure to return [to] him a Dog, which accidentally fell into his hands, and by the inscription on the Collar appears to belong to General Howe,” the note reads.

It turned out Washington’s good karma paid off, as Howe resigned as Britain’s top general of the Colonial Army not long after his victory at Germantown and spent the rest of his life fighting off criticism of his conduct of the war in America.

 

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How World War I soldiers celebrated the Armistice

Veterans Day falls on Nov. 11 every year for a reason. That’s the anniversary of the 1918 signing and implementation of the armistice agreement that ended World War I.


Originally, the holiday celebrated just the sacrifices of those who served in The Great War, but the American version of the holiday grew to include a celebration of all veterans, and the name was changed from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.

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American soldiers with the 64th Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, celebrate the end of World War I. (Photo: U.S. National Archive)

But for troops in 1918, Armistice Day was a mixed bag. Some engaged in a boisterous, days-long party, but others couldn’t believe it was over and continued fighting out of shock and disbelief.

Most of the partying was done in the cities. In London — a city subjected to numerous German air raids during the war — the festivities broke out and spilled into the streets. On Nov. 12, 1918, the Guardian reported that Londoners and Allied soldiers heard the news just before 11 a.m.

Almost immediately, people began firing signal rockets. Church bells and Big Ben tolled for much of the day to celebrate the news. And some gun crews began firing their weapons to add to the noise.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history
Londoners celebrate the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918. (Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps)

Parades marched down the street, and American soldiers waving the Stars and Stripes were cheered by the English citizens. The English waved their flags and stuffed themselves into cars and taxis to drive around and celebrate. One car built for four passengers was packed with 27, counting multiple people clinging to the roof.

The city filled with marchers, many waving brand new Union Jack flags. Drinking was mostly limited to the hotels and restaurants, but the crowds pushed their way to 10 Downing Street and yelled for speeches from the Prime Minister.

At Buckingham Palace, chanting throngs of people demanded to see the king. George V appeared on the balcony with Queen Victoria and Princess Mary.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history
Crowds outside Buckingham Palace in London after the cessation of hostilities in World War I. (Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps)

But on the front lines, American and Allied soldiers were much less exuberant. While some units, such as the 64th Infantry Regiment featured in the top photo, began celebrating that very day. Others, like the artillerymen near U.S. Army Col. Thomas Gowenlock, just kept fighting.

The radio call announcing the surrender went out at approximately 6 a.m. on Nov. 11. Gowenlock drove from the 1st Division headquarters to the front to see the war end at 11 a.m. when the armistice went into effect.

I drove over to the bank of the Meuse River to see the finish. The shelling was heavy and, as I walked down the road, it grew steadily worse. It seemed to me that every battery in the world was trying to burn up its guns. At last eleven o’clock came — but the firing continued. The men on both sides had decided to give each other all they had — their farewell to arms. It was a very natural impulse after their years of war, but unfortunately many fell after eleven o’clock that day.

The fighting continued for most of the day, only ending as night fell. Around warming fires, the soldiers tried to grapple with peace.

As night came, the quietness, unearthly in its penetration, began to eat into their souls. The men sat around log fires, the first they had ever had at the front. They were trying to reassure themselves that there were no enemy batteries spying on them from the next hill and no German bombing planes approaching to blast them out of existence. They talked in low tones. They were nervous.

Australian Col. Percy Dobson noted the same shocked reaction among his troops in France on Nov. 11.

It was hard to believe the war was over. Everything was just the same, tired troops everywhere and cold drizzly winter weather- just the same as if the war were still on.
MIGHTY HISTORY

7 awesome posters that motivated your grandfather in World War II

Not everyone joins the military right after hearing a news report about Pearl Harbor attacks, after seeing the Twin Towers fall, or after hearing a speech by President Polk talking about “American blood” shed “on American soil.” No, most troops who will join a war make the decision slowly, over time. These are the posters from World War II that might have helped your (great) grandpa or grandmother decide to contribute to the fights in Europe, the Pacific, and Asia.


These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

(U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

This iconic poster from 1942, “Man the Guns,” encouraged men to join the Navy and do their bit for victory on the open ocean.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

(U.S. Army Military History Institute)

World War II saw the first use of paratroopers and other airborne commandos in combat. Germany kicked off airborne combat history during its invasions of Western Europe, but all of the major Allied and Axis powers fielded some sort of airborne force.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

(Flickr/Marines)

“The Marines have landed” was a World War II recruiting poster that capitalized on the expeditionary nature of the Marine Corps. It was first completed in 1941 but was aimed at 1942 recruiting goals. The Marines focused on the Pacific Theater in the war, chipping away at Japan’s control of Pacific islands until the Army Air Forces were in range of the home islands.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

(United States Army Air Forces)

The air forces of the world saw huge expansions in World War I and then the inter-war years. By the time World War II was in full swing, thousands of planes were clashing over places like the English Channel and the Battle of Kursk. American air forces launched from bases in the Pacific, England, Africa, and more in order to take the ultimate high ground against the Axis forces.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

(U.K. National Archives)

This poster from England referenced a Winston Churchill speech in 1941 that reminded the English people of their great successes in late 1940 and early 1941. Hitler’s planned invasion of the British Isles had been prevented, and Churchill was hopeful that continued English resistance would pull America into the war. He finished the speech with this passage:

We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle, nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down. Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.
These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

American men who joined the Army started at a bare a month, equivalent to about 0 today. Joining the Airborne forces could more than double that pay, but it was still clear that fighting the Nazis or the Japanese empire had to be done for patriotism, not the insane pay.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

This poster by J. Howard Miller became an iconic image of wartime production and is thought to be the prototype that led to the “Rosie the Riveter” campaign and the accompanying image by Norman Rockwell on The Saturday Evening Post. Women entered the workforce in record numbers in World War II to help the country keep up with wartime demand while a large portion of the male workforce was sent overseas.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

(Flickr/Boston Public Library)

Not everyone could serve on the front lines. Whether restricted because of age, health, or some other factor, people who wanted to serve their country’s defense in the states could join the U.S. Office of Civilian Defense. If it sounds like busy work to you, understand that America’s coasts were being regularly attacked by submarines while the occasional raid by planes or balloons was an ever-present threat.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

(U.K. National Archives)

England took some of the worst hits from Germany in World War II, so British propagandists found it important to remind a scared English public that they’d been here before, that they’d survived before, and that Germany had been turned back before. It might have been cold comfort after France fell so quickly in World War II after holding out for all of World War I, but even cold comfort is preferable to none.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the true story of Thanksgiving ended in a war

In the US, Thanksgiving is a time for family, parades, lots of delicious food, and, oftentimes, intense travel snarls.


American schoolchildren are usually taught the tradition dates back to the pilgrims, English religious dissenters who helped to establish the Plymouth Colony in present-day Massachusetts in 1620.

As the story goes, friendly local Native Americans swooped in to teach the struggling colonists how to survive in the New World. Then everyone got together to celebrate with a feast in 1621. Attendees included at least 90 men from the Wampanoag tribe and the 50 or so surviving Mayflower passengers, according to TIME. The bash lasted three days and featured a menu including deer, fowl, and corn, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

In reality, Thanksgiving feasts predate Plymouth. You’ll even find a number of localities have vied to claim the first Thanksgiving for themselves.

More Thanksgiving: This is the Navy’s Thanksgiving grocery list

Settlers in Berkeley Hundred in Virginia decided to celebrate their arrival with an annual Thanksgiving back in 1619, according to The Virginian-Pilot — although The Washingtonianreported the meal was probably little more than some oysters and ham thrown together. And decades before that, Spanish settlers and members of the Seloy tribe broke bread with salted pork, garbanzo beans, and a Mass in 1565 Florida, according to the National Parks Service.

Our modern definition of Thanksgiving revolves around eating turkey, but in past centuries it was more of an occasion for religious observance. The storied 1621 Plymouth festivities live on in popular memory, but the pilgrims themselves would have likely considered their sober 1623 day of prayer the first true “Thanksgiving,” according to the blog the History of MassachusettsOthers pinpoint 1637 as the true origin of Thanksgiving, owing to the fact Massachusetts colony governor John Winthrop declared a day of thanks-giving to celebrate colonial soldiers who had just slaughtered 700 Pequot men, women, and children in what is now Mystic, Connecticut.

Either way, the popular telling of the initial harvest festival is what lived on, thanks to Abraham Lincoln.

The enduring holiday has also nearly erased from our collective memory what happened between the Wampanoag and the English a generation later.

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Massosoit, the sachem or paramount chief of the Wampanoag, proved to be a crucial ally to the English settlers in the years following the establishment of Plymouth. He set up an exclusive trade pact with the newcomers, and allied with them against the French and other local tribes like the Narragansetts and Massachusetts.

However, the alliance became strained overtime.

Thousands of English colonists poured into the region throughout the 17th century. According to “Historic Contact: Indian People and Colonists in Today’s Northeastern United States,” authorities in Plymouth began asserting control over “most aspects of Wampanoag life,” as settlers increasingly ate up more land. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American Historyestimated disease had already reduced the Native American population in New England by as much as 90% from 1616 to 1619, and indigenous people continued to die from what the colonists called “Indian fever.”

By the time Massasoit’s son Metacomet — known to the English as “King Philip” — inherited leadership, relations had frayed. King Phillip’s War was sparked when several of Metacomet’s men were executed for the murder of Punkapoag interpreter and Christian convert John Sassamon.

Also Read: One of the last Navajo code talkers has died

Wampanoag warriors responded by embarking on a series of raids, and the New England Confederation of Colonies declared war in 1675. The initially neutral Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was ultimately dragged into the fighting, as were other nearby tribes like the Narragansetts.

The war was bloody and devastating.

Springfield, Massachusetts was burned to the ground. The Wampanoag abducted colonists for ransom. English forces attacked the Narragansetts on a bitter, frozen swamp for harboring fleeing Wampanoag. Six hundred Narragansetts were killed, and the tribe’s winter stores were ruined, according to Atlas Obscura. Colonists in far flung settlements relocated to more fortified areas while the Wampanoag and allied tribes were forced to flee their villages.

The colonists ultimately allied with several tribes like the Mohigans and Pequots, despite initial reluctance from the Plymouth leadership.

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Metacomet (also known as King Philip of Wampanoag) works with neighboring Wampanoags, Narragansetts, Nipmucks, Mohegans, and Podunks and leads a military action against the English. They respond violently, capturing and assassinating him. King Philip’s War begins. (Image National Library of Medicine)

Meanwhile, Metacomet was dealt a staggering blow when he crossed over into New York to recruit allies. Instead, he was rebuffed and attacked by Mohawks. Upon his return to his ancestral home at Mount Hope, he was shot and killed in a final battle. The son of the man who had sustained and celebrated with the Plymouth Colony was then beheaded and dismembered, according to “It Happened in Rhode Island.” His remaining allies were killed or sold into slavery in the West Indies. The colonists impaled “King Phillip’s” head on a spike and displayed it in Plymouth for 25 years.

In an article published in The Historical Journal of Massachusetts, Montclair State University professor Robert E. Cray Jr. said the war’s ultimate death toll could have been as high as 30% of the English population and half of the Native Americans in New England.

The war was just one of a series of brutal but dimly remembered early colonial wars between Native Americans and colonists that occurred in New England, New York, and Virginia.

Thanksgiving today: Here’s what Thanksgiving is like for our troops overseas

Popular memory has largely clung to the innocuous image of a harvest celebration, while ignoring the deadly forces that would ultimately drive apart the descendants of the guests of that very feast.

Modern day Thanksgiving may be a celebration of people coming together, but that’s not the whole story when it comes to the history of the day.

Articles

How the election of 1876 was settled with a compromise

After the end of the Civil War, the U.S. was in a state of divide. Tensions lingered between the North and South, yet all remained under jurisdiction of a single force: the federal government. As Ulysses S. Grant chose not to run for a third term, officials began scrambling for presidential candidates to fill his shoes. The result became Rutherford B. Hayes (Republican) vs. Samuel J. Tilden (Democrat) in a “corrupt bargain” and controversial election.

Essentially, a true winner of the presidency could not be decided and it was left to a truce in order to determine the next Commander in Chief.

Here’s why:

Three states in the South had an inaccurate vote count. (And possibly some Northern states, due to ongoing debates.) They sent in two totals, with either candidate winning the electoral votes. As either party couldn’t win without the votes being allocated, a special electoral commission was created by President Grant to settle the dispute. Eventually, the votes went to Rutherford B. Hayes, securing his spot as president. Of course, this upset his competition and earned him the nickname RutherFraud. The deal awarded Hayes the win by a single vote — 185 over 184, while Democratic candidate, Tilden, won the popular vote. 

Rutherford B. Hayes (October 4, 1822—January 17, 1893), 19th President of the United States and 29th and 32nd Governor of Ohio. Public Domain.

Compromise of 1877

Known as a controversial, underground deal, the Compromise of 1877 was never listed on paper. Instead, it was an informal arrangement made between Congressmen. The deal listed that Hayes would earn the presidential votes, or rather, the Democrats would not dispute this fact, so long as he would end Reconstruction. (Among other things.) That meant removing federal troops from the remaining states they inhabited: Louisiana, Florida and South Carolina, despite their presence being important in the survival of Republican programs, and the safety of African Americans. 

Essentially, it was an agreement for federal troops to stop interfering in Southern politics. This soon became a race issue, with violence taking place against blacks, and eventually, a series of laws to prevent them from voting through disenfranchisement. Through the deal, Southern states were to protect African Americans against violence, which largely went overlooked. 

Correspondence with Samuel J. Tilden. Public Domain

Additional terms of the deal

In exchange for the following, Democrats would peacefully hand the presidency over to Rutherford B. Hayes. 

At least one Southern Democrat would be named to Hayes’ Cabinet; he made good on this deal when he appointed David M. Key, from Tennessee, as Postmaster General. 

A transcontinental railroad was to be built with the Texas and Pacific Railroad Company, and was to be located within the South. However, the company went bankrupt the following year, as a bad hurricane season flooded their efforts in Louisiana. 

In order to restore the economy, legislation would be put into place to industrialize the South. However, no real legislation was put into place. 

Southern citizens had “the right to deal with black people without northern interference.” Despite reassurances that African Americans would be treated with respect, this widely led to violence and laws that revoked or blocked rights like voting and land ownership. 

Not all politicians (or followers) got the memo and several Democrats were upset about the deal. However, sitting President Grant thwarted any signs of uprising. 

To this day, the Compromise of 1877 is known as one of the most controversial elections in the U.S. The deal also effectively eliminated a Congressional filibuster and allowing the federal government to move forward with regular proceedings. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the drill book America used before the ‘Blue Book’

Ah, the vaunted Blue Book, known throughout the U.S. Army for being the first drill guide for American land troops. It is more properly known as Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, and it was authored by Baron and Inspector General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, but it wasn’t actually the first drill manual for American troops.


These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

Revolutionary War re-enactors.

(Lee Wright, CC BY-SA 2.0)

See, von Steuben came to the Americas in 1778, nearly three years after the battles of Lexington and Concord and over 19 months after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. So, von Steuben was falling in on an American army that already existed. Clearly, someone had some idea of how to drill them before that, right?

Of course. The most recent drill guide for colonial militia before 1778 came from Great Britain, The Manual Exercise as Ordered by His Majesty in 1764. The bulk of this focused on how enlisted soldiers should stand, march, and use their weapons for orderly combat.

Included in the short work was a two-page primer, Instructions for Young Officers, by British Maj. Gen. James Wolfe. Wolfe was a hero of the British empire and had distinguished himself against the French in Canada.

A 2006 re-printing of the text is available online as a PDF, and the first section is a sort of “by-the-numbers” breakdown of poising, cocking, presenting, firing, and then re-loading the “firelocks,” another word for the firearms of the day. If you think it’s odd that “aiming” wasn’t part of that process, good catch. But that wasn’t a big part of an infantryman’s job at the time.

Muskets and similar weapons had entered the hunting world hundreds of years before the American Revolution, but most weapons still weren’t horribly accurate. So rather than “aiming,” soldiers before and during the Revolution “presented” their weapons. Basically, they pointed the weapons in the direction of the enemy formation. Good enough for imperial work.

(Note: While the 2006 PDF is based on the 1764 manual, only Section 1 was in the original manual. If you decide to read it, understand that sections 2-8 were written in the modern day for use by re-enactors in the Tenth Regiment.)

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A 1740 Austrian drill manual shows rather than tells how troops would perform key actions.

(U.S. Army)

But even before 1764, colonial forces were using a manual of arms that was likely more useful for many young militiamen than the king’s manual. The Austrian Infantry Drill from 1740 is made up almost entirely of illustrations that show rather than tell how troops should ride in formation, march, fix bayonets, etc.

In a surprising bit of honesty, it even shows troops maintaining the line as troops on either side collapse in combat. It is crazy optimistic in showing only three people having fallen during at least one full exchange of gunfire, but, still.

At a time when as much as 15 percent of the population was unable to read, these illustrations would have been quite valuable. For them, it wouldn’t matter that the descriptions were in a foreign language. They can tell from the pictures which illustrations were showing the fixing and unfixing of bayonets, shouldering and unshouldering arms, and so on.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

The cover page of a printed “Blue Book,” Baron and Inspector General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben’s Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States.

(U.S. Army)

But the techniques in these books weren’t widely used, known, and understood when the American Revolution started, and they were far from comprehensive. Baron von Steuben’s Blue Book addressed a lot of things missing from the older guides.

For instance, chapter one of the book details what equipment was needed for soldiers, non-commissioned officers, and officers. Chapter two defines what leaders’ roles would be, and chapters three and four details what men were needed for an army company, regiment, and battalion.

It goes on from there, detailing how to recruit and train troops, how to employ a company in training and combat, and more. So, even militiamen who had taken advantage of older drill guides, like those from 1764 and 1740, would find plenty of value in von Steuben’s manual.

It remained the training guide for U.S. troops until 1812, and soldiers are still quizzed on some details of the manual today during soldier and promotion boards.

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These 18 photos show the bravery of US troops during the Battle of the Bulge

On Dec. 16, 1944, Nazi Germany launched a counteroffensive against the Allied powers. The sneak attack began with a massive assault of over 200,000 troops and 1,000 tanks, aimed to divide and conquer the Allied forces. Some English-speaking Germans dressed in American uniforms to slip past the defenses.


After just one day of fighting, the Germans managed to isolate the American 101st Airborne Division and capture a series of key bridges and communication lines. Over the next two days, Patton’s Third Army would batter through miles of German tanks and infantry to reach the trapped paratroopers.

The fighting continued through the beginning of Jan. 1945 when Hitler finally agreed with his generals to pull back the German forces.

Here are 18 photos from the historic battle that show what life was like in the winter Hell.

1. American and German troops battled viciously for Belgian villages that were destroyed by artillery, tank fire, and bombs.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history
3rd Armored Division infantrymen advance under artillery fire at Pont-Le-Ban, Belgium on Jan. 15, 1945. Photo: US Army

2. The battle was fought across a massive front featuring forests, towns, and large plains.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

3. With deep snow covering much of the ground, medics relied on sleds to help evacuate the wounded.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history
Medics remove an American casualty from the wood near Berle, Lusxembourg on Jan. 12, 1945

4. Troops lucky enough to get winter camouflage blended in well with the snow.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history
Two elements of the 84th Division meet up at an abandoned mill near River L’Ourt, Belgium on Jan. 15, 1945

5. Troops who weren’t so lucky stood out in stark contrast to the white ground during the Battle of the Bulge.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history
American infantrymen of the 290th Regiment fight in fresh snowfall near Amonines, Belgium on Jan. 4, 1945.

6. Troops were often separated from their units due to the chaotic nature of the battle. They would usually find their way back on foot.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history
101st Airborne Division paratroopers Pfc. M.L. Dickens of East Omaha, Nebraska, Pvt. Sunny Sundquist of Bremerton, Washington, and Sgt. Francis H. McCann of Middleton, Conn., set out to rejoin their unit near Bastogne on Jan. 11, 1945.

7. Each side lost about 1,000 tanks in the battle and the burned out wrecks littered the countryside.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history
Infantry supporting engineers pass a knocked out German tank on their way to the front at Compogne, Belgium on Jan. 15, 1945.

8. In towns, Luftwaffe bombing killed many soldiers and civilians while destroying the buildings and equipment everywhere.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

9. Medics would evacuate the wounded from these areas to safer hospitals when possible.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

10. In caves and bomb shelters, Allied doctors and medics treated the civilians wounded by battle or sick from exposure to the elements.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history
Captain Charles S. Quinn (right) of Louisville, Kentucky, bandages the gangrene-infected foot of Belgian refugee child in a cellar in Ottre, Belgium on Jan. 11, 1945. Captain Quinn was a battalion surgeon with the 83rd Division, First Army.

11. The soldiers could also fall prey to the elements. The extreme cold and sometimes rugged terrain posed challenges for the defenders.

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Two paratroopers advance through a snow-covered, wooded section of the battlefield near Henumont, Belgium on Jan. 14, 1945.

12. Many of the forces holding the line were tank and airborne units.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history
Photo: US Army

13. Camouflage was used to protect equipment when possible.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history
Soldiers use bedsheets donated by the locals to hide military equipment from Luftwaffe bombers and German army artillery.

14. Until the Third Army was able to open a land corridor through the siege of Bastogne, 101st Airborne Division paratroopers relied on air drops for resupply.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history
Photo: US Army Signal Corps

15. The Luftwaffe and U.S. fighters fought overhead, each attempting to gain air dominance.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

16. Though the Allies would eventually win in the air and on the ground, a number of aircraft were lost.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history
A crashed plane lies in the snow near Remagne, Belgium on Jan. 13, 1945.

17. As more Allied troops were sent to reclaim the lost territory in Jan. 1945, they were forced to pass the remains of those already killed.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

18. Troops held memorial services for their fallen comrades whenever possible.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history
Engineers fire in a memorial service during the Battle of the Bulge. Photo: US Army

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Navy’s F11F was so fast it could shoot itself down – and did

By the 1950s, the Cold War was in full swing, and the Soviets appeared to have an edge in fighter plane technology. The USSR debuted a new plane, the MiG-15. This new fighter had a design that no one had yet seen flying. Its swept-back wingspan allowed it to achieve speeds approaching the speed of sound. It was also incredibly effective against all the fighters of that age. The Navy needed to figure out how to beat it to protect its carrier.

They turned to defense contractor Grumman, who soon turned its designs inside-out and trying to take the new MiG down.


And they started with the F9F Cougar.

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Looks cool on a carrier, looks worse getting shot down by MiGs.

(U.S. Navy)

What came of the project was the F11F Tiger, which incorporated the latest and greatest in naval aviation technology and tactics into the basic designs of the carrier-based F9F Cougar. The Cougar has a windswept wing design of its own, as the MiG-15 had completely outclassed straight-wing fighters in the skies over Korea. The Navy wanted some fighters who could protect its ships in aerial combat. Grumman began its effort with the F9F Cougar but went back to the drawing board and came out with the Tiger, a supersonic fighter that could be launched from a carrier and bring the fight to the MiGs.

Unfortunately, its high top speed is how the F11F Tiger became the first fighter to shoot itself down.

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The F11F

(U.S. Navy)

On Sept. 21, 1956, test pilot Tom Attridge began a shallow dive in his F11F. As he did, he fired two short bursts from the aircraft’s four 20mm cannons, and thought nothing of it – until he got to the end of his dive, and the bursts began to shoot up his aircraft. He started at 20,000 feet and then went into a Mach 1 dive as he fired. He accelerated with afterburner and at 13,000 feet, fired to empty. He continued his dive. but at 7,000 feet, something struck his canopy glass and one of his engine intake lips. The aircraft began to lose power, and Attridge headed back to base to land it.

But in order to make it back without shattering the canopy, he had to slow down his Tiger to a crawl, and the engine would only produce 78 percent of its normal power. He wouldn’t make it back to base at that rate. Two miles away from the runway, the engine went out completely.

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

(U.S. Navy)

Attridge didn’t bail out – test pilots are crazy – in the slowed aircraft, he settled into some trees. Despite some injuries, he exited the plane once on the ground and was picked up by a rescue helicopter. The plane, as it turned out, was hit in the windshield, the right intake, and the nose cone by its own rounds. The low pitch of the plane and its trajectory, combined with the trajectory of the bullets and the speed of the Tiger’s descent at half the speed of sound right into the guns’ target area, meant that the plane would easily catch up with its own burst of 20mm fire.

The pilot shot himself down in about 11 seconds.

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