The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of 'Pappy' Gunn - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

When people mention “Pappy” — otherwise known as Gregory P. Boyington of VMF-214 — the “Black Sheep Squadron” immortalized in the late 1970s series “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” comes to mind.


There is a good reason; Boyington, a Medal of Honor recipient, is the top-scoring Marine Corps ace with 28 kills. He was also an ace with the Flying Tigers (six kills).

But there is another Pappy who did much to help turn back the Japanese in the Pacific Theater. This was Paul I. “Pappy” Gunn.

“Pappy” Gunn had served in the U.S. Navy for twenty years before retiring to start airlines in Hawaii and the Philippines. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, he returned to the service — and received a Distinguished Flying Cross for flying in medical supplies to besieged troops on the Bataan Peninsula. He was evacuated to Australia, and in the summer of 1942, he began his major contribution to the war effort.

Gunn started to add M2 .50-caliber machine guns to the noses of A-20 Havoc light bombers. The planes had been okay, able to carry a ton of bombs, but bombing from high altitude often didn’t work with ships. So Gunn began modifying the A-20s, and later the B-25s, with M2s scavenged from fighters that had brought back their pilots, but which wouldn’t be repaired. He also developed the tactics these planes would use.

 

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn
9th Air Force Douglas A-20G or A-20H over France. Note the solid nose holding six M2 .50-caliber machine guns. (US Air Force photo)

It was a very lethal masterpiece. Word filtered back to the manufacturers, Douglas and North American, and soon new versions of the B-25 and A-20 were out, built and inspired by Gunn’s field modifications. One version of the B-25 would carry 18 forward-firing M2s — the firepower of three P-51 Mustangs!

These planes would make their mark in the Southwest Pacific. Japan was trying to reinforce troops in New Guinea, where the Americans and Australians were fighting fiercely. Gunn’s modifications would be put to the test in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. Japan sent eight transports, escorted by eight destroyers to deliver nearly 7,000 troops to Lae from Rabaul.

On March 3, 1943, they began. The Japanese force was simply unprepared to handle the Allied firepower. Despite cover from 100 fighters, their convoy was savaged. The strafing, combined with skip-bombing and mast-height bombing, tore the transports and half the destroyers apart. Only 1200 troops and practically no equipment made it to Lae.

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn
Planes from the 5th Air Force carry out a low-level attack during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. (US Air Force photo)

Gunn would serve throughout the war, retiring as a full colonel. He then went back to re-building the airline he had started prior to World War II breaking out. In 1957, he was killed when his plane crashed during a storm. While not well-known, Gunn’s legend is one that does the United States Air Force proud.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The first female F-35 pilot proves flying is a gender equalizer

There’s no doubt that Air Force continues to advance its air-power capabilities. In 2015, the Air Force introduced its new multi-role fighter jet, the F-35A Lightning II. Once all the particulars are fine-tuned, this airframe is slated to eventually replace the F-16 and A-10. But along with its strides in technological advancement comes the breaking of gender-biased boundaries.


The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn
Above, the F-35 that will eventually replace F-16 and A-10. (Image from nationalinterest.org)

That same year, the first female F-35 pilot was assigned as the deputy commander of 33rd Fighter Wing Operations Group at Eglin Air Force Base. Lieutenant Colonel Christine Mau was appointed one of 88 pilots qualified to fly the F-35. Graduating from the Air Force Academy and having a family history of pilots is what led Mau towards becoming a pilot herself. Today, she is still the only female F-35 pilot.

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn
Air Force Lt. Col. Christine Mau readies herself for her first flight in the F-35A Lightning II.

Before Mau took on the F-35, she was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 and was a part of the first all-female maintenance and planning crew. During this time, she flew the first all-female combat sortie and aided in successfully launching an F-15E Strike Eagle combat mission against insurgents in Kunar Valley, Afghanistan.

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn
Above, Mau pictured next to her F-15 on deployment in Afghanistan.

Mau’s combat experience played a crucial role in putting the F-35 through its test runs and maintenance. The first squadron of combat-ready F-35s were given the all clear in 2016. Essentially, only the most qualified pilots handle the responsibility of ensuring these jets live up to their functionality and potential.

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn
Lt. Col. Mau and the women of F-15E Strike Eagles (Dudette 07) who provided air support for a combat mission (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sheila deVera)

Although women have been a part of combat aviation for the past twenty years, Mau’s accomplishment is nothing short of history in the making. Some might think that gender plays a role in the ability to fight in war, but Mau has proved that sentiment false.

One thing is for sure, Mau doesn’t let her gender stop her from reaching her goals nor from inspiring others to achieve theirs. In an interview with CNN, Mau states,

The plane doesn’t know or care about your gender as a pilot, nor do the ground troops who need your support. You just have to perform. That’s all anyone cares about when you’re up there — that you can do your job, and that you do it exceptionally well.
MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why the saltiest sailors wear a ‘fouled anchor’

The history of the fouled anchor dates all the way back to the original seal of Lord Howard of Effingham who served as Lord Admiral of England during the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.


The Lord’s fouled anchor consisted of a standard nautical anchor with a rope looping through the structure.

Related: This is why some Marines wear the ‘French Fourragere,’ and some don’t

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn
Lord Howard of Effingham fouled anchor.

The U.S. adopted the iconic symbol from the British in the late 1800s for Naval Chief Petty Officers to wear as it represents the trials and tribulations they are forced to endure on a daily basis. Chiefs regularly serve as the “go between” for officers and junior enlisted personnel.

The adaptation consisted of adding the U.S.N. to the anchor, but these letters which aren’t referring to the branch of service like one might think — United States Navy.

The “U” stands for Unity as a reminder of cooperation, maintaining harmony, and continuity of purpose and action.

The “S” meanings Service, referring to our fellow man and our Navy.

Lastly, the “N” refers to Navigation, to help keep ourselves on a righteous course so that we may walk upright.

Also Read: This is why some sailors wear gold stripes, and some wear red

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn
The U.S. Navy’s fouled anchor

Earning a rank of a chief (E-7) comes with several years of dedicated service, an intense selection process and be eligible for promotion from the current rank of Petty Officer First Class (E-6).

The Navy has four different chief ranks.

 

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn
The Navy rank insignia of a Chief Petty Officer – E-7 (left), Master Chief Petty Officer – E-9 (middle), and Senior Chief Petty Officer – E-8 (right). (Source: The Goatlocker)

The fourth chief rank refers to the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy or MCPON. Only one enlisted Master Chief Petty Officer can hold this position at one time — they’re the most senior enlisted person in the Navy.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how the FBI captured 3 KGB agents in 1978

During the darkest years of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union played a nuclear game of cat and mouse. The finest agents this side of the Berlin Wall were pitted against KGB spies determined to steal our secrets. Distrust and resentment continued to fester between the two superpowers in the wake of World War II. Federal agencies had their hands full curbing the relentless influx of spies onto U.S. soil, particularly on the east coast.

In an effort to promote stability after the War, the United Nations was created and headquartered in New York City. Regardless of American intent, some foreign states played by the rules by day and gathered information by night. A growing concern about Russian spycraft, not yet identified by the U.S., made it imperative for the FBI to out-sleuth the communists.


The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

Lieutenant Commander Arthur Lindberg, US Navy

(RJCF.com)

Operation Lemon Aid

April 9, 1977, Navy Lt. Commander Arthur Lindberg was approached by the FBI as a potential candidate for a counterintelligence operation. The FBI suspected that the Soviets were using cruise ships to recruit spies, and their office in the U.N. was used to orchestrate espionage operations.

The FBI wanted to use a double agent to gather enough evidence that would confirm their suspicions. Due to tensions, the Soviet’s KGB were operating in a heightened state of alert and would not be easily ensnared.

They devised a plan to use Lt. Commander Lindberg because his background would make him a realistic candidate to betray his country: A high ranking naval officer with a looming retirement and in need of funds. This meant that he had access to Top Secret information he could sell to ease his retirement. They hoped this would be irresistible to the enemy spies and they would show themselves.

Lindberg agreed to help the FBI, and Operation Lemonade was born.

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

(Eye Spy Magazine)

Lindberg purchased a civilian ticket and boarded the Soviet cruise ship the MS Kazakhstan. Before disembarking at the end of his trip, he passed off a note to a crew member with a letter addressed to the Russian ambassador. The letter stated that he was willing to sell military information if he was provided money for his retirement.

The letter made its way to the unsanctioned KGB headquarters within the United Nations.

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

(CHRIS CANDID)

On August 30, 1977, the Soviets made contact with Lindberg via a public payphone in New Jersey. Lindberg’s cover name was Ed, and the KGB agent on the other end of the line called himself Jim.

On September 24, 1977, the spies avoided meeting in person and probed Linberg to see what kind of information he could gain access to and the price. They contacted him again in the same manner as before and gave him a list of items they wanted more information on.

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

(fbi.gov)

Terry Tate, a Naval Investigative Agent on the case submitted documents to be declassified so they could be fed to the Soviets. The enemy was particularly interested in our nuclear submarines. If they wanted to catch the spies, they had to leak genuine information.

October 22, 1977, Lindberg exchanged military secrets using dead drops.

Dead Drop: A prearranged hiding place for the deposit and pickup of information obtained through espionage – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

He received ,000 via dead drop for the information.

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

Left to right: Valdik Enger, Rudolf Chernyayev, and Vladimir Zinyakin

(FBI archives)

Over the course of several months, the FBI was able to trace the spy who picked up the dead drops, it was Rudolf Chernyayev, a Russian personnel officer at the U.N. The FBI was now able to tail the first Russian spy until they discovered the identity of all three. With those identities, they were able to anticipate when and where they were making their phone calls. Photos of them caught in the act would nail a conviction.

By March 12, 1978, the FBI had enough evidence in writing, on video, and in photos to secure an arrest warrant.

May 20, 1978 – The arrest of the Soviet spies would have a ripple effect throughout the highest levels of our government and had to be authorized by President Jimmy Carter. The FBI arrested the three KGB agents red-handed at their last dead drop.

Valdik Enger, Rudolf Chernyayev, and Vladimir Zinyakin were arrested. Only Zinyakin had diplomatic immunity and was deported to the USSR. The others, however, were convicted of espionage and sentenced to 50 years in prison.

In the end, it was one of our most important counter-espionage cases of the decade. Enger and Chernyayev were the first Soviet officials to ever stand trial for espionage in the U.S. Both were convicted and ultimately exchanged for five Soviet dissidents. – fbi.gov
MIGHTY HISTORY

Today’s Purple Heart medals were first made for the invasion of Japan

In May 1945, the Axis powers were all but beaten, but the war was far from over for the United States. Germany surrendered to the Allies on May 8 but a lot of work was left to be done – namely, the invasion of mainland Japan. It was assumed that many Purple Heart medals would be needed, but history took a different course.


The ongoing Battle of Okinawa with its high casualty rates and fierce defenders made it clear to American leadership that the upcoming invasion of Japan’s main island would be a costly one for both sides.

 

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn
Two Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment during fighting at Wana Ridge during the Battle of Okinawa, May 1945.Davis Hargraves provides covering fire with his M1 Thompson as Gabriel Chavarria, with a Browning Automatic Rifle, prepares to break cover to move to a different position.

 

To make matters worse President Roosevelt died and his vice-president and successor, Harry Truman, was faced with a choice: an amphibious invasion that would kill an estimated 1 million Allied troops and upwards of 10 million Japanese or drop the new destructive superweapon – the atomic bomb – and force a Japanese surrender.

As Truman worked on his next move, the military’s top brass had no idea what his choice might be. In preparation for the invasion option, the U.S. military ordered hundreds of thousands of Purple Heart medals made, and stored them in a warehouse in Arlington, ready to be handed to those wounded in Operation Downfall.

The attack, of course, never came. Truman went for the nuclear option.

 

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn
Literally.

So what to do with all those medals? Give them to the troops, of course.

World War II was over but there was still plenty of American combat to come in the 20th century. Though the U.S. has ordered 34,000 more of them after the Vietnam War, the medals from 1945 are still updated and issued as needed.

“Time and combat will continue to erode the WWII stock, but it’s anyone’s guess how long it will be before the last Purple Heart for the invasion of Japan is pinned on a young soldier’s chest,” historian D.M. Giangreco, said in a 2010 e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

The refurbished medals were distributed to military posts, units, and hospitals between 1985 and 1999. Even if new ones were made, the number given wounded service members through 2010 is still less than the number manufactured in 1945.

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn
A WWII-era Purple Heart (left) next to one received in Afghanistan (right).

 

The refurbished and new Purple Hearts are almost identical. 

A recipient may never know for which war their medal was made.

“You are talking about minute types of differences where only a specialist, somebody who really looks at this stuff, and looks at it often, can tell,” Giangreco said.

Either way, if you earn a Purple Heart, you can wear it with pride.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 reasons why being a Roman Legionnaire would suck

The Roman Empire stretched from modern-day Syria to modern-day Spain. To maintain that amount of real estate, you have to have an amazing military to protect it. The Roman Legion was one such force.

But every military that has made its mark on history was notorious for rigorous training and extremely harsh conditions that make today’s toughest Special Operations training look like Air Force boot camp. Here’s why, in reality, being a Roman Legionnaire would’ve sucked.


The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

Suddenly, Sergeant Major doesn’t seem so far away.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Judith L. Harter)

Minimum enlistment requirement

It was 25 years. These days, when you sign the dotted line, you’re in for a minimum of four years and you have the option to stay longer to earn a pension and retirement benefits. The average Roman Legionnaire was expected to serve 25 years — no exceptions.

The retirement benefits, however, involved getting a nice piece of land within the empire to spend the rest of your days — If you don’t die first, that is.

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

It doesn’t make this suck any less, right?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brennon A. Taylor)

Long, forced marches… Every day.

If you think the 20-kilometer hike you just did last Wednesday, the 25 kilometers you had to do the night before Christmas leave, or the 30-mile hike you did in Korea sucked, just think about what you’d have to do as a Roman Legionnaire. These guys had to carry their entire kit 90 miles, every day.

This kit included their armor, weapons, shield, and a backpack, which contained the equipment needed to help build camps. Additionally, they had to carry their rations and cooking gear.

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

Remember this? It would be more regular as a Roman Legionnaire.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Carlin Warren)

Marching cadence

Remember those 90-mile forced marches we mentioned? Imagine your company commander calling cadence the whole time. Well, that’s what Centurions did for their Centuries. They would call, “right, left,” the whole time, starting with the right, of course, because the left was seen as wrong or evil.

That’s why issued rifles are made for right-handed war heroes.

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

The amount of training probably saved a lot of lives…

(History Answers)

Weapons training

In the Roman Legion, you wake up in the morning and eat breakfast with your seven tent mates and then you do a little weapons training. By a little, we mean a lot. You’re training every morning with your gear and wooden weapons and shields that weigh twice as much as your regular gear, constantly going against your friends to become a much better warrior.

This is a good thing, but you know you complain about three-day field ops. Yes, you do.

The pay was salt

And you thought your steady income and clothing allowance was bad. Granted, the Roman Legion did pay their soldiers but, at the time, salt was worth quite a bit. So, a soldier would get paid in salt.

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Gunny Hartman would’ve had a great time, though.

The hazing was terrible

If you think your seniors duct-taping a mattress to you and having you take a leap of faith from the third story of your barracks was bad — it was so much worse the Roman Legion.

Remember those annoying Centurions from the marches? They carried a vine branch to whip the disobedient and it was totally okay for them to do so. Getting whipped for stepping out of line is pretty mild considering your friends could stone you to death for being a coward or trying to desert — and that’s only barely scratching the surface of Roman Legion punishments.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The time a US Navy blimp turned into a flying ghost ship

For as long as there have been men sailing the high seas, there have been tales of ghost ships. From legends of the Flying Dutchman appearing near ports during inclement weather to the very real tale of the Mary Celeste, which was found adrift in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872 completely abandoned and in good working order, it can be hard not to be drawn into these tales of mysterious happenings on the great waterways of our planet.


Of course, it makes perfect sense that men and women would occasionally go missing during an era of long and often grueling voyages across the high seas. For all of mankind’s domination of nature, the sea has long been too vast to manage and too treacherous to tame. For much of humanity’s history, traveling across the ocean was always a risky endeavor.

But by the early 1940s, however, sea travel had become significantly less hazardous, and mankind had even managed to find new ways to avoid the ocean’s wrath — like flying high above it in aircraft or hot air balloons. At the time, Americans had largely moved past their fear of the high seas in favor of new concerns about what was lurking within them: German U-Boats.

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

The Navy’s L-8 blimp was a former Goodyear Blimp repurposed for naval duty.

(National Archives)

Concerns about encroaching Nazi U-Boats near American shores had led to a number of novel sub-spotting approaches. One was using L-Class rigid airships, or blimps, to float above coastal waterways and serve as submarine spotters.

On the morning of August 16, 1942, Lieutenant Ernest Cody and Ensign Charles Adams climbed aboard their L-8 Airship, which was a former Goodyear Blimp that the Navy had purchased a few months prior to deliver equipment to the nearby carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) out at sea. Their mission that day was simple: head out from their launch point on Treasure Island in California to look for signs of U-Boats beneath the surf in a 50-mile radius around San Francisco.

A bit more than an hour into their patrol, the two sailors radioed that they had spotted an oil slick on the water and were going to investigate.

“We figured by that time it was a submarine,” said Wesley Frank Lamoureux, a member of the Navy’s Armed Guard Unit who was aboard the cargo ship Albert Gallatin. “From then on, I am not too positive of the actions of the dirigible except that it would come down very close over the water. In fact, it seemed to almost sit on top of the water.”

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

This image of the L-8 was taken prior to the mission that would see Cody and Adams go missing.

(National Archive)

In Lamoureux’s official statement, he recounted seeing the blimp drop two flares near the slick and then circle the area — which was in keeping with sub-hunting protocols of the day. The nearby Albert Gallatin cargo ship, seeing the blimp’s behavior, sounded their submarine alarms and changed course to escape the area. Unfortunately, these reports would be the last time anyone would see the blimp with the crew onboard.

A few hours later, the former Goodyear Blimp appeared sagging and uncontrolled over the shores of Daly City, California. It drifted over the town until it finally dipped low enough to become snagged on some power lines and come crashing down onto Bellevue Avenue. Crowds quickly formed around the downed blimp, and a number of people ran to the wreckage in hopes of saving the crew… only to find the cabin was completely empty.

The pilot’s parachute and the blimp’s lifeboat were both right where they belonged. The pilot’s cap sat on top of the instrument panel, and the blimp’s payload of two bombs were still secured. A briefcase containing confidential documents that the crew had orders to destroy if they feared capture remained onboard as well.

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

The Navy’s L-8 Blimp, crashed and crew-less.

(National Archives)

The L-8’s crew had seemed to vanish without a trace, prompting a slew of differing theories. Some assumed both the pilot and ensign had simply fallen out of the airship, though for such a thing to happen, they would have had to both fall overboard at the same time. If there was something damaged that required both men to address on the external hull of the vessel, there was no evidence to suggest what it could have been in the wreckage.

Another theory suggested the two men lowered their blimp enough to be taken prisoner by the crew of the U-Boat or a Japanese vessel in the course of investigating the oil slick. Still, others wondered if the two men may have been entangled in some sort of love triangle that drove one to kill the other and then escape by diving into the sea. Despite a thorough investigation, no conclusion could ever be drawn.

So what really did happen to the two-man crew of the L-8? Did they simply fall out of their blimp and die? Were they captured by Nazis that didn’t bother to check for any classified material on the blimp? To this day, their remains have never been found, and no other details have surfaced. For now, it seems, the legend of the L-8 “ghost ship in the sky” will live on for some time to come.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 memorable Vietnam Veterans

Vietnam Veterans Day is a way to honor and thank those who fought and contributed to the war, as well as families who lost loved ones that served. While we celebrated all the Vietnam Veterans last week who served, we look to remember some of the most notable ones out of the 2.7 million soldiers who dedicated their time and blood to the Vietnam effort (between November 1, 1955 and May 15, 1975).

Many memorials have been created honoring the Vietnam Veterans, including 58,000 names carved into a black granite wall in Washington, D.C. While we remember those that died, we often forget those who lived, including the 304,000 service members who were wounded, 1,253 soldiers missing in action (MIA), and 2,500 prisoners of war (POWs).


Among these names are ones that are still recognized today, including these 5 memorable Vietnam Veterans:

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

John McCain

Famously, Senator John McCain spent five years in the Hoa Loa war prison, where he is said to have been physically and mentally tortured. He was released in 1973 after a ceasefire. For his time, he earned a Distinguished Flying Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart.

McCain is a third-generation Navy member. He served as a pilot, completing several successful missions, before his plane was shot down and he was captured. Though Vietnam officials attempted to trade for his release due to being an admiral’s son, McCain refused and remained in captivity.

Nearly a decade after his release, he joined the House of Representatives via the state of Arizona. In 1996, McCain made a successful bid to the U.S. Senate, and later ran for president, losing to Barack Obama.

Other notable Vietnam Veteran politicians include Colin Powell, who retired from the Army after being injured in Vietnam, and going down in a helicopter crash, and Bob Kerrey, a former Navy SEAL who lost part of his leg in a Vietnam grenade explosion.

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

Roger Staubach

Captain Comeback AKA Roger the Dodger was an NFL star quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys who brought home two Super Bowl wins. But before he was making his way in the NFL, Staubach graduated from the Naval Academy and served in the Navy. Upon graduation, he requested a tour in Vietnam, where he spent a year as a supply supervisor.

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

Fred Smith

As the founder and Chairman of FedEx, Fred Smith is a notable businessman. But before he was setting up smart, overnight delivery infrastructure, he was serving as a U.S. Marine. In the late 60s, Smith put in two Vietnam tours where he worked as a forward air controller. He has cited his time in the Marines as helping him to understand and utilize military logistics for FedEx’s future success.

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

J. Craig Venter

Another incredible Vietnam Veteran is J. Craig Venter, who was the first to sequence the human genome. Venture was drafted to the Navy, where he worked as a hospital orderly. He has said the experience with heavily wounded soldiers and frequent death prompted him to attend school and dedicate his career to medical studies.

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

She is one of 8 women named on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.

Annie Ruth Graham

Though little info exists on female service members of Vietnam, there were hundreds of nurses, news researchers and more who put their efforts to the war. This includes Annie Ruth Graham, a Lieutenant Colonel who served in World War II and Korea, before lending her nursing expertise to Vietnam. She died from natural causes during the war.

These are only a few names who helped offer their time and efforts to the Vietnam War. For more on their service, or to read about other veterans, check out the National Archives website.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Once upon a time, this ‘little kid’ was a lethal Vietnam War fighter

Before the American military draft was overturned in 1973, nearly 2.2 million Americans between the ages of 18-25 were pulled for service, including baby-faced 20-year-old, Mike Allen.


Nicknamed the “little kid” by the Vietnamese, Allen’s fellow soldiers suspected he shouldn’t be deployed because of his apparent age. But he’d simply reply: “My government says I do.”

Assigned to an Army swing battalion, Allen’s unit would rapidly deploy to the most dangerous areas at a moment’s notice, so he saw a lot of action.

Related: The first man killed in the Vietnam War was murdered by a fellow airman

Weighing in at approximately 120 pounds, Allen said in an interview he had to carry a grocery list of munitions like Claymore mines, trip flares, hand fragmentation grenades and at least 2,000 rounds of M60 ammo, just to name a few.

With all that gear strapped to his back, Mike humorously said, “you didn’t want to run short in case you hit the sh-t.”

Like most grunts, Mike had to live in the hot and muggy jungles and wore his first set of clothes for roughly 80 days, with only four 0r five changes to last during the deployment.

Allen earned an Air Medal for surviving at least 25 operational flights into unsecured landing zones.

“You were scared but you couldn’t feel scared because it would overtake you,” Mike said. “You know they’re watching you, and you try to keep your distance.”

Also Read: That time CBS captured an intense firefight in Vietnam

Check out Wisconsin Public Television‘s video below to watch Mike Allen’s patriotic story of what life was like for the “little kid” of Vietnam.

(Wisconsin Public Television, YouTube)Fun Fact:  According to the  National Archives, 27 million American men were eligible for service and only 2.2 million were drafted between 1964 and 1973. That is all.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This monstrosity was probably Germany’s worst plane

I would write an intro about how, in the end days of World War II, Germany was short on manpower, territory, and resources, but nearly every article about Germany’s failed super weapons starts that way. So, just, you know, remember that Germany was desperate at the end of World War II because Hitler was high on drugs and horrible at planning ahead when he invaded his neighbors.


Natter Assault! Germany’s Vertical Launch Fighter

youtu.be

So, on the list of harebrained schemes that the Nazis turned to in order to stave off their inevitable defeat, the Natter has to be one of the craziest. Basically, because they were low on metal and airstrips and they thought rockets seemed awesome, the Nazis made a single-use, vertically launched, rocket-powered plane that only fired rockets. These were supposed to be “grass snakes” that rose from the forests of Germany and slaughtered Allied bombers.

Oddly enough, the Germans were also critically short of the C-Stoff fuel for the more conventional Me-163 rocket fighter, but they went ahead and used the same fuel for the Natter anyway, leading General of Fighters Adolf Galland to tell a colonel that:

…because of a special SS initiative, a defensive surface-to-air rocket aircraft is supposed to be forced into production. And they will be propelled by C-Agent as well. That is the height of stupidity, but it’s also fact.
The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

“Eh, needs more rockets.”

(Anagoria, CC BY 3.0)

Oh, and, worst of all, the planes couldn’t land without breaking apart.

The Natter, officially designated the Ba-349, was made primarily of wood. It would be strapped to a tree or, in its test flights, a special but cheaply built tower. They would then fire four solid boosters to get the aircraft into the sky before the main rocket motor could kick in.

Assuming everything didn’t go to hell during that not-at-all-dangerous process, the pilot could then maneuver onto incoming bombers and fire up to 24 rockets at them. Since the Natter flew at over twice the speed of a B-17’s max, the pilots really needed to fire their rockets accurately and quickly before they overshot their target.

Once they were out of ammo, the pilot would release the nose and deploy the parachutes. The nose would fall separately from the rest of the plane and, hopefully, the parts would land safely. The parts and the pilot would be recovered and ready for another round.

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

“This will save the war.”

(San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

It, uh, did not work properly. On the second unmanned test flight, the flight components hit the ground with fuel remaining. That fuel blew up, destroying the plane. But because the blast wouldn’t have—necessarily—killed the pilot, they went ahead with a manned flight.

That flight went worse. No offense to the Nazi test pilot. On March 1, 1945, Lothar Sieber took off in a Ba-349, but it immediately started flying inverted and climbed into cloud cover. It emerged from the clouds a few minutes later and crashed into the ground, miles away.

The pilot was dead, either from the shock of takeoff, the canopy flying off in flight, or the crash. The plane was destroyed. And everyone finally gave up on the idea of the Natter.

Not that it would have changed much if it had been controllable. The western Allies crossed into Germany about two weeks later, and a few rocket-powered fighters wouldn’t have stopped the advance. But, hey, “Grass Snake” at least looks cool on a T-shirt.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Their first battle: Ulysses S. Grant charges to victory

It was the first major battle of the U.S.-Mexican War. President James K. Polk’s attempts to annex Texas and buy the lands west of the amiable state had failed, and the Army was sent in under Gen. Zachary Taylor to force the issue, starting at the Battle of Palo Alto where a young West Point graduate would first face the guns of the enemy.


The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

Then-Lt. Ulysses S. Grant, at left. Grant and Lt. Alexander Hays fought together in Mexico and later in the Civil War where Hays was killed.

(Public domain, retrieved from University of Texas Arlington)

Cadet Ulysses S. Grant had been an underwhelming student, graduating 21st in a class of 39 students in 1843. But even the lowest West Point graduate commissions as a lieutenant, and Grant was sent to be the quartermaster in the 4th Infantry despite having proven himself as an adept horseman.

The young lieutenant was in the line of battle on May 8, 1846, when U.S. federal troops baited Mexican troops into attacking and beginning hostilities. He would complain late in life that he thought the war was unjust and that Polk was wrong to have provoked it, but in 1846 he was just a lieutenant ordered to fight with his men.

Palo Alto was named for the tall trees in the area, and Mexican artillery and cavalry numbering almost 4,000 men and 12 artillery pieces had positioned themselves on a hilltop near these trees. The U.S. forces arrayed against them had almost 2,300 troops and only 8 artillery pieces, and they had to march through tall grass and up the slope to attack.

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

An illustration shows U.S. troops engaging Mexican soldiers at the Battle of Palo Alto.

(Adolphe Jean-Baptiste Bayot)

The reluctant lieutenant noted the enemy’s arms and superior numbers in his memoirs, saying:

As I looked down that long line of about three thousand armed men, advancing towards a larger force also armed, I thought what a fearful responsibility General Taylor must feel, commanding such a host and so far away from friends.

But Grant’s memoirs also provide a window of hope for the U.S. forces. Though outnumbered, they had a clear technological advantage:

an army, certainly outnumbering our little force, was seen, drawn up in line of battle just in front of the timber. Their bayonets and spearheads glistened in the sunlight formidably. The force was composed largely of cavalry armed with lances. Where we were the grass was tall, reaching nearly to the shoulders of the men, very stiff, and each stock was pointed at the top, and hard and almost as sharp as a darning-needle.

So the men were in tall, sharp grass like they were advancing through a sea of rapiers, but their enemy was relying on lances to pierce through the infantry. Lances were a dangerous weapon at the time, but disciplined infantry could still give better than they got under lance attack if they stayed in formation and fired when the horsemen were close.

But if they broke and ran, lancers would slice through the lines and gut one man after another.

As Grant and the men advanced, the Mexican artillery was the first to fire, but they opened fire when the U.S. lines were still too far away, and the grass proved itself to be quite useful to the Yanks.

As we got nearer, the cannon balls commenced going through the ranks. They hurt no one, however, during this advance, because they would strike the ground long before they reached our line, and ricocheted through the tall grass so slowly that the men would see them and open ranks and let them pass. When we got to a point where the artillery could be used with effect, a halt was called, and the battle opened on both sides.
The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

Major Ringgold, an artillery officer, was killed at the Battle of Palo Alto.

(Public domain)

It was at this point that the U.S. artillery advantage showed itself. The infantry on either side could still inflict little damage as they were too far apart for accurate musket fire. But while the U.S. soldiers were barely in the effective range of Mexican artillery, American artillery could reach further and with greater effect.

The artillery was advanced a rod or two in front of the line, and opened fire. The infantry stood at order arms as spectators, watching the effect of our shots upon the enemy, and watching his shots so as to step out of their way. It could be seen that the eighteen-pounders and the howitzers did a great deal of execution. On our side there was little or no loss while we occupied this position.

For most of the day, Grant and the infantry would trade limited shots with the enemy infantry while their artillery punished the Mexican forces. The U.S. did suffer losses; Grant makes note of two artillery officers hit nearby, one of them killed. The Mexican cavalry tried to turn the U.S. flank, but disciplined infantry fire drove them back. The limited U.S. infantry advances and the punishing artillery fire made good effect, and the Mexican forces began to withdraw before sunset.

Grant went forward under fire to occupy the vacated positions and saw the effects of Mexican artillery at close range.

In this last move there was a brisk fire upon our troops, and some execution was done. One cannon-ball passed through our ranks, not far from me. It took off the head of an enlisted man, and the under jaw of Captain Page of my regiment, while the splinters from the musket of the killed soldier, and his brains and bones, knocked down two or three others, including one officer, Lieutenant Wallen,—hurting them more or less. Our casualties for the day were nine killed and forty-seven wounded.

When Grant and the U.S. forces advanced the next day, they found that their enemy had departed. The Battle of Palo Alto was over with a decisive U.S. victory. But there was a lot of war left to fight, and Grant was at or near the front for most of the major battles, serving under Gen. Taylor for the start but transferring to Gen. Winfield Scott’s command in 1847 before the battles of Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Churubusco, Molino del Rey, and Chapultepec.

During these engagements, he was twice promoted by brevet for bravery, reaching the rank of brevet captain.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 amazing things Benedict Arnold did before becoming a traitor

The name “Benedict Arnold” is a fancy way of saying “traitor” in the United States, but Arnold wasn’t the only revolutionary to switch colors and re-embrace the English. So why is he the one who became infamous?


Because before he was a traitor, he was a brilliant leader who helped win the revolution.

1. Arnold captured Fort Ticonderoga and its arsenal of cannons.

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn
Photo: New York Public Library Digital Library

In May of 1775, the British garrison at Fort Ticonderoga numbered only about 50 men. With the rebellion gaining traction throughout the colonies, revolutionary leaders knew that capturing the fort and it’s large numbers of cannons would aid an American victory.

Then-Col. Arnold and Ethan Allen attacked the fort May 10 with Allen’s troops, the Green Mountain Boys, capturing the guns and the garrison. The guns would later be used at the Siege of Boston while the fort would become a staging ground for Arnold’s invasion of Canada.

2. He and his commander nearly conquered Canada (but the final attack went horribly).

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn
Illustration: Public Domain/Charles William Jefferys

Following the success at Fort Ticonderoga, Col. Arnold led part of an invasion force whose mission was to secure Canadian support of the war by destroying British forces in the area.

Despite setbacks like mass desertion, equipment failures, and disease, the invasion did make it to the city of Quebec with enough forces to take it. Arnold’s attempt to lay siege to the city was unsuccessful, but an opportunity for a Dec. 30-31, 1775, attack gave a glimmer of hope.

Unfortunately, the attack was a disaster. Its potential for success ended almost immediately when a single round of grapeshot killed 14 men including, Arnold’s commander and two other senior officers. On the opposite side of the city, Arnold ordered his men forward and was maimed almost immediately by a shot to his leg.

Now a brigadier general, Arnold eventually recovered and antagonized the British in the area until June 18, 1776 when he was the last American to leave Canada as British forces pushed south.

3. Arnold Created an ad hoc navy to delay the British.

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn
Photo: Wikipedia/National Archives of Canada

As the British pursued his men, Brig. Gen. Benedict Arnold knew that if he could just delay the British until winter, the Continental Army could use the frozen months to rebuild and hold off an invasion.

So he immediately began construction of an improvised navy on the shores of Lake Champlain. Even though he had no naval experience, he sent his ships out that Oct. to meet the British on the lake. 15 American vessels faced off against 25 superior British ones.

Arnold fought a delaying action as he moved south, losing 11 ships to enemy fire and burning his other four when he reached the southern shore. He then burned one of his forts, Fort Crown Point, to the ground to deny the British use of it. His action worked and the British were unable to reach Fort Ticonderoga before winter set in. This would lead to two battles at Saratoga the next year.

4. He carried the charge that won the Battle of Saratoga.

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn
Photo: Flickr/Ron Cogswell

 

The American victory at the second Battle of Saratoga in 1777 was a turning point in the war that enabled France to openly support the rebellion and emboldened foreign powers to attack Britain in other parts of the world.

And it was Brig. Gen. Benedict Arnold who led the troops against the British lines. Arnold’s superior, Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates, wanted to simply wait out the British from behind fortifications, a move that would have allowed many to escape. Arnold disobeyed orders and led charges through the British ranks, saving the day and resulting in a second maiming of Arnold’s left leg.

After suffering two serious injuries for the colonies and being passed over for promotion multiple times, Arnold became deeply embittered against his own army. He would go on to try to sell the American defenses at West Point to the British, a move that would have left New York open to invasion. His plot was discovered and he was branded a traitor.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Remembering the USS Indianapolis (CA 35) on its 75th Anniversary

In the first minutes of July 30, 1945, two torpedoes fired from Japanese submarine I-58 struck the starboard side of USS Indianapolis (CA 35). One ripped off the ship’s bow, followed by another that hit crew berthing areas and knocked out communications.

In the dead of night, chaos ensued. It took only 12 minutes for the decorated warship that had carried President Roosevelt in the interwar years and earned ten battle stars for its World War II service up to that point to begin a descent to the bottom of the Philippine Sea.

Around 300 crew died in the initial blasts and went down with the ship. Between 800 and 900 men went into the water.


Indianapolis had completed a top-secret delivery of atomic bomb components to Tinian, an island in the Northern Marianas, days earlier. Unbeknownst to crew at the time, this mission would in the weeks to come contribute to the end of the war.

At the time of its sinking, the ship was returning unescorted to the Philippines to prepare for the invasion of mainland Japan and to resume its role as flagship of Admiral Raymond Spruance and the Fifth Fleet. Damage prevented transmission of a distress signal and misunderstood directives led to the Navy not reporting the ship’s failure to arrive.

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

Shortly after completing a top-secret delivery of atomic bomb components to Tinian, the USS Indianapolis was struck by torpedo and sank 75 years ago today.

Surviving Sailors and Marines were adrift for four days before the pilot of a U.S. Navy Lockheed PV-1 twin-engine patrol bomber located them. It was by pure chance that, on the afternoon of August 2, that the bomber spotted an oil slick while adjusting an antenna.

A massive air and surface rescue operation ensued that night and through the following day. Out of 1,195 crew, 316 survived the ordeal; four additional Sailors died shortly after rescue.

The survivors faced incomprehensible misery. Some found themselves scattered miles apart in seven different groups. Some were fortunate to have gone in the water near rafts and floating rations. Others, including the largest group of around 400 men, had nothing but life vests and floater nets. Men suffered from exposure, dehydration, attacks by hallucinating shipmates, exhaustion, hypothermia, and sharks.

Hallucinations were contagious as many dived underwater thinking that they were entering their ship to drink ice cold milk, only to guzzle sea water and initiate a horrible death. Others swam off alone to reach hotels or imaginary islands. Crew supported each other as best they could, some at the expense of their own lives. The captain of the ship’s Marine detachment swam himself to death circling his group to keep them together. The crew’s beloved chaplain succumbed to exhaustion after providing days of last rites to dying shipmates. Rescue crews had to fire at sharks feeding on the dead with rifles in order to recover bThe crew that went down with the ship or died in the water are memorialized on the Walls of the Missing in the American Battle Monuments Commission’s Manila American Cemetery. At last count, fifty survivors rest at NCA locations. Interments at Riverside National Cemetery in California and Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minnesota contain the largest groups of these Veterans.

The few remaining Indianapolis survivors, now in their 90s, will be celebrated at a virtual 75th anniversary reunion this July. A Congressional Gold Medal has been struck for the event.

On this anniversary, we reflect on the service and experience of Indianapolis‘s final crew, give thanks to those still with us, and remember those who passed. Their ordeal compelled the Navy to make safety improvements, such as mandatory movement reports and improved lifesaving equipment and training – all of which undoubtedly saved the lives of countless Sailors and Marines. Additionally, their successful final mission hastened the end of World War II.odies for identification and a proper burial at sea.

Today

The crew that went down with the ship or died in the water are memorialized on the Walls of the Missing in the American Battle Monuments Commission’s Manila American Cemetery. At last count, fifty survivors rest at NCA locations. Interments at Riverside National Cemetery in California and Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minnesota contain the largest groups of these Veterans.

The few remaining Indianapolis survivors, now in their 90s, will be celebrated at a virtual 75th anniversary reunion this July. A Congressional Gold Medal has been struck for the event.

On this anniversary, we reflect on the service and experience of Indianapolis‘s final crew, give thanks to those still with us, and remember those who passed. Their ordeal compelled the Navy to make safety improvements, such as mandatory movement reports and improved lifesaving equipment and training – all of which undoubtedly saved the lives of countless Sailors and Marines. Additionally, their successful final mission hastened the end of World War II.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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