This is why the French are better at war than you think - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why the French are better at war than you think

The United States and France do not always see eye-to-eye on military matters. In 1966, French President Charles de Gaulle pulled France from NATO during the height of the Cold War to preserve French independence. (Nicolas Sarkozy rejoined the alliance in 2009.) France tested nuclear devices well into the 1990s, decades after most of the other nuclear powers signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963. Most recently, France begged off on joining the U.S.-U.K. “Coalition of the Willing” to oust Saddam Hussein in Iraq.


And because of the world wars of the 20th Century, the French military tends to be seen with disdain. The French didn’t fare so well in World War I, as the Germans’ drive through Belgium resulted in much of the fighting being done on French soil. The inability to repel the German forces made the French seem weak. Truthfully, it was a multinational force who failed to expel the invaders, so it’s not entirely France’s fault. And then of course, the quick capitulation and subsequent collaboration of France to the Nazis in World War II gave them the reputation they have today.

The truth is the French armed forces are much more aggressive and capable than these few events would have you believe. Aside from the French Foreign Legion, who are noteworthy in their own right, France projects military power all over Europe, Africa, and Asia, and they’re really good at it. They just have a bad rep. It was the French, led by Charles Martel who kept the Muslims from conquering Western Europe at the Battle of Poitiers in 732. Since then, the French have had their wins and losses, just like anyone else.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
You might have heard of some.

In WWII, Free French forces had the élan to fight their own countrymen who had sided with the collaborationist Vichy government. Free French troops worked in concert with the British and Americans throughout the war. Those who could not escape the fall of France in 1940 fought on as partisans for four years under the Nazi occupation, assisting with U.S. and British intelligence operations, assassinations, sabotage, and were essential to planning the D-Day invasions. The operators of the French Résistance are symbolic of underground resistance movements to this day.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

Vive la résistance!

After World War II, the French experienced a number of setbacks in its former colonies, most notably in French Indochina (aka Vietnam – and we in the U.S. know that war wasn’t as easily winnable as it might have seemed at the time), and in Algiers, where the independence movement led to a series of bloody, brutal attacks and counter attacks between French forces and the Algerian rebels. Since then, France has been resolute in its ideals and willing and able to back up those ideals with military force.

In response to the Nov. 2015 attacks on Paris from ISIS (Daesh), France immediately launched at least 30 air strikes against the de facto ISIS capital of Raqqa alone. French audacity led the way for the U.S. to hit ISIS oil facilities in Iraq and Syria, a main source of the terror group’s operating funds. The nuclear-powered French carrier Charles de Gaulle is currently en route to the Mediterranean to support anti-ISIS operations.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

The Charles de Gaulle led an expedition of the one-fourth of the French Navy that supported operations in Afghanistan. The French launched 140 air strikes to support operations on the ground during the 2001 invasion as well as lending its recon aircraft to support U.S. special operations forces and then conventional forces in Operation Anaconda. French ground forces have been in Afghanistan since 2010, and 88 troops died there.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
SAROBI, Afghanistan – French army soldiers prepare their vehicles for a convoy prior to departing camp for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission, Operation Eagle. (ISAF photo by MC1 Michael E. Wagoner)

France is especially active in its former African colonies. During the 2004 Ivorian Civil War, the French sent 2,500 troops to keep the peace and prevent the sides from slaughtering each other. When French and Western civilians were rescued by French military helicopters as mobs of Ivorians raided Westerner’s homes. When Ivorian government forces, ostensibly under the guise of attacking rebel positions, hit a French base in Bouaké, killing nine and injuring 31, the French retaliated by an overland march on Yamoussoukro airport, taking out much of the Ivorian Air Force on the ground, and then capturing the country’s main airport in Abidjan.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

 

The French returned to Ivory Coast in 2011 to finish off president Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to concede his election loss . The French ousted Gbagbo and arrested him, then subdued mercenaries hired by the former president.

That same year, French forces intervened in Libya to recon the country and take out artillery and armor bound for dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s effort to fill the streets of Benghazi with “rivers of blood.” France also assisted with the imposition of NATO “no-fly zones,” giving Libyan rebels the air support needed to even the odds of the war against Qaddafi’s regime.

 

This is why the French are better at war than you think
Part of a group of six Palmaria heavy howitzers of the Gaddafi forces destroyed by French Rafale airplanes at the west-southern outskirts of Benghazi, Libya.

 

In 2012, an Islamist group in Mali called Ansar Dine backed Tuareg tribes and secular militia in declaring independence in the Northern area of the former colony of France. They quickly captured three of the country’s largest cities and imposed strict Sharia law. The power vacuum attracted insurgents and jihadists from other Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The Malian government fell in a coup led by Malian troops unhappy with the government’s handling of the crisis.

Once a civilian interim government was re-established in the capital of Bamako, Islamist militants began to push toward the country’s center, and the French sent in the marines. French airstrikes stopped the Islamist advance and French troops helped the Malians recapture the vital city of Konna. By the time the French and Malians reached Timbuktu, Islamist resistance faded to nil. The entire operation took six months.

 

This is why the French are better at war than you think
Islamist truck convoy hit by French airstrike near Gao in 2012. (Photo by Blake Stilwell)

 

Today, France leads a 3,000-strong counterterrorism force in Africa, spanning Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Chad. They are the sole Western, NATO country in Operation Barkhane, fighting Islamist presence in West Africa, fighting ISIS and al-Qaeda-linked militants throughout the region.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This 103-year-old vet served 22 years in the Navy – after being a POW

Whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. For retired commander Jack Schwartz, that seems to be the case.

The 22-year navy Veteran spent 1,367 days in captivity as a prisoner of war during World War II. He turned 103 years old April 28, 2018.

For Schwartz, it all started just three days after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. On Dec. 10, 1941, he was a navy lieutenant junior grade stationed in Guam as a civil engineer responsible for the water supply, roads, the breakwater and some construction.


“We only had 100 marines on the island – about 400 of us total, to include those who worked at the naval hospital,” Schwartz said. “And there were about 4 or 5,000 Japanese soldiers. They sank one of our ships, a mine sweeper, and nine sailors were killed.”

“We didn’t put up much of a fight.”

Schwartz said he was held by the Japanese there in Guam for about 30 days.

“There was plenty of food on Guam, but they deliberately starved us to make us weak,” he said.

After 30 days, they were transported by ship – all 400 U.S. POWs to include Schwartz – to Shikoku Island in Japan. They stayed there for about eight months, in some old barracks left over from the Japanese war with Russia, before being moved again.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
In this Japanese propaganda photo released in March 1942, U.S. service members from Guam arrive at Zentsuki POW camp on Shikoku Island in Japan. Jack Schwartz was one of about 400 U.S. POWs captured at Guam and taken there.

The next place Schwartz was sent to was Kawasaki, between Tokyo and Yokohama. There were already POW camps and prisoners there when Schwartz including U.S. service members captured in the Philippines and from U.S. ships.

More than 300 prisoners were there, but just a few were officers, he said.

“I was the senior U.S. officer there so they put me in charge of the camp,” Schwartz said. “As a prisoner, I had absolutely no authority to do anything, but if anything went wrong it was my fault.”

“Every month or two I got a beating by the Japanese guards – nothing too serious – just to show me they’re in charge.”

After two years, Schwartz said he was sent back to Shikoku Island to the same POW camp he was at previously.

“This was a camp for officers – not just U.S. but English and Dutch. This was where the Japanese would invite the Red Cross to show how nice the conditions were,” Schwartz said. Schwartz would be separated, segregated and moved several times before the Japanese finally surrendered to the Allies on Aug. 14, 1945.

“The day the war with Japan was over, a Japanese officer lined us up outside and told us hostilities have ceased,” Schwartz said. He and the other Japanese officers and guards just walked away.

They made a big sign in white paint on the roof that read POW. After a couple of weeks, a U.S. B-29 bomber spotted us, and a few hours later they started dropping parachutes full of food. “Naturally we all started stuffing ourselves and got sick.”

This is why the French are better at war than you think
POW Jack Schwartz, World War II POW from Dec. 10, 1941 to Aug 14, 1945, pictured here at Kawasaki POW camp, Japan.

Upon release – after being held POW for 3.75 years – Schwartz made the decision he would not end his career with the Navy and instead, he continued serve for another 18 years.

The Caltech graduate – who was born in San Francisco but moved to Hollywood with his parents at an early age – would eventually retire from the Navy with honors and distinction and move to Hanford, Calif., in 1962. He then worked for 18 years as Hanford’s Public Works Director and city Engineer before retiring a second time.

Schwartz said he now receives his medical care from the VA Central California Health Care System and is treated very well. “I still remember my first doctor there at the VA, Dr. Ron Naggar. And Dr. Ivance Pugoy is one of my current doctors,” Schwartz said. “You get a feeling they actually care. They make you feel like you are not just a name. You are a person. They do an excellent job for all the POWs,” he said.

Schwartz and several of his fellow POWs from the Central Valley were honored April 9 at VA Central California as part of National Former Prisoners of War Recognition Day.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These heroes used planes as missiles years before the Kamikazes

The Japanese Kamikaze pilots were known for their suicide attacks against American vessels. These pilots, hell-bent on getting revenge for their lost comrades while fighting a doomed battle against an angry and seemingly unstoppable Navy, would die crashing their planes into Allied ships.

But the Japanese actually weren’t alone in ordering pilots to use their planes as guided missiles. In fact, they weren’t even the first.


This is why the French are better at war than you think
A Polish P.11 is readied for takeoff. Lt. Col. Leopold Pamula was flying a P.11 when he conducted the first taran attack of World War II.

 

Soviet pilots conducted “taran” attacks, using their own planes as battering rams against German craft, on the first day of the German invasion. And Polish pilots used the tactic on the first day of World War II. Kamikaze attacks, meanwhile, began in 1944.

The first-known taran attack in World War II took place on Sept. 1, 1939. Polish pilots resisting the German invasion were shockingly effective despite flying outdated and outnumbered aircraft.

One pilot, Lt. Col. Leopold Pamula, had shot down two German bombers and fired on a third but found himself out of ammo. With the bombers headed towards an important city and the situation growing increasingly desperate, Pamula attempted an aerial ram in his P.11 and brought down the enemy bomber.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
German fighters like this one made life miserable for Allied pilots.
(Photo by Kogo)

 

But here’s where it breaks from the tradition of Japanese Kamikaze attacks — and it might be why Kamikaze attacks have persisted in the historical consciousness while taran and similar attacks have not. Pamula then bailed out of his plane as the enemy bomber dropped towards the earth.

See, taran attacks followed three broad patterns according to a 1986 analysis by the RAND Corp. First, the pilot could aim for their propeller to strike the enemy control surfaces. Second, the pilot could conduct a very controlled crash of some portion of their plane against the enemy’s control surfaces.

Either of these methods, if everything went well, would doom the enemy aircraft without killing the pilot conducting the attack.

Only the third method, in which the pilot points their nose directly into the body of the enemy aircraft, was certain doom for the attacking pilot performing. In the other two methods, there was a chance that the plane would remain stable enough for the pilot to bail out afterward.

When German forces invaded the Soviet Union, the Soviets quickly adopted the taran just like their old Polish adversaries.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
German bombers fly in formation.

 

At 4:25 in the morning on June 22, 1941, scant hours into the invasion, Soviet Senior Lt. L. I. Ivanov rammed a German bomber, the first of 270 aerial tarans, according to a 1984 Soviet report. A 1974 report had estimated the total number of Soviet tarans in World War II at 430.

So, why don’t we hear the tales of Soviet and Polish pilots slamming their planes into enemy aircraft? The fact that some pilots to survived, as mentioned above, surely contributed. But there’s one other factor that likely has us remembering the taran as a semi-legitimate tactic while the kamikaze is remembered as a horror weapon.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
A German plane crashes into the carrier USS St. Lo

 

Kamikaze attacks, while not the best decision militarily, were terrifying largely because a successful one could doom a carrier, a battleship, or a cruiser in one go. A successful taran attack, on the other hand, caused six members of an air crew to attempt to bail. A successful kamikaze attack meant that thousands of sailors had to try to escape a sinking prison as oil ignited on the ocean’s surface around them.

One of those is frightening, perhaps disquieting. The other is the stuff of nightmares.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Landing planes on carriers in World War II took a lot of help

Landing on a carrier is perhaps one of the toughest feats in all of aviation. In fact, studies have shown that pilots are more anxious about a night-time carrier landing than they are about combat. Today, there are a number of systems in place to help a pilot get down safely, but during World War II, it was a lot harder.


Just like today, there was a landing signals officer (LSO) responsible for the safe recovery of carrier aircraft, but they didn’t have the modern tools available now. No, this guy had to use paddles and hand gestures to get a planes, like the F6F Hellcat or SBD Dauntless, back on the boat safely. The carriers back then didn’t have angled decks, either. Nope, they were as flat-topped as Essex-class amphibious assault ships.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

The 13 signals used by LSOs in World War II.

(US Navy)

The gestures outlined above were how the LSO communicated with the pilot. They didn’t have modern radios like the ones we enjoy on Super Hornets today. In fact, the radios back then were primitive. The rear gunners on the SBD Dauntless, for example, often doubled as radiomen, but the radios were only able to send Morse code. Sending code isn’t very conducive to getting urgent messages to pilots quickly and clearly.

Instead, the LSO stood in a very exposed position and used a pair of paddles to send the pilot signals and guide them into a safe landing. During World War II, the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps trained tens of thousands of pilots to make those carrier landings guided only by hand signals.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

The lack of technology in World War II forced LSOs, like Lt. Tripp in this photo, to use the paddles to guide pilots back to safety.

(US Navy)

The training film below was made in 1949, the year before the Korean War broke out and when most planes operating off of carriers were propeller-driven. Like other Navy efforts to avoid accidents, the video used humor to get the points across.

Fair warning: This film probably would not win any awards for cultural sensitivity these days. We’ve come a long way in the last 70 years.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsGbPl7U5jA

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what it takes to guard the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’

Every year, approximately 4 million people travel to Arlington National Cemetery to pay their respects to the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice defending our great country. Most gather in solemn awe at the historic site of “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” standing atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C.


If you plan your visit accordingly, you may get to witness the awesomeness that is the changing of the guard, which occurs every 30-minutes during the hot summer and every hour during the cold winter.

Related: This is the story behind the pre-inauguration wreath laying ceremony

In April of 1948, the 3rd US Infantry Regiment proudly took on the responsibility of guarding the tomb 24-hours day. Being a sentinel guard isn’t just about walking back and forth keeping a close eye out, it takes professionalism, honor, and most importantly commitment as one must volunteer for the role.

 

This is why the French are better at war than you think
Tomb Sentinels at the Changing of the Guard, Arlington National Cemetery. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

 

Prospects are hand-selected after volunteering and undergo either a 2 or 4 week TDY to learn rifle precision, uniform maintenance, and marching, as well as to, memorize seven pages of knowledge. Verbatim.

 

This is why the French are better at war than you think
Sentinel prospect practice drill marching together before heading out for their watch. (Source: 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment/Screenshot)

On average, 60% of the hopefuls will not graduate, but those who do complete the training will move on and become “Newman”.

Newmans assist sentinels prior to guard changes, maintain their uniforms, and must endure three more tests before earning their future position. The entire training takes six to nine months and has a fail rate of 90%.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
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Sentinels stand a 27-hour guard shift, walking their post a dozen times. Contrary to popular belief, they are allowed to verbally discipline tomb visitors.

Check out 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment‘s video for more behind the scenes of what it take to guard the tomb.

Articles

This plane left the SR-71 Blackbird in the dust

The SR-71 Blackbird was the fastest military jet that has ever taken to the skies. But there was a plane that not only went twice as fast, but it also went much higher.


That speedy plane was the North American X-15.

The X-15 was one of the first true spaceplanes, with a number of flights going beyond Earth’s atmosphere, according to a 2005 NASA release. It was capable of going over 4,500 mph, or nearly Mach 6, and it went as high as 354,200 feet – or just over 67 miles – above the Earth.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
North American X-15A. (NASA photo)

The plane didn’t actually take off from the ground. In fact, it needed the help of a B-52 bomber before it could reach those dizzying heights and super-high speeds. NASA used two of the first B-52s, an NB-52A known as the “High and Mighty One,” for some flights before a NB-52B known as “Balls 8” took over the duty.

Once released from the B-52 at an altitude of 45,000 feet and a speed of 500 miles per hour, the X-15’s Reaction Motors XLR-99 would activate providing 70,400 pounds of thrust, according to a NASA fact sheet. At most, the plane had two minutes of fuel.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
A X-15A with external fuel tanks and a new paint job is dropped from a NB-52 aircraft. (NASA photo)

Among the pilots who were at the controls of this marvel was Neil Armstrong – you’d know him as the first man to walk on the moon. Armstrong didn’t get into space with this plane in any of his seven flights, but he did post the 6th-fastest speed among the X-15 sorties, according to an official NASA history.

One of those who achieved the rating of astronaut, Major Michael Adams, received the honor posthumously after he was killed in a crash of his X-15A on Nov. 15, 1967. Adams had broken the 50-mile barrier that the Air Force and NASA used to define entering space on his seventh and final flight, reaching an altitude of 266,000 feet and a top speed of 3,617 mph, according to the NASA history’s list of X-15 flights.

Below, take a look at the video from Curious Droid, which talks about the X-15 – and the awesome career it had.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the real Forrest Gump was far more impressive

It’s a touching scene that even the most stoic of us will get choked up over. The titular character runs into enemy fire to save his brothers-in-arms. Without hesitation, he carries each wounded soldier to safety — all while being severely wounded.


That fantastic scene earned Forrest Gump‘s place in cinematic history. What makes this and the rest of Forrest Gump’s Army scenes so great is that they were entirely based off the career of Sgt. First Class Sammy L. Davis, to include the Medal of Honor ceremony.

Unlike Gump, Davis was an artilleryman. His fateful night began around 2AM when the enemy engaged Davis’ unit with a 30-minute barrage of mortar fire. The moment he got the all clear, he showed them what his 105mm Howitzer could do. He fired the first beehive shot and the enemy returned fire with a recoil-less rifle that hit eight inches from his head.

After recovering from an insanely close call, he grabbed his M-16 and fired on the advancing enemy. When he fired all but three rounds, he then turned back to his Howitzer to get off that beehive. The weapon had taken a heavy beating and much of the powder was scattered. But he loaded what he could find. Under normal circumstances, seven bags of powder is fine. Davis loaded nearly 21. It almost destroyed the cannon but also devastated the enemy.

The Howitzer blew up and rolled over Davis and nearly 30 fragments of the beehive were in his back. Davis, just like Gump would in the film, took the shrapnel in the buttocks. His body and his cannon were in terrible condition.

That’s when he noticed some American G.I.s on the other side of the river.

He had been shot in the leg and was partially deafened, his ribs were broken and his spine fractured, and there was still plenty of beehive in his back — yet he grabbed his Army-issued air mattress and swam to his brothers without even a second’s thought.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
Considering how badly Davis was injured, it’s a rare case of the true story being crazier than the movie (Paramount Pictures)

Surrounded by enemies, he had to sneak around with nothing but an air mattress until he found the soldier waving at him. There, he found three wounded men in a foxhole — two were ambulatory but one was shot in the head and somehow still holding on. Davis grabbed the soldier with the head wound and placed him on the mattress and the four of them headed back across to safety.

Much of the film touches on Sammy L. Davis’ life, which he openly embraces. Every military scene is based off Davis, including the scene where President Lyndon B. Johnson bestows the Medal of Honor upon Forrest Gump. That was literally Sammy Davis under Tom Hank’s CGI face. Granted, Davis is a much more eloquent speaker.

For more about Sgt. First Class Sammy L. Davis, please watch the American Legion video below.

popular

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

The Battle of Okinawa, known as Operation Iceberg by the Allies, eventually consisted of 306,000 service members assaulting fierce defenses manned by 130,000 Japanese troops and an unknown number of local civilians, including children, drafted into the defenses.


The island was critical for the planned invasion of Japan, but the losses were enormous.

Here are 33 photos that give a look inside of one of America’s most costly battles of World War II:

1. For days before the invasion, Navy ships bombarded the island with naval artillery and rockets. This photo was taken five days before the amphibious assault.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

2. A Navy Corsair fires a salvo of rockets during Operation Iceberg, the Allied effort to capture Okinawa, the largest of the Ryukyu Islands.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

3. The USS Idaho shells the island of Okinawa on April 1, 1945.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

4. Marines land on the beachhead already secured on the island. These infantrymen will continue pressing the attack against approximately 130,000 defenders.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
(Photo: U.S. Department of Defense)

5. U.S. landing ships sit beached and burning on May 4 near the mouth of the Bishi River after a Japanese air attack.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

6. Famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle speaks with U.S. Marines a short time before his death on the island.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

7. A long exposure photograph shows the crisscrossing lines of Marine anti-aircraft fire over the U.S. airfield established on Okinawa.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

8. A May 11, 1945, morning artillery barrage kicks off an all-out offensive.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

9. Japanese rockets rain down on and near U.S. positions during heavy fighting on Okinawa.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

10. The infamous battleship Yamato, sent to Okinawa to attempt to beach itself and act as a shore battery until destroyed, is sank at sea on April 7 before it can reach the island.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

11. Army Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr., at right, surveys fighting just a few hours before Japanese artillery killed him.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

12. A Sherman tank drives past a burning home. The structure was set on fire to prevent its use by snipers.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

13. Marines attempt to extinguish the flames on an overturned Sherman tank. The ammo later exploded before the Army crew could be rescued.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

14. Engineers construct a causeway from the island to the sea to allow supplies to be trucked from ships to shore.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

15. American service members move supplies by horse in areas where the mud was impassable for vehicles.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

16. Okinawan civilians hired to carry supplies line up to receive their loads.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

17. A flamethrowing tank attacks Hill 60 during the Marine assault on the mound.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

18. A Japanese plane goes down in flames over the ocean.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

19. The HMS Formidable of the Royal Navy burns after a May 4 Kamikaze attack. Eight crew members were lost and 55 injured, but the Formidable survived the war.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
(Photo: Royal Navy)

20. Marine Corps infantrymen ride a tank to the town of Ghuta on April 1 to occupy it before Japanese defenders can.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

21. A Marine sprints across the “Valley of Death,” a draw covered by Japanese machine guns that caused 125 casualties in eight hours.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

22. Marines explode dynamite charges to destroy a Japanese cave on the island.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

23. The USS Bunker Hill burns after two Kamikaze strikes in less than a minute. At least 346 sailors were killed and 43 went missing.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

24. The Bunker Hill survived and returned to the U.S. for repairs. It served as a troop transport after the war before it was sent to the fleet reserve.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

25. Wounded sailors are moved from the Bunker Hill to the USS Wilkes Barre.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

26. Army soldiers move forward during the 82-day battle.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

27. A private cuts a sergeant’s hair in the Japanese city of Shuri on the island. A medieval castle in the city survived the battle.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

28. Marines rest on the side of a hill as Japanese fire prevents their further advance.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

29. A tank crewmember is relocated after suffering injuries.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

30. Wounded troops await transport to a ship hospital.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

31. Marine Lt. Col. R.P. Ross, Jr. places an American flag on Shuri castle on May 29, 1945. Ross was under sniper fire at the time.

This is why the French are better at war than you think
(Photo: U.S. Department of Defense)

32. The American flag is raised over the island June 22 in a ceremony marking the end of organized Japanese resistance.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

33. A U.S. servicemember visits an American cemetery. The U.S. suffered over 12,000 killed and 50,000 wounded during the battle. Japan suffered over 150,000 soldiers and civilians killed or committed suicide.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History

Just getting to the Gettysburg Museum of History means walking through the scene of significant events in America’s past. The house that is now the museum sits on Baltimore Street in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the road on which Abraham Lincoln arrived to deliver the Gettysburg Address. When a team from Coffee or Die Magazine knocked on the door recently, Erik Dorr emerged from his home and invited us in. Instead of furniture, exhibits featuring pieces of American history were everywhere we looked.

Dorr, the curator of the Gettysburg Museum of History, transformed the interior of his home in 2009 with war relics. His collection includes items from the Civil War, as one might expect in a town so closely associated with the conflict, but also his impressive World War II collection and even modern artifacts like Saddam Hussein’s dinnerware.

Dorr’s family once lived on a farm in Ziegler’s Grove, which is now part of the Gettysburg National Military Park managed by the National Park Service. Most of his Civil War collection is made up of items collected by family members through time.

“[My ancestors] found items on their farm such as bullets, artillery shells, belt buckles, and other accoutrements of war,” Dorr said. “And they would move those items off of their land more for farming reasons than for historical reasons. It’s not good to have lead, iron, and heavy metals in your soil if you’re a farmer. They had a box of Civil War relics in their barn that they found. And the local farmers sold those items to museums, but my family kept those items.”

Here are a few mind-blowing artifacts from Coffee or Die Magazine‘s inside look at Dorr’s collection.

Colt revolver from the Battle of Gettysburg

This is why the French are better at war than you think
Why a soldier left behind this Colt revolver after the Battle of Gettysburg is lost to history. Photo courtesy of Erik Dorr/Gettysburg Museum of History.

When troops left after Gettysburg, a soldier left behind a Colt revolver on the kitchen table of the Pfeffer Farm in Freedom Township.

Hitler’s pistol

This is why the French are better at war than you think
One of four or five documented pistols once owned by Adolf Hitler. Photo by Matt Fratus/Coffee or Die Magazine.

A gun that Dorr says is one of four or five documented pistols owned by Adolf Hitler, it was discovered by Russell Dysert, an American soldier from the US Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. Dysert was with the first American unit to reach Hitler’s Berghof residence in Obersalzberg in the Bavarian Alps near Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, Germany, in 1945.

“That home was bombed by the Allies right before the Americans got there, so the whole west wing of the Berghof was destroyed. It was on fire, and a lot of the items were destroyed, but there was a huge air raid shelter underneath,” Dorr said“Before that air raid, a lot of items were taken down there for safekeeping. That pistol was found down in the tunnel and it has Hitler’s initials and a Nazi party eagle on the back inlaid in gold.”

“Rupert” the British paradummy

This is why the French are better at war than you think
“Rupert” the Paradummy was discovered unused, but many like him “jumped” over Normandy during D-Day. Photo by Matt Fratus/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Operation Titanic was an elaborate deception plan that occurred during the D-Day invasion. It was broken into four stages: noisemakers, chaff to fool radar, paradummies, and real SAS commandos. The paradummies, or dummy paratroopers, were dropped from four Royal Air Force squadrons flying over four separate drop zones over Normandy.

“They were diversionary devices and were dropped in Normandy to try to fool the Germans into thinking there was a parachute jump going on somewhere else,” Dorr said. “They’re one-third the size of a real man and a real parachute. From the ground looking up you can’t tell because it’s the same perspective, it looks like real guys coming out.”

A single lot of two dozen of them were found in England in the 1980s, Dorr said, making them extremely rare.

Atomic bomb clock

This is why the French are better at war than you think
A clock frozen at just after 9:15 a.m. of Aug. 6, 1945, when the American B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped the world’s first deployed atomic bomb over Hiroshima, Japan. Photo by Matt Fratus/Coffee or Die Magazine.

This clock was found following the destruction of the Japanese city of Hiroshima caused by one of the two atomic bombs dropped during World War II. The clock is symbolic because the hands were stopped at the exact moment the bomb exploded.

“The face is so melted that you can no longer see the hands, but they are in there,” Dorr said. “I also obtained the watch worn by one of the guys in the Enola Gay who dropped the atomic bomb. On the anniversary of the atomic bomb drop in Hiroshima, I put them side by side and call it ‘The Tale of Two Clocks.’ One’s a wristwatch that was worn in that plane when the bomb was dropped, and the other one was on the ground and took the burn of the atomic bomb blast.”

Keys to the “Eagle’s Nest”

This is why the French are better at war than you think
These keys were a souvenir for a 101st Airborne soldier. Photos courtesy of Erik Dorr/Gettysburg Museum of History.

The Band of Brothers HBO series depicted “Easy Company” of the 101st Airborne Division looting Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. Dick Frame was a soldier from the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), 101st Airborne Division, when he was given the task of guarding a pair of metal doors. These doors were between the large tunnel cut into the middle of the mountain and the elevator that leads to the Eagle’s Nest.

“On the edge of that tunnel that goes in are two giant blast doors and they had big locks on them,” Dorr said. “Dick Frame was one of the guards and he decided to put the keys in his pocket. The keys are neat because they fold. They’re 8 or 9 inches long, and they have a hinge in the middle so you can put them in your pocket.”

Dick Frame came home with a symbolic war trophy, which was brought to 501st PIR reunions. The paratroopers in his platoon would tell the story of how they had taken the keys to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. The historian of the 101st Airborne Museum provided these keys that are now on display at the Gettysburg Museum.

Ghosts of the Ardennes

This is why the French are better at war than you think
Both American and German artifacts make up the Gettysburg Museum exhibit “The Ghosts of the Ardennes.” Photo by Matt Fratus/Coffee or Die Magazine.

The Ghosts of the Ardennes is a unique exhibit on display in the hallway of the Gettysburg Museum of History. During the Battle of the Bulge, the 101st Airborne Division fought in a region known as the Bois Jacques outside Bastogne near the village of Foy in Belgium. After World War II, the founders of the 101st Airborne Museum in Belgium used a metal detector to find many artifacts in the Bois Jacques region.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Dorr conducted tours to Europe and visited those relic hunters.

“I call it the ‘Ghosts of the Ardennes’ because it’s bits and pieces that were left behind there,” Dorr said. “If you’ve ever been to the Bois Jacques, it’s a spooky place. It’s real dark, the woods are thick, and you can still see the remains of the foxholes. […] You can really feel the spirit of what happened.”

Half of the exhibit is American artifacts, and the other half is German. There is an MG42 German machine gun, an American M1 Garand rifle, an American canteen with three bullets in it, a German mess kit with several bullet holes in it, and other remnants found on the battlefield.

Dorr sees a connection between the relics of Gettysburg and those found from WWII.

“We have so many similar items for the Battle of Gettysburg here,” Dorr said. “We have all the items my ancestors found on their farm, so I really appreciate stuff that came out of the ground, that came from historic, sacred spots on the battlefield. To me, those items really tell the story. They were there.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Cold War nuclear sea mine required a chicken to explode

The Cold War spawned decades’ worth of bizarre weapon ideas as the West and the Soviet Union strove towards gaining the strategic upper hand over their superpower rival.

The US was responsible for at least seven nuclear weapon designs during the Cold War that now seem outlandish or ill-advised. But the US wasn’t alone in its willingness to build seemingly absurd weapons systems to gain some kind of advantage over the Soviets.


In the 1950s, the UK designed a nuclear landmine that would be placed in West Germany to stop a hypothetical Soviet assault on the rest of Europe, the BBC reports. The landmine, dubbed Operation Blue Peacock, would be operated remotely so that it could be detonated at the moment when it could inflict maximal damage on the invading Red Army.

But the weapon had a major hitch. Buried underground, it was possible that the mine would become cold to the point that the detonator would be unable to trigger a nuclear blast. In 1957, British nuclear physicists found a solution: chickens

This is why the French are better at war than you think
The design was based on the free-falling Blue Danube bomb.

“The birds would be put inside the casing of the bomb, given seed to keep them alive and stopped from pecking at the wiring,” the BBC notes. The chickens’ body heat would be enough to maintain the triggering mechanism’s working temperature. In all, the chickens would be estimated to survive for a week, after which time the bomb would return to a possibly cooled and inoperable state.

In all, the landmines designed in Operation Blue Peacock were thought to yield a 10-kiloton explosion which would produce a crater 375 feet in diameter, according to the American Digest. Such destructive potential ultimately led to the abandonment of the project as the British realized that there would be an unacceptable amount of nuclear fallout from such a blast — never mind the complicated issue of burying nuclear weapons within the territory of an allied nation.

By 1958, after the production of only two prototypes, Operation Blue Peacock was abandoned.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

What did it sound like to land at Iwo Jima?

In this age of smartphones and social media, we often get unprecedented access to events that we normally would have just read about in a paper long ago. Many of us have seen videos of combat in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and countless other places. We see the perspective of our enemies as they strap on Go-Pros and launch attacks. We see camera footage of Special Forces carrying out operations. We see airstrikes from drones and watch enemy bodies get turned to hamburger meat by attack helicopters.


For older conflicts, however, we usually see sanitized footage released by the government or newsreels that were edited with sound effects added. But have you ever wondered what it sounded like to storm the beaches of Iwo Jima?

Well, now you can hear it for yourself. Audio from the actual Iwo Jima landings can be heard here.

In it, we hear two Marine Corps Correspondents give a ‘play by play’ as the Marines head toward the beach. The first person identified as one Sgt. Mawson of the 4th Marine Division goes first.

As gunfire sounds around him, Mawson is on board a landing craft en route to the beach. He sees Marines being tossed into the air from mortar and artillery fire and states the beach ‘seems to be aflame.’ As the landing craft clears the warships, he heads straight to the beach. As he gets closer, he can see a tank already aflame. When they are only a couple of hundred yards out, he can see Marines moving up and down the beach through wrecked vehicles. He makes reference to the abandoned Japanese navy ships that were left to corrode on the beach, a sign of the decimation the Japanese Imperial Navy experienced in early battles like Midway.

The second Marine is not known by name. However, his words are even more grave than the first correspondent as his audio conveys his arrival on the black sands of Iwo Jima.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

He starts at the line of departure and about 2000 yards from shore. He states that the beach ‘looks to be practically on fire.’ In the fog of war, he reports that casualties in the first wave are light. We know now that the Japanese allowed the Marines on the island and opened up once most of the first waves were settled on the beach. It seems like this correspondent can see the Japanese attack, but the severity is not known to him yet. He tells us he sees dive bombers strafing enemy positions.

Then, upon fully seeing the absolute carnage on the beach, he has a very human moment. He talks about his wife and daughter back home. He wonders aloud if they are alright and then wishes that he would be able to go back home to them.

Many of us who have been overseas have had this moment when you have a firm vision of your own mortality and immediately think of your loved ones back home. Through his professional demeanor, it’s a human and heartbreaking moment.

As the craft gets closer, he observed machine gun fire coming down from Mt. Suribachi aimed at his craft, although for the moment, they are out of range.

The landing craft grounds on the beach, and the ramp goes down, and a machine gun goes off. You hear in the background, ‘what the hell was that?’ and wonder if some poor soul had a negligent discharge (although I am sure a few minutes later, no one cared).

As he wades ashore, he mentions that the water is so high that his pistol gets wet as he trudges ashore. He starts giving a matter of fact description of the beach and its make-up before coming back to what he is doing. The gunfire gets louder.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

dod.defense.gov

He yells ‘spread out!’ as he and his stick get closer to the beach. You can hear incoming fire around him as he very calmly explains his situation. He states so far that no one around him has been hit, and you can hear a dive bomber flying overhead.

But unfortunately, as we know now, Iwo was not to be an easy operation.

He sees his first casualty, a Marine who is being evacuated. He then sees other Marines being hit by enemy fire, and his voice starts to dampen from the gravity of the situation. About 100 feet from the beach, we hear him as he sees more casualties. He sees a Marine lying on his back with ‘his blood pouring into the water.’ He is very calm as there are fire and death all around him.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

Upon coming ashore, he is surprised to see that the Marines are still on the beach. He sees that the first waves are bogged down from the fire and sand. This was exactly the plan of the Japanese commander, and from the sound of the recording, it was initially very successful at bogging down the Marines and inflicting heavy losses.

The next thing he says tells of a courage that all Marines know of and admire. He talks of corpsman walking up and down the beach, seemingly unaffected by the incoming fire, checking up and down to make sure everyone who needs it, is being treated. Gotta love those Docs!

The recording ends with the correspondent headed toward the first wave as more Marines come in the waves behind him.

As we know now, what was supposed to be an easy landing and week-long battle turned into one of the bloodiest battles in World War II. Over 6,000 Marines died bravely to take Iwo Jima.

If anything, these recordings document a small part of their heroic journeys and horrible ordeals.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why grave-robbing Confederate generals is big business

In April, 2013, an iron casket was found pulled out of its grave and its contents were spilled all over the Old Church Cemetery near Waynesboro, Ga. A man, later found to be Ralph “Bubba” Hillis, and a partner had taken to digging up graves in the cemetery.

Why target this little cemetery? Because it was filled with the remains of Confederate and Revolutionary War soldiers.


This is why the French are better at war than you think
(Sgt. Sean Cochran, Burke County Sheriff)

The issue of grave robbing by those searching unique, ancient artifacts is a huge problem the world over, especially in places like Egypt, Peru, and Cambodia. These are areas filled with archaeological treasures and a steady flow of individuals who are struggling economically and are willing to risk punishment to go dig up said artifacts for the right price.

And that price can always be found. Illegally-sold Egyptian antiquities are found all over the world as they make their way from the Valley of the Kings to Syria to Dubai to New York and, finally, to whatever buyer is waiting at their final destination. Eager collectors are just waiting to find the right artifact from the right seller at the right price. The same technology that brings the world closer together also brings looters and grave robbers closer to these buyers.

Online sales and auction sites like eBay make it possible for individuals to make these transactions in short order, while the popularity of television shows like Pawn Stars and American Pickers show just how easy it is to profit from a few authentic pieces of history. The ease of selling ill-gotten items and the interest garnered by their value and origins are making grave robbing a profitable crime right here in the United States, too.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

A sword like this one, which belonged to Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, is worth tens of thousands of dollars. This example was never dug up from a grave, however.

The value of Civil War-era artifacts has lead to the growth of a booming black market. A single button from a Confederate uniform can net as much as 0. Full uniforms and medals can fetch anywhere from 0 to thousands of dollars for the right collector. According to Southern antiques brokers, an officer’s sword is worth anywhere from ,000 and ,000 — it doesn’t even matter if that officer was a general.

Two big things make dealing in black-market Confederate artifacts so profitable. The first is how rarely these sorts of things are available at auction. Electronic tracking, official dealers, and mandatory identification make it very difficult to illegally transport Civil War relics. The second is the inability to track the authenticity of the artifacts themselves. As you can imagine, Confederate records were kept only for as long as the Confederacy existed, which means there are plenty of legitimate artifacts that lack a kept record.

As a result, there is treasure literally buried all over the South.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

Archaeologists carry out a dig at New Mexico’s Fort Craig cemetery, where the remains of dozens of soldiers and children were secretly exhumed after an informant tipped them off about widespread grave-looting.

(U.S. Bureau of Reclamation)

And people are starting to go dig for it — risking stiff prison terms.

But don’t be concerned that your local Civil War museum or historical society is dealing in stolen goods or housing grave-robbed artifacts. You can be reasonably certain that anything accepted by a legitimate museum was purchased with a clear record of ownership and was probably tracked through INTERPOL.

Authorities are now taking to hiring archaeologists to exhume grave-robbed Civil War-era sites in order to preserve the history entombed there while keeping them from being looted again in the future.

MIGHTY HISTORY

An ancient king whipped the ocean to protect his troops – and it worked

There’s an old military adage that goes “if it’s stupid and it works, then it isn’t stupid.” This idea clearly dates all the way back to the Classical Era, because the stupidest thing ever done to protect a fighting force was perpetrated in 480 BC. By a King.


Say what you want about Persian King Xerxes I, he knew how to fight a battle. That is to say, he always brought enough men and material to get the job done. Yes, this is the same Xerxes seen in the movie 300, but before the Persian Army could get to Thermopylae, they had to cross the Hellespont, what we call the Dardanelles today. It did not go exactly as planned.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

Like a lot of things the Persian Army tried.

Xerxes was coming right off of victories over uprisings against Persian rule in Egypt and Babylon and had acquired a massive army, as-then-unheard-of in ancient times. Some 300,000 troops were ready to pour into Greece to avenge the ass-kicking the Greeks perpetrated on Xerxes’ father, Darius. Xerxes was not one to overthink things. The simplest way to get a massive army from one land mass to another was to simply build a bridge and roads to it. Xerxes even had the bridges built in advance so his army wouldn’t have to wait to get to Greece.

This did not go exactly as the Persian Army planned. Before he and his troops could arrive, the seas swelled up and swallowed the bridges, completely destroying them. When the King arrived, it was just debris. Infuriated with the seas, Xerxes marched out to the sea and whipped it with a chain 300 times as his soldiers watched and shouted curses at the water.

This is why the French are better at war than you think

He also beheaded the engineers who built the bridge, which may have been a contributing factor to his eventual success.

The bridges were then rebuilt to the exact specifications required to hold 300,000 Persian troops bent on destruction, along with their pack animals, cavalry, and whatever else they could carry. This time, the bridges held and the Persians marched out to meet the Greeks – who would kick the Persian Army right back out of Europe by the following spring.

When the Persians arrived at the bridges in full retreat, they had been destroyed again.

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