Not too often do you find something good in a pawn shop. It’s usually cheap crap that was probably stolen or someone couldn’t get out of hock. Occasionally, you find something perfect or useful. But it’s rare you’d ever expect to find a legendary sword.
Sometimes though, fate has its way of showing up. Every now and then someone finds the jackpot item — such as the legendary Mameluke sword of Lt. Gen. Homer L. Litzenberg Jr., Commander of the 7th Marine Regiment during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.
Lt. Gen. Homer L. Litzenberg Jr. led his men from the Battle of Inchon to Yalu and through 17 of the most brutal days of combat during at the “Frozen Chosin.” He led alongside Marine Corps legend Lt. Gen. “Chesty” Puller who commanded the 1st Marine Regiment.
Chris Anderson, Anne Arundel County police officer and prior service Marine, and his fellow Marines were about to celebrate the Marine Corps birthday at an Annapolis saloon. Anderson noted that they were missing the traditional Mameluke sword of a Marine Corps officer to cut the cake. He did what every Marine would do: he looked for one on eBay.
Searching for a sword on eBay
He found one but it was inscribed with the name “Homer L. Litzenberg Jr.” on the blade. He knew that this blade couldn’t go to some private collector, so he snagged the sword at $255 because of wear and tear. The authenticity hasn’t been determined yet, since the pawnshop can’t disclose prior owner information. However, the pawnshop did say that with its proximity to Aberdeen Proving Ground, it’s extremely common for them to receive military items so this might just be the legendary sword after all.
Check out this blade
Anderson has since made it his personal crusade to get the sword verified and put into the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
The Coast Guard’s USS Glendale served in the Pacific in World War II, and it was commanded by a reservist who earned the Bronze Star for his actions during a Japanese sneak attack on Dec. 5, 1944.
Coast Guard Reserve Lt. Cmdr. Harold J. Doebler was commanding the Glendale in a convoy of 35 Army, Navy, and merchant ships on their way to Leyte Gulf the Phillippines. The Glendale was assigned to anti-submarine and anti-air operations for the convoy.
On Dec. 5, friendly flights of C-47s began passing over the convoy. At first, this wasn’t of great concern, but Japanese pilots saw the situation and decided to exploit it. They flew their planes into the C-47 formations until they were close to the convoy, and then swooped down to attack the ships.
Doebler maneuvered the Glendale and other ships of the convoy to form a screen that attempted to pick off the Japanese attackers before they could reach the rest of the convoy. But the problems of target identification continued as gunners had to be confident that they weren’t firing at friendly planes before they pulled the trigger.
In the late afternoon, just after the Marcus Daly was hit, the convoy was joined by four new destroyers. With this greater firepower, the convoy was able to drive off the rest of the Japanese attacks and the rest of the ships were able to continue safely.
The Antone Saugrain later sank from the damage inflicted by the torpedo bombers, but the safe zone established by the destroyer and frigate screen allowed other vessels to rescue 413 crewmembers safely before the ship went down. The Marcus Daly was able to continue with the convoy despite severe damage and the loss of 72 of its crew.
Toward the latter half of World War II, the Battle of Saipan was a turning point of 1944. On an island in the Pacific Campaign, a battle took place on the island of Saipan, a 12-mile long piece of land of the Mariana Islands. The spot served as Japan’s “last line of defense,” launching a heavily guarded area with a full airport runway.
In the late 30s, the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy heavily guarded the area, even bringing 30,000 troops to the small island in the middle of 1944. Coastal artilleries, on-shore defenses, and underground bunkers were also added for safety precautions. However, the efforts would prove futile during the battle that rang from mid-June through July 9th during Operation Forager — AKA Pacific D-Day. (Normandy’s D-Day took place just nine days earlier on June 6th.)
By July, U.S. forces had secured Saipan, while Guam and Tinian were taken over in August. Many list this as the turning point in the war, allowing Allied forces to gain ground in the Pacific and work their way toward Japan, including nuclear bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The tiny island and a huge war event
By the end of the battle, Japan had lost 29,000 of its troops on board, along with many civilian lives lost. As a whole, the island was decimated. Hit with countless bombs and shots, the town’s buildings and structures saw heavy damage and/or complete loss.
It had been the Allies’ plan for some time to focus on the island — and the entire Mariana area — as a key focus. It meant removing Japan’s potential bombing range.
From there, Allies were able to take on more Pacific islands, and eventually, reach Japan itself.
In decades since, the island has remained under control of the U.S., first as dictated by the United Nations. And since 1978, it’s remained a commonwealth of the U.S. (The other commonwealth being Puerto Rico.) And in the 1990s, military forces began to dwindle from the island, leaving room for an increasing number of tourists visiting the location.
Facts about Saipan
The island of Saipan is unique in its landscape and role within local economy. Its location, history, and national goods lead to this tropical oasis … mixed with remnants of extreme war.
Saipan hosts white sandy beaches as well as mountains
It’s beautiful landscapes, like a coral reef, cliffs, and natural lagoon draw in thousands of tourists per year. Its beaches alone are ranked #1 for snorkeling, citing clear waters and beautiful scenes as must-visit spots.
It claims to have “the cleanest air in the United States” and has the stats to back it up.
Tourists dive from their cliffs; the area regularly receives awards from the annual Marine Diving Day Fair in Tokyo.
The islands were first spotted by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, but wasn’t occupied by Spanish explorers until 1668.
The indigenous people are known as Chamorro, who settled across the islands and in Taiwan.
The island was first settled by Spanish missionaries, who introduced Catholicism to the native people.
Saipan was ruled by Spain, Germany, then Japan; other Mariana Islands are politically ran by Guam and Micronesia.
There were thousands of families that sent sons, fathers, brothers, and—when the families allowed it—daughters and sisters. But one family with five sons sent four of them to war as officers in the Revolution, and they fought at some of America’s crucial battles, eventually earning special honors from Gen. George Washington at Yorktown.
Col. Richard Butler, the eldest brother, later served as a general and died fighting Native Americans after the Revolutionary War.
Obviously, this was a fateful time to set up life in the colonies. And, soon enough, the four elder brothers were serving in the Continental Army. Richard was recommended for commission as a major in 1776, and he received it. He was quickly promoted to lieutenant colonel and sent to Morgan’s Riflemen, The 11th Virginia Regiment. He received credit for the constant state of readiness in that unit.
The Battle of Monmouth, where three of the Butler brothers fought.
Richard’s younger brother William was commissioned as a captain in 1776 and promoted to major during October of that year. He fought in Canada and, after promotion to lieutenant colonel, at Monmouth. He then fought defensive actions against Native American tribes and took part in the successful Sullivan-Clinton Expedition to break the Iroquois Confederacy and its British allies in 1779.
The third brother, Thomas, was commissioned as a first lieutenant in early 1776 and promoted to captain later that year. His bravery at the Battle of Brandywine allowed him to rally retreating Colonials and stop a British thrust, earning him accolades from Washington. Later, he fought at Monmouth and was cited for defending a draw against severe attack, allowing his older brother Richard to escape as the British forces were tied up.
The youngest brother to fight in the war was Percival, who was commissioned as a first lieutenant in 1777 at the age of 18. He fought at Monmouth with two of his brothers after a winter at Valley Forge.
Pako, a five-and-a-half-year-old 96th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, suffered a heat stroke last year and died. The base veterinary clinic helped revive him and bring him back through CPR procedures. He beat almost insurmountable odds (for dogs) to survive heat stroke and CPR to make a full recovery. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.).
In our homes, dogs are members of the family. On the battlefield, dogs might save your life. Military working dogs are responsible for all kinds of important jobs. Their acute senses of smell and hearing allow them to detect approaching attackers with ease, even in total darkness. Some dogs specialize in detecting mines or other explosives, while others are used as messengers. Others still sniff out injured soldiers in hard to reach places.
While it’s impossible to know exactly how many human lives have been saved by canine military companions, the number is likely upward of 400,000. Just about every military working dog is loyal, but these 10 incredible pups show what it really means to be man’s best friend.
1. Sallie – Civil War
Sallie, a Staffordshire Terrier, was the mascot of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. She joined soldiers in countless Civil War battles, including the Battle of Gettysburg. There, she mysteriously disappeared for three full days. When the company finally found her, she was guarding wounded soldiers back on the battlefield. While Sally was tragically killed at the Battle of Hatcher’s Run, she wasn’t forgotten. To honor her dedication and sacrifice, soldiers from her regiment raised a statue of Sallie at Gettysburg.
2. Sgt. Stubby – World War I
Despite the goofy name and stout, Boston Terrier build, Sergeant Stubby is one of the most impressive dogs in American military history. He earned his title of sergeant by serving in the trenches in France during WWI, alerting troops of incoming gas attacks and rescuing wounded soldiers. He even captured a German spy all on his own!
The heroic canine is the most decorated war dog of WWI, earning numerous medals and becoming the mascot of Georgetown University. The newspapers loved him, and pretty much everyone knew his name. Even presidents were crazy about him- President Wilson, President Harding, and President Coolidge all jumped to meet him!
3. Chips – World War II
What do you get when you mix a Husky, Collie, and German Shepherd? A next-level war dog, apparently. A mixed-breed mutt named Chips wasn’t always a working dog. He started out as a pet, but his owner gave him to the military as part of the Dogs for Defense program that was launched after Pearl Harbor. It must have been the right call, because he thrived on the battlefield. He served in General Patton’s Seventh Army in Germany, Italy, France, and several other locations, and his heroism was well-documented.
On one occasion, Chips charged a pillbox and captured the enemy soldiers inside to save his companions from machinegun fire. Later that night, he notified soldiers of an approaching ambush, saving them twice in one day. Chips heard enemy soldiers approaching for an ambush, then woke and alerted the men.
He won the most medals of any dog during WWII, including a Silver Star and a Purple Heart. Sadly, his medals were later revoked because the military decided dogs were “equipment” rather than service members.
4. Nemo – Vietnam War
One night in Vietnam, a German Shepherd named Nemo was on guard duty with his handler, Airman Robert Throneburg. Nemo alerted Throneburg of approaching enemies, and the pair prepared for the fight of their lives. Both were shot by Viet Cong guerillas. Despite his severe wounds, Nemo protected Throneburg until medics arrived. Even when they did, Nemo wasn’t so sure. A veterinarian had to persuade Nemo to stand down to allow doctors to help his companion.
Miraculously, they both survived. While most military dogs spend their entire lives in service, Nemo was offered early retirement back in the States.
5. Lex – Iraq War
United States Marine Corps handler Corporal Dustin J. Lee was with his working dog, Lex, at a Forward Operating Base in Iraq in 2007 when disaster struck. The pair were hit by a 73 mm SPG-9 rocket. Both were severely injured, but Lex wouldn’t leave Lee’s side. Despite attempted treatment, Lee succumbed to his injuries, but Lex survived. He spent twelve weeks in rehab and was left with shrapnel permanently embedded in his spine.
Lex regained full mobility and could have easily returned to active duty, but Lee’s parents requested to adopt him. They had already adopted Lee’s previous canine, and wanted to welcome their son’s other heroic partner in his memory. The appeal was granted, and Lex lived out the rest of his life in comfort. He was also awarded an honorary Purple Heart for his service.
6. Sarbi- Afghanistan
A black lab named Sarbi hails from across the pond. The Australian dog was working as a bomb-sniffing dog in 2008 when Taliban militants attacked. Sarbi’s handler and nine others were wounded, and Sarbi vanished. She was miraculously found a year later at a remote patrol base in northeastern Uruzgan. Her handler was over the moon to see her again, and she was awarded a purple cross by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ in recognition of her bravery.
7. Cairo – Operation Neptune Spear
These days, most military dogs are used to detect explosives. Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, is as elite as it gets. Cairo is a Navy SEAL and was the only military dog to participate in the operation that took down Osama Bin Laden in 2011. During the operation, Cairo was responsible for securing the perimeter and finding any enemies who evaded capture.
In another operation, Cairo was searching for enemies during a nighttime raid. He found an infant but moved on to another room to attack an adult man instead, leaving the child unharmed. He hadn’t been taught how to distinguish between babies and adults, but he instinctively knew the baby wasn’t a threat. Cairo’s handler was so stunned by the dog’s built-in sense of right and wrong that he went on to write a book about him.
8. Valdo – Afghanistan
Like many military working dogs, Valdo’s priority was sniffing out bombs. He trained heavily alongside his handler, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Lee, to hone his skills. Valdo had qualities that couldn’t be taught, however. Valdo had character. In 2011, his unit was attacked by a rocket-propelled grenade. He shielded four soldiers from the impact, and was critically injured by the shrapnel.
Army Pfc. Ben Bradley believes he wouldn’t have lived to see another day if Valdo hadn’t been there. While Valdo did survive, his injuries brought his military career to an end, Lee adopted him to give him a happy retirement.
9. Lucca – Iraq
A German Shepherd/Belgian Malinois mix named Lucca completed two tours and over 400 missions as an explosive-detecting expert. In 2012, Lucca found a hidden IED and was searching for more, when one detonated. Lucca took most of the hit, saving several Marines who were nearby. Her injuries were so severe that her leg had to be amputated, but according to her handler, she hasn’t lost any of the pep in her step. She was given an honorary (unofficial) Purple Heart by a fellow Marine in honor of her six years of dedicated service.
10. Conan – Syria
A special operations military working dog named Conan has more grit and guts than most people ever do. Named after comedian Conan O’Brien, the Belgian Malinois works in the US 1st SFOD-D. One of his most famous achievements took place during the Barisha raid in Syria- the one that brought an end to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the former leader of ISIS. During the mission, Conan chased Baghdadi into a tunnel, where he detonated his suicide vest.
Conan was injured during the raid, he has since returned to duty. Many soldiers and citizens have petitioned for Conan to be awarded the Purple Heart medal, but so far the ban on military canine awards hasn’t changed.
The story behind what came to be known as the Wham Paymaster robbery began on the morning of May 11, 1889, when a U.S. Army paymaster called Major Joseph Washington Wham was charged with transporting a lockbox containing the salaries of several hundred soldiers across the Arizona desert from Fort Grant to Fort Thomas located some 50 miles away. All in all the lockbox contained $28,345.10 in gold and silver coins worth the equivalent of about $784,000 today.
Tasked with protecting the contents of the lockbox, Paymaster Wham’s convoy included 9 Buffalo Soldiers of the 24th Infantry and two privates of the 10th Cavalry. At this point it’s probably worth mentioning for anyone unfamiliar with the term “Buffalo Soldiers” that all of the soldiers protecting Wham and his convoy were black.
This is important as a few hours after setting off the convoy was attacked by as many as 20 bandits who shot at the convoy while screaming racial slurs at the soldiers guarding it. More particularly, it’s thought that one of the ways those who robbed the convoy justified it from a moral standpoint was simply that it was no real crime in their minds to take money from black soldiers. (More on this in a bit.)
Whatever the case, during the ensuing 30 minute firefight, 8 of the soldiers guarding the convoy were shot, two of them multiple times. Of note are the actions of one Sergeant Benjamin Brown who shrugged off a bullet wound to the gut to stand out in the open firing at the bandits with his trusty revolver.
After being shot twice more (once through each arm), a fellow soldier braved the bullets to carry Brown to safety. Unwilling to halt his one-man assault, Brown continued firing on the bandits while being carried away.
Another Buffalo Soldier, Corporal Isaiah Mayes, similarly ignored the hailstorm of bullets, two of which hit him in the legs, to quite literally at times crawl to get help two miles away at a nearby ranch.
Unfortunately, with nearly everyone in the convoy seriously injured, they were forced to retreat away from the wagons, at which point heavy gun fire kept them pinned down while some of the bandits ran in, used an axe to open the lockbox, and stole the contents.
While the bandits succeeded in their goal, Paymaster Wham was astounded by the bravery of the soldiers (all of whom miraculously survived despite many being shot as noted). In fact, according to one of the witnesses to the event, Harriet Holladay, Sergeant Brown “had a bullet hole clean through his middle but he acted as if it didn’t bother him at all.”
Because of their uncanny bravery and dedication to protecting government property with their own lives, Wham immediately recommend 9 of the Buffalo soldiers for the Medal of Honor. Both Brown and Mayes were subsequently awarded that medal, while 8 other soldiers Wham singled out for their bravery were instead awarded certificates of merit.
As for the money, nobody is exactly sure what happened to it because nobody was ever convicted of the crime in question, despite that many among the robbers were recognized during the gunfight as they brazenly did not wear masks. It’s speculated that they didn’t bother with masks because they felt morally justified in the robbery and were all upstanding, church-going members of a nearby town, Pima, with the robbery seemingly organized by the mayor himself, Gilbert Webb.
Webb had come on hard times and was on the verge of bankruptcy. As he was a major employer in the town, and the town itself had come on hard times, he seems to have gotten the bright idea to simply take the money from the U.S. government to solve his and the town’s problems.
As to why he and others in the extremely religious town thought this was a perfectly moral thing to do, well, the town was largely made up of Mormons who felt very strongly (and not really unjustified in this case) that the U.S. government had been oppressing them for years, and so taking money from Uncle Sam was no real crime.
On top of this, the individuals guarding the money were all black outside of Wham, as were many of the soldiers that were to be the recipients of the money once it was delivered. Thus in their view, to quote a contemporary article written on subject during the aftermath about the general sentiment of some in the town, “The n**ger soldiers would just waste the money on liquor, gambling, and whores, so why not take it and use it to the benefit of a community that really needed some cash…”
And so it was that when seven suspected members of the robbers were tried for the robbery, community members were seemingly stepping over themselves to give them an alibi (with 165 witnesses testifying in all).
On top of that, the original judge, William H. Barnes, had to be removed from the case when it was discovered he was not only a friend of one of the accused, but also was actively intimidating witnesses for the prosecution. This all ultimately resulted in U.S. President Benjamin Harrison himself stepping in and appointing a new judge, Richard E. Sloan.
In the end, despite many of those called in defense of the robbers completely contradicting themselves, eye witness testimony identifying a few of the men, and that some of them, including Mayor Gilbert Webb, were found in possession of stolen gold coins, all were ultimately acquitted for the crime. Deputy William Breakenridge summed up the reason- “the Government had a good case against them, but they had too many friends willing to swear to an alibi, and there were too many on the jury who thought it no harm to rob the Government.”
It should be noted, however, that several of the accused, including Mayor Webb, would later in their lives be convicted of other theft-related crimes, including Webb having to flee town when he was indicted for stealing $160 ($4400 today) from the Pima school district. (We should also probably mention that Webb actually left his former home in Utah to settle in Pima because he was under charges for grand larceny…)
In the years that have passed since the famed robbery, numerous legends have arisen about where exactly the money ended up, including several that posit that the money is still buried somewhere out there in the Arizona desert. However, given none of those who committed the robbery were convicted and it would seem much of the money was used by Mayor Webb to pay off debts around town, as well as forgive the debts of some of the men who helped him in the robbery, this seems extremely unlikely.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
On Oct. 23, 1941, US Navy destroyer USS Reuben James left Newfoundland to escort a convoy bound for Britain. Two days later, the German U-boat U-552 left the French port of St. Nazaire to prowl the North Atlantic on its sixth patrol.
The US was not a belligerent in the war in Europe at the time, but Washington had set up neutrality zones in the Atlantic in which its ships would guard British and neutral merchant ships. US ships would also notify convoys of U-boats’ locations.
The James and the U-552 sailed a few weeks after a U-boat fired on the Navy destroyer USS Greer without hitting it. After that incident, President Franklin Roosevelt told the public that “if German or Italian vessels of war enter the waters, the protection of which is necessary for American defense, they do so at their own peril.”
In the early-morning hours of October 31, when the Reuben James and the U-552 crossed paths near Iceland, the de facto state of war between the US and Germany in the Atlantic intensified.
German Capt. Lt. Erich Topp and other crew members aboard the U-552 in St. Nazaire, France, Octo. 6, 1942.
The James and four other US destroyers were escorting the more than 40 ships that made up HX-156, a convoy of merchant ships sailing from Halifax in Canada to Europe. At that time, US warships would escort convoys to Iceland, where British ships took over.
As day broke on October 31, the Reuben James was sailing at about 10 mph on the left rear side of the convoy. Just after 5:30 a.m., the U-552 fired on the James, its torpedoes ripping into the left side of the destroyer.
“One or more explosions” occurred near the forward fire room, “accompanied by a lurid orange flame and a high column of black smoke visible for several minutes at some miles,” according to the Navy’s Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
The ship’s forward section was blown off, and it sank rapidly. Only two sailors on that part of the ship survived the blast. Others who made it out were sailors “berthed, or on watch, [aft of] the forward fireroom.”
No official order came to abandon ship, but crew members launched three rafts and started to leap overboard as the sea swallowed the ship. The captain had issued life jackets to the crew and told them to have them on hand at all times, which meant many sailors were able to get to them as they fled the ship.
A German U-boat.
While many men made it off, a number of those in the water around the ship were killed or later drowned after at least two depth charges on the ship detonated as it sank.
The escort commander sent two destroyers to investigate. With a smooth sea and little wind, they were able to spot the James’ sailors just before 6 a.m. and began rescuing them minutes later. The destroyers’ crews used cargo nets, Jacob’s Ladders, life rings, and lines to pull survivors, many covered in oil, out of the water.
Rescue operations were over by 8 a.m.; 44 of the crew were recovered, but 93 enlisted men and all the ship’s seven officers were killed.
US merchant ships had already been sunk in the Atlantic, and in mid-October, another US destroyer was hit by a torpedo but made it to Iceland. But the James became the first US warship sunk by the enemy in World War II.
“The news of the torpedoing of one of our destroyers off Iceland was the first thing that the President spoke of this morning, and that has cast a shadow over the whole day,” Eleanor Roosevelt wrote on November 1. “I cannot help but think of every one of the 120 men and their families, who are anxiously awaiting news.”
US Coast Guard cutter Spencer crew members watch a depth charge blast a German submarine attempting to break into a large US convoy, April 17, 1943. The U-boat was critically damaged and sunk off the coast of Ireland.
Germany was unapologetic, saying US ships were escorting British ships in a war zone and had fired on German vessels before. The US didn’t declare war, but the sinking drew the US further into the conflict in Europe, which was already more than two years old.
On November 1, Roosevelt signed an executive order reassigning the US Coast Guard from the Treasury Department to the Navy. About two weeks later, under pressure from the president, Congress further amended the Neutrality Acts passed in the 1930s, revising them to allow US merchant ships to be armed and to sail into war zones.
The James was stricken from the Navy’s official register on March 25, 1942. The U-552 continued the fight. It joined U-boats that preyed on US ships along the East Coast in 1942 but was later transferred to waters closer to Europe.
The U-552’s success waned, as did that of the rest of the U-boat force, as the Allies improved their convoy and anti-submarine tactics and invaded Europe, recapturing ports. In early May 1945 — days before the surviving Nazi leadership surrendered in Berlin — the U-552 was scuttled in waters off the North Sea.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Office of Strategic Services Detachment 101 was a predominantly Army unit set up to conduct guerrilla operations in Burma during World War II. Originally ordered to conduct limited sabotage and reconnaissance missions, the unit grew to lead almost 10,000 local fighters that killed thousands of Japanese, rescued hundreds of Allied pilots, and enabled the success of Merrill’s Marauders.
The detachment began by sabotaging infrastructure in the area. The first operation, three simultaneous strikes against key bridges, went badly as only one bridge was destroyed and the U.S. teams suffered casualties. The next two operations suffered from rushed planning and little reconnaissance and failed.
One of the Kachins’ preferred methods for killing Japanese were to set up ambush areas. They planted improvised bamboo spikes known as pungyi sticks in the undergrowth and then carefully placed their weapons in concealment.
When the Japanese arrived, the Rangers would attack, forcing the Japanese to decide between taking heavy machine gun and rifle fire in the open or diving into the undergrowth where pungyi sticks awaited them.
Initially, there was a small number of U.S. personnel leading a small number of guerrillas, but as the mission became more successful it got better funding and drew more local recruits. One Catholic missionary, Father Dennis MacAllindon, could speak Kachin and helped the Americans recruit.
So the Kachins carefully watched the Japanese and noted the locations of airfields, supply caches, headquarters, troop buildups, and other threats. American radio operators then relayed this targeting data to bomber units that would strike.
In once case, a Japanese force had hidden their planes in holes covered in sod at an old airbase, making it appear unused from the air. Detachment 101 sent a heads up to the rest of the Army and they bombed the whole thing into ancient history.
Detachment 101 grew to encompass almost 10,000 Americans and locals, still mostly Kachins. When the rest of the Army became serious about retaking sections of Burma, mostly to reopen routes into and out of China, Detachment 101 was a key part of the mission.
The famed Merrill’s Marauders formed the core of Operation Galahad, but Kachin forces protected their flanks, guided patrols, and even helped move equipment by elephant.
These days, when things go south while in a fighter, pilots are trained to reach for the loops that trigger their ejection seats. You just give it a yank and the ejection seat takes it from there, launching you from the stricken plane and setting you up for a safe(ish) landing on the ground (hopefully far from people you’ve just bombed or strafed).
Easy as pie — but it’s still something you don’t wanna do.
But in World War II, the process was very different. Today’s ejection seats use technology that didn’t exist in that era, so much of the process had to be handled manually, which was extremely hazardous.
When future president George H. W. Bush’s Grumman TBF Avenger was hit by enemy over Chichijima, the other two men on board were immediately killed and he had to bail out. In the chaos, Bush ejected improperly and collided with the plane’s tail — luckily, his injuries were minor compared to what could’ve happened. He drifted to the ocean below tethered to a parachute and was eventually rescued.
The method of properly ejecting from a World War II-era fighter varied depending on the plane. What worked for a P-38 Lightning wouldn’t work for a F4U Corsair. But, in general, the procedure was to slow the plane down as much as possible and manually open up the canopy. That’s when things got real tricky.
A pilot’s natural instinct is to use their foot to jump from the side of the cockpit, but that would expose him or her to the slipstream — and that means a collision with the tail. Instead, pilots must use their hands on the side of the cockpit and roll over the “wall.” Then, the pilot waits to clear the plane (usually with a ten count) before pulling the ripcord, deploying a parachute.
Han-Ulrich Rudel was the kind of pilot that every soldier wants overhead. He was a close air support and dive bomber pilot who flew 3,500 combat missions and kept getting into the cockpit even after he was shot down 32 times and wounded five times.
Rudel began his career as a reconnaissance pilot in the Luftwaffe but entered dive bombing training as soon as he was allowed. After graduation in 1941, he was transferred to a Stuka dive bombing unit and flying in German blitzkrieg attacks. He would spend nearly all of his World War II career on Germany’s eastern front fighting the Soviets.
In Sep. 1941 he was sent against Soviet naval units and successfully sank the battleship Marat. In early 1943 he celebrated his 1,000 sortie. About a month later, in Apr. 1943, he took part in an attack against Soviet amphibious landing craft while flying a Ju-87. He sank 70 boats with the bird’s two 37mm cannons.
During the war, he pioneered a tactic where attack planes would hit the tanks from the rear. The primary benefit was that the planes could fire into the relatively thin armor over the tank’s engine, but it also meant that the planes were flying towards their own lines. That made it easier for pilots hit during an attack to make it back to friendly forces before bailing out.
Rudel’s willingness to fly low and slow to take out Soviet targets left him exposed to ground fire though, and he was shot down 32 times by anti-aircraft batteries. He was also wounded both on the ground and in the air.
His worst injury came while chasing a thirteenth tank kill in a fierce battle. After he fired off his final 37mm rounds, his right leg was shot off by anti-aircraft fire. Another pilot had to talk him through a crash landing and pull him out of the plane before he bled out.
Over his career, he destroyed 519 Soviet tanks, a battleship, a cruiser, a destroyer, 70 landing craft, and 11 airplanes. And he was famous for regularly landing and rescuing downed air crews. For his efforts, Rudel was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds, the second highest level of the Knight’s Cross. He was the only recipient of the award.
The only version of the award that was higher than Rudel’s was one specially made for Hermann Göring, and Göring basically got it for being head of the Luftwaffe, not for bravery.
For anyone who is feeling pretty good about Rudel and maybe hoping he was a Rommel-type German, the career military men who turned on Hitler when it became clear he was a monster, sorry. Rudel really was a hateful racist. He spoke out regularly in support of the Third Reich and was a member of a one of the most abhorrent German political parties from 1953 to his death in 1982.
During World War II, George H.W. Bush served in the U.S. Navy. A pilot assigned to a torpedo squadron in the Pacific Theater, Bush flew the TBM Avenger, a torpedo bomber capable of taking off from aircraft carriers that would famously see combat during the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942.
Bush enlisted in the Navy’s flight training program fresh out of high school, becoming one of the Navy’s youngest aviators. He first saw action in May 1944 and would go on to fly 58 combat missions. Then, on Sept. 2, 1944, he was hit by anti-aircraft fire during an attack run on the Japanese-occupied island of Chichi Jima.
“Suddenly there was a jolt,” Bush wrote later, “as if a massive fist had crunched into the belly of the plane. Smoke poured into the cockpit, and I could see flames rippling across the crease of the wing, edging toward the fuel tanks.”
His two crewmembers were killed in the attack, leaving the young pilot to complete his bombing run against a radio facility and bail out alone over the Pacific into jellyfish-infested waters. During the egress, he struck his head, which bled profusely as he swam to a life raft and hoped for rescue.
He was one of the lucky ones. Many aviators struck down during that battle where captured and executed and, according to Bradley James’ bestselling novel “Flyboys: A True Story of Courage,” their livers even eaten by their captors.
After four hours, the USS Finback, a lifeguard submarine, found him. Now you can watch the video from the moment when the Finback’s crew pulled from the water the man who would go on to become the Director of Central Intelligence and the 41st president of the United States, serving from 1989 to 1993. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions during the mission.
President George H.W. Bush died on Nov. 30, 2018, at the age of 94 years old.
In 1940, William P. Bonelli, 19, had no desire to join the military. The nation was not yet at war, but Bonelli, who followed the war news in Europe and Asia, said he knew deep inside that war was coming, and probably soon.
Rather than wait for the war to start and get a draft notice, Bonelli decided to enlist in the Army to select a job he thought he’d like: aviation.
Although he wanted to be a fighter pilot, Bonelli said that instead, the Army Air Corps made him an aviation mechanic.
William P. Bonelli visits airmen at the Pentagon, Dec. 18, 2019.
(Photo by Wayne Clark, Air Force)
After basic training, he was assigned to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, where he arrived by boat in September 1940.
On Dec. 6, 1941, Bonelli and a buddy went to a recreational camping area on the west side of Oahu. That evening, he recalled seeing a black vehicle parked on the beach with four Japanese men inside. The vehicle had two long whip antennas mounted to the rear bumper. Bonelli said he thought it odd at the time. Later, he added, he felt certain that they were there to guide enemy planes to targets.
An undated photo of William P. Bonelli in Hawaii with his girlfriend.
(Courtesy of William P. Bonelli)
Early Sunday morning, Dec. 7, Bonelli and his buddy drove back to the base. After passing Wheeler Army Airfield, which is next to Honolulu, they saw three small, single-engine aircraft flying very low.
“I had never seen these aircraft before, so I said, jokingly to my friend, ‘Those aren’t our aircraft. I wonder whose they are? You know, we might be at war,'” he remembered.
A few minutes later as they were approaching Hickam, the bombing started. Since they were on an elevation, Bonelli said, they could see the planes bombing the military bases as well as Ford Island, where Navy ships were in flames, exploding and sinking.
Bonelli and his buddy went to the supply room at Hickam to get rifles and ammunition.
“I got in line,” he said. “The line was slow-moving because the supply sergeant wanted rank, name and serial number. All the time, we were being strafed with concentrated bursts.
“Several men were hit but there were no fatalities,” he continued. The sergeant dispensed with signing and said, ‘Come and get ’em.'”
An undated photo of William P. Bonelli in Hawaii.
(Courtesy of William P. Bonelli)
By 8:30 a.m., Bonelli had acquired a rifle, two belts of bullets and a handgun with several clips. He distinctly remembered firing at four Japanese Zero aircraft with his rifle and pistol, but there was no indication of a hit.
Bodies were everywhere, and a bulldozer was digging a trench close to the base hospital for the burial of body parts, he said.
All of the hangars with aircraft inside were bombed, while the empty ones weren’t, he said. “There is no doubt in my mind that the Japanese pilots had radio contact from the ground,” he added.
In 1942, Bonelli’s squadron was relocated to Nadi, Fiji. There, he worked on B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers as a qualified engineer, crew chief and gunner.
In 1943, Bonelli resubmitted his papers for flight school and was accepted, traveling back to the United States for training in Hobbs, New Mexico.
He got orders to Foggia, Italy, in 1944 and became a squadron lead pilot in the 77rd Bomb Squadron, 463rd Bomb Group. They flew the B-17s.
Bonelli led his squadron in 30 sorties over Austria, Italy, Germany, Hungary and Czechoslovakia until April 1945, just before the war ended.
An undated photo of William P. Bonelli in Italy.
(Courtesy of William P. Bonelli)
The second sortie over Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, on Oct. 23, 1944, was the one he recalled as being the worst, with much of the cockpit blown apart and the rest of the aircraft shot up badly.
For the next few days, Bonelli said, he felt shaken. The Germans on the ground were very proficient with the 88 mm anti-aircraft weapons, and they could easily pick off the U.S. bombers flying at 30,000 feet, he said.
Normally, the squadrons would fly in a straight line for the bombing runs. Bonelli said he devised a strategy to deviate about 400 feet from the straight-line trajectory on the next sortie, Nov. 4 over Regensburg, Germany.
The tactic worked, he said, and the squadron sustained lighter damage. So he used that tactic on subsequent missions, and he said many lives of his squadron were undoubtedly saved because of it.
An undated photo of William P. Bonelli in Italy with his flight crew. Back row, left to right: Army Staff Sgt. Harry Murray, later killed in action; Army Staff Sgt. Freeman Quinn; Army Staff Sgt. James Oakley; Army Staff Sgt. Karl Main; Army Tech. Sgt. John Raney; and, Army Tech. Sgt. Howard Morreau. Front row, left to right: Army 1st Lt. Charles Cranford, navigator; 1st Lt. Steve Conway, co-pilot; Capt. Fred Anderson, bombardier; and Bonelli, the pilot.
(Courtesy of William P. Bonelli)
When the war ended, Bonelli had a change of heart and decided to stay in the Army Air Corps, which became the Air Force in 1947. He said he developed a love for flying and aviation mechanic work. He stayed in and retired after having served 20 years.
He also realized his dream to become a fighter pilot, flying the F-84F Thunderstreak, a fighter-bomber, which, he said, was capable of carrying a small nuclear weapon.
After retiring, Bonelli got a career with the Federal Aviation Administration, working in a variety of aviation specialties.
Looking back over his military and civilian careers, he said he was blessed with doing jobs he loves, although there were, of course, some moments of anxiety when bullets were flying.
He offered that a stint or career in the military can be a rewarding experience for ambitious young people.
The Essex-class aircraft carrier is arguably one of the most successful carrier designs in the history of the world. None of these vessels were lost in combat, and the United States built 24 of these ships. Eight more were cancelled at the end of World War II, including two, USS Reprisal (CV 35) and USS Iwo Jima (CV 47) that had been partially completed.
Some of these ships had close calls. None more so than USS Franklin (CV 13). Even though she had the fifth hull number in the class, GlobalSecurity.org notes that she was the eighth to be commissioned.
According to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, the Franklin just missed the Battle of the Philippine Sea, arriving to join the Pacific Fleet on the last day of June. During the Battle of Leyte Gulf, she helped to sink the Japanese super-battleship Musashi, the destroyer Wakaba, and the carriers Chitose and Zuiho.
Shortly after that battle, Franklin was hit by a kamikaze, killing 56 of her crew and wounding 60. She ended up sailing back to Bremerton, Washington, for repairs. By February, she was ready to rejoin the fleet in time for the invasion of Okinawa. She arrived on March 15, 1945.
Four days later, the Franklin was hit again. This time, it would create a catastrophic inferno. Two semi-armor piercing bombs went deep into the ship, one detonating in the hangar deck, the other causing ammunition, bombs, and rockets to explode. Of the ship’s crew, 724 were killed, 256 were wounded. Many survivors were either forced to abandon the ship or were blown overboard.
But the 106 officers and 604 men who were left followed the Navy’s famous admonition: Don’t Give Up the Ship. Numerous acts of individual heroism by many individuals, including Lieutenant Commander Joseph T. O’Callahan, ChC (SJ) USNR, the ship’s chaplain, and Lieutenant (junior grade) Donald A. Gary, got the ship back to New York, where she was repaired and remained in reserve until 1964.
You can see more about this gallant carrier’s epic tale of survival below.