How George Patton became the Army’s Master of Swords - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How George Patton became the Army’s Master of Swords

We’ve all heard of General George S. Patton. Maybe you’ve seen the movie. Maybe you did a report on him in school. Maybe you even have a grandfather who served under him in World War II. Maybe you’re a Cav or Armor troop. (Scouts out!) All of these and more are good reasons to know who this man was.

First, let’s cover some basics. Then we’ll jump right into stuff you may not know about this well-known — and sometimes notorious — United States Army General…

George Patton, Jr. (also known as George Smith Patton III) was born on November 11, 1885, in San Gabriel, California. He died following a car accident on December 21, 1945, in Heidelberg, Germany. He is buried at the American Memorial Cemetery in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg. In between those two bookends, he was a United States Army soldier and officer from 1909, until his death. As an officer, he commanded the U.S. Seventh Army and the U.S. Third Army during World War II — in the Mediterranean theater, in France and Germany, respectively. He was nicknamed “Bandito” and “Old Blood and Guts.”

Gen. George Patton commanded Third Army
Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr., US Army, commanded Third Army in the breakout from Normandy, across France and into Germany in 1944-1945. (US Army)

Now, that’s enough with what you probably already knew. Let’s dive into the obscure; like what led to Patton being the Army’s master sword instructor.

As a junior officer, Patton was chosen to represent the United States at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden. He was selected to compete in the first modern pentathlon, a sport invented by the man who revived the Olympics and founded the modern Olympic Games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin. Patton was chosen based on his history with fencing at both the Virginia Military Institute and the United States Military Academy at West Point. Fencing is one of the five sports found within the modern pentathlon, along with 200m freestyle swimming, equestrian show jumping, pistol shooting, and 3200m cross country running. Patton finished fifth overall, and first among the non-Swedes in the event.

Coubertin considered the Pentathlon to be the core of the Olympic spirit. He was inspired by the ancient pentathlon from the original Olympics, which required the skills of an “ideal” Greek soldier. Coubertin created the modern pentathlon based around the skills of a 19th-century cavalry soldier behind enemy lines: “He must ride an unfamiliar horse, fight enemies with pistol and sword, swim, and run to return to his own soldiers.”

Even Gen. George Patton himself noted the difference(s) between his event at the 1912 Olympics, and other “non-military” events:

“The high spirit of sportsmanship and generosity manifested throughout speaks volumes for the character of the officers of the present day. There was not a single incident of a protest or any unsportsmanlike quibbling or fighting for points which I may say, marred some of the other civilian competitions at the Olympic Games.”

“Each man did his best and took what fortune sent them like a true soldier, and at the end we all felt more like good friends and comrades than rivals in a severe competition, yet this spirit of friendship in no manner detracted from the zeal with which all strove for success.”

General George Patton jumping an obstacle
Army Lt. George C. Patton jumping an obstacle during the equestrian segment of the Modern Pentathlon at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden. (U.S. Army)

Once he wrapped up the 1912 Olympics in Sweden, after some work and travel in Germany, Patton traveled to France in order to train directly with the French swordsman and Master of Arms, Adjutant Charles Cléry, at their Cavalry School in Saumur. Cléry was known throughout Europe, at the time, as being the greatest military swordsman. There, Patton picked up several tactics that were specific to French cavalry swordsmanship: stabbing, rather the slashing, for the most part.

The French penchant for piercing over slashing dated back to their heavy cavalry units during the Napoleonic Wars. The French determined/rediscovered that piercing wounds figured into a far larger percentage of fatalities than simple surface cuts — something Roman Legions understood all too well 20 centuries prior.

Upon completion of his training commitments with the French swordmaster, Patton returned to the United States. Once back, he was temporarily assigned to the Office of the Army Chief of Staff. After a flurry of assignment changes, more advanced training back at Saumur, and some publications on his tactical and technical fencing insights, Patton finally unpacked his bags at the United States Army’s Mounted Service School in Fort Riley, KS, and began his new post as both Cavalry student and the Army’s first Master of the Sword (sword instructor).

This culmination found Patton penning his 1914 Saber Exercise and his Diary of the Instructor in Swordsmanship. It also found the Army Ordnance Corps pumping out 20,000 new M1913 Cavalry Sabers (or “Patton Sabers”) based on his new designs, thus replacing the old hack & slash sabers.

Model 1913 Cavalry Saber

In the middle of all of this, Patton was once again chosen to represent the United States as a Pentathlete at the 1916 Olympics… though those games were canceled due to World War I.

As revolutionary as Patton’s sword tactics (both mounted and dismounted) and sword design were, by the time they reached the line units preparing for combat, they were already obsolete.

So, to recap, one of America’s most famous/infamous generals — who led millions of tons of tanks into the heart of Nazi Germany, and who was both feared and respected by his enemies on the field of battle — dug his roots deep into the soil of swordsmanship and understood that the microcosm of combat is just two dudes or dudettes with weapons in-hand trying to bring their opponent down.

And, as to that, Gen. George Patton’s ability to adapt horseback-mounted, bladed combat into his then-modern, lethal counter-Blitzkrieg armored tank warfare is certainly a testament to the lengths a dyed-in-the-wool troop will go to win a war.

So just remember: The dude who helped defeat Nazi Germany on the back of a tank was once the United States Army’s Master of Swords, and he literally wrote the book on the subject (several of them, actually).

Feature image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY HISTORY

8 things you didn’t know about the Battle at Teutoburg Forest

In the year 9 AD, the Roman Empire suffered a devastating military defeat. In the dark forests of Germania, three entire legions were wiped out in the span of a few days, by an enemy that the Empire didn’t even know existed. This battle changed the very course of Roman history. Here are 8 things you didn’t know about the Battle at Teutoburg Forest.

1. It was a revenge plot

Under Julius Caesar, the Roman Empire had conquered large swaths of Western Europe. One of the Empire’s frontiers was the Rhine River, east of which were the “barbarian” Germanic tribes. This arrangement, however, left the emperor Augustus unsatisfied. He sent his adoptive son Drusus to conquer the barbarian land that the Romans called Germania, and Drusus succeeded in subjugating Germanic tribes east of the Rhine. The Romans thought that these tribes were under their control, but only a few short years later, these tribes would strike back at the Empire in the Teutoburg Forest.

2. It was a betrayal

One of the Germanic tribes conquered by the Romans was the Cherusci, whose chief was forced to send his son Arminius to Rome as a hostage. Despite being a barbarian, Arminius was treated well; he acquired a military education and became a Roman citizen, even earning the command of his own forces. Many of these soldiers were Cherusci tribesmen like himself. Because he was a German, Arminius was stationed in Germania, where he could communicate with the Germanic tribes on Rome’s behalf. However, during those visits to the Germanic chiefs, Arminius was plotting with them to attack the Empire that had raised him.

3. It was a trap

In the autumn of 9 CE, Arminius reported to the Roman commander in Germania, Quinctilius Varus, that a rebellion had broken out in northwest Germania. Varus was persuaded to march his legions into unfamiliar Germania to crush the supposed rebels. Arminius was even given leave to rally support from the Roman-allied Germanic tribes. There was, however, no rebellion. In the previous months, Arminius had created an alliance of Germanic tribes and fabricated a rebellion to lure the Romans into unfamiliar territory and decimate them. 

4. The Romans were unprepared

Before 6 CE, the Romans had eleven legions in Germania. However, just a few years before the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, there was a revolt in the Balkans that forced the Empire to withdraw eight of those legions. This left only three for Varus, who on the way to the “rebellion” marched all of them through the Teutoburg Forest. The legions were formidable, but their fighting style was suited to wide, open plains, not the dark, claustrophobic German forest. On top of that, they were marching through torrential rainfall, on muddy and slick ground, and not in fighting formation. It was the perfect opportunity for an ambush.

5. The Germans used guerrilla tactics

During his time in Rome, Arminius studied Roman military strategies. He knew exactly how to hit the Romans where it hurt the most. The battle began shortly after the Romans entered the Teutoburg Forest, in a line of men that stretched for miles. Germanic warriors stood on high ground, hurling javelins down on the legions and sending out small bands of warriors to pick off isolated groups of soldiers. Many survived the barrage and were able to set up camp for the night, but spent the next day under continuous barrage of German attacks from the trees.

6. Arminius set a second trap

In order to escape, the Romans had to cross a small strip of land between the Kalkriese Hill and a large swamp. What they didn’t know was that the Germans had already constructed walls along this pass to attack the Romans from above. The Romans tried to storm these walls and failed miserably, and when the Germans came pouring down from these walls, military discipline collapsed. One commander deserted with his men, only for them to be caught and killed; Varus and his commanding officers committed suicide, the only honorable way out for a disgraced Roman commander; and the remaining legionaries were entirely slaughtered.

7. The emperor was personally devastated

By the end of the battle, between 15,000 and 20,000 Roman soldiers were dead. Three entire legions were wiped out. When he heard the news, the emperor Augustus was horrified. He was said to have beat his head against the walls, crying out “Quinctilius Varus, give me back my legions!” It was one of the greatest Roman military catastrophes of Augustus’ long rule.

8. It changed European history

The Germanic tribesmen under Arminius succeeded in sweeping their territory clean of Roman soldiers and outposts. The Rhine River became the boundary between the Roman Empire and the free Germanic tribes for hundreds of years. The Romans’ inability to conquer the Germans laid the foundations for the Western Empire’s fall, when Germanic tribes started carving their own kingdoms out of Roman territory. The Battle of Teutoburg Forest occurred nearly half a millennium before the Romans started to fall, but in an interesting way, the Western Empire’s collapse in 476 AD was sealed all the way back in 9 AD.

Articles

That time the Air Force landed bombers on tank treads

During the Cold War, the U.S. Air Force experimented with a seemingly crazy idea for dispersing the weight of their heaviest bomber across the tarmac of airports and bases. They would fit the bombers with tank tread-inspired landing gear.


The B-36 Peacemaker was the largest plane ever built by America. Originally designed before the Pearl Harbor attacks, the B-36 was supposed to be a cross-ocean bomber that could drop 10,000 pounds of ordnance on Berlin or Japan while taking off and landing in the U.S.

Convair XB-36 takeoff during its first flight on March 29, 1950. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

When flying shorter routes, the plane could carry as much as 86,000 pounds.

The massive B-36 was slowly developed throughout World War II but was finished too late for the war. The first bomber rolled off the line six days after the Japanese surrender. But the plane’s capabilities, carrying 10,000 pounds of ordnance to targets thousands of miles away, made the plane perfect for a nuclear strike role in the Cold War.

There was one big problem, though. The B-36 was extremely heavy, about 419,000 pounds when fully armed. And all that weight initially sat on two smaller tires in the front and two larger ones under the wings.

Convair XB-36 in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The weight on each tire was so great, the Peacemakers risked sinking into the concrete if they were parked for too long on most airstrips.

So the Air Force tried out a novel solution. They installed tank tread landing gear under the nose and both wings of the plane, allowing the weight to be spread over a much larger area.

Side view of Convair XB-36. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Initial tests of the system were successful, but the Air Force scrapped it anyway. It focused on improving more airstrips rather than putting the bulky system on production B-36s. It did start buying the planes with four smaller wheels under each wing instead of the single large one, which also helped with the pressure per square inch on airfields.

The weight-to-surface-area problem would come up again with the B-47, the Peacemaker’s successor. B-47s dispersed during the Cuban Missile crisis sunk into the concrete of Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts and pilots had to hire a tow truck driver to pull them out of the holes they created.

Articles

The last soldier killed in WWI died one minute before the war ended

Sergeant Henry Gunther was actually a private the day he charged a German machine gun nest for the last time in World War I. He had just been busted down in rank for criticizing the war in a letter he wrote home, and he wasn’t happy about it.


Luckily for millions of other soldiers and civilians in Europe, everyone knew the Armistice would come into effect on the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

This is why so many question why Sgt. Gunter charged a German machine gun nest at 10:59 that same day.

A memorial to Gunther built on Nov. 11, 2010 at his gravesite in Baltimore.

Gunther and his unit came across a German position north of Verdun on Nov. 11, 1918. As they took cover from the machine guns, they received word that the war would be over in less than an hour.

That’s when Sgt. Gunther charged the position with a fixed bayonet.

The Germans fired a number of warning shots and tried to yell at Gunther – in English – to stop.

But Gunter wasn’t the only troop to die in that last hour of World War I. Some 3,000 men died in that short time. Some historians even speculate that Gunther was ordered to charge the machine guns.

Even though so many others died around the same time, the commander of the American Expeditionary Force General John J. Pershing declared that Gunther would be known as the last man killed in action in the war.

Sergeant Henry Gunther was engaged before the war started and just secured a job as a bookkeeper in the Baltimore area before he was drafted in 1917.

After his death was recorded at 10:59, his fellow troops moved his body and buried him near where his company was posted. His remains were moved to the United States in 1923.

A man in WWI-era French uniform stands beside a memorial stone at the spot where Henry Gunther fell on Nov. 11, 1918. The stone was unveiled by the French government as part of a 90th anniversary event in 2008. (Photo by American War Memorials Overseas)

On Veteran’s Day 2008, a memorial was constructed on the site where he was killed in Chaumont-devant-Damvillers, France.

Lists

9 times the world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war

The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945 marked the end of the World War II, and the beginning of the age of nuclear weapons.

During the Cold War, the policy of mutually assured destruction between the US and the Soviet Union — appropriately referred to as “MAD” — meant that if one nation used nuclear weapons on another, then an equal response would have been doled out as soon as possible.


Over the course of the Cold War, and several times after it, the citizens of the world were forced to hold their breath as the superpowers came close to nuclear war.

Here are nine times the world was at the brink of nuclear war — but pulled back:

1. October 5, 1960 – The moon is mistaken for missiles

October 5, 1960 - The moon is mistaken for missiles


Early warning radar quickly became one of the most important tools in the nuclear age. American radar stations were built all around the world with the hope that they would detect incoming Soviet missiles, warning the homeland of a strike and allowing for the president to form a response.

On October 5, 1960, one such warning was issued from a newly constructed early warning radar station in Thule, Greenland (now called Qaanaaq). Dozens of missiles were reportedly detected, and at one point were said to reach the US in 20 minutes.

A panic ensued at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) HQ in Colorado, and NORAD was placed on its highest alert level.

The panic was put to rest when it was realized that Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev was visiting New York at the time. A later investigation found that the radar had mistaken the moon rising over Norway as Soviet missiles.

2. November 24, 1961 – A single switch causes a mechanical failure

November 24, 1961 - A single switch causes a mechanical failure


Just over a year later, Strategic Air Command (SAC) HQ in Omaha, Nebraska lost contact with the Thule radar station. SAC officials then tried to contact NORAD HQ in Colorado, but the line was reportedly dead.

It was determined before that the probability that both Thule and NORAD’s communications would shut down due to technical malfunction was very low, making SAC believe that an attack was underway.

SAC’s entire alert force was ordered to prepare for takeoff, but crisis was averted when a US bomber managed to make contact with Thule and confirm no attack was underway.

It was later discovered that a single malfunctioning switch managed to shut down all communications, even emergency hotlines, between SAC, Thule, and NORAD.

3. October 25, 1962 – A bear almost turns the Cuban Missile Crisis hot

October 25, 1962 - A bear almost turns the Cuban Missile Crisis hot


The Cuban Missile Crisis is perhaps the closest the world has ever come to global nuclear war. Four instances over the 13-day event stand out in particular, the first one happening on October 25, 1962.

Tensions were already high during the crisis, and the US military was placed on DEFCON 3, two steps away from nuclear war.

Just after midnight on October 25, a guard at the Duluth Sector Direction Center in Minnesota saw a figure attempting to climb the fence around the facility. The guard, worried that the figure was a Soviet saboteur, shot at the figure and activated the sabotage alarm.

This triggered air raid alarms to go off at all air bases in the area. Pilots at Volk Field in neighboring Wisconsin to panic, since they knew that no tests or practices would happen while the military was on DEFCON 3.

The pilots were ordered to their nuclear armed F-106A interceptors, and were taxiing down the runway when it was determined the alarm was false. They were stopped by a car that had raced to the airfield to tell the pilots to stop.

The intruder turned out to be a bear.

4. October 27, 1962 – A Soviet sub almost launches a nuclear torpedo

October 27, 1962 - A Soviet sub almost launches a nuclear torpedo


Two of the instances actually occurred on the same day — October 27, 1962, arguably the most dangerous day in history.

On the morning of October 27, a U-2F reconnaissance aircraft was shot down by the Soviets while over Cuba, killing its pilot, causing tensions to escalate to their highest point.

Later, a Soviet submarine, the B-59, was detected trying to break the blockade that the US Navy had established around Cuba. The destroyer USS Beale dropped practice depth charges in an attempt to make the submarine surface.

The captain of the B-59, Valentin Savitsky, thought the submarine was under attack and ordered to prepare the submarine’s nuclear torpedo to be launched at the aircraft carrier USS Randolf.

All three senior officers aboard the B-59 had to agree to the launch before it happened. Fortunately, the B-59’s second in command, Vasili Arkhipov, disagreed with his other two counterparts, and convinced the captain to surface and await orders from Moscow.

5. October 27, 1962 – The US Air Force sends out nuclear armed fighters

October 27, 1962 - The US Air Force sends out nuclear armed fighters


On the very same day, US Air Force pilots almost caused WW III to break out over the Bering Sea, the body of water between Alaska and Russia.

A US Air Force U-2 reconnaissance aircraft was en route to the North Pole for an air sampling mission. The spy plan accidentally crossed into Soviet airspace and lost track of its location, spending 90 minutes in the area before turning East to leave.

As it did so, at least six MiG fighter jets were sent to shoot down the U-2 while it was trespassing. Strategic Air Command, worried about the prospect of losing another U-2, sent F-102 Delta Daggers armed with nuclear Falcon air-to-air missiles.

Upon learning of the situation, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara reportedly yelled “this means war with the Soviet Union!” President John F. Kennedy reportedly said that “there’s always some son of a b—- that doesn’t get the word.”

Luckily, the F-102s never encountered the MiGs, and escorted the U-2 back to Alaska.

6. October 28, 1962 – Radar operators get confused over an unknown satellite

One day after those events, radar operators in Moorestown, New Jersey reported to NORAD HQ just before 9:00 AM that Soviet nuclear missiles were on their way, and were expected to strike at exactly 9:02 near Tampa, Florida.

All of NORAD was immediately alerted and scrambled to respond, but the time passed without any detonations, causing NORAD to delay any actions.

It was later discovered that the Moorestown radar operators were confused because the facility was running a test tape that simulated a missile launch from Cuba when a satellite unexpectedly appeared over the horizon.

Additional radars were not operating at the time, and the Moorestown operators were not informed that the satelite was inbound because the facility that handled such operations was on other work related to the situation in Cuba.

7. November 9, 1979 – A training drill almost turns real

President Jimmy Carter

At 3:00 AM on November 9, 1979, computers at NORAD HQ lit up with warnings that thousands of nuclear missiles had been launched from Soviet submarines and were headed for the US.

SAC was alerted immediately and US missile crews were on the highest alert level possible, and nuclear bombers were preparing for takeoff.

The National Emergency Airborne Command Post, the airplane that is supposed to carry the president during a nuclear attack to ensure his command over the nuclear arsenal even took off, though without President Jimmy Carter on board.

National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski knew that the president’s decision making time was somewhere between three to seven minutes, and so decided to hold off telling Carter in order to be absolutely sure there was a real threat.

Six minutes of extreme worry passed, and satellites confirmed that no attack was taking place. It was later discovered that a technician had accidentally inserted a training tape simulating such a scenario into one of the computers.

Marshall Shulman, then a senior US State Department adviser, reportedly said in a now-declassified letter that was designated Top Secret that “false alerts of this kind are not a rare occurrence. There is a complacency about handling them that disturbs me.”

8. September 26, 1983 – A Soviet colonel makes the biggest gamble in history

Stanislav Petrov

Just after midnight on September 26, 1983, Soviet satellite operators at the Serpukhov-15 bunker just south of Moscow got a warning that a US Minuteman nuclear missile had been launched. Later, four more missiles were detected.

Tensions between the US and Soviet Union were strained earlier in the month, when the Soviets shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 near Sakhalin Island, killing all 269 people on board — including US Congressman Larry McDonald.

The commanding officer at the bunker, Stanislav Petrov, was to inform his superiors of the launches, so an appropriate response could be made. Soviet policy back then called for an all-out retaliatory strike.

Knowing this, Petrov decided not to inform his superiors. “All I had to do was to reach for the phone; to raise the direct line to our top commanders — but I couldn’t move. I felt like I was sitting on a hot frying pan,” he recalled of the incident.

He reasoned that if the US were to strike the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons, they would send hundreds of missiles, not just five.

But Petrov had no way of knowing if he was right until enough time had passed, by which time nuclear bombs could have hit their targets, arguably making his decision the biggest gamble in human history.

After 23 minutes, Petrov’s theory that it was a false alarm was confirmed. It was later discovered that a Soviet sattelite had mistaken sunlight reflecting off the top of clouds as missiles.

9. January 25, 1995 – Nuclear worries remain after the Soviet Union

Boris Yeltsin with Bill Clinton

Four years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, almost started a nuclear war.

Russian early warning radar detected a launch of a missile with similar characteristics to a submarine-launched Trident missile off the coast of Norway.

The detected missile was actually a Norwegian Black Brant scientific rocket which was on a mission to study the aurora borealis. Norwegian authorities had informed the Kremlin of the launch, but the radar operators were not informed.

Yeltsin was given the Cheget, Russia’s version of the nuclear briefcase (sometimes known as the Football), and the launch codes for Russia’s missile arsenal. Russia’s submarines were also placed on alert.

Fortunately, Yeltsin’s belief that it was a false alarm proved correct, and Russian satellites confirmed that there was no activity from US missile sites.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

These special-purpose vehicles were designed to kill tanks

Prior to World War II, the United States Army — and many other armies — simply thought of tanks as having one purpose: to support the infantry. They really weren’t intended to deal with other tanks; a different vehicle had that job.


Those vehicles were known, aptly, as tank destroyers. The Achilles, which served with the British Army in World War II, was one such tank destroyer. This vehicle was a modified version of the American M10 Wolverine. The big difference between the two vehicles was that the American version had a three-inch gun, while the British Achilles had a quick-firing (or QF) 17-pounder gun (which referred to the weight of the shell fired).

A M10 Wolverine tank destroyer fires its three-inch gun during fighting near St. Lo. (US Army photo)

Primary armaments aside, the two vehicles were a lot alike. They had top speeds of 25 miles per hour, could go 200 miles on a tank of fuel, packed a M2 .50-caliber machine gun as a secondary weapon, and had a crew of five. The Wolverine held 54 rounds, while the Achilles had 50.

The 17-pounder gun of the Achilles was able to kill just about any Axis tank in a fight. The tank destroyer was intended to move fast and hit enemy tanks hard, using their speed to get into a good position to hit the enemy tanks and then scoot from the firing position. This was a good thing for the Wolverine and Achilles since there was one thing they lacked: armor.

German troops check out an Achilles that was knocked out. Tank destroyers could dish it out, but taking it was a different matter. (Bundesarchiv photo)

The real problem, though, was that, all too often, the tanks supporting the infantry, like the M4 Sherman, ended up fighting the German tanks. Eventually, Shermans received tank-busting guns, like the 17-pounder and the three-inch gun.

Today, the tank destroyer concept centers around faster, lightly-armed vehicles that carry anti-tank missiles, as opposed to guns. Today’s tank is still seen as an infantry-support vehicle, but it is also capable of killing enemy tanks.

Watch this video from the Smithsonian Channel to learn more about the Achilles.

 

(Smithsonian Channel | YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

6 times the Army destroyed Japanese troops in the Pacific

The general narrative of World War II credits the Marines and Navy for the victory in the Pacific and the Army and U.S. Army Air Corps for victory in Europe. In reality, there are actually a few Marine veterans of fighting in Europe and a massive number of Army veterans who fought in the Pacific.

Here are six times that U.S. soldiers took the fight to the Japanese and and laid waste.


U.S. Army artillerymen fire a 155mm rifled field gun on Guadalcanal on Dec. 7, 1942.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

1. Battle of Guadalcanal

Yes, that Battle of Guadalcanal. In fact, Army forces on the island actually outnumbered Marine forces. Each branch had two divisions on the ground, but the Army had an additional regiment. The 1st Marine Division made the initial landings on August 7, 1942, but Army troops were pouring onto the island by October.

It was Army troops who first received the “Banzai” attacks against Henderson Field in late October, holding the Japanese back despite armor, artillery, air, and naval support pitted against the U.S. troops. On November 4, the soldiers took part in pushing 1,500 Japanese troops against the sea.

In December, the 1st Marine Division pulled out, and an Army general took over command on the island. He sent his forces against the Japanese headquarters on Mount Austen and it was Army soldiers who fought from mid-December to January 2 to find and destroy that headquarters. In the following months, it was predominantly Army troops who eradicated Japanese opposition on the island, fighting which resulted in three Army Medals of Honor.

The 32nd Infantry Division, a National Guard unit made up of soldiers from Michigan and Wisconsin, fought side-by-side with Australian forces to take key positions on Papua, New Guinea from November 1942 to January 2, 1943.

(U.S. Army National Guard illustration by Michael Gnatek)

2. Papuan Campaign

As the Battle of Guadalcanal raged, U.S. and Australian Army units led the fight in Papua, New Guinea, against Japanese forces there. As with Guadalcanal, a key strategic objective was the island’s airfield, but this time, the Japanese were on the attack and the Allies on defense. Unfortunately for the Japanese, their losses to the U.S. Navy at the Battle of the Coral Sea and Midway forced them to attack overland through treacherous mountain passes.

The combined force pushed Japanese foes back and then went on the offensive, attacking at Milne Bay and across the Japanese lines in late August, forcing them into general retreat on September 4. The Army launched a clearance operation on October 4, resupplying units by air as they pushed deeper into formerly Japanese territory. The final Japanese forces proved stubborn, and the Army was forced to fight desperately to take each bunker.

Finally, from mid-December the mid-January, Allied forces led by U.S. Army units brought in fresh tanks and troops, and they launched an innovative combined-arms campaign to break the Japanese backs. In one section where tanks couldn’t operate, two Army infantrymen earned posthumous Medals of Honor for heroism while clearing Japanese positions. The last resistance fell by January 22.

The second battalion of U.S. paratroopers is dropped near Nadzab, New Guinea, Sept. 5, 1943.

(U.S. Army)

3. Capture of Nadzab, New Guinea

While Australian troops did the bulk of the fighting on New Guinea and western New Britain in 1943, U.S. Army paratroopers were tapped to take a key airfield in the city of Nadzab on September 5, 1943.

This was the first American airborne operation of the Pacific. Army Air Corps bombers strafed the drop zones and dropped fragmentation bombs before the paratroopers jumped into a well-timed smokescreen. From there, the paratroopers fought all day, receiving resupply from the air and assaulting one Japanese position after another.

It worked. Australian forces were able to use the airfield for their own operations the very next day, and it was grown into a major air base that supported Australian operations for the rest of the war.

U.S. Army troops navigate the mountains of Attu Island in Alaska in May, 1943.

(Australian Army)

4. Aleutian Campaign

In June, 1942, Japanese forces took two of the Aleutian Islands that are part of Alaska. While their forces lacked the numbers to truly threaten Alaska proper, they were still a problem as they threatened U.S. cities and raided trade and supply routes.

Army soldiers assaulted the beaches on Attu on May 11, 1943, with air and naval support. Despite desperate Japanese defenses, the island fell in a matter of weeks with nearly every Japanese soldier killed by May 30.

On August 15, the Army launched an even larger landing with Canadian support on the island of Kiska, but the Japanese forces had withdrawn in thick fog before the allies arrived. This Japanese withdrawal opened a northern route to attack towards the Japanese home islands, forcing Japan to send some forces north, away from where soldiers and Marines were killing them on other fronts.

U.S. Army soldiers fight at Bougainville in the Pacific Theater of World War II, Feb. 29, 1943.

(U.S. Army)

5. Island hopping towards The Philippines

During the island hopping campaign back across the Pacific in 1944, the Army actually played a huge role. The Army almost single-handedly took three beaches simultaneously on April 22 on New Guinea, capturing key airfields there within days. On May 18, they took Wakde Island and its airfield. Nine days later, they hit Biak Island, a fierce fight that continued until August 20 as the Japanese repeatedly reinforced the island.

These island assaults also tied up Japanese naval assets, reducing the pressure on Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz’s forces until Japan decided to protect the Marianas at all costs, withdrawing their fleet from fighting Army units ashore and sending it North to the Mariana Islands where the Navy achieved one of its greatest victories at the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

U.S. Army 25th Infantry Division soldiers at Baleta Pass on Luzon Island in the Philippines in 1945.

(U.S. Army)

6. Recapturing The Philippines

On October 20, 1944, the Army landed four divisions at once in an effort to retake Leyte, one of the major islands in the Philippines. The Army’s efforts were mostly aimed at retaking the Philippines, but it was hoped that, as the Army put pressure on Imperial Japanese land forces, it would force the Japanese Navy into another decisive engagement which Nimitz would, hopefully, win.

What resulted was a fierce land and sea battle October 23 to 26, during which Army forces were fighting bitterly for every yard of ground with limited naval support as the fleets fought each other tooth and nail. It was touch and go for a bit, but the U.S. was eventually victorious on land and at sea, liberating the Philippines and effectively eradicating the bulk of remaining Japanese naval forces.

After this large offensive, the Army took part in the capture of the Ryukyu Islands, including Okinawa, but it was predominantly a Marine show. The Army was slated for a huge role during the invasion of the Japanese home islands, but the surrender of Japan following the dropping of two atomic bombs and the entrance of Russia into the Pacific Theater ended the war and the necessity of another amphibious assault.

Articles

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal

Revolutions are generally hard-fought, brutal affairs involving rebels taking on conventional military forces.


When Philippe Bunau-Varilla, a French businessman and engineer with commercial interests in Panama’s independence, went looking for rebels to fight for independence from Columbia, he decided to go with the 441-man strong municipal fire department for Panama City, the future capital of the fledgling republic.

That’s right, a fire department was the lead military force of an armed revolution.

The French engineer Phillippe Bunau-Varilla built up his own revolutionary army to help Panama become independent and make himself rich. (Photo: US Library of Congress)

Of course, Bunau-Varilla didn’t rely solely on firefighters and their axes. He knew that the revolution would enjoy popular support in Panama since the region, which considered itself a sovereign country forced into an ongoing relationship with Columbia, had been agitating for independence for about 80 years. And to ensure success, he cut a couple of deals before sending his firemen into action.

First, he went to the commander of Columbian forces in the area and bribed him and his men to look the other way during the planned revolution and, if necessary, fight against other, more loyal Columbian forces.

Then Bunau-Varilla went to Washington, D.C. and asked the administration of President Theodore Roosevelt to back the revolution. The administration refused to say outright that they would do so but gave Bunau-Varilla the distinct impression that they would support Panamanian independence.

The White House’s response was a major double-cross of the Columbians. An 1846 treaty obligated America to help put down revolutions and revolts in the Panama region. But Roosevelt wanted a cross-isthmus canal to help the Navy get between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and Columbia had consistently demanded more money every time America offered a treaty to construct it.

Bunau-Varilla, who had been working towards a Panama canal for over 15 years, held significant stock in a French company that owned the rights to a failed, incomplete canal. He would recoup serious amounts of money if the canal was constructed and he knew how desperately Roosevelt wanted to build one.

So, with the firm belief that Washington would back Panama, Bunau-Varilla told his fireman and mercenary army that America was coming.

The Nashville was a gunboat commissioned in 1897. (Photo: US Navy)

The Nashville (PG 7), a shallow-draft U.S. gunboat capable of sailing close to the coast and lobbing shells inland, was coincidentally dispatched to Panama and arrived on Nov. 2, 1903. The next day, the firemen began their revolution, backed by many of the Columbian troops who were supposed to prevent it.

On Nov. 4, American troops near the city of Colon, Panama, were approached by Columbian forces demanding the use of the railroad that the troops were guarding.

When the Americans refused them access, the Columbians threatened to kill them all. The Marines fell back into a fortified building in range of the Nashville’s guns.

The Columbians had a numbers advantage but would have had to fight under naval bombardment to kill the Marines. They wisely decided not to attack.

With Columbian reinforcements cut off, the firefighters and their mercenary allies were easily able to establish effective control of Panama City. Over the next two days, two American cruisers arrived, the Dixie (AD 1) and the Atlanta, with hundreds of Marines to reinforce the new republic.

Phillippe Bunau-Varilla, left, and President Theodore Roosevelt, right, were rightfully accused of shady dealings after the revolution made the Panama Canal possible. (Illustration: Public Domain)

The U.S. government officially recognized Panama’s independence on Nov. 6, and Columbia gave in. The revolution succeeded with very little blood spilled. Panama quickly signed a treaty granting the U.S. permission to build a canal across the country. Over the following months, America sent more troops, including Marines under then Maj. John A. Lejeune, to establish control of the Panama Canal Zone ahead of the construction effort.

Panama quickly signed a treaty granting the U.S. permission to build a canal across the country. Over the following months, America sent more troops, including Marines under then Maj. John A. Lejeune, to establish control of the Panama Canal Zone ahead of the construction effort.

Planning and construction of the canal continued until mid-1914 when it was finally completed. America controlled the Panama Canal until it was given to local authorities in 1999 (based on a deal signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1977).

MIGHTY HISTORY

The incredible stand of the Irish Army in the Congo

In September 1961, the Irish Army under the United Nations flag was engaged in operations against Katanga, a breakaway region in Congo. Some 155 Irish troops were stationed at a little base near Jadotville in order to protect the citizens of the small mining town. But the locals in Jadotville wanted nothing to do with the Irish, believing the U.N. had taken sides in the conflict between the Congolese government and Katanga.

For five days, the 155 Irish fought for their lives against as many as 4,000 mercenaries and rebels who tried to take them captive.


Commandant Pat Quinlan, leader of the Irish Defence Forces led a team that was not prepared for the battle ahead.

The enemy came at the Irish in the middle of a Catholic Mass. Luckily for the Irish, one of their sentries, Pvt. Billy Ready (seriously, his name was “Ready”), fired the shots that alerted the Irishmen to their enemy. What they saw when they went to their posts was 3,000-5,000 hired guns ready to take down their position – the Irish numbered just 155. The mercs brought with them not only heavy machine guns, but also artillery and heavy mortars. They also had air cover in the form of an armed trainer aircraft. It didn’t rattle the Irish one bit, as they later radioed U.N. headquarters:

“We will hold out until our last bullet is spent. Could do with some whiskey.”

As far as weapons go, the Irish had only light machine guns and 60 mm mortars to defend their position. But in a testament to warfighting fundamentals, the Irishmen were able to shut down their enemy’s mortar and artillery capabilities using just accurate mortars and small arms. It was the pinpoint accuracy of the U.N. troops that would sufficiently level the playing field. This exchange lasted four days. Now, down to 2,000 men, the Katangese asked the Irish for a cease-fire.

“And that’s when they asked us to stop killing them for a few minutes. Damndest thing.”

Meanwhile, a U.N. relief force of Swedes and Indian Army Gurkhas were making a move on the Katangese positions from the other side. They were held down at a bridgehead on the road from the main U.N. base at Elisabethville and despite inflicting heavy losses on the defending Katanga fighters, they could not breakthrough. Meanwhile, the Irishmen could not break out. They were running out of water and ammunition. With no help forthcoming, they were forced to surrender.

Luckily, the mercenaries didn’t slaughter the Irishmen, despite the brutality of the fighting. They were taken prisoner and held captive to extort the United Nations for favorable cease-fire terms. They were released after a month and returned to their Elisabethville base and eventually sent home. The Irish surrender was considered a black eye to the Irish Defence Forces, despite Commandant Pat Quinlan’s brilliant defensive perimeter tactics, which are now taught in military textbooks worldwide. Quinlan also ensured each of his men survived and came home.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget

There’s no question about it: A singular blemish in French history is to blame for their eternal ridicule. The moment Marshal Philippe Petain surrendered (kind of) to the Germans after being the main target of the blitzkrieg was the moment people started associating “s’il vous plaît” with “surrender.”

Ridicule against Vichy France, the German puppet state, isn’t without merit — we get it. But to overlook the storied nation’s thousands of years of badassery is laughably incorrect. Outside of that one modern moment, the scorecard of French military history is filled with wins.


Author’s Note: It’s a fool’s errand to try and rank these by historical significance or how they each demonstrate French military might, so they’re listed in chronological order:

Coincidentally, this would also be the last time England was taken over.

Battle of Hastings

If you want to get technical, this battle happened before the formation of France proper. Still, it’s generally agreed that France began with the Franks. Sorry, Gauls. Their legacy of military might includes (successfully) fighting off vikings, Iberians, and, occasionally, the Holy Roman Empire.

But the single landmark victory for the Franks came when Duke William the Bastard of Normandy pressed his claim over the English crown in 1066. At the Battle of Hastings, outnumbered Normans fought English forces, led by King Herald Godwinson. The Normans, led by William, pushed through English shield walls to take out the crown. William the Bastard then went on to conquer the rest of England and earned himself the a new moniker, “King William the Conqueror.”

Surprisingly enough, feeding your troops makes them fight better.

(Jean-Jacques Scherrer, “Joan of Arc enters Orleans,” 1887)

Siege of Orleans

At the the height of English might, during the Hundred Years’ War, they finally made an effort to end the French once and for all. The city of Orleans was put under siege — and the throne was thrust into dire circumstances. All the English had to do was starve city. That was, until a young peasant girl arrived: Joan of Arc.

Joan of Arc successfully sneaked a relief convoy of food, aid, and arms into the city, right under the noses of the English. This bolstered the strength of the defenders. With food in bellies and morale on the rise, the besieged made a stand and finally pushed the English out of France.

Seriously. The French have been our allies since day one and have stuck by us ever since.

(John Trumbull, “Surrender of Lord Cornwallis,” 1820)

Battle of Yorktown

This is the battle that won the Americans the Revolutionary War, so it’s most often seen as a major victory for the Americans. But the victory would have never been if it weren’t for massive support from the French.

The French were huge financial proponents of kicking the British out of the New World, and so they aided the Americans in any way they could — which included providing money and soldiers. Everything came to a head at Yorktown, Virginia when Lord Cornwallis went up against General George Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau. It was an effort of equal parts — both Washington and Rochambeau flanked Cornwallis on each side, forcing his surrender and officially relinquishing British control over the Colonies.

If you gotta go out, go out in a blaze of glory… I guess.

(William Sadler, “The Battle of Waterloo,” 1815)

Most of the Napoleonic Wars

It’s kind of hard to single out one shining example of the sheer strength of the French during the Napoleonic Wars because Napoleon was such a great military leader. If you break down his win/loss ratio down into baseball statistics, like these guys have, he outshines every general in history —from Alexander the Great to modern generals.

Let’s look at the Battle of Ligny. Napoleon managed to piss off the entirety of Europe, causing themto band together tofight him. He was cornered in Prussia andhis enemies were closing in. In a last-ditch effort, he took a sizable chunk out of the Prussian military and forced them to retreat. This all happened while the English, the Russians, the Austrians, and the Germans were trying to intervene.

Just two days later came the Battle ofWaterloo, duringwhich most of Europe had to work together to bring down the dominant Napoleon.

This is why Petain remains such a polarizing figure. He may have given up France in the 40s, but he saved it thirty years earlier.

(National Archives)

The Battle of Verdun

Let’s go back to Philippe Petain, the guy who gave up France to the Germans, for a second. Today, many see him as a traitor, a coward, and a weakling — but these insults can’t be made with putting a huge asterisk next to them. In World War I, he was known as the “Lion of Verdun” after he oversaw and won what is known as the longest and single bloodiest battle in human history.

For almost the entirety of the year 1916, the Germans pushed everything they had into a single forest on the French/German border. It was clear within the first six days that after the Germans spent 2 million rounds, 2 million artillery shells, and deployed chemical warfare for the first time, that the French would not budge. 303 days later, the Germans finally realize that the French wouldn’t give in and gave up.

​So maybe lay off the “French WWII Rifle for sale” jokes. It mightbe funny if it weren’t completely inaccurate.

(National Archives)

Operation Dragoon

In the opening paragraph, there was a “(kind of)” next to mention of French surrender during WWII. Well, that’s because not all of France gave in — just parts of it. France was split into three: Vichy France (a powerless puppet state), the French Protectorates (which were mostly released back to their home rule), and the resistance fighters of Free France.

The Free French resistance fighters were widespread across the French territory, but were mostly centralized in the South. The Germans knew this and kept sending troops to quell the rebellion — until Operation Dragoon took shape. Aided by Allied air power, French resistance fighters were able to repel the Germans out of Free France in only four weeks and give the Allies the strong foothold they needed in the Mediterranean until the fall of fascist Italy.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Navy tradition that rewards ice cream for rescued pilots

Imagine you’re a Navy torpedo pilot in World War II. Your life is exciting, your job is essential to American security and victory, but you spend most days crammed into a metal matchbox filled with gas, strapped with explosives, and flying over shark-filled waters of crushing depths. But your Navy wants to get you back if you ever go down, so it came up with a novel way of rescuing you: ice cream bounties.


The wake coming off this thing could easily drown even a strong swimmer.

(U.S. Navy History and Heritage Command)

Before helicopters were stationed on carriers after World War II, those massive ships had few good options for rescuing pilots who had to bail out over the sea. It’s not like they could just pull the floating city up alongside the swimming pilot and drop him a line. After all, carriers displace a lot of water and could easily swamp a swimmer. And rescuing a pilot like that would restrict or temporarily stop aircraft launches and recoveries.

So, carrier crews came up with a silly but effective way of rewarding boat crews and those of smaller ships for helping their downed pilots out: If they brought a pilot back to the carrier, the carrier would give them gallons of ice cream and potentially some extra goodies like a bottle or two of spirits.

The exact amount of ice cream transferred was different for different carriers, and it seems to have changed over time. But Daniel W. Klohs was a sailor on the USS Hancock in World War II, and he remembered being on the bridge the first time a destroyer brought back a pilot:

I told the captain (Hickey) that it was customary to award the DD with 25 gallons of ice cream for the crew and two bottles of whiskey for the Capt. and Exec. We ended up giving 30 gallons of ice cream because it was packed in 10-gallon containers. This set a new precedent for the return of aviators.

Carriers could rarely swing about, slow down, and pick up their own pilots, especially in the heat of battle. But a small destroyer or PT boat could fire a salvo of torpedoes at enemy subs and ships and then swing around and try to get a swimming pilot aboard.

Obviously, sailor to sailor, these rescues would’ve happened anyway. But the carriers figured that any goodwill they could foster in the other crews to rescue their pilots might help the aviators’ chances in the water. And while some submarines and other vessels had their own ice cream, it was a rare treat in most of the deployed Navy and Army. But carriers had massive freezers and stockpiles.

​Destroyers like the USS Yarnall could look forward to some well-earned desert if they were the ones to pass an aviator back to his carrier.

(U.S. Navy)

Tom Kocurko spent World War II in the Navy, serving on cruisers and destroyers and even wading ashore with Marines to direct naval gunfire. It was while he was on a destroyer escorting a carrier that he found out about the ice cream tradition.

“We’d get 10 gallons of ice cream every time we picked up a pilot, which was a real treat. So we started joking, ‘Let’s shoot one down.”‘

For the pilots, this could feel a bit reductive. Lt. Cmdr. Norman P. Stark was a Hellcat pilot in World War II, and he was shot down while attacking Japanese positions on Okinawa. After a controlled dive and crash into the ocean, his fellow aviators marked his location and called for rescue. A floatplane from a battleship pulled him out.

Coast Guard pilot Lt. John Pritchard helped rescue air crews in Greenland and surrounding waters, eventually disappearing while rescuing crewmembers from a lost bomber. Small planes like his could land in the water, pick up pilots, and return to a cutter or other ship.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

But then the battleship transferred him to a destroyer, and the destroyer crew was happy to have him … because of the ice cream:

After disembarking from the canvas bag, I was greeted like a long lost brother. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that they weren’t seeing me, but what I was worth to them–10 gallons of ice cream. Destroyer crews loved to rescue pilots. A pilot returned to his carrier was exchanged for 10 gallons of ice cream.

A little later in his history, available here, Stark says:

The Yarnall came alongside the Wasp, shot a line which was made fast, and I was transferred back to my Carrier. This was a dry trip. The 10 gallons of ice cream was passed to the Yarnall, and as they pulled away, I saw grins, from ear to ear. At least I had finally ascertained my true value–10 gallons of ice cream.

As carriers began to receive their own rescue helicopters after World War II, the tradition became less important. A Naval Aviation News reporter asked a helicopter crew about it in 1958:

Does the carrier greet the rescue crew with special treatment when a pilot is saved, like the old practice whereby a carrier gave a destroyer five gallons of ice cream for returning a downed pilot?
“You kidding?” a pilot asks. “They give us a hard time for delaying operations!”

But the first helicopter rescue of a carrier pilot was actually effected by a civilian crew from Sikorsky there to sell the Navy on the value of rescue helicopters in 1947. Since the helicopter pilot was a Sikorsky employee and not a member of the carrier crew, the carrier ponied up 10 gallons per pilot rescued.

The Sikorsky crew had picked up three downed pilots and so was lined up for a 30-gallon bounty which the carrier gave them all at once on their last day aboard. The Sikorsky pilot had to quickly gift the ice cream back to the carrier crew in an impromptu ice cream social since he couldn’t possibly eat 30 gallons in mere minutes.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 reasons why being a medieval knight would have sucked

There’s something romantic about being a knight — and no, we don’t mean sweep-a-fair-lady-off-her-feet kind of romantic. Between the tall tales of heroic deeds and depictions of gleaming, glorious suits of armor, the life of a knight has been made into something grander than it actually was.

The desire to take up sword and shield and live the life of a knight immediately goes out the window once you learn a little more about what that life was actually like. While your the experience of knighthood varied greatly between kingdoms, no matter which banner you bore, they all shared one common quality: life flat-out sucked.


14 years of training and you’re just given a nice pat on the back and maybe a piece of land — not a castle, though, because those are expensive.

Your journey usually began at as young as seven years old

It wasn’t entirely impossible for a peasant-turned-warrior to be recognized for greatness and rise in status, but that was exceedingly rare (for reasons we’ll get into shortly). For the most part, knights were generally are born into the role. If your father was a knight or if you were of noble birth but far from the line of succession, knighthood was for you.

This meant that, for the most part, from the moment of your birth, you’d be expected to become a knight and fight for your lord. The process typically began at age seven. You’d be given off to a noble to learn as much as you could. The quality of this childhood hinged entirely on the whims of said noble. Then, at age 14, you’d become a squire.

Squires were, essentially, interns for proper knights who’d do all of the unpleasant or mundane tasks. Be a knight’s errand boy for seven more years, and you’ll finally earn your knighthood.

At least the jousting would be fun…

You’re do far more than just fighting — and none of it was fun.

Being a knight meant far more than just showing up to do battle whenever summoned by your liege. At times of war, or if their number didn’t get called to go fight in some battle, they were expected to be local leaders among the large peasant society.

So, take all those years of learning to fight and throw ’em out the window, because you’re now the lead farmer until someone decides to raid your village. Occasionally, you’d do police duty and, more often, you’d be the mediator of local disputes, but that’s about it until it’s crusading time.

Still the best break down for how stupid chivalry actually was, read Don Quixote and remember that it was written intentionally to be a satire.

You had to follow a strict code of “chivalry”

The word “chivalry” derives from the Old French word, “chevalerie” which meant “horseman.” Over time, the gallant knights, typically astride horses, took on their own code of ethics. The word “chivalry,” over the years, then became synonymous with “gentlemanly,” but it meant much more than just treating ladies right (and, in this case, “ladies” refers exclusively to women of noble birth).

This code dictated much of your life. How strict was it? Well, knights were almost always godly men. So, if you were to skip church for one day, you may find yourself stripped of your knighthood entirely — but, of course, it’d all depend on if you come from noble status or not.

You could basically rob or kill anyone of a lesser status and no one would blame you. Tough break.

(Photo by Christopher Favero)

Your compatriots were usually always snobby nobles who rarely followed the code

The honorable few that earned their way into knighthood would be held to a much different standard than the knights who got their position from being the king’s second cousin’s kid.

Knights who got their position from a noble birth could do whatever they felt, facing little-to-no consequences. Even if the kingdom was very religious, noble-born knights could attack members of the clergy and get away with it if they had a good-enough excuse. You? The guy who earned it? There’s no way you’d be able to talk yourself out of that.

On the bright side, the more ornate the armor, the more likely it was that the person had no idea how to actually fight.

(Photo by Patrick Lordan)

You had to buy your own gear

The biggest barrier to entry for those warriors-turned-knights was the absurdly high cost of equipment. Remember, this was centuries before governments decided to arm their troops for combat. Since being a knight meant that you were paid in land ownership (or sometimes just the “glory of your lord”), you probably didn’t even get paid actual money.

So, any armor or weapons you needed had to be purchased on the side — with money you were never given. It was no problem for the knights of noble birth, but other knights would have to work the land and sell goods to earn enough just to fight.

Then again, being a knight is so easy that a penguin could do it.

(Edinburgh Zoo)​

Your title meant little after gunpowder was introduced

From the days of Charlemagne onward, knights were highly respected and highly revered across the lands. Then, this fancy new gadget called the “firearm” showed up and made your skill in battle immediately and entirely pointless.

During the Tudor period, armies learned that firearms and cannons could shred through a knight’s heavy plate armor with ease. All of that hard work, dedication, and money put toward becoming a knight was rendered meaningless by whoever had a bullet handy. As everyone focused on using firearms, the need for a literal knight in shining armor quickly dwindled.

That’s not to say that the title of being a knight is entirely worthless. It’s just more of an honorary title that’s given to great people who bring credit to their homeland — not just skilled fighters.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is every American President’s favorite drink

No one knows more about political drinking than author Mark Will-Weber, whose book, Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking, explores the stories behind each president’s favorite alcoholic beverage.


“Presidents drink for the same reasons we all drink,” Will-Weber recently told Business Insider. “Sometimes because it’s part of the job, sometimes it’s because they’re lonely or depressed — there’s a whole gamut of reasons of why people drink.”

For Will-Weber, knowing what the former presidents like to drink brings a “human side” to those who we “normally hold on a pedestal.”

Ahead, take a look at the presidents’ favorite alcoholic beverages, rounded up from Will-Weber’s book and The New York Post.

Our first president, George Washington, was a whiskey drinker, as were Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, Zachary Taylor, and Andrew Johnson. According to Will-Weber, Johnson was so inebriated when he arrived at the 1865 inauguration as Lincoln’s vice president that he had to be pulled off the stage.

Cheers.

John Adams reportedly started every morning with a hard cider. William Henry Harrison was also a big fan.

Fermentation tanks and barrels for crafting hard cider. (Photo by Scott Bugni)

According to Will-Weber, Thomas Jefferson purchased so much wine it put him on the brink of financial ruin.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Also read: Historians ranked the top 20 US Presidents of all time

James Madison, James Monroe, John Tyler, James K. Polk, and Ulysses S. Grant were all champagne lovers. Of these, Polk was the most modest drinker. Will-Weber told us about a small scandal that happened under Monroe, when a whopping 1,200 bottles of Burgundy and Champagne from France were charged to the White House.

(Photo by Maman Voyage via Flickr)

John Quincy Adams, Millard Fillmore, and James Buchanan enjoyed Madeira wine, which gets its flavor by being heated repeatedly.

(Photo by Luis Villa del Campo via Flickr)

According to Will-Weber, Franklin Pierce was one of the heaviest drinkers to fill the White House. He died of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 64.

(Photo from Library of Congress)

On the flip side, Abraham Lincoln apparently drank the least while in office. Presidents Rutherford B. Hayes, William Howard Taft, Benjamin Harrison, and Calvin Coolidge were also light drinkers.

(Image from Library of Congress)

Beer was the drink of choice for James Garfield and Grover Cleveland.

According to Will-Weber, the temperance movement tried to convince Chester A. Arthur to have a dry White House, but he refused.

The 21st President of the United States, Chester A. Arthur. (Image from Library of Congress)

The McKinley’s Delight was coined for President William McKinley. It was a strong drink made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, cherry brandy, and absinthe.

(Photo by Sam Howzit via Flickr)

Related: 13 Presidents who narrowly escaped assassinations

Teddy Roosevelt used fresh mint from the White House garden to make his famous mint juleps.

Woodrow Wilson and Dwight D. Eisenhower enjoyed scotch.

(Photo via Flickr user morberg)

Although Warren G. Harding was president during Prohibition, that didn’t stop him from enjoying some whiskey before playing a game of golf.

(Photo by Markus Reinhardt via Flickr)

President Herbert Hoover requested a dry martini while suffering from pneumonia in his 80s, and Franklin D. Roosevelt was known for loving cocktails, especially gin-based martinis.

Although, I doubt his martinis ever looked like this…

One of Will-Weber’s personal favorite presidential drinking stories is about Harry S. Truman, who would down a shot of bourbon every morning before starting his day.

(Photo by Arkadiusz Benedykt via Flickr)

According to Will-Weber, President John F. Kennedy drank various cocktails, such as daiquiris, but his favorite was the bloody mary.

(Photo by William Clifford)

A Texas native, President Lyndon B. Johnson enjoyed sipping a cold Texas-brewed Pearl beer while driving around his ranch.

(Photo from Pearl Beer via Facebook)

Will-Weber said President Richard Nixon enjoyed expensive bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild — but he’d often serve cheaper wine to his guests.

While serving in the House of Representatives, Gerald Ford would drink martinis at lunch. When he became president, his staff suggested he stop that habit.

(Photo by Ken30684 via Flickr)

More: This is how US Presidents almost got to choose their own entrance music

President Jimmy Carter didn’t drink much — so when he met with Soviet leaders, instead of taking a shot of vodka, he’d arrange for a small glass of white wine.

(Photo by Didriks via Flickr)

President Ronald Reagan enjoyed Orange Blossom Specials, made with orange juice, vodka, and sweet vermouth.

(Photo by Cesar I. via Yelp)

George H.W. Bush dabbled in a bit of everything, from beer to vodka. However, his son George W. Bush didn’t drink while in office.

43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush

When he was a student, Bill Clinton regularly made snakebites: hard cider mixed with beer.

(Photo by Liza P. via Yelp)

President Barack Obama is a big fan of beer. Under his administration, the White House has brewed its own honey ale, using honey from hives on the grounds.

I just like to imagine that he plays Beer Pong… (Image via Flickr)

Although President Donald Trump unsuccessfully launched his own brand of vodka — and his family operates Trump Winery in Charlottesville, Virginia — the man himself doesn’t drink.

President Donald Trump is not a fan of the sauce.