That time the German Navy accidentally fought itself in World War II - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the German Navy accidentally fought itself in World War II

Aside from stories about U-Boats and how German Admiral Karl Donitz took over for Hitler when the dictator killed himself, you don’t really hear much about the German Navy in World War II. There are a lot of reasons for this, and like most problems with the Nazis, much of it is due to incompetence of leadership. 

One of the Kriegsmarine’s earliest adventures in the war was Operation Wikinger. The operation was a response to sightings of British submarines in the North Sea. If the British were out there, they reasoned, the best response would be to go after them and clear the seas.

This turned out to be a terrible idea. 

The German Navy’s issues were manyfold, and much of it happened right from the start of the Nazi regime.

Hitler had high hopes of building a Navy that could go toe-to-toe with the British but didn’t really guide his military leadership from there. Karl Donitz said he would need 1,000 submarines to take on the Royal Navy. He got 57.

That time the German Navy accidentally fought itself in World War II
No matter how big a U-boat is, 57 isn’t the same as 1000. (Diego Delso)

To top it all off, the rest of the world powers had realized that the age of big battleships was over and that naval air power would be the deciding factor at sea. Meanwhile, Germany was finishing the world’s largest battleship, the Bismarck. 

Luftwaffe commander Hermann Goering is equally to blame for Germany’s ptificul naval forces during the war. Unwilling to cede any command of the air from the Luftwaffe, he wouldn’t divert resources to create a naval air force. It was also Goering’ Luftwaffe that put the nail in the coffin of Operation Wikinger. 

When Wikinger was finally launched in February of 1940, the task force consisted of six destroyers with two land-based Luftwaffe bomber squadrons in support. This should have been fine for such a small and nearby area of operations like the North Sea, but exchanging information between two services meant information had to go all the way down the chain of one command, all the way up another, and back again. 

So when a lone German bomber flew over the six destroyers without indicating whether it was friend or foe, the ships opened fire on it. The bomber returned fire, but the Luftwaffe had more experience. It scored a direct hit on one of the destroyers, cutting it in two. The rest of the ships returned to help the crew as the bomber flew home.

That’s how another destroyer suddenly hit an undersea mine. At this point, no one in the task force knew what was happening, who was attacking them, or how they were being attacked. One of the ships, believing it was being attacked by a submarine, dropped its depth charges, damaging its own rudder in the process. 

By the time the ships were finally ready to go home, the German Navy had lost two destroyers and 578 sailors. Poor communication was to blame. The Kriegsmarine knew the bombers would be in the area, but they failed to inform the ships. The Luftwaffe bomber didn’t even know there were German ships in the North Sea. 

The whole debacle took 30 minutes. To this day, no one knows if the mine that struck one of the destroyers was German or British. Not a single officer was disciplined for the losses. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

The crazy way British pilots took out incoming V-1 missiles

One week after D-Day, Germany began launching a new, secret weapon at London. The distinctive roar of V-1 flying bombs would slowly fill the air and then suddenly cut out, followed shortly by the massive explosion as a warhead went off. Dozens would fall in the first week, and the Royal Air Force had to scramble to stop them.


This led some pilots to, after expending all of their ammunition, take more drastic measures to stop the bombs: flying wingtip to wingtip until they either crashed or tipped the bomb off course.

The V-1s had pulsejet engines, and prop-driven planes couldn’t keep up with them. But, if a pilot flew to high altitude and then dove toward a passing V-1, the speed from the descent would allow them to keep up.

The first intercept took place on June 15, 1944, the third day of V-1 attacks. A Mosquito pilot was able to shoot one down with his guns, and others soon followed.

But the pilots had limited ammunition, and it was tough to hit the fast-flying V-1s. And each bomb could kill multiple Londoners if it wasn’t intercepted.

So some pilots began to experiment with a risky but valuable alternative. If a plane flew close enough to a V-1, the wind off the plane’s wings could nudge the flying bomb off course. And if the disturbance was enough to flip the V-1 over, known as “turtling,” then it would often fail to explode.

That time the German Navy accidentally fought itself in World War II

A Spitfire nudges a V-1 missile off course during World War II.

(Public domain)

But this had obvious risks. If the pilot accidentally bumped the V-1, they could crash into the ground alongside the bomb. A soft bump was obviously no big deal. It would just help the pilot tip the bomb over. But a harder strike was essentially a midair crash, likely clipping or breaking the pilot’s own wingtip.

Despite the risks, the work of pilots and gunners on the ground saved London from much of the devastation. 1,000 of the bombs were shot down or nudged off course in flight. And, the bombs were famously inaccurate, which was lucky for Britain. Of the approximately 10,000 flying bombs fired at the city, around 7,000 missed, 1,000 were shot down, and about 2,000 actually hit the city and other targets.

Eventually, this would result in about 6,000 fatalities and 16,000 other casualties.

In October 1944, Allied troops captured the V-1 sites targeting London and were able to stop the threat there. Unfortunately, that was right as the Germans got the V-2 program up and running, The faster, rocket-powered V-2s were essentially unstoppable with anything but radar-controlled guns.

That time the German Navy accidentally fought itself in World War II

An American JB-2 Loon based on the German V-1 missile.

(San Diego Air and Space Museum)

After the war, Allied powers experimented with the weapons and some, including America, made their own knockoffs. Some were shot down as flying targets for pilots, but others were held in arsenals in case they were needed against enemy forces. Eventually, the invention of modern cruise missiles made the V-1s and V-2s obsolete.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Marine Raiders saved the day at the Battle of Edson’s Ridge

By October 1942, American Marines and the Japanese were fighting a vicious battle around Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. Marines held a perimeter around Lunga Point while the Japanese controlled the remainder of the island.


The Marines guarding the perimeter mostly consisted of those from the 1st Marine Division. Holding a small ridge along the Lunga River, known as Lunga Ridge, were Marines from the 1st Raider Battalion and the 1st Parachute Battalion.

Those Marines were led by the indomitable Lt. Col Merritt “Red Mike” Edson, commanding officer of the 1st Raider Battalion. Edson was already on his way to becoming a legend having earned two Navy Crosses during his career. He would cement his status on Guadalcanal.

The fact that the Marines were even in place to meet the Japanese was due to Edson’s foresight. Edson, along with Col. Gerald Thomas – Vandegrift’s operations officer, believed that the Japanese were likely to attack at Lunga Ridge. However, Vandegrift believed the attack would come from another area and would not approve the placement of Marines along the ridge. Thomas finally convinced him it would be a good place for Edson’s Raiders to rest, thus plugging a significant gap in the line.

That time the German Navy accidentally fought itself in World War II

On the night of September 12, 1942, after trudging through Guadalcanal’s thick jungles, Japanese troops, preceded by an artillery barrage, emerged from the jungle and engaged the Marines on the ridge. However, the Japanese attack was somewhat premature as many other units had failed to reach their jump-off points for the attack.

After some skirmishing and an attack that drove the Marines back, most of the Japanese withdrew to regroup for an attack the next night.

Edson’s men made what preparations they could to improve their defenses.

Unbeknownst to them, they were outnumbered by over three to one.

That afternoon, as darkness approached, Edson stepped up onto a grenade box to address his men:

You men have done a great job so far, but I have one more thing to ask of you. We have to hold out just one more night. I know we have been without sleep a long time, but I expect another attack and I believe they will come through here. If we hold, I have every reason to believe we will be relieved in the morning.

Just after dark on Sept. 13, the Japanese surged out of the jungle into the Marine positions on Lunga Ridge.

A Japanese attack on the right flank dislodged the Marine Raiders of Company B from their hilltop position.

Almost simultaneously, another Japanese assault drove back the Marines of Company B, 1st Parachute Battalion. In the face of the Japanese onslaught, Edson ordered the two companies to fall back towards his command post on Hill 123 in the center of the ridge.

A third Japanese assault slammed into the Marines of C Company, 1st Parachute Battalion, which sent them reeling. With three companies in the midst of falling back, confusion and fear began to take hold. The situation was heading towards a rout for the Marines when Edson appeared with several officers from his staff and, with forceful language and spirit, turned the Marines around to face the Japanese.

Meanwhile, the remaining Raider companies were desperately holding the line against the Japanese.

That time the German Navy accidentally fought itself in World War II
Lieutenant Colonel Edson (front row, second from left) poses for a group photo with other Marine officers on Tulagi shortly after the battle in August, 1942.

Over 2,500 Japanese were facing just over 800 Marines. Wave after wave came on.

Edson sent the reinvigorated Paramarines against the exposed left flank with fixed bayonets. They caught the surging Japanese by surprise just as they were preparing to roll up the Marines’ flank and drove them off the hill.

Still, the Japanese attacks continued.

Marine artillery fire pummeled the area in front of the Marines’ positions, inflicting heavy casualties on the Japanese.

Those that survived were met with heavy fire from the Marine defenders on the ridge. When this was not enough, the Marines fought off their attackers in hand-to-hand combat in the pitch-black night.

As each successive wave was mowed down, another formed to take its place.

Eventually, the beleaguered Raiders and Paramarines were joined by the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment who helped to repulse the final two Japanese assaults before dawn.

The final Japanese positions on Lunga Ridge were destroyed by U.S. Army Air Corps AiraCobras early that morning. What remained of the Japanese assault force retreated into the jungle and away from Lunga Ridge.

That time the German Navy accidentally fought itself in World War II

The terrific fighting on Lunga Ridge came to be known to many as the Battle of Bloody Ridge. But for the Raiders and Paramarines that fought there, it was known as Edson’s Ridge.

Throughout the battle, Edson was never more than a few meters from the front lines. And, according to the account of one Marine officer, he boldly stood in his position while most of them hugged the ground. Edson was awarded the Medal of Honor for his leadership during the battle.

The tenacity of the Marines in holding their position saved Henderson Field and, with it, the American effort on Guadalcanal. Had the Japanese broken through, it is likely they could have driven the Marines from the island. The Japanese losses in the battle were difficult to replace.

The result of the battle likely had a large impact on the overall Japanese strategy in the Pacific, as resources were diverted to Guadalcanal that were needed elsewhere. And for the Americans, it was the closest they came to losing their toehold in the Pacific.

Articles

This is why the Navy SEAL swim challenge is not for just anyone

Navy SEAL candidates go through some of the hardest military training in the world before earning their beloved Trident.


Before graduating BUD/s, they must successfully pass “drown-proofing” which is a series of swim challenges that must be completed without the use of their hands or feet — which are tied together.

This swim challenge is comprised of five difficult tests that not only pushes the mind but the body to its limits.

Can this Buzzfeed host use both his mental and physical strength to overcome and complete this challenge? Let’s find out.

Related: This SEAL was shot 27 times before walking himself to the medevac

Note: This challenge was done in an eight-foot deep pool versus the nine-foot one the Navy uses during the training.

Phase 1: Bobbing up and down 20 times for five minutes.

Success! (Images via Giphy)Result: Pass

Phase 2: Float on your back for five minutes

The key here is not to panic. (Images via Giphy)Result: Fail

Phase 3: The Dolphin swim

Where endurance kicks in. (Images via Giphy)Result: Pass

Phase 4: Front and back somersault

One of the test’s hardest challenges. (Images via Giphy)Result: Pass

Phase 5: Retrieve a GoPro at the bottom of the pool

He made that look easy. (Images via Giphy)Result: Pass

4 out of 5 isn’t bad.

Also Read: 7 unrealistic Navy SEAL characters in the movies

Check out the Buzz Feed Blue’s below to watch this host attempt the whole Navy SEAL water challenge for yourself.

(YouTube, BuzzFeedBlue)Do you think this guy passed the Navy SEAL swim test? Comment below.
MIGHTY HISTORY

Today in military history: Confederate victory at Chickamauga

On Sep. 20, 1863, the Confederate Army of Tennessee defeated the Union Army at Chickamauga Creek — the “River of Death” according to the Cherokee.

The Union Army of the Cumberland, led by General William Rosecrans, fought the Confederate Army led by General Braxton Bragg out of Tennessee after capturing Chattanooga. 

He pursued Bragg’s army into Northern Georgia trying to force a complete rout of Confederate troops in the West. Instead, he would tuck tail back to Chattanooga.

Bragg started with a misinformation effort, allowing Confederate “deserters” to feed Rosecrans the idea that Bragg’s Army was a retreating mess. On Sep. 19, a Union corps moved to take on what it thought was a brigade of stragglers – by the next day, that skirmish engaged the entirety of both armies. 

Southern General James Longstreet arrived during the night of the 19th, with battle-hardened veterans straight from the fighting at Gettysburg. 

A union military blunder caused a hole to open in the Union lines; Longstreet’s veterans marched straight through it and Rosecrans was forced to retreat back to Tennessee.

Bragg would later move to retake Chattanooga but Union reinforcements would keep the city in Northern hands for the rest of the Civil War.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Space exploration is still the next frontier… and it’s been happening for 80 years in the military

The history of the U.S. Space Force goes back long before President Trump directed the Pentagon to create a “Space Force” in June of 2018. But the history of space and the military actually goes back to shortly after the end of World War II.

General Hap Arnold was an early visionary of the potential of space operations. He directed the RAND Corporation to determine the feasibility of satellite for strategic communications in 1946. That study identified nearly all of the current space mission areas: intelligences, weather forecasting, communications and navigation. The Air Force’s role in space remained constant leading up to Air Force Space Command’s creation. During the Cold War, space operations focused on missile warning, launch operations, satellite control, space surveillance and command and control for national leadership. During Desert Storm, AFSPC showed their importance for supporting the Warfighter.


Then, in 2001, the Space Commission recommended that Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) give up Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) to AFSPC. Due to the nature and importance of space, AFSPC was the only command to have their own acquisition arm within the command. In 2002, AFSPC was given their own four-star commander, a position that had previously been split between AFSPC and NORAD. In 2005, AFSPC was given the control of cyber, but it was later forced to give up that responsibility in 2018. This move allowed AFSPC to focus on gaining and maintaining space superiority and outpacing adversaries.

In August 2019, the AFSPC commander was assigned the dual-hat responsibility of U.S. Space Command Commander and on December 20, 2019, with the signing of the National Defense Acquisition Act (NDAA) the United States Space Force was born.

For those outside the space community, the idea of a Space Force felt outlandish and people wondered what this Space Force would do. Would they fight wars in space? Why is space so important that a whole new military branch was created? And with much of the work within the Space Force and AFSPC classified, many people do not know the role and scope of why a Space Force was created. But if you do some research you will learn that both China and Russia already have their own version of a Space Force and America needed to take this crucial step forward to maintain space superiority.

For many years, the role and scope of space have been growing and the “wars” being fought in space have been happening hidden behind layers of classification. Even everyday tools that Americans use like Global Positioning Systems (GPS), cell phones and more, rely on the technology created to keep our country safe and on the leading age of this new frontier. With the recent success of private companies such as Space X, the role and scope of space is changing. The military needs a branch of its own to help continue the innovation and keep up with this changing climate.

So where are we now? The Air Force opened the window for organic space career fields (such as Space Operations and Space Systems Operations) and common career fields (such as Intelligence, Cyber, Engineering and Acquisitions) to apply for transfer to the U.S. Space Force from May 1-31, 2020. For those within the organic space career fields, they were given the option to transfer, retrain to a new career field or leave the military. The transfer for organic space career fields is set to begin on September 1, 2020. For common career fields, each career field board will meet to determine what members who applied will be accepted to the Space Force. The transfer for all Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSC) is expected to be completed by February 1, 2021. Army, Navy and Marine Corps transfers are still being worked and are expected to take place in FY 22/23. Those who choose to transfer will incur a two-year service commitment.

Those who have decided to apply for the transfer are now in the wait and see bucket. Waiting to find out what the military board decides to do and waiting to see how this change will impact where they are stationed and what their future will be. While many people are already in a Space Force billet there will be new Space Force members who will need to be reassigned to a new unit based on their choice to join the Space Force. The Air Force and Space Force are still working out the details on how these changes will happen and how and when they will take place.

Those who are waiting to join the military’s newest branch have a bit of excitement as this historic change takes place. With new information being released as it becomes available the excitement and uncertainty makes this an interesting time to be serving in the military. The Space Force is a new branch that will allow space to take its role in the forefront of our nation’s security. And while still so much of what happens within the Space Force is unknown, we know the impacts of what is happening will change the world we live in.

Articles

How a deadly insurgent sniper in Iraq taunted his pursuers

It was a huge morale boost for the battle-weary soldiers living at Patrol Base Murray the morning they got a visit from the Army’s top general. They couldn’t have imagined that anyone of that importance would come to their dusty, dangerous slice of the combat zone.


It felt good, but less than an hour after he and his entourage went wheels up, five of their fellow soldiers would be dead, the victims of a cunning sniper who sucked them into his web with ruthlessly primitive tactics.

Also read: This is what goes through a sniper’s mind before the shot

The first victim was Spc. William Edwards. On a patrol outside the wire during the four-star general’s visit, he cautiously popped his Bradley’s driver hatch open three-quarters of the way to peer outside, and was shot high on his back squarely between the shoulders.

That time the German Navy accidentally fought itself in World War II
A soldier scans the terrain through the hatch of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. It was on a vehicle like this one that Spc. William Edwards was targeted by a deadly insurgent sniper. (Photo from Department of Defense)

“It was a great sniper shot,” then-Lt. Col. Ken Adgie, commander of 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry, said of the clean hit, which Edwards’ platoon immediately knew had come from a three-story house about 200 meters away.

As the medics and docs in the aid station worked to save Edwards’ life, the rest of his buddies from Bravo Company, 2nd Platoon went into reaction mode and headed straight for the house to find the sniper.

The battalion, part of the 3rd Infantry Division, was on mission in the region of Arab Jabour about six miles southeast of the Baghdad, a lush agrarian area where magnificent houses that once belonged to the ruling Sunni elite grace the banks of the Tigris River.

It was now teeming with al-Qaeda operatives and their hired help. The troops called it “IED Alley” — aptly named as the division’s tally of men lost after a year in combat was more than 150, mostly to buried bombs. But the sniper threat was a constant.

The presumed sniper house was on a ribbon of land between a one-lane hardball road and the river less than a mile south of Patrol Base Murray, and 2nd Platoon had surrounded it within 15 minutes of the incident with Edwards.

Four soldiers – Sgt. Scott Kirkpatrick, Spc. Justin Penrod, Sgt. Andrew Lancaster and Staff Sgt. William Scates – went into the house to clear it. They entered through the back door.

That time the German Navy accidentally fought itself in World War II
It was in a house much like this on in Arab Jabour that the soldiers pursuing Spc. Edwards’ killer met their grim fate. (DOD photo)

“There was a trip wire deep in the house at the end of the hallway going into the living room. A pressure sensitive wire, something under the carpet,” Adgie said.

Unbeknownst to the soldiers, the house was booby trapped with as many as four 155 mm artillery rounds enhanced with homemade explosives and when the first soldier stepped on the trigger, it tripped a circuit and detonated the charge, blowing everyone up in a fiery explosion.

The soldiers were killed, a heavy toll that raised to five the number of soldiers the battalion lost that day, all within 30 minutes.

“The explosion was huge,” Adgie said. “Structurally the house stood, but it caught fire then burned for six hours. We had to wait for it to go out and the Navy EOD guys to go in and make sure it was safe before we could get one of the bodies out.”

Early that evening, with the scope of the tragedy barely having sunk in yet, the company commander and platoon leader went back to the house with an interpreter and climbed an inside stairway to the third floor to see if they could find a clue about the sniper.

On the wall, in Arabic, was a hateful taunt from the sniper himself, a message that read, roughly, “This is where the sniper got your guys.”

But the sniper was long gone and had left nothing behind but the note.

Infuriated by the deadly “gotcha” they had found, the unit’s human intelligence collection team went to work immediately, plying every source in every corner of their battle space to find out who the sniper was.

One of their best resources was a small team of Iraqis the battalion called their “Bird Dogs,” three men – former insurgents – who lived with the unit at Patrol Base Murray and ran a cell phone operation to reach out to a network of sympathetic friends in Arab Jabour.

The sniper, it turns out, was already famous in the Al Qaeda-friendly area for his highly successful and prominent ambush and a short 48 hours later, the U.S. soldiers, with the help of the Bird Dogs, had a name and a description.

He was Mohamed Uthman, a 5-foot, 2-inch tall foot soldier for Al Qaeda who had a reputation for being a murderous criminal. And, no surprise, he was already known as a “high value target” on a list the Americans had of their most wanted.

That time the German Navy accidentally fought itself in World War II
When Army units identified the name of the sniper who killed five soldiers in one day, they launched an operation to fix and destroy the sharpshooter who taunted them. (DOD photo)

“Word on the street was, this is the guy who did it, and he kept on working after that. He was a cold blooded killer and he killed more Iraqis than he did Americans,” Adgie said.

The mean little sniper eluded capture for months, until one night when he made the decision to go out and kill people with the wrong insurgent mortar team.

It was December 11, 2007, four months to the day he had snuffed out the lives of the five soldiers, and Adgie cleared an Air Force F-16 hot to drop a bomb on the mortar team, unaware that Uthman was one of the teammates.

They found out after a site exploitation team identified one of the dead as the diminutive sniper.

That time the German Navy accidentally fought itself in World War II
Soldier targeted the taunting sniper with a bomb dropped from coalition aircraft. (DOD video via GifBrewery)

“When Adgie lost those soldiers in that house borne IED, I flew in and we were on our knees praying and crying like babies,” said then-Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of 3rd ID. “We learned, but we learned the hard way. If something looked like it might be rigged with explosives, we just blew it up. I wasn’t going to allow my kids to go in there again because we’d already lost four.”

The tiny killer was gone, but insurgent snipers continued to bedevil the troops, said Lynch, who recalled the death of a soldier in an Abrams M1A1 tank, who, like Edwards in the Bradley, opened his hatch while the tank was on the move and was shot by a sniper from a range they estimated at about 1,000 meters.

“He’s a thinking, adaptive enemy,” Lynch said. “They watched our movements and based on their training they could pace their engagement on the rate of movement of the vehicle.”

Lynch pointed out that the division’s brigade and battalion commanders under his command had all been to Iraq at least once before and had come to know the value of having well trained and equipped sniper teams.

That time the German Navy accidentally fought itself in World War II
After crawling through grass and brush toward their target, a sniper team from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-36 Infantry Division, attached to the 3rd Infantry Division, set their sights on their target during a two-week training school where U.S. Soldiers trained Iraqi army special forces at the Al Kindi Iraqi army base in Mosul, Iraq.

In Arab Jabour the sniper teams were used consistently to overwatch IED hot spots and other things like long range cameras placed on elevated platforms. The cameras provided overwatch as well, but the snipers came into play and could shoot from concealed locations if anyone messed with those cameras.

“There’s clearly a continuing role for our snipers. They found their niche on the battlefield,” Lynch said.

Gina Cavallaro is the author of Sniper: American Single-Shot Warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This incredible story was brought to you by Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions which are set to release the military thriller “The Wall” May 12. The movie, starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena, is a harrowing story pitting the infamous insurgent sniper known as “Juba” against an American sharpshooter who uses an unsteady wall for protection as he tries to rescue his wounded comrade.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is actual footage of the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri

On December 7th, 1941, the Empire of Japan launched a brutal attack on Pearl Harbor, killing over 2,300 American military personnel and catapulting the America into World War II. After nearly four years of fierce fighting, the Japanese surrendered to allied forces.


General Douglas MacArthur flew into Okinawa on his C-54 Skymaster to officially accept the Japanese surrender — his crowning achievement. Meeting up at the USS Missouri, the victor finally meets face-to-face with his defeated Japanese foes at the surrender ceremony on Sept. 2, 1945.

As thousands of fighting men stood witness to this historic event, MacArthur accompanied Adms. Chester Nimitz and William Halsey as they greeted the Japanese delegation aboard the Navy vessel.

The delegation in attendance signed the document which brought the grueling conflict to a halt. After the Japanese were led away, allied forces conduct one more flight maneuver to seal their victory — 1,500 planes roar across the sky over the bay in what many called a “victory lap.”

Related: This Air Force jet landed itself after the pilot ejected

Check out the Smithsonian Channel video below to see the historic surrender in color.

(Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)

Also Read: This legendary Navy skipper sank 19 enemy ships

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time an entire Italian regiment surrendered to one pilot

When Royal Air Force pilot Sydney Cohen crash landed on the Italian-controlled island of Lampedusa in 1943, he thought he would be in for the fight of his life. Lampedusa was the home of more than 4,000 Italian troops in garrison, and all Cohen had was his service weapon to fight them.

Instead, he was in for the surprise of his life, and was crowned King of Lampedusa shortly after.


That time the German Navy accidentally fought itself in World War II

A biplane similar to the one flown by Syd Cohen.

Cohen was supposed to be headed back to his home base on Malta in a Swordfish biplane but never quite made it. The pilot was flying with his two-man crew, Sgt. Peter Tait, the navigator, and Sgt. Les Wright, the wireless operator and gunner, on a search and rescue mission over the Mediterranean Sea. Their instruments failed mid-flight and they got turned around, only to run out of fuel before realizing the island below was not Malta.

The plane had a “fit of gremlins,” as Cohen later described it. The only place he could land was on the Axis-held island of Lampedusa.

Luckily for the RAF pilot, there were no Nazis on Lampedusa, only Italians. The island had a big runway and the crew saw no option but to go in and land on it, consequence be damned. They could never reach Malta in their condition and it was better than crashing into the ocean. They also didn’t know that the Allies ran heavy bombing missions on the island. So when he crash landed on the island, it made for incredible headlines back in London. Not because of a terrific battle – it was the mass surrender of 4,300 Italians.

“As we came down on a ropey landing ground we saw a burnt hangar and burnt aircraft around us,” Cohen said. “A crowd of Italians came out to meet us and we put our hands up to surrender but then we saw they were all waving white sheets shouting, `No, no. We surrender.’ The whole island was surrendering to us.”

That time the German Navy accidentally fought itself in World War II

It’s good to be the king.

Cohen got bold and asked to see the island’s commandant. As they moved toward the commandant’s villa, another Allied air raid began. The RAF pilot began to surmise the Italians were sick of getting bombed and really were ready to surrender.

“They asked me to return to Malta and inform the authorities of their offer to surrender,” he said. “They gave me a scrap of paper with a signature on it.”

So Cohen refueled and took off for the Allied base in Tunis to give the RAF the news. Upon hearing it, the RAF, the newspapers, London society, and even the British Jewish population raved about the new “King of Lampedusa.”

That time the German Navy accidentally fought itself in World War II

The play “The King of Lampedusa” performed in London’s East End.

Cohen’s story was immediately picked up and turned into a play and a musical. Hollywood even wanted to make a movie of the event as soon as possible. News of the debacle even reached the ears of Nazi propagandists in Berlin, who threatened to give the Jews in London’s East End “a visit from the Luftwaffe.”

The real life of Sydney Cohen doesn’t have a happy ending, no matter how the play, musical, and/or feature film turned out. Cohen disappeared while flying a mission near the Straits of Dover in August 1946. Neither his body nor the wreckage of his plane were ever located and no one knows exactly what happened to him.

MIGHTY CULTURE

April Fools’ in the Military: The Best Pranks Among the Ranks

Come April 1st, it’s time to keep your ears opened and your eyes peeled, ready for whatever mischief might come your way. It’s a day where folks of all cultures plan and perform their best tricks, service members from all branches included. From physical pranks, to things that are somehow out of place, to flat-out destructive jokes, April Fools’ Day is known for mischief. There are even historical events, including elaborate and heart-stopping examples of how soldiers took advantage of this day of lighthearted fun.

Take a look at these fun pranks among the military community for a good laugh and possibly some ideas for weeks to come.


That time the German Navy accidentally fought itself in World War II

German Camp, 1915

On this day in 1915, the Geneva Tribune reported a French plane dropped a large object over a German camp. From a distance, the object appeared to be a huge bomb. Upon seeing it, soldiers ran for cover, though no explosion took place. Eventually, they approached the object, which was actually a giant football. On it was a tag that read, “April fool!”

Europe, 1943, the 30-Day Furlough

In a newspaper article in Stars and Stripes, a European publication for overseas soldiers, readers learned of a 30-day furlough available for overseas service members. They were said to be brought home by the newly refurbished ship, Normanie, which would be manned by Women’s Army Corps. What’s more is it stated on-ship entertainment provided by Gypsy Rose Lee and Betty Grable, two big names at the time.

That time the German Navy accidentally fought itself in World War II

Britain, 1980

Did you know that Irish bearskin helmets grow hair, so much so that it became a problem wherein they needed trimming? Specially requested by the staff of Buckingham Palace. That was the subject of an April Fools’ article in Soldier, a British magazine published in 1980. They even included scientific evidence on how the hair was able to grow once removed from the animal.

Mediterranean, 1986

While members on the USS Kennedy suspected nothing more than a delivery of mail during a six month deployment in the Mediterranean, jokesters had other intentions. Navy members planned a surprise drop off on April Fools’ Day in 1986. The helicopter landed and released three greased piglets — each painted red, white and blue — who ran across the deck. The event was even filmed for future generations to see!

That time the German Navy accidentally fought itself in World War II

Old Guard Virginia, 2013

There are working dogs in the military, so why not working cats? Back in 2013 an announcement was made via the U.S. Army that they were launching a trained cat program, wherein felines would help the military moving forward. Specifically, their duties were to help Military Police track narcotics and catch criminals in their tracks.

Okinawa, Japan 2019

In perhaps one of the most widespread pranks in history, on April Fools’ Day, 2019, the Marine Corps base in Okinawa announced via social media that service members could grow facial hair openly … and have pets in their barracks rooms. Putting safety first, the post even mentioned that pets would need to wear reflective belts to ensure their visibility, likely during early morning hours of PT. Funny enough, right? The problem is people believed it! Some went as far as to throw out razors or take on pets, not realizing the whole announcement was a joke.

Traditionally, April Fools’ Day has been a time to bring in jokes and laughter, often with creative pranks. It’s a look back at how military members still saw the bright side of things, whether in time of war, deployment or simply in everyday situations.

Do you have a favorite military-related April Fools’ Day prank? Let us know about it!

Articles

Taco Rice is what happens when Japanese and American tastes collide

Spoiler alert; it’s delicious!:


That time the German Navy accidentally fought itself in World War II
American-style taco – shell + sushi rice = a dish to heal the wounds of WWII. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Kon’nichiwa, TACO RICE.

Meals Ready To Eat explored the advent of one of Japan’s most popular street foods when host August Dannehl traveled to Okinawa in search of taco rice, a true food fusion OG.

If you were to suggest that spiced taco meat dressed in shredded lettuce, cheese, and tomato, would seem a bastard topping to foist upon sushi rice, Japan’s most sacred and traditional foodstuff, well, in Okinawa at least, you’d find yourself on the receiving end of a lesson in local history.

That time the German Navy accidentally fought itself in World War II
Distinguished inventor of taco rice, Matsuzu Gibo, c. 1983. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Taco Rice is the result of two post-WWII cultures: that of the Japanese and the American troops stationed in Okinawa, finding a way to transcend their differences through the combination of comforting foods.

An influx of American delicacies, most notably Spam, flooded the island following the cessation of hostilities and led to a heyday of culinary cross-pollination. Spam is still featured in many now-traditional Okinawan dishes, but taco rice is, for modern Okinawans and American military personnel, the belle of the mash-up Ball.

Watch more Meals Ready To Eat:

These military chefs will make you want to re-enlist

This veteran farmer will make you celebrate your meat

This is why soldiers belong in the kitchen

What happens when a firefighter’s secret identity is revealed

This Galley Girl will make you want to join the Coast Guard

Articles

How a new generation of Air Force pilots flew a mission for a fallen WW2 brother

On Dec. 23, 1944, 2nd Lt. Charles E. Carlson was killed in action when Nazi planes shot down his P-47 Thunderbolt. Carlson would be missing for almost 73 years until he was identified and buried with full honors at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in Pennsylvania on Aug. 4, 2017.


When the “missing man” formation was flown, it was done by four F-35s.

The F-35s belonged to the 62nd Fighter Squadron, one of 23 assigned to the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, according to the wing’s official webpage. The 56th operates both F-35s and F-16s.

But long before it had the mission to train pilots on the Air Force’s newest multi-role fighter, the 56th Fighter Wing was a combat unit, as was its predecessor, the 56th Fighter Group.

That time the German Navy accidentally fought itself in World War II
2nd Lt. Charles E. Carlson, who was killed in action when his P-47 Thunderbolt was shot down on Dec. 23, 1944. (USAF photo)

A July 28 release by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency noted that Carlson’s remains had finally been identified. It noted that Carlson’s wingman had believed that the pilot got out, but German officials had claimed his remains had been recovered near the crash site.

The release stated that Carlson would be returned to his family for burial. So, how did the F-35s end up flying the missing man formation?

Back in World War II, the 56th Fighter Group was known as the “Wolfpack,” which included the 62nd Fighter Squadron. Among the pilots who flew with that unit was the legendary Robert S. Johnson, a 27-kill ace who later wrote the book, “Thunderbolt!”

That time the German Navy accidentally fought itself in World War II
Four F-35’s participated in a missing man formation fly-over during 2nd Lt. Charles E. Carlson’s funeral in Pennsylvania more than 70 years after being shot down over Germany in World War II when he was assigned to the 62nd FS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jensen Stidham)

According to an Air Force News Service report, it was because Carlson had been a member of the 62nd when he was killed in action. Squadron commander Lt. Col. Peter Lee had been browsing Facebook when he noticed the patch for the 62nd Fighter Squadron.

“I clicked on the link and that’s how I found out. It started with something as simple as a Facebook post…and next thing you know we’re flying four airplanes over and talking with the family,” he said.

That time the German Navy accidentally fought itself in World War II
F-35 Lightning II fighters fly the missing man formation during the funeral of 2nd Lt. Charles E. Carlson. (Youtube Screenshot)

The F-35s flew the missing man formation for Carlson, led by Capt. Kyle Babbitt, who said, “If it had been me on the other side, I would really appreciate this for my family. It’s definitely an honor to take on this responsibility.”

You can see a video about this mission by the 62nd Fighter Squadron below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

George Washington’s massive whiskey distillery empire

Presidents of the past had some interesting hobbies. Abe Lincoln could kick your ass if he wanted to — and that’s exactly what he did wrestling in more than 300 matches. He only lost once. Calvin Coolidge installed an electric horse at the White House because he missed the joy of riding. And Dwight D. Eisenhower was a prolific painter, often giving his latest magnum opus to his closest friends. But before that, the OG President George Washington put them all to shame with his thriving whiskey empire in the final years of his life.

As was the norm during the 18th century, Washington was known to sip low-alcohol “Small Beer” for hydration — including while leading the Virginia militia in the French and Indian War. He wrote his own recipe upside down on the last page of one of his notebooks. He also famously ran up an epic bar tab in celebration of writing the Constitution. So when James Anderson, Washington’s Scottish farm manager, approached him with an offer he couldn’t refuse, it was only natural for Washington to transform Mount Vernon into the epicenter of whiskey making in the United States.

Anderson leveraged his expertise distilling grain in Scotland and told Washington that Mount Vernon’s crops and copious water supply could produce a profitable whiskey business. The construction began over the winter of 1797 to 1798, and the distillery was built with large river rocks taken from the Falls of the Potomac and sandstone cut from Mount Vernon. Inside the 75-by-30-foot walls were five copper pot stills, a boiler, and 50 tubs for cooking the mash. It had a second floor for storing extra equipment needed for a sophisticated whiskey production and had sleeping rooms for the workers.

Under Anderson were six enslaved men named Daniel, Hanson, James, Nat, Peter, and Timothy, who brought Washington’s whiskey into being. They were all trained specifically for this operation, and it wasn’t out of the norm for other slaves to be skilled in the trades. On Washington’s gristmill-distillery complex, more than 50 enslaved men and women worked as coopers mending metal, carpenters building and repairing tools, blacksmiths for locks and horseshoes, grooms for the horses, textile workers for clothing, dairy maids to care for the estate’s cows, and gardeners for Mount Vernon’s gardens and orchards.

The average distillery of the era had only one or two stills and stilled for a month — Washington’s operation produced whiskey year-round. Washington was able to do this by favoring the innovation of Oliver Evans’ automated gristmill system, which mechanically milled grain and flour without the need of manual labor. This enabled the gristmill to produce 5,000 to 8,000 pounds of flour and cornmeal per day. And nothing went to waste. Even the slop from the distillery was given to Washington’s hogs in a pigpen located just outside. 

That time the German Navy accidentally fought itself in World War II
The second floor of George Washington’s rebuilt whiskey distillery features a small theater that shows the History Channel’s Liquid Gold: Washington’s Distillery. Photo courtesy of mountvernon.org.

The recipe for Washington’s most common whiskey was 60% rye, 35% corn, and 5% malted barley. Rather than being aged, bottled, and branded like the spirits of today, it was poured into wooden whiskey barrels and distributed to merchants at their request. By 1799, the same year of Washington’s death, his side hustle was producing 11,000 gallons of whiskey and pulling in a $7,500 profit. 

Washington’s distillery was re-created in 2007 thanks to the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, and it’s become an iconic tourist attraction where visitors get the chance to taste George Washington’s Rye Whiskey in person. It took a silver medal in the 2019 American Craft Spirits Association Awards and is recognized as the official spirit of the commonwealth of Virginia. If whiskey isn’t your thing, they also offer brandy and rum, suitable options for anybody looking to toast one of America’s founding fathers. At the very least, treat yourself to some of Washington’s pancakes.

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