How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

Today, Sutton Bonington campus, part of the University of Nottingham, houses the schools of bioscience and veterinary medicine. But a century ago, during World War I, it was home to a prisoner of war (PoW) camp for German military personnel captured by the British on the Western front. And it was the site of a great escape, when Germans managed to flee the camp on Sept. 25, 1917.

At the outbreak of war in 1914 the government took over buildings and sites around the country to convert into PoW camps. Sutton Bonington was a group of buildings completed in 1915 for the Midland Dairy Institute, an agricultural college, but it was taken over by the War Office before the institute’s staff and students could move in. Barbed wire fencing and some additional huts were added to the site and around 600 German military officers moved in.


German officers who were made prisoners of war, by contrast with ordinary soldiers and sailors, were not allowed to work. Many became extremely bored, and sought to relieve the tedium by playing sports such as football and tennis, putting on concerts and plays, and planning how to escape. The preferred escape option was to tunnel under the barbed wire, and to disappear into the countryside beyond.

Two attempts to tunnel out at Sutton Bonington failed, but the third succeeded, and at 1.30am on Sept. 25, 1917, 22 men slipped, slithered and pulled their way along a tunnel, which was less than a metre high. They emerged into a field of turnips, and were hidden from the guards in the sentry posts by a ridge running through a nearby field. It helped their cause that the moon had set before they started, that the search lights were out because of concerns about Zeppelin raids, and that it was not raining.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

The main administration block at Sutton Bonington campus. It was used as a prisoner of war camp for German officers between 1916-19.

(CC BY-SA 3.0)

In terms of simple numbers, no other breakout was as successful. Usually only two or three men were involved with a tunnel project. The 22 from Sutton Bonington made it the largest breakout in Britain of World War I.

Best laid plans

The men planned to split into groups of four, preferably with an English speaker in each one, and to head for different ports along the east coast. They had maps and a compass with them, as well as food supplies which had arrived in the camp from Germany the previous day. The absconders hoped to stow away on board a vessel passing through the English channel, and return to Germany, re-join their regiment and re-engage with the war.

The breakout was discovered at 4.30am when a policeman patrolling the village of Plumtree came upon Herman Genest walking alone but wearing a German officer’s uniform. He arrested him, took him to the nearest police station, and from there saw him returned to the camp at Sutton Bonington. Genest had been free for approximately three hours.

His arrest led to a roll call at Sutton Bonington which confirmed that 22 men were missing. All police, special constables, and other groups concerned with law and order in the area were ordered from their beds to find the Germans.

Within hours they were reeled in. My own research into the episode has uncovered that three of the German men, claiming to be seeking work in one of Nottingham’s munitions factories, were arrested at Trent Bridge. Two more, including the leader Otto Thelan, were arrested at Tollerton at 11am, and two others later in the day. Also arrested that day was Karl von Müller, a German naval hero from the early days of the war, who was found by children when he was blackberrying at Tollerton.

The rest were picked up over the ensuing days with the last four German officers captured at Brimington Woods, near Chesterfield. A police sergeant found them on September, 30, “and immediately upon being challenged they admitted their identity”, according to a report a few days later in the Derby Daily Telegraph.

Getting out was unlikely

The experiences of these men were typical of other German prisoners who tried to escape during World War I. They were expected to wear their uniforms in camp, but this made them conspicuous if they managed to escape. They had to walk because catching trains was too problematic, and they normally travelled at night and hid in barns and hay stacks during the day. They carried food, but could struggle to find enough liquid, and if they reached the coast there was no guarantee of a passage across the Channel.

Escape was a romantic ideal rather than a rational expectation. Gunter Pluschow, who escaped from another PoW camp at Donington Hall, in Leicestershire, was the only German to make it home in World War I, largely because he managed to adopt a disguise and stow away on board a cargo ship at Harwich.

The Sutton Bonington camp was used for PoWs until February 1919 when those remaining were moved to Oswestry in Shropshire. The site was then cleared and cleaned, including the removal of the huts and barbed wire, and returned to the Midland Dairy Institute, which formally opened in October 1919. In 1946 the institute joined the University of Nottingham as the faculty of agriculture.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

The Merchant Marine in World War II was supposed to just tool around the world’s oceans, delivering supplies to ports and troops in Europe, Africa, and the Pacific while the real fighting was done by sailors, soldiers, and Marines. But due to German U-boats and other attackers, the mariners actually operated in an extremely dangerous niche.


How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

A U-boat reloads new torpedoes during World War II.

One of the biggest dangers was of U-boat attack, when even a single boat could wipe out an entire convoy, provided that the boat was able to surface and attack using its deck gun.

The mariners were in danger from the moment they lost view of the land. U-boats would typically attack deep into the Atlantic, but they liked to remind Americans that they weren’t safe at any time, so some U-boats were sent to hunt right off the coast.

Regardless of when the attack came, most merchant vessels didn’t have any kind of sonar or radar, not even all Navy vessels had those detection systems in World War II. So, unless your ship was in a large convoy with a naval escort, you won’t know a U-boat was there until it attacked.

German sailors manning deck gun in preparation for attack in North Atlantic Sea. HD Stock Footage

youtu.be

When the U-boat attack got under way, it played out in one of two ways. If there were no threats of a U-boat in the area, you would find out you were under attack when a black hulk slowly surfaced in the nearby waves, a few sailors poured out of it, and the deck gun began firing on your ship.

These were often capable of sending 3.5-inch rounds into the hull of your thin-skinned cargo vessel, allowing water to pour into the lower decks and slowly send you deep into the sea. And since the attacking vessel is a tiny U-boat and not an enemy destroyer or cruiser, there’s no way to get rescued. You have to paddle your lifeboats through a sea filling with oil from the sinking ship, potentially as it’s on fire.

And, believe it or not, that’s, by far, the preferred option.

That’s because the other likely method of attack from a U-boat comes via its torpedo tubes, which means there’s no surfacing ship, no scramble of sailors to warn you. You might, might notice a darkness in the water before a stream bubbles starts racing towards your ship.

If you look a few feet ahead of this stream of bubbles, you’ll see the 21-inch diameter, almost-24-foot-long metal tube barreling towards your ship at nearly 35 mph. It will reach you. It will hit you. And its 600-pound (or heavier) warhead will rip apart the hull.

What happens next depends almost entirely on what cargo is being carried. Got a bunch of foodstuffs like grain and fruit? The boat will sink fairly slowly, and you’ll have a chance to escape. But if you were carrying lots of heavy war materiel, like tanks and planes or, worse, industrial goods like iron and coal, you’re pretty much screwed. The weight and density will take the ship down in minutes.

But the worst came when the ship was carrying fuel or oil. The massive explosion from the torpedo warhead would often rupture any tanks on the targeted vessel, providing a massive burst of heat as the pressure wave mixed the targeted fuel with the outside air, virtually guaranteeing massive fireballs and explosions as the torpedo exploded.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

The Allied tanker Dixie Arrow sinks after being torpedoed in the Atlantic Ocean by a German submarine.

(U.S. Navy)

When you’re on a tanker and the tanks suddenly explode, there’s not a lot to be done. The steel around you has likely been twisted, the decks are burning hot and searing your flesh, and the blast wave has likely scrambled your brain. If you’re lucky enough to survive, you now have to overcome your scrambled brains, make it through the burning corridors, and then try to get in a boat and get away from the deck before the suction takes you under.

If you did make it out of a shipping ship, your ordeal isn’t over. Traditionally, combat ships would rescue survivors from enemy vessels once hostilities were over. If a cruiser sinks a destroyer, then once the destroyer crew surrenders the cruiser crew would begin taking on the survivors and would later take them to POW camps.

But U-boats barely have enough room for the crews. They can’t take on survivors. So, after sinking anything from a fishing trawler to a destroyer to a passenger ship, the U-boat crew typically can’t do much more than offer some loaves of bread or water before sailing away. They wouldn’t even tell other Allied ships where to pick up the survivors, at least not at first, since that would give away the location of the subs.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

Surrender of German U-boat, U-858, 700 miles off the New England Coast to two destroyer escorts, May 10, 1945.

(U.S. Navy)

Even if your ship was in a convoy, there was no guarantee that you could be picked up by friendly ships since a U-boat wolf pack could sink the entire convoy, leaving dozens of life boats in its wake, filled with slowly dying soldiers desperate for water or food.

To add insult to injury, Merchant Marine members were rarely paid for any period where they weren’t actively crewing a ship, and no, lifeboats don’t count. So their harrowing trial to survive at sea is performed for free, solely for the hope that they’ll survive.

And throughout all of this, the U.S. would often keep the sinkings of ships secret, reporting just a couple of ship losses every week while dozens might have gone down.

Luckily for mariners, British innovation and American industry eventually gave the sub hunters the edge over the submarines, culminating in “Black May” 1943 when German losses got so steep that subs essentially withdrew from the Atlantic, allowing the Merchant Marine to finally sail largely in peace.

popular

How this squeegee handle saved 6 people on 9/11

Necessity is the mother of invention. Sometimes, the military translates this axiom as “if it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid.” So while the idea of this simple squeegee handle saving lives sounds silly, there are six people who sure are glad to be window washers that day.


As if being a window washer on a New York City skyscraper wasn’t harrowing enough, the sheer terror didn’t stop for these six men that day, even though they were in the building. Polish immigrant Jan Demczur and five others were in an elevator in the North Tower on Sept. 11, 2001, when the building was struck by American Airline Flight 11.

The cleaners were on their way up to work when the elevator suddenly started plummeting down to earth.

Victoria Dawson, in her July 2002 article in Smithsonian magazine “Handed Down to History,” wrote that Demczur or one of the other men managed to press the emergency stop button on the elevator. But stopping their sudden descent was only half of the problem – they still needed to get out.

“We felt a muted thud,” said Shivam Iyer, one of the other workers. “The building shook. The elevator swung from side to side, like a pendulum.”

 

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape
The North Tower was hit between the 93rd and 99th Floors.

(Reuters)

When they finally forced open the elevator’s doors, they were faced with walls of sheetrock and smoke started to fill the elevator shaft. A voice warned them of an explosion in the building. They were on the 50th floor and the express elevator they were on didn’t stop there. It was lucky that someone had a pocketknife and the men were able to start cutting through the wall. Then, Demczur dropped the knife down the elevator shaft.

“I was very upset with myself,” he told Smithsonian. “We had a problem and now a bigger problem.”

There was no time to think. One of his coworkers simply grabbed up the squeegee from their work bucket and resumed working on that wall. The men took turns going to town on the wall with the squeegee handle. Eventually, they punched through four layers of sheetrock, finally punching into a tile wall under the sink of a men’s room. They escaped from the building – via a stairwell – as soon as they could. It took them 90 minutes.

Moments after leaving the building, it collapsed.

Demczur donated the squeegee handle to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, where it was on display until loaned to the Smithsonian. A coat of the white debris is still on the handle.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army announced its new retention bonuses and kicker pay

Officials released new guidance May 15, 2018, on the Army’s Selective Retention Bonus Program, which includes first-ever bonuses up to $52,000 for those who reenlist for critical Security Forces Assistance Brigade positions.

SRB “kickers” that incentivize Soldiers who reenlist early will also go into effect at the end of May 2018. Details are included in Military Personnel Message 18-156.


Kickers will now only be available to those eligible to reenlist on a long-term basis between 10 and 15 months from their contractual ETS date. A $3,000 kicker will be for a five-year reenlistment, and there is a $6,000 kicker for a six-year enlistment.

Soldiers who reenlist under the NCO Career Status Program must also meet the term length requirement for the corresponding kicker amount.

Soldiers with less than 10 months from their ETS date can still take advantage of a kicker before May 31, 2018, when the new policy rolls out.

“I highly encourage Soldiers and command teams to seek out their servicing Career Counselor to understand how this bonus message change will affect their unit and their Soldiers,” said Sgt. Maj. Mark A. Thompson, the Senior Army Career Counselor.

Some Soldiers stationed at Fort Bliss will also be eligible for an SRB bonus to remain at the Texas installation. The stabilization bonus will be the Army’s first one in years for a specific location, Thompson said.

Based off critical shortages in the military occupational specialties of 11B, 13B and 88M at Fort Bliss, those Soldiers could receive a bonus.

“The Army has a cost savings for not having to move somebody if they reenlist for stabilization,” he said. “So we’re passing on that cost savings to the bonus even if it’s not the same pot of money, but that’s the mentality behind it.”

The message also includes bonuses for Soldiers who possess critical skills. For example, a 12R interior electrician who has a parachutist badge may qualify for more money to reenlist.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape
(Photo by Pfc. Melissa Parrish)

“If they are not Airborne qualified in an Airborne position, or reenlisting to move into an Airborne position they don’t get a bonus,” Thompson said. “If they are, they do.”

Bonuses are also on the way for Soldiers interested in joining SFAB units. These will be on top of the $5,000 assignment incentive pay already in place for those who volunteer to go into the Army’s new train, advise and assist units.

“The bonus is for those very critical MOSs that the Army needs,” the sergeant major said.

Those MOSs include 25L/S, 92Y, 35F/M/N/P as well as positions in the 11, 12 and 13 career field series.

Many of those jobs will be able to receive Tier 8 bonuses. A staff sergeant or sergeant first class eligible for a Tier 8 bonus, for instance, could earn $46,000 to reenlist for five or more years. A potential $6,000 kicker would then leave that Soldier with $52,000 in hand, on top of the $5,000 assignment incentive pay.

The money spent on bonuses helps the Army get a return on its investment for the time spent on molding well-trained Soldiers, Thompson said.

“If they are in an MOS that the Army deems as critical, we want them to stay in longer,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Who would win a fight between a MiG-29 and a Hornet

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the MiG-29 Fulcrum and the F/A-18 Hornet had plenty of opportunities to go head-to-head. There was the ever-present possibility of the Cold War turning hot, a potential meeting during Desert Storm, and again, an opportunity to clash over the Balkans. Even today, deployed carriers operate Hornets while several potential adversaries (like Syria, Iran, and North Korea) have Fulcrums in service.

This, of course, begs the question — which plane would win a dogfight? Let’s take a closer look at each.


Let’s start this off with a look at the F/A-18 Hornet. According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the Navy was looking for a plane to replace the F-4 Phantom and the A-7 Corsair in Navy and Marine Corps service. As a result, they got a very versatile plane – one that could help protect carriers from attacking Backfires, yet still carry out strike missions.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

The MiG-29 Fulcrum was designed for the air-superiority role – and was meant to counter the F-16 Fighting Falcon and F/A-18 Hornet

(USAF photo by MSGT Pat Nugent)

The baseline F/A-18 Hornets have a top speed of 1,190 miles per hour, an unrefueled range of 1,243 miles, and are armed with an M61 Vulcan cannon and a wide variety of air-to-ground weapons. Additionally, Hornets are typically armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-7 Sparrow, and AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles. The Hornet is a very versatile plane that has seen action across the globe, from Libya to the War on Terror.

The MiG-29 Fulcrum, on the other hand, was one of two planes designed for fighting NATO planes for control of the air. The Fulcrum entered service in 1982 and was intended to be complemented by the Su-27 Flanker. The plane earned a bit of fame by playing an important role in Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising and Dale Brown’s Flight of the Old Dog.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

The F/A-18 Hornet has advantages that would give it an edge over the MiG-29 in a fight.

(US Navy photo by PH2 Shane McCoy)

The MiG-29 has a higher top speed of 1,519 miles per hour, but a lower unrefueled range of 889 miles. It has a 30mm cannon, and primarily carries the AA-10 Alamo and AA-11 Archer air-to-air missiles. Over time, the Fulcrum has evolved to carry some air-to-surface weapons, including bombs and missiles.

So, which of these planes would win in combat? The Fulcrum’s speed and the power of the AA-11 Archer would give it an advantage in a close-in dogfight. The problem, though, is getting close enough for that dogfight. The Hornet offers its pilot better situational awareness through hands on throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) controls and advanced avionics. In a deadly duel where any single mistake can be fatal, being prepared is key.

As always, it depends on which plane’s fight is fought and how good the pilots are.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch R. Lee Ermey laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery

The United States Marine Corps gave its final goodbye to one of its most famous and most revered alums, actor and Vietnam veteran R. Lee Ermey, on Jan. 18, 2018 as his remains were laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. The revered Gunny died on Apr. 15, 2018 at age 74 from complications during pneumonia treatment.

His body was cremated after death, and his ashes were buried with full military honors.


How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

Ermey as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in 1987’s “Full Metal Jacket.”

There was more to R. Lee Ermey’s life than just the 1987 Stanley Kubrick film that made his career while defining the image of the Marine Corps Drill Instructor. He was the living embodiment of a Marine who never gives up, being forced into the military, working a bar and brothel after leaving the service, and taking advantage of the opportunities presented to him.

Read On: 5 little-known facts about R. Lee Ermey, the military’s favorite Gunny

The man we know as “Gunny” was medically discharged in 1972, and didn’t even make the rank of Gunnery Sgt. until after his military career. That’s how important his image is to the Corps. Even though his Hollywood career began to flag as he aged, he was always a vocal supporter of the military and the troops who comprise it.

His internment at Arlington was delayed due to the backlog of funeral services there. The backlog for eligible veterans to be buried there is so great that even a veteran of Ermey’s stature – a Vietnam War-era Marine who served in aviation and training – must wait several months before the services can be performed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia explode on the battlefield and around the world

For decades, Azerbaijan and Armenia have feuded over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory. Internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, the region is mostly governed by the Republic of Artsakh, a de facto independent state with an ethnic Armenian majority population. Despite the formal cessation of hostilities in 1994 after a two-year war over the region, clashes between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces continue to erupt along the border.


Following a week-long series of military exercises in the disputed region at the end of May, skirmishes broke out on July 12 which left four Azerbaijani soldiers dead and several wounded on both sides. The South Caucasus neighbors blamed each other for the outbreak of violence. While Azerbaijani and Armenian government representatives threatened deadly consequences should the conflict escalate, the international community weighed in.

Turkey, a historic enemy of Armenia, expressed strong support for Azerbaijan in the conflict. Moscow, an ally to both Azerbaijan and Armenia, expressed concern over the fighting and warned that further escalation could undermine the security of the region. The United States condemned the violence and urged for the de-escalation of hostilities via direct communication links.

Hopes of a return to the ceasefire were dashed as both sides continued to exchange rocket and artillery fire along the border on July 13. Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense posted a video showing Azerbaijani artillery destroying an Armenian military base. Later in the day, both sides reported damage to civilian houses.

Hostilities escalated further on July 14 as both sides employed UAVs for aerial strikes. Armenian-made UAVs were used in combat for the first time. “[They] showed brilliant results,” said former Spokesperson for the Armenian Ministry of Defense Artsrun Hovhannisyan. “It seems high-ranking officers became victims of their strike.” Later in the day, Azerbaijan confirmed the deaths of Major General Popad Hashimov and Colonel Ilgar Mirzoev as well as five other servicemen.


Shushan

www.facebook.com

Translation: Nightly punitive actions.

On July 15, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense shared four videos of Armenian bases and vehicles being destroyed by Azerbaijani artillery fire. In response, Hovhannisyan shared a video of shelled Armenian houses and blamed Azerbaijan for attacking civilian villages. As of the writing of this article, exchanges of fire along the border between the two countries continues.

To date, Armenia has confirmed five of their soldiers killed, one as recently as July 23, and a further 36 wounded. Azerbaijan has confirmed 11 of their soldiers killed, including the aforementioned Major General and Colonel.

The outbreak of violence between the two countries has prompted protests by ethnic Azeris and Armenians around the world. On July 17, a protest outside the Armenian embassy in London turned violent. Carrying their national flags and chanting slogans, Azeris and Armenians exchanged insults before the demonstrations devolved into physical altercations, forcing the intervention of law enforcement.

On July 19, about 500 Armenians from around France congregated in Paris to protest in front of the Azerbaijani embassy. To prevent a repeat of the violence in London, the organizers did not publicize the event in advance and communicated via telephone. Without approval for the demonstration, the protesters were dispersed by police before long.

Protests have been taking place around the world and the United States is no exception. In Los Angeles, which has the highest population of Armenians outside of Armenia, a protest on July 21 near the Azerbaijan Consulate General in Brentwood turned violent. Fistfights broke out leaving demonstrators on both sides and one LAPD officer injured.

July 23 saw an escalation of violence in Europe. In Germany, an official government vehicle was set on fire outside of the Armenian Embassy in Berlin. In Ukraine, an Armenian owned coffee shop was burned down. A video of the fire surfaced online along with a narration that translates to, “This is an Armenian coffee shop in Kiev. This is a gift to Armenians from the Azerbaijanis. Accept it.” In Russia, violence has come in the form of street attacks. At least two Armenian men have been beaten by Azeris. The Russian Special Purpose Police Unit known as OMON has taken an undisclosed number of Azeris into custody for the attacks.

As the fighting in the Caucasus region spills over across the globe, the United States response remains hopeful of de-escalation and a return to a ceasefire. However, with violence surging, more experienced military veterans may need to dust off their old maps and MDMP slides from the GAAT scenario.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

An overview GAAT map (US Army Combined Arms Center)

MIGHTY HISTORY

The first casualty of the Civil War happened entirely by accident

On Dec. 20, 1860, the state of South Carolina seceded from the Union, leaving military personnel stationed there in a state of confusion. What belonged to the United States, what belonged to South Carolina, and who was going to be loyal to which side was all unclear. On Apr. 12, 1861, after a long siege, South Carolina Militia commander P.G.T. Beauregard fired the opening salvo of a barrage of cannon fire that would last 34 hours.

In return, Federal Captain Abner Doubleday ordered his men to fire on the South Carolinians. The exchange sparked four years of bloody Civil War in the United States — but not a single man died in combat that day.


When the state seceded, there were actually only two companies of federal U.S. troops in South Carolina. The decision for who would be loyal to who actually turned out to be fairly simple. The rest of the American troops defending South Carolina were actually state militiamen. That’s who Beauregard manned on Charleston’s 19 coastal defense batteries.

But the Federals weren’t actually stationed at Fort Sumter, they were land bound on nearby Fort Moultrie. It was only after the base commander Maj. Robert Anderson feared an attack from state militia via land that the Federals were moved into Charleston Harbor and the protection of Fort Sumter.

Anderson was right. South Carolina state forces began to seize federal buildings, arms, and fortifications almost immediately, and Fort Moultrie was among those buildings. That left the garrison at Fort Sumter as the sole remaining federal possession in South Carolina. And the Carolinians demanded their surrender. Some 3,000 rebel troops laid siege to the base and, by the time of Lincoln’s inauguration, it was one of the last remaining federal holdouts in the entire south.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

President Lincoln announced in March, 1861, he would send three ships to resupply and relieve Fort Sumter, so the pressure on Beauregard to take the fort soon increased. On Apr. 11, Beauregard demanded the fort’s surrender and warned he would fire on the fort if the Federals did not comply. They didn’t. That’s when Beauregard fired a punishing barrage at the defenders.

Rebels poured 3,000 cannon shots into the fort over the next 34 hours. The Federals didn’t just take it, they returned fire with everything they had, literally. The U.S. troops were running low on powder and ammunition by mid-afternoon the next day. With their walls crumbling and the fort burning around them, Maj. Anderson reluctantly ordered Fort Sumter’s surrender.

Amazingly, no one was killed in the exchange on either side.

When the time came to lower the Stars and Stripes, Federal troops — soon to be known as Union troops — gave the flag a 100-gun salute as it came down on Apr. 14. But an accidental discharge from one of the fort’s cannons caused an explosion that killed Pvt. Daniel Hough of the 1st U.S. Artillery, the first death of hundreds of thousands to come.

In the days that followed, Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee also seceded from the Union and both sides of the conflict began to mobilize for the next meeting, which would come on July, 1861, in Manassas, Virginia.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how the military challenge coin came to be

Challenge coins mean different things to different troops. Senior enlisted and officers tend to place them on a desk to gloat to peers and the more junior troops slam them on the bar to see who’s buying the next round. How you earn the coin also ranges widely, from “pleasure to meet you, have a coin” to “you made a great cup of coffee, have a coin” to even “you did something worthy of an award, but nah — have a coin.”


Throughout history, warriors have carried coins, going as far back as the ancient Greeks and, eventually, the Romans. Coins carried by warriors were seen as the payment for the ferryman, Charon, to be exchanged for passage into the afterlife. They served as a memento mori, which roughly translates from Latin to mean, “remember that you will die.” This is also the root of the English word ‘memento.’ Even back in the Civil War, troops from both armies carried coins with them as a cheap reminder of being back home.

 

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

 

The legend of the challenge coins, as we know them, started with WWI pilots. A young and rich lieutenant felt the need to flaunt his wealth to his new peers, so he spent his own money to buy solid bronze medallions of his unit insignia for his peers. Another pilot accepted it as a nice gift and wore it in a small leather pouch around his neck. Shortly after, he would be shot down behind enemy lines. He was captured by Germans, who stripped him over everything, but overlooked his medallion.

Related: These are some of the best military challenge coins

He escaped in civilian attire, crossed no man’s land undetected, and stumbled into a French outpost. Unfortunately, the French didn’t understand English nor his American accent and thought he was a German saboteur. The Germans took every bit of personal identification from the American pilot, so the only proof he had to show the French to not shoot him was the bronze unit medallion his rich peer gave him.

One French captor recognized the insignia and delayed his execution until they could confirm if he was American or not. Instead of a bullet to the head, the French gave him a bottle of wine and sent him on his way. When the pilot returned and told everyone of what happened, carrying those medallions became immediately important among all pilots. This also started the joke punishment of having to buy the next round if you’re not carrying your coin.

 

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape
So, if you’re wondering, nearly every tradition the military dates back to WWI. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Another lower enlisted tradition began in post-WWII Germany as assigned U.S. troops would carry West German money with them. The exchange rate was so bad that the One Pfennig coin was hardly worth a fraction of a penny and had nearly zero value to American troops. So, only the poorest of the poor would bother saving them — until troops gathered to drink. If someone would shout, “Pfennig check!” everyone would empty their pockets to see who was poor (if you had the near-worthless coin) and who wasn’t (if you were above keeping them). If you were “rich” enough to not need to carry a worthless coin, you were rich enough to buy your brother-in-arms a drink. This soon shifted to include challenge coins, which also had no monetary value.

MIGHTY TRENDING

When she learned her 102-year-old grandma was dying, this bride pulled off the most heartwarming surprise

Stasia Foley lived a beautiful life. She was born on May 22, 1916, in Connecticut, right before World War I began. She vividly remembered being a teenager during the Great Depression and the hardship that came with it. She left school at just 13 years old to support her family. With five brothers and sisters, everyone had to pitch in. Stasia spent her days on a farm planting and harvesting crops to help feed her family.


Family was everything to her.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

Stasia was highly athletic and was a part of the Hazardville R.C.A. Girls Baseball team, a team that would go on to win numerous championships. This eventually led her to being inducted into the Enfield Sports Hall of Fame. Throughout her life, she watched some of the sport’s giants play, including Babe Ruth and Lou Gherig in Yankee Stadium. Stasia received signed baseballs and loved to tell stories both about her time in the dugout and in the stands.

Stasia met the love of her life, Edward Foley, and married him on Oct. 8, 1938. Life was good, for awhile. World War II would soon come calling.

Edward was drafted into the Army as a medic on Feb. 7, 1942, and was quickly sent to Europe – right in the middle of combat. She missed him desperately and relied on infrequent postcards and letters from his stops throughout the war.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

Edward assisted in the liberation of Auschwitz and Dachau Nazi concentration camps.

While Edward was gone, Stasia went to work for Colt Firearms in Hartford. The company’s workforce grew by 15,000 in three separate factories to keep with the demand for the war effort.

Eventually, the war ended and Edward came home safely toward the end of 1945. The couple had two children, Gail and Daniel. Stasia worked for aerospace companies and spent 25 years working for Travelers Insurance Companies until her retirement. Stasia and Edward were married 51 years before her soulmate died in 1989.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

Stasia loved her family, especially her three grandchildren. One of her grandsons would go on to serve in the United States Coast Guard. Sunday dinners in her home, surrounded by all, were the highlight of the week. In 2001, Stasia’s son Daniel and his family moved to Texas. Eventually, Stasia moved in with her daughter, Gail and her husband, William.

When Stasia turned 100, she was still highly independent, active and as sharp as ever. She had just started using a cane at her family’s insistence. At 102, things started to slow down. Her granddaughter, Tara Bars, decided to make a legacy video.

“She had always been such an important woman in my life,” Bars explained. “I feel like the time in her life that she lived, she saw so much. Living through the wars, the Great Depression – it has always fascinated me but the fact that my Nana lived that, saw that, witnessed it and was part of it… Once that line is gone, it’s very difficult to ever figure out or hear those family stories,” she said.

Following the completion of that video, Bars saw how frail her grandmother was becoming. In December of 2018, congestive heart failure made its presence known, causing her once-independent grandmother to become weak and easily winded. Stasia was with her daughter and her husband in their Florida winter home when she was eventually put on hospice care. When the nurses met with her in the home, they asked her what her goals were.

She told them her dream was to go to Tara’s wedding.

“When I heard that, it just broke my heart to pieces because I just knew she wouldn’t make it,” Bars said in between tears. Bars’ wedding was set for June 1, 2019, and Stasia was medically unable to fly, with her health rapidly deteriorating. Bars said she turned to her fiancé one day in January and told him she was going to Florida.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

She would make her part of her grandmother’s wish come true.

“I looked up photographers and the first one I talked to on the phone was Red Door Photography and they just made me feel like it was going to be perfect,” she shared. Bars then went on to book hair and makeup, keeping everything a secret from her family. She made up a story about needing one last interview with Nana for the legacy video so her aunt and uncle wouldn’t suspect anything. They got Stasia ready and downstairs – telling her there was a surprise. When the doors opened, her beloved granddaughter was waiting for her.

In the car as they were driving to the surprise, she told her grandmother that she knew how much she wanted to be at her wedding and so she decided to bring the moment to her.

The memory of Stasia’s face lighting up with joy is one Bars will carry with her forever.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

They arrived at the location and Bars went to change into her wedding dress. She said as she came around the corner, she could see her grandmother sitting in the chair, her arms opening as soon as she saw her. “She held her arms out to me so I just plopped down right there. She kept hugging me and kissing me and telling me how beautiful I looked. It absolutely meant everything to me that it meant everything to her,” Bars shared through tears.

Bars said that as soon as the photography session started, something changed. It was like her grandmother became a young woman again, said Bars, “She was no longer the fragile and frail Nana I saw a moment before. Something inside of her just lit up, it was incredible.” She continued, “I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend my last day with her. Our hearts spoke together that day.”

Stasia passed away at 102; only 27 days after that beautiful photoshoot with her granddaughter in her wedding gown.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

On her wedding day, Bars finally revealed the photoshoot surprise to her family. The tears and joy were overflowing. Her wedding photographer was there to capture the moment and shared it on social media. It went viral.

“Don’t be scared to show your love and express it. We’re losing this generation. Once they are gone you can’t go back,” said Bars.

In a world where everything moves so fast; take a moment to pause. Savor the special moments and people in your life. You never know how much time you’ll have left.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The awesome way a Cuban defector rescued his family

In 1991, a lone Russian-built MiG-21 approached the Florida coast from Cuba. The plane began “wagging” its wings, a recognized signal for friendly intent. The pilot was Orestes Lorenzo, and he was bringing the MiG to the United States in an attempt to defect from Cuba. The only problem was his wife and kids were still in Cuba.

Not for long.


How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

If you want it done right…

That’s the thing about fighter pilots – no one will accuse them of being timid. Lorenzo was no different. He did fly a 40-year-old MiG straight at the coastline of the world’s lone superpower. In fact, Lorenzo was so daring, he wasn’t even in the Cuban Air Force when he took the jet. He told American officials he’d “borrowed” it to make the flight. Lorenzo didn’t even speak a word of English, he just yearned for freedom.

While he was in Cuba’s Air Force, he learned to fly in the Soviet Union and was deployed to fly air missions in Angola. After a second tour of duty in the Soviet Union, he and his family moved to an air base far from the Cuban capital of Havana. They found themselves unhappy with their situation, facing poverty, repression, and a government more concerned with itself than its people. Lorenzo and his wife hatched a plan to escape with their children, but it was only Lorenzo who landed at Naval Air Station Key West that day in 1991.

That’s where his daring comes in. Lorenzo was whisked away to Washington, where he was (presumably) debriefed, and received his asylum paperwork, as well as visas for his wife and two sons. All was almost set to go as planned, except now the Cuban government wouldn’t authorize his wife and children to leave the island nation. Orestes Lorenzo didn’t just accept his station in life like Castro wanted him to, and he sure as hell wasn’t about to accept this. Lorenzo launched a PR campaign that culminated in President George H.W. Bush giving a speech directed at Cuba, imploring Cuba to let his family go, all to no avail.

Castro refused, so the fighter pilot took matters into his own hands.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

Spoiler alert: fighter pilots are brave.

Lorenzo raised ,000 to purchase a 1961 Cessna 310, a small, simple civilian aircraft. He even took lessons to learn to fly the Cessna like an expert. He got word to his family that they should be in a certain spot they all knew well, wearing orange t-shirts. At 5:07 p.m. on Dec. 19, 1992, Lorenzo took off from the Florida Keys in his 30-year-old Cessna and flew just 100 feet above the ocean.

Flying up above a set of cliffs on Cuba’s coastline, some 160 miles from Havana, he pulled up and saw three bright orange t-shirts waiting for him by the side of a road. He landed the plane, got his family inside, and took off again, headed for Marathon in the Florida Keys. Two hours later he and his family were safe.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

The Lorenzo family lands in Marathon.

The U.S. returned the MiG to Cuba, and the Lorenzo family settled in Florida, starting a concrete business. Very few Cuban pilots were able to defect to the United States during the entire Cold War.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is where the Air Force will test its new anti-ship missile

The Air Force has picked a base at which to test its new long-range anti-ship missile.

Air Force Global Strike Command, which oversees the force’s bomber fleet, authorized Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota to be the base for early operational capacity testing of the AGM-158C LRASM, the command said early June 2018.

The B-1 bombers and their crews based at Ellsworth will be the first to train and qualify on the missile, and their use of it will mark the first time the weapon has gone from the test phase to the operational phase.


Aircrews from the 28th Bomb Wing were to begin training with the missile last week, according to an Air Force release.

“We are excited to be the first aircraft in the US Air Force to train on the weapon,” said Col. John Edwards, 28th Bomb Wing commander. “This future addition to the B-1 bombers’ arsenal increases our lethality in the counter-sea mission to support combatant commanders worldwide.”

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape
A LRASM in front of a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet, August 12, 2015.
(U.S. Navy photo)

The announcement comes less than a month after the Air Force and Lockheed Martin conducted a second successful test of two production-configuration LRASMs on a B-1 bomber off the coast of California. In those tests, the missiles navigated to a moving maritime target using onboard sensors and then positively identified their target.

The LRASM program was launched in 2009, amid the White House’s refocus on relations in the Pacific region and after a nearly two-decade period in which the Navy deemphasized anti-ship weaponry.

The missile is based on Lockheed’s extended-range Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, with which it shares 88% of its components, including the airframe, engine, anti-jam GPS system, and 1,000-pound penetrating warhead.

It has been upgraded with a multimode seeker that allows it to conduct semiautonomous strikes, seeking out specific targets within a group of surface ships in contested environments while the aircraft that launched it remains out of range of enemy fire.

It had its first successful test in August 2013, dropping from a B-1 and striking a maritime target. The LRASM has moved at double the pace of normal acquisition programs, according to Aviation Week. The Pentagon cleared it for low-rate initial production in late 2016 to support its deployment on B-1 bombers in 2018 and on US Navy F/A-18 fighters in 2019.

“It gives us the edge back in offensive anti-surface warfare,” Capt. Jaime Engdahl, head of Naval Air Systems Command’s precision-strike weapons office, told Aviation Week in early 2017.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Every Marvel movie ranked from worst to best

After 11 years, 21 movies, and billions of dollars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe shows no signs of slowing down.

“Captain Marvel” hit theaters March 2019 and is breathing new life into what has been a lackluster box office so far in 2019. “Avengers: Endgame” is also projected to break records at the box office when it’s released next month, and “Spider-Man: Far From Home” comes to theaters in July 2019.

But a lot will change for the MCU after this year.


Disney, which owns Marvel, will own the film rights to the X-Men and the Fantastic Four after merging with Fox. The producer Kevin Feige has said he expects that to happen within the first six months of 2019, at which point he’ll get the green light to develop projects with those characters.

It comes at a good time, as “Endgame” marks the end of this era for the MCU, and veteran actors like Chris Evans (who plays Captain America) are expected to retire from their roles.

But before the MCU faces a big shakeup, we ranked all 21 movies — including “Captain Marvel” — from worst to best.

Here’s every Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, ranked:

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

(Marvel Studios)

21. “Iron Man 2” (2010)

Directed by Jon Favreau

After the highs of “Iron Man,” it didn’t take long for the MCU to plummet to its lowest.

If the “2” in “Iron Man 2” meant that everything had to be doubled — the villains, the characters, the number of MCU movies Gwyneth Paltrow is in that she didn’t watch— then “Iron Man 2” succeeds. But it’s just too overstuffed for its own good in an attempt to get audiences ready for “The Avengers” two years later.

The MCU has since become a well-oiled machine that knows how to balance it all. But in 2010, it was still working on that.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

(Marvel Studios)

20. “Thor” (2011)

Directed by Kenneth Branagh

There’s nothing particularly horrible about “Thor,” but there’s nothing memorable either. It’s impressive that the movie works at all, considering that Thor, an alien god with daddy issues, was such a little-known character at the time, and Chris Hemsworth was not the superstar he is now. But James Gunn managed to turn even lesser-known and weirder characters into MCU standouts in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” It would take a while for Thor to really come into his own.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

(Marvel)

19. “The Incredible Hulk” (2008)

Directed by Louis Leterrier

We now know Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk, but in the second MCU movie, Edward Norton was in the role.

Out of all the MCU movies, “The Incredible Hulk” feels the least connected to the universe. Liv Tyler’s Betty Ross, Banner’s love interest, has never appeared again, and neither has Tim Blake Nelson, who was teased as the Hulk’s archnemesis, the Leader.

But even with that tease, a sequel never happened, and the only character besides the Hulk to have any meaningful connection to the MCU has been General “Thunderbolt” Ross, played by William Hurt, who popped up again in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War.”

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

(Disney / Marvel)

18. “Thor: The Dark World” (2013)

Directed by Alan Taylor

It’s almost pointless to compare the first two “Thor” movies, as they’re both toward the bottom of the MCU barrel. But “The Dark World” is a tad more fun than “Thor,” and it’s integral in introducing one of the Infinity Stones (the Reality Stone) that Thanos ends up using to destroy half of humanity.

But Marvel still hadn’t realized that Hemsworth’s best attribute in the role is his humor, and the character — and the first two movies — suffer because of it.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

(Marvel Studios)

17. “Doctor Strange” (2016)

Directed by Scott Derrickson

“Doctor Strange” is the most overrated movie in the MCU. By 2016, movies like the Russos’ “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Civil War” had progressed the MCU into new territory, but “Doctor Strange” felt like a step back. Sure, the magic was cool, but it also relied on a formulaic plot with a forgettable love interest. (How do you not give Rachel McAdams more to do?!)

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

(Marvel)

16. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015)

Directed by Joss Whedon

This “Avengers” sequel made the same mistake as “Iron Man 2”: cramming too much into its plot to serve the future of the franchise.

The movie features some cool action sequences, notably the Iron Man-Hulk battle. But it fails to distinguish Ultron, the Avengers’ biggest enemy in the comics, from other two-dimensional MCU villains, and it spends too much time setting up future movies. (What exactly is Thor doing?)

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

(Marvel)

15. “Ant-Man” (2015)

Directed by Peyton Reed

“Ant-Man” is a fun little Marvel movie, but not much else. Paul Rudd is charming in the lead role, and Evangeline Lilly is more than just a love interest as Hope van Dyne (the future Wasp). But the movie still falls into familiar territory, including a lackluster villain in Corey Stoll’s Yellowjacket.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

(Disney / Marvel)

14. “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011)

Directed by Joe Johnston

“The First Avenger” is arguably the first movie that “mattered” in the MCU. While “Iron Man” is better, “The First Avenger” sets up “The Avengers” better than “Iron Man,” which basically acts as a prequel to the big team-up movie.

“The First Avenger” would prove essential to the movies that came after — even “Infinity War” with the unexpected return of a character thought to be dead.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

(Marvel Studios)

13. “Iron Man 3” (2013)

Directed by Shane Black

“Iron Man 3” is the most divisive movie in the MCU, and for good reason. It takes some wacky turns, with a major twist that ruined the movie for plenty of people. But I admire that Black just went for it with this movie and delivered something that fans still argue over.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

(Marvel Studios)

12. “Ant-Man and the Wasp” (2018)

Directed by Peyton Reed

While it’s not necessarily an “essential” MCU movie, it improves on the first “Ant-Man” in nearly every way, with plenty of heart and humor.

Reed came back to direct after replacing Edgar Wright at the last minute on the first movie, and “Ant-Man and the Wasp” feels as if he was more adjusted to the job, with some well-polished action sequences and a great handle on the characters.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

(Marvel)

11. “Captain Marvel” (2019)

Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Maybe in time “Captain Marvel” will inch higher on this list. But for now, it’s a solid entry into the MCU, but not a fantastic one.

Boden and Fleck are at their best in the character-driven aspects of the movie. Unfortunately, it’s the action the movie is lacking, which hurts it by the end.

Brie Larson is perfect in the title role, though, and her chemistry with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury makes the movie. There are also some surprising twists that elicited plenty of reactions from theater audiences. If anything, this is a worthy appetizer for “Avengers: Endgame.”

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

(Marvel Studios)

10. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017)

Directed by Jon Watts

I didn’t have a strong positive reaction to “Homecoming” when I first saw it, but it’s grown on me. Peter Parker’s motivations throughout the movie to be a hero — impressing Tony Stark — rubbed me the wrong way at first. But it’s hard not to like Tom Holland’s spot-on portrayal of the character, and the movie knows exactly what it wants to be: high-school ’80s classic meets modern superhero flick. And Michael Keaton is truly menacing as Adrian Toomes/Vulture in what began a hot streak for villains in the MCU.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

(Marvel)

9. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (2017)

Directed by James Gunn

Though “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is a step back from the first movie, it’s still the most underrated MCU movie. The “Guardians” movies are unique entries in the franchise, and it’s a shame Gunn was given the boot from the third movie, which is in limbo.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

(Marvel Studios)

8. “Iron Man” (2008)

Directed by Jon Favreau

The first movie — and still among the best — “Iron Man” kicked off what has become the most lucrative movie franchise of all time. But in 2008, it was just a fun superhero origin movie that defied the odds.

Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark, and it’s hard to think of anyone else who could have embodied the role with so much of the necessary charisma to sell a character who casual audiences hadn’t cared about.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

(Marvel Studios)

7. “The Avengers” (2012)

Directed by Joss Whedon

Four years after “Iron Man,” “The Avengers” proved that Marvel had what it takes to pull off a connected universe of movies. It’s even more impressive considering that the early MCU movies, like “Thor,” “Iron Man 2,” and “The Incredible Hulk,” are some of the worst in the franchise. But “The Avengers” course-corrected, delivering a bona fide blockbuster that hadn’t been achieved before.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

(Disney / Marvel)

6. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014)

Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo

2014 marks the point when the MCU really got it together. There have been minimal low points since, and it’s because Kevin Feige and crew finally had the machine running smoothly with low-profile directors who could deliver surprising superhero movies.

Among those filmmakers were the Russos, who have become somewhat of the architects of the universe. After “The Winter Soldier,” an expertly crafted espionage thriller posing as a superhero movie, they went on to direct “Civil War,” “Infinity War,” and “Endgame.”

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

(Disney / Marvel Studios)

6. “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017)

Directed by Taika Waititi

“Thor: Ragnarok” is the most absurd movie in the MCU, but that’s only part of what makes it so good. This is when Marvel finally realized that Chris Hemsworth is an extremely funny guy with loads of charm and built a movie around that.

It’s also probably the closest thing we’ll get to another Hulk movie in the MCU.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

(Marvel Studios)

4. “Captain America: Civil War” (2016)

Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo

“Civil War” is loosely based on a 2007 comic-book event of the same name that pits Marvel’s superheroes against one another over the ethics of a registration act making it illegal for any superpowered person to not register their identities with the government.

The MCU version is obviously more contained, but that’s what makes it so good. It takes a huge storyline and successfully tells it through Captain America’s perspective, making it even more personal.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

3. “Black Panther” (2018)

Directed by Ryan Coogler

“Black Panther” is a lot of firsts: the first superhero movie to be nominated for best picture, the first movie to win Oscars for Marvel Studios, the first superhero movie with a predominantly black cast.

It was more than just an MCU movie — it was a cultural event. And its box office reflects that. It was the highest-grossing movie in the US in 2018, breaking barriers and riding its success all the way to Oscar gold.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

(Disney)

2. “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018)

Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo

“Infinity War” is an order of magnitude bigger than “Avengers” or “Civil War.” With a cast of over 20 characters, “Infinity War” is the culmination of 10 years of universe-building.

The Russos pulled it off, and they’re not done yet. After the most shocking ending in an MCU movie, the story will continue in “Endgame.”

But on its own, “Infinity War” is an impressive balancing act, and Josh Brolin’s Thanos lives up to the hype.

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

(Disney)

1. “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014)

Directed by James Gunn

“Guardians of the Galaxy” was the first MCU movie that really felt disconnected from the rest of the universe, but not in a negative way like “The Incredible Hulk.” It’s an important entry in the franchise from a story standpoint — but it’s also just a hilarious, fun, self-contained movie that turned an unknown group of characters into fan favorites.

It’s the most rewatchable movie in the MCU, with a brilliant soundtrack, but it’s the characters that really make it, from the dynamic between Rocket and Groot to the oblivious Drax. They don’t like each other at first, but the audience loves them as soon as they’re introduced.

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

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