This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison

Two sonic booms told the American prisoners in Vietnam’s infamous Hoa Lo prison – the Hanoi Hilton – their escape plan was a ‘go.’


On May 2 and 4, 1972, two SR-71 Blackbirds overflew Hanoi, North Vietnam at noon. The first plane broke the sound barrier, causing an ear-splitting sonic boom over the city. Fifteen seconds later, the other Blackbird did the same thing.

 

This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison
The SR-71 Blackbird in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Prisoners at Hoa Lo developed a code-tapping language to communicate with each other. Capt. James Stockdale, who was the senior ranking officer at the prison, taught many incoming POWs this code. It kept the men sane and their spirits up.

This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison

Communicating with Washington was trickier. Three months into his captivity, Stockdale was allowed to write to his wife, Sybil. Two months later, he was allowed to write again. When she received the letters, she found them confusing. Nicknames and references to their mutual friends were wrong.

Sybil gave the letters to Naval Intelligence in San Diego who figured out he was using doublespeak – deliberately misleading language –to let his superiors know he was not being treated well in North Vietnam. With her cooperation, the CIA and Office of Naval Intelligence decided to use her correspondence back to her husband as a way to communicate with the prisoners.

Her first letter included a Polaroid of her with a secret message sandwiched between the sheets of photographic paper. It explained the process of using invisible ink to send messages to the CIA. He listed the other POWs with him and detailed the abuses inflicted on American prisoners there.

This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison
Stockdale climbing out of an F-8 before his capture (Photo by Stockdale Center)

The new communication policy allowed the prisoners and the CIA to trade a wealth of information, so much so that the prisoners were actually able to assemble a small shortwave radio, which was eventually discovered during an inspection).

In 1969, two prisoners, Air Force Captains John Dramesi and Edwin Atterberry, escaped from the prison at Cu Loc but were recaptured the next day. Massive reprisals from their captors followed, and thus the prisoners’ leadership determined the retribution was too much and escape attempts should only be made with a “high likelihood of success and assurance of outside assistance.” That’s when they came up with the Red River plan.

This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison
Stockdale in captivity (DoD photo)

Members of the escaping POW group sent their plan to the U.S. Defense Secretary Melvin Laird approved the plan in January 1972. By May, everything was in place. The sonic booms were a go.

Despite a few setbacks, members of SEAL Team One and Underwater Demolition Team Eleven used SEAL Delivery Vehicles (SDV – mini-submarines) and HH-3A helicopters to patrol the coastline throughout May and June looking for escaped POWs. They never found any.

As the senior ranking officer, Stockdale forbid any escape attempts. He judged the plan too risky and the threat of reprisals too harsh. (Prisoners were often killed during these reprisals). The would-be escapees were frustrated by the policy, but they obeyed.

Article III of the Code of Conduct for prisoners does say American POWs should make every effort to escape captivity. Article IV, however, prohibits any action that would cause harm to other captured personnel. So Thunderhead was terminated.

The POWs would communicate with Washington throughout the war. Eventually, another radio was smuggled in, which gave POWs a direct line from the camp to the U.S. Seventh Fleet commanders aboard ships in the Gulf of Tonkin.

This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison
American POWs held in Vietnam being returned to U.S. military control at Gia Lam airfield, Hanoi. In foreground facing camera is USAF Capt. Robert Parsels. (U.S. Air Force photo)

In January 1973, 591 POWs were repatriated back to the United States. For his leadership among the prisoners and work to galvanize the resistance to their captors, Stockdale received the Medal of Honor from President Gerald Ford.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The US and Indian Navies fought a fake battle you didn’t hear about

In the Bay of Bengal, the United States Navy and the Indian Navy went head-to-head.


Sort of.

According to DefenceLovers.In, the modified Kiev-class aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya (formerly the Admiral Gorshkov) and its air group of MiG-29K Fulcrums took on the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and Air Wing 11, mainly composed of F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, in a joint training exercise that should leave Russia, with similar aircraft in its force, indirectly warned.

The Indian Fulcrums and the American Hornets took turns maintaining a combat air patrol over a ship while the other side practiced anti-ship strikes.

 

This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison
MiG-29K of INAS 303 prepares to catch the wire aboard the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya in 2014 | Indian Navy

 

“The MiG-29s that were flying off the Vikramaditya and the FA-18 Super Hornets flying off Nimitz made approaches to the opposite flight decks, got up in the air and got to do some dog fighting as well, which was pretty overwhelming,” Rear Admiral William D. Byrne, Jr., the commanding officer of the Nimitz carrier strike group, told the Indian site.

India bought the Vikramaditya in 2004, and commissioned the ship in 2013 after over nine years of refitting. The Vikramaditya is armed with four AK-630 Gatling guns, and can also fire Barak surface-to-air missiles, using launchers cannibalized from a retired frigate, It carries up to 26 MiG-29K Fulcrums and 10 helicopters. Russian Navy MiG-29Ks saw some action over Syria during the Admiral Kuznetsov’s deployment to the Mediterranean in 2016, but one was lost in a splash landing.

 

This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison
An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Knighthawks of Strike Fighter Attack Squadron (VFA) 136 lands on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anthony N. Hilkowski/Released)

When serving with Russia as the Baku (later re-named Admiral Gorshkov after the fall of the Soviet Union), the Vikramaditya was a modified Kiev-class carrier armed with 12 SS-N-12 “Sandbox” missiles and 24 8-round SA-N-9 “Gauntlet” launchers, along with two 100mm guns, eight AK-630 Gatling guns, and two quintuple 533mm torpedo tube mounts. It carried a dozen Yak-38 Forgers and as many as 20 anti-submarine helicopters.

By comparison, Air Wing 11 on board USS Nimitz included four squadrons of F/A-18C, F/A-18E, or F/A-18F multi-role fighters, along with E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning planes, EA-18G Growler electronic warfare planes, and MH-60R anti-submarine helicopters.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Meet the intelligence officer who urged Nimitz to kill Yamamoto

If you’ve seen the 1960 classic, The Gallant Hours, starring James Cagney as Admiral William F. Halsey, then you saw a very dramatized version of how the United States Navy got the information that would eventually lead to the demise of Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. But Hollywood blockbusters have a way of twisting history for the sake of entertainment.


In the movie, Capt. Frank Enright, an intelligence officer, passes on the information to Halsey who then flies to Guadalcanal, where he gives the command to Thomas G. Lanphier, Jr. Lanphier would later bring justice to Isoroku Yamamoto in the skies over the island of Bougainville.

Historically, Halsey didn’t get the information about what would be Yamamoto’s last flight directly from the officer who recommended the mission. In fact, the officer who urged the mission to go ahead was in Pearl Harbor, right by the side of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. That officer was Lieutenant Commander Edwin T. Layton.

This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison

Edwin T. Layton, the intelligence officer who recommended that Yamamoto be taken out.

(U.S. Navy photo)

In his memoirs, And I Was There, Layton related his service as a naval attache in Tokyo prior to the war. He was one of a number of officers fluent in Japanese — the most notable of the others being Joe Rochefort, best known as the officer who saved Midway. Layton had been assigned as the chief intelligence officer for the Pacific Fleet in 1940 and witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor. Nimitz chose to retain Layton, who would be the one officer Nimitz kept by his side throughout the war.

By April of 1943, Rochefort had been sidelined from code-breaking by jealous Washington bureaucrats, but Layton was still at Pearl Harbor when the message with Yamamoto’s itinerary was decoded. Having met Yamamoto a number of times in Japan (he had even played cards with him), Layton had a knowledge of the Japanese commander. He told Nimitz,

“Aside from the Emperor, probably no man in Japan is so important to civilian morale. And if he’s shot down, it would demoralize the fighting Navy.”
This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison

Painting depicting the moment that Capt. Thomas G. Lanphier, Jr. shot down the Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” carrying Isoroku Yamamoto

(USAF photo)

The rest, as they say, is history. Eighteen P-38s were slated to carry out the mission of intercepting the Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” bombers carrying Yamamoto and his staff. Two of the P-38s had to turn back. The rest tangled with Japanese forces, gunning for aircraft containing the mastermind of the Pearl Harbor attack. Capt. Thomas G. Lanphier landed the shot that ended Yamamoto.

After World War II, Layton served in the Navy until 1959, taking up his position as chief intelligence officer during the Korean War. He died in 1984, before his memoirs were published. Even though Layton played a crucial, yet unheralded role in America’s victory over Japan, no ship has been named in his honor.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This raid became the US Navy’s ‘most bold and daring act’

The USS Philadelphia, a 1,240-ton, 36-gun sailing frigate, was built by the residents of Philadelphia who collected $100,000 to fund her construction during one week in June 1798. She was completed in November 1799 and was commissioned under the command of Capt. Stephen Decatur Sr.


Three years later, during the First Barbary War, the Philadelphia ran aground in Tripoli harbor and was captured. A year after that, Capt. Decatur’s son, Lt. Stephen Decatur Jr., devised a plan to keep the enemy from using the ship.

He was going to board her and retake her.

British Lord ­Horatio Nelson, then a vice admiral, would call the raid that followed “the most bold and daring act of the Age.” It would also make Lt. Decatur a national hero in the fledgling United States — its first military hero since the Revolution.

This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison
Lt. Stephen Decatur

As darkness fell on Feb. 16, 1804, Lt. Decatur and eighty volunteers, most of whom were Marines, sailed into Tripoli harbor aboard the USS Intrepid, a captured Tripolitan ship that had been disguised with short masts and triangular sails. She flew a British flag. On her deck were Sicilian volunteers who spoke Arabic while the Marines, dressed as Maltese sailors and Arab seamen, huddled below decks. The Intrepid had sailed with the USS Syren, which remained outside the harbor but would supply supporting fire if needed.

To avoid calling attention to the raid, the Marines were told that the use of firearms was prohibited.

As the Intrepid approached the Philadelphia, one of the Arabic-speaking volunteers called out that their ship had lost her anchors. They wanted to use the harbor to rig a replacement but needed a place to tie up for the night. Before her capture in 1803, the Philadelphia’s commander, Commodore William Bainbridge, had jettisoned some of the ship’s guns and three anchors, moved other guns forward, and had had her foremast cut down in an unsuccessful attempt to free her from the reef she was on. He had then tried to scuttle the ship but that, too, failed, and he and his crew became prisoners.

This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison
Commodore William Bainbridge

Bainbridge later called his capture “humiliating.”

The Philadelphia had not yet been fully repaired, and her upper yardarms and sails had also been removed.

The guard aboard the Philadelphia gave the disguised Intrepid permission to tie up alongside. When she did, Decatur yelled “Board!” He and his volunteers flooded aboard the captured US vessel armed with pikes and cutlasses.

“Not a man had been seen or heard to breathe a moment before,” the Intrepid’s Surgeon Mate Lewis Heermann later wrote; “at the next, the boarders hung on the ship’s side like cluster bees; and, in another instant, every man was on board the frigate.”

This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison
Decatur boarding Philadelphia

In ten minutes of bloody, hand-to-hand fighting, the US volunteers killed twenty of the Tripolitan crew and captured one. The rest had fled the ship by jumping overboard. One American had been wounded.

Decatur had hoped to sail the Philadelphia out of the harbor after he had taken her but quickly realized that’d be impossible because of her condition. He also realized the smaller Intrepid would not be able to tow the Philadelphia. To keep the ship from being used against American vessels, there was only one alternative and his orders had been clear: If he couldn’t bring her out of the harbor, he was to burn her.

Decatur’s men fired the ship.

This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison
They burned it well.

As the flames grew, the Americans returned to the Intrepid. Lt. Decatur was the last man to leave the Philadelphia, which he did with a dramatic leap into the Intrepid’s rigging.  As the Intrepid pulled away and headed toward the harbor entrance, the flames spread throughout the Philadelphia. The guns still aboard her, which were primed and ready, began firing in the heat, some of the discharges striking the town. The ship also began drifting as her ropes gave way. She finally grounded herself, still burning, on rocks near the entrance to the harbor. By then, the enemy in the town had realized what was happening and began firing on the Intrepid from the shore and preparing to launch small boats.

The American Syren replied with fire from the harbor mouth as Decatur and the Intrepid sailed out of the harbor, the American crew cheering.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Turns out, Ohio and Michigan have been at odds for a long time

Ask a Buckeye why they think Michigan sucks and they’ll probably spout off some college football stats. But the truth is, this deep-seated rivalry actually stretches back almost two hundred years ago and it’s all to blame on a poorly-drawn map.

Today’s hatred both Buckeyes and Michigan fans are quick to express is fueled by each state’s claim to the Toledo Strip, a 468-square mile region of land that borders each state. Ohio natives will tell you that Toledo is as Ohioan as Cincinnati, but Michiganders will tell you the land truly belongs to them. So who’s right?

Back in the day, Toledo was an economic hotspot. When Michigan tried to join the country in 1835, it wanted to take Toledo for itself. But Ohio said in no uncertain terms that was never going to happen. Eventually, President Andrew Jackson had to step in a find a compromise. But before that could happen, mistrust and rivalry between the two states took hold.

It all began with a bad map

Turns out that the whole OH vs. MI thing started long before the Mitten State tried to join America. Roughly 50 years earlier, the 1787 Northwest Ordinance created the Northwest Territory, which included the land to the northwest of the Ohio River. The plan was to divide the land into at least three states and maybe five. There was also really clear language on where Michigan’s southern border should be … but it was wrong.

The idea of where to “end” Michigan was based on an error on that map which incorrectly included Toledo as part of MI. When Ohio Congressional delegates heard that, they jumped into action trying to secure as much of Lake Erie’s shoreline as possible. Of course, that included Toledo. Then they drafted a new provision that said the map was wrong and Toledo should be part of Ohio.

That all sounds pretty straightforward, but there was one small problem. For some reason, Congress decided not to address that provision. So, when the US established the territory of Michigan a couple of years later, they ended up using the original language of the 1787 Northwest Ordinance, despite it being based on a faulty map. 

Toledo still up for grabs

Ohio became a state way back in 1803. They kept trying to get Congress to establish a northern border for the state. But Congress kept dodging them. It took almost 20 years for the government to respond and when they finally sent surveyors in 1816, they determined that Toledo was Ohio’s. (No shock there for anyone living in Ohio at the time!) Naturally, Michigan’s governor was not having it. At this point, President Monroe stepped in to re-determine where the border was. Monroe decided Toledo was part of Michigan.  

This conflict went back and forth without resolution for years. Then when Michigan applied for statehood in 1835, they tried to officially claim Toledo as its own. Of course, Ohio was not going to let that fly, which prompted both states to deploy their militias to take matters into their own hands. While no violent battles nor casualties occurred, the Militias of each state went back and forth arresting each other’s partisans as well as causing plenty of disturbances to the peace. 

Enough is enough

In the meantime, discussions of Michigan statehood halted until they resolved the dispute over Toledo. Finally, in June 1836, President Jackson was sick of dealing with the matter and signed a bill to give Michigan statehood, only if it would let go of its claim to Toledo. In exchange, Jackson gave Michigan what became known as the Upper Peninsula. After a while, Michigan eventually accepted the deal, achieving its statehood but losing the Toledo War, giving it to Ohio once and for all. 

These days, the only war OH and MI are fighting is the one during football season. Of course, the Bucks are always going to outplay the Wolverines – even if the score doesn’t always reflect it.

Related: The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Wildcat held the line against the Zero

When Japan introduced the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, it gained a remarkable plane that racked up an impressive combat record through 1941. However, despite its incredible performance for the time, the Zero couldn’t hold up.

The Grumman F6F Hellcat achieved fame as a Zero-killer after it was introduced in 1943. But it was its predecessor, the Grumman F4F Wildcat, that held the line during the first campaigns of World War II.


So, how did the Wildcat match up so well against the fearsome Zero? First, it’s important to understand that a big part of the Zero’s reputation came from racking up kills in China against a lot of second-rate planes with poorly-trained pilots. After all, there was a reason that the Republic of China hired the American Volunteer Group to help out during the Second Sino-Japanese War – Chinese pilots had a hard time cutting it.

This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison

The Mitsubishi A6M Zero had racked up a seemingly impressive record against second-rate opposition.

(U.S. Navy)

This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison

A damaged F4F Wildcat lands on USS Enterprise (CV 6) during the Battle of Santa Cruz. Japanese pilots would put hundreds of 7.7mm machine gun rounds into a Wildcat to little or no effect.

(U.S. Navy)

But, believe it or not, the Wildcat almost never made it to the field. The original F4F Wildcat was a biplane that lost out to the Brewster F2A Buffalo in a competition to field the next carrier-born fighter. Grumman, unsatisfied by losing out a contract, pitched two upgraded designs, and the F4F-3 was finally accepted into service. It was a good thing, too. As it turned out, the Brewster Buffalo was a piece of crap — whether at Midway or over Burma, Buffalos got consistently fell to Zeros, costing the lives of Allied pilots.

When the F4F faced off with the Zero, however, it proved to be a very tough customer. A Zero’s armament consisted of two 7.7mm machine guns and two 20mm cannon. The former had a lot of ammo, but offered little hitting power. The latter packed a punch, but the ammo supply was limited. As a result, in combat, many Japanese pilots would empty their 7.7mm machine guns only to see the Wildcat was still flying.

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

www.youtube.com

By contrast, the Wildcat’s battery of four to six M2 .50-caliber machine guns brought not only hitting power to bear against the lightly armored Zero, but also came with an ample supply of ammo. Stanley “Swede” Vejtasa was able to score seven kills against Japanese planes in one day with a Wildcat.

But ammo wasn’t the only advantage. Wildcat pilots had an edge in terms of enemy intelligence thanks to the discovery of the Akutan Zero, a recovered, crashed Zero that gave the U.S. insight into its inner-workings (this vessel made a cameo in a training film featuring future President Ronald Reagan).

Learn more about this plane that held the line against the odds in the video below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 great Army-Navy mascot heists

There’s one Army-Navy Game tradition that might seem a bit surprising for institutions that preach honor, loyalty and dignity: the mascot heist. Somehow, over the decades, the ritual of stealing your opponent’s mascot has become a beloved prank that’s part of the rivalry’s tradition.

Army cadets seem to be more focused on stealing their generation’s version of Bill the Goat than Navy midshipmen are committed to mule theft. Of course, goats are much more compact creatures, something that makes them easier to transport and leaves far less of a mess to clean afterward.


To be fair, mascot pranks have a long history at our country’s elite colleges, though they didn’t surface at the service academies until after World War II because rank has its privileges. Even so, the academies signed a nonaggression pact in 1992 that supposedly put a stop to these shenanigans.

Here are 4 classic Army-Navy mascot heists

This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison

In 1953, Army cadets somehow thought they could corral a goat in a cardboard box.

(United States Military Academy Library)

1. 1953 — the tradition begins

West Point cadets used chloroform to gas Billy the Goat and spirit him away from Annapolis in the back of a convertible. After Bill’s return, Superintendent of the Naval Academy Vice Adm. C. Turner Joy told The New York Times that the goat had not, in fact, been “kid-naped” by the Army but had merely visited West Point as a guide for the “‘pathetic’ group of Army cadets who, like Yale’s ‘poor little sheep,’ had lost their way.”

This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison

2. 1965 — The Golden Fleece

West Point cadet Tom Carhart wrote an entire book called “The Golden Fleece: High-Risk Adventure at West Point” about the successful mission that he and five of his classmates pulled off in 1965. Sick of losing their goat, the Navy started keeping Bill on a naval base between appearances, a location with far greater security than the relatively open campus in Annapolis.

Dressed in black, the commandos cut through wire fences and completed their goat theft while their girlfriends distracted the Marine Corps guards with a story about being lost after getting stood up on a blind date.

This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison

These modern-day mules are not the same ones stolen in 1991. But they may be related.

(U.S. Army)

3. 1991 — crimes committed in pursuit of a higher good

Navy midshipmen on a mission to steal West Point’s mules cut phone lines, tied up members of Army staff and went on the run from police. Facing felony charges, they instead got off with the “Order of the Mule,” a made-up award from the Navy commandant that declared their actions “in the highest traditions of the naval service.” Two of the raiders rose to become top leaders in the Navy SEALs.

Lead From The Front: An Army/Navy Short Film 2017 [4K]

www.youtube.com

4. 2018 — Lead From the Front

West Point commandant Brig. Gen. Steven Gilland got in on the action last year as the star of a 10-minute Army spirit video that celebrated the tradition and plays out like a Hollywood Heist movie. Gilland plays the role of airborne commando in an elaborate raid on Annapolis.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Medal of Honor recipient shot down 7 enemy aircraft on his first time out

After graduating at the top of his flight school class, James Swett decided to join the Navy — until a Marine colonel talked him into flying for the Corps instead.


Once he received his Marine officer commission, Swett shipped out to serve in War World II, where he would mark his mark sooner than he could ever expect.

Stationed on the island of Guadalcanal, Swett’s impressive 450 hours of pre-war flight time was about to be put the ultimate test.

Related: This Medal of Honor recipient saved 18 Marines from an enemy minefield

In the early morning of Apr. 7, 1943, a Japanese attack fleet was preparing to bombard the island of Guadalcanal. That day, Swett had embarked on two standard flight patrols that resulted in nothing but clear skies.

But the third scheduled flight was about to turn very deadly. Swett received intel that 150 Japanese planes were en route to his position and he was prepared to defend it. Soon after making his very first enemy contact, Swett managed to shoot down a handful of enemy fighters.

After a several of defensive maneuvers, Swett took a few rounds to his starboard wing. Heading back to base, Swett discovered a series of enemy dive bombers headed toward him — so he engaged with short bursts, scoring additional kill shots.

Also Read: This WW2 Ace fought for both sides of the war

After shooting down seven dive bombers, Swett’s fighter plane was severely damaged and crash-landed into the ocean as he attempted to make it back to Guadalcanal.

Once Swett surfaced, a Coast Guard boat picked up the now salty Marine aviator. Swett shot down a total of seven enemy fighters on his very first day in combat.

Swett was credited with shooting down 15 1/2 enemy planes during his time in the war and received the Medal of Honor on Oct. 10, 1943.

Check out Medal of Honor Book‘s video below to hear this flying ace retell his heroic story for yourself.

(Medal of Honor Book, YouTube)

MIGHTY HISTORY

A flamethrower is the last living Medal of Honor recipient from the Pacific

The average life expectancy of a Marine with a flamethrower on any given battlefield is about five minutes, according to Medal of Honor recipient and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Herschel “Woody” Williams. Those tanks made tempting targets – and they weren’t bulletproof.


Woody Williams was one such flamethrower. He not only earned his Medal of Honor, he’s the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Pacific War.

Williams was on the battlefields of Iwo Jima, an all-out slugfest that took place near the end of the war. But just because the end was nigh, that didn’t mean the Japanese were going to make it easy on the Americans. By the time Woody Williams began torching Japanese pillboxes on the island, the Marines had been fighting for days. Williams had the idea to form a five-man team with him bearing the flamethrower and four Marines providing cover for him as he moved.

The idea was a brilliant success, one he repeated many times over the course of four hours, much longer than the five minutes he would have normally given himself.

This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison

He had a lot going against him. The fuel inside a flamethrower weapon will give its user just a few blasts, lasting a couple of seconds at best, so he had to be judicious with his targets; Moreover, the fuel tank weighed roughly 70 pounds, so running with the clunky behemoth would be a challenge. On top of that, he would have to get in close, as the range of the weapon was severely limited. As if that weren’t bad enough, if he wasn’t killed outright and was instead captured by the Japanese, he would be executed as a criminal immediately.

It was not a rosy outlook but time and again Woody crept up on the enemy positions, cooked them very quickly, and returned to base to take up a new, fully loaded flamethrower. To the young Marine, he was just doing his job, even when a bullet ricocheted off his fuel tank. To the Marine Corps, he was a hero.

This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison

Woody Williams careful bravery on the battlefields of Iwo Jima allowed the Marines to advance inland after days of being stymied by enemy fortifications and bayonet charges that had begun to take its toll. Within a few weeks, Iwo Jima belonged to the Marines. Corporal Williams would soon receive the Medal of Honor from President Truman himself.

“You go in automatic drive when something like that happens, I think,” Williams told Stars and Stripes. “Much of that four hours, I don’t remember. I attribute that to fear. Because to say I wasn’t scared would be the biggest lie that’s ever been told. Because you do experience fear.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This tank-jet hybrid was used to put out oil fires set by Saddam’s retreating troops

“Big Wind” is a 92,600-pound beast made from a tank chassis and two turbojet engines that are powerful enough to blow out oil fires like candles on a birthday cake.


While it looks ridiculous and would be nearly useless in a tank fight, this modified military hardware fought some of the largest fires set by Saddam Hussein‘s withdrawing army in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

When oil wells are on fire, the pressure under the earth’s crust keeps the oil rushing to the surface until the well is capped. Crews can’t cap the well until the fire is put out.

This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison
We’re talking about some big fires too. Photo: US Navy Lt. Steve Gozzo

“Big Wind” does this by interrupting the flow of oil into the air. A small crew moves the tank into position at 3 mph. The larger the fire, the closer the tank has to get. The largest fires burn at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and require the tank to pull within 30 feet.

Once there, the crew begins pumping water into the exhaust of the idling jet engines before ramping up the jet power. The result is a thick, fast-moving steam that cuts through the oil and smothers the fire. The fire, robbed of oxygen and separated from its fuel, quickly goes out. The “Big Wind” stays in position for another 20 minutes, spraying steam on the hot oil to cool it down.

Then, oil workers begin the dangerous job of capping the well.

See “Big Wind” in action in this video:

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why Bloody Mary is feared

Queen Mary I is the daughter of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. The King loved his daughter but he desired a male heir to continue his line. He started to lust after Anne Boleyn, one of his wife’s ladies-in-waiting. Anne was higher-level servant that served as the Queen’s personal assistant but still low born. She allowed the King to pursue her. However, he needed his heir to be legitimate and considered divorcing the Queen. His divorce would trigger a chain of events that would change the course of history forever in England.

Mary falls from grace

Pope Clement VII happened to be Queen Catherine’s cousin. For six years the Pope attempted to delay the divorce, hoping to give Catherine enough time to birth a male heir. King Henry grew angrier over time and married Anne in secret. Henry declared that his marriage to Queen Catherine was invalid because she was the wife of his brother and thus the union was incestuous. He broke away from his ties to Rome and sparked the English Reformation by establishing The Church of England. The archbishop of Canter Bury, Thomas Cranmer, would then grant him an annulment instead.

queen mary
Portrait of Mary Tudor, Queen Mary I (1516 – 1558), circa 1550s
This portrait derives from the work of Hans Eworth who worked as a portrait and history painter (Flickr)

From this point forward Mary I is a bastard. Her titles revoked and cast out of her father’s favor. Her mother was forced to live in exile and this was the beginning of Mary’s deep seated hatred for her step mother, a protestant. Anne hated her too and continuously vied for Mary’s execution. Anne gave birth to a princess, Elizabeth I, whom also became a devoted protestant later in life.

Insult to injury

Anne’s failure to give the King an heir provided an opening for Mary to return to her father’s court but at a high cost. She would have to acknowledge him as the head of the Church of England and accept that her claim to royalty was illegitimate. She reluctantly agreed and regretted it for the rest of her life. For her humiliation she was reinstated at court and given a lavish residence – or be put to death.

As for Anne, she was beheaded on May 19, 1536 on false claims of multiple affairs with other men. The true reason for her execution was her failure to give Henry a male heir. The King married his third wife two weeks later — Jane Seymour. She was able to give Henry a male heir, Edward VI. Edward, also a dedicated protestant, who assumed the throne at the age of nine after his father’s death. Edward died of tuberculosis at the age of 15. He declared another heir so that neither of his sisters, Mary I or Elizabeth I would rule in his stead. Mary I was able to decisively wrestle power for herself in nine days and became the first Queen of England to rule in her own right.

Revenge of the Bloody Mary

For three years rebel bodies dangled from gibbets, and heretics were relentlessly executed, some 300 being burned at the stake. Thenceforward the queen, now known as Bloody Mary, was hated, her Spanish husband distrusted and slandered, and she herself blamed for the vicious slaughter.

Eric Norman Simons, The Queen and the Rebel: Mary Tudor and Wyatt the Younger

Mary also got her revenge against Thomas Cranmer who annulled her mother’s marriage and paved the way for Protestantism. He was burned at the stake for heresy.

Portrait of bloody mary
(Wikipedia)

Queen Mary I continued to rule for five years after taking the throne. She was ruthless and cruel, hellbent on revenge for the harsh life she lived. She blamed the protestants for everything and believed that by burning heretics alive she was saving the souls of everyone in her kingdom. After years of fighting mental illness and physical illness, she succumbed to uterine or ovarian cancer at the age of 42 in 1558. She gained the nickname ‘Bloody Mary,’ the first Queen of England.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 of the most unlucky events in the history of warfare

Battle planners can draw out every detail of every movement of every plan of every strategy they can conceive and still lose. There are just some events in history that no one could have planned for, that no one saw coming.

You can call it “Murphy’s Law” or chalk these events up to simple bad luck, the fact remains that some things just happen in the course of fighting that no one expected. During major wars, battles, or actions, these events just tend to make and shape history for decades to come.

1. The Aircraft Carriers that left Pearl Harbor

The decision of whose luck was good or bad depends on which side of the Pacific Ocean you were on at the time. The Japanese Navy had hoped to strike a decisive blow against the American Navy on Dec. 7, 1941 by destroying its Pacific Fleet while it was anchored at Pearl Harbor. They might have succeeded, if it weren’t for the fact that the U.S.’ biggest naval weapons weren’t there that day.

Battleships are great and all, but by World War II, the future of naval warfare lay in naval aviation. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, they knocked a number of ships down (only two of them were permanently out) but the carriers were gone, delivering aircraft to Wake Island and Midway. We know how the war in the Pacific turned out. 

2. Forgotten cigars led to the Confederacy’s ruin

When rebel Gen. Robert E. Lee distributed his plans for an invasion of Maryland among his general officers, Maj. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson handed his copy to Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill. Hill wrapped the plans around three cigars – and then forgot about them. He left them in a field where they were found by a Union scout.

The plans were taken to then Union commander George McClellan, who used them to turn Lee around at the Battle of Antietam. The Union’s big victory at Antietam allowed President Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which turned the war into a fight against slavery. Since the British Army couldn’t intervene for a pro-slavery government, the Brits were kept out of the war and the Confederacy slowly crumbled under the Union onslaught. 

3. A gust of wind saves England from a French invasion

Even armchair military historians know how hard it is to invade and conquer the British Isles. It’s a feat only accomplished once since 1066, and it changed the western world forever. So when the French were on their way to England in 1545, it could have gone very wrong for the English.

England was outnumbered in ships and men by more than 2-1. Worse yet, most of the English defenders were rigged sailing ships that would not perform so well in the close quarters and windless seas of the Solent, where the French and English met. But just before the oared French ships poured into the English sailing ships, the wind picked up. Despite two separate landings, the French were repelled and forced back to France with their tail between their legs. England was saved yet again.

4. Navy dive bombers catch the Japanese with their pants down at Midway

Midway was arguably the turning point for World War II in the Pacific, but despite being able to read Japanese coded messages and knowing the Japanese were going to attack the island, the Navy almost didn’t pull out a victory. The initial attack on Midway went very well for Japan, but they were going to give the island another pounding with naval aircraft. 

An earlier engagement left the Japanese destroyer Arashi separated from the main battle fleet. As it moved back to the main force, it was tailed by American aircraft from the carrier USS Enterprise. When the U.S. planes discovered the main Japanese fleet, they radioed its position. By the time American dive bombers arrived, the decks of the enemy carriers were covered in jet fuel, planes, and bombs. The Japanese lost four carriers and the war was changed forever. 

5. A random artillery shell keeps the U.S. from taking Berlin

This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison
Red guard unit of the Vulkan factory in Petrograd.

The U.S. 2nd Armored Division reached the Elbe River on April 11, 1945, but Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s order to stop at the river wouldn’t reach them for another four days. Not to be deterred by things like rivers, the division’s engineers built a crude ferry using a steel cable to shuttle troops back and forth. 

With men on the east bank of the river already, the ferry began to move the armor across the river, but before the first tank could land, an artillery shell, the only one fired in the engagement, snapped the cable and doused the ferry into the river. The Americans on the east bank were cut off and the American drive for Berlin halted. The Red Army would reach the city from the east on April 16th.

MIGHTY HISTORY

3 times China has hacked the U.S.

China’s insatiable hunger to become the apex superpower of the world, and the manner in which they do it is a threat to our way of life. For decades corporations have intentionally failed to raise the alarm to our government about the theft of intellectual property fearing an immediate cease of business with the Chinese. Corporations have silenced themselves against communist China fearing retribution and sold out the American people in the process.


Emboldened by appeasement, the regime now deliberately targets our national security apparatus to destroy us using our own technology.

Trade, our mutually beneficial common ground that our two ideologies stood on, has become the very source of tension between us. This is nothing new, China has always been an enemy of the west, quietly stealing our national treasures and sabotaging our infrastructure. There is no underhanded tactic that the People’s Republic of China won’t lower themselves to as long as it means victory for the dishonorable state. These are the 3 times China has hacked the U.S.

This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison

“For too long, the Chinese government has blatantly sought to use cyber espionage to obtain economic advantage for its state-owned industries,” said former FBI Director James B. Comey.

DoD.defense.gov

First time criminal charges are filed against known state actors for hacking

On May 19, 2014, The Western District of Pennsylvania (WDPA) indicted five Chinese state-sponsored hackers for targeting six American entities in the U.S. nuclear power, metals, and solar products industries. The attacks were a coordinated assault to steal state secrets that would directly benefit State-Owned Enterprises in China. The stolen data would reveal our strategies and vulnerabilities to the enemy.

The victims of these attacks on our soil were: Westinghouse Electric Co., U.S. subsidiaries of SolarWorld AG, United States Steel Corp., Allegheny Technologies Inc., the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union (USW) and Alcoa Inc.

The hackers performed a wide variety of criminal acts that include:

  • 1 count of Conspiring to commit computer fraud and abuse.
  • 9 counts of Accessing (or attempting to access) a protected computer without authorization to obtain information for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain.
  • 23 counts of Transmitting a program, information, code, or command with the intent to cause damage to protected computers.
  • 29 counts of Aggravated identity theft.
  • 30 counts of Economic espionage.
  • 31 counts of Trade secret theft.
This future Medal of Honor recipient started a spy ring while held in a Hanoi prison

Another hacker related to this case wanted by the FBI

DOJ

Chinese military hacked into the computer networks of major U.S. defense contractors

On July 13,2016, Su Bin, a citizen of the People’s Republic of China that was sentenced to 4 years with a ,000 fine by United States District Judge Christina A. Snyder.

Su was communicating with the Chinese military and informing them of targets and their vulnerabilities, which files to steal and how it would benefit their government. Su stole military and export-controlled data and sent the stolen data to China.

He targeted the aviation and aerospace fields in order to steal military technical data. This is particularly problematic for our armed forces because he stole data relating to the C-17 transport aircraft and fighter jets produced for the U.S. military. Su was arrested in Canada in July 2014 and extradited to the United States in February 2016.

He admitted that as part of the conspiracy, he sent e-mails to his co-conspirators with guidance regarding what persons, companies, and technologies to target during their computer intrusions. One of Su’s co-conspirators gained access to information located on computers of U.S. companies, and he emailed Su directory file listings and folders showing the data that the co-conspirator had been able to access. Su then directed his co-conspirator as to which files and folders his co-conspirator should steal.

After that, Su would contact the Second Department, General Staff Headquarters, Chinese People’s Liberation Army with translated documents and communicated their value. At this point, his intent was to sell the information for financial gain.

These are the faces of those who prey on the innocent

Department of Justice

Government backed Chinese hackers steal the identities of 78 million Americans

On May 9, 2019, an indictment was issued for several Chinese nationals who engaged in an extremely sophisticated hacking group operating from China. The illicit band of thieves targeted businesses in the United States, including a computer intrusion and data breach of Anthem Inc., a health insurance provider.

This is the most recent attack by the Chinese government against the United States. The Chinese are relentless in their disregard for the law and have shown no indication of slowing down.

“The allegations in the indictment unsealed today outline the activities of a brazen China-based computer hacking group that committed one of the worst data breaches in history.These defendants allegedly attacked U.S. businesses operating in four distinct industry sectors, and violated the privacy of over 78 million people by stealing their PII (Personal Identifiable Information).” – Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski.

The hackers used a technique called “spearfishing” where they attached links to e-mails sent to potential victims. When the links are clicked they download a type of file known as a backdoor which they can use to infiltrate the computer. Once they successfully tapped into vulnerable computers they watched the network identifying potential targets. They waited for months before striking.

…they collected the relevant files and other information from the compromised computers using software tools. The defendants then allegedly stole the data of interest by placing it into encrypted archive files and then sending it through multiple computers to destinations in China. The indictment alleges that on multiple occasions in January 2015, the defendants accessed the computer network of Anthem, accessed Anthem’s enterprise data warehouse, and transferred encrypted archive files containing PII from Anthem’s enterprise data warehouse from the United States to China. – Department of Justice

That same PII can be used to take out credit cards or loans in the name of the victims. This kind of identity theft is the most destructive, malicious, and the hardest to recover from. Attacks on innocent civilians such as this proves that the People’s Republic of China has nothing but contempt for Americans. If the Chinese continue to show apathetic targeting of our civilians during peacetime, what are they capable of doing to civilians in wartime?

Do Not Sell My Personal Information