The woman who helped hundreds of enslaved people find freedom - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The woman who helped hundreds of enslaved people find freedom

With the Cynthia Erivo led biographical film Harriet recently released in November, the inspiring legacy of Harriet Tubman is fresh in our minds. The fearless Underground Railroad “conductor” was responsible for (either personally or indirectly) the hard-won freedom of thousands of enslaved African Americans.


This clever, unflinching woman is to be honored by the redesign of the $20 bill—now said to be coming in 2028. She has had statues commissioned in her likeness across several American cities, had the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park commemorated in her honor, and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

But what don’t we know about the woman behind the immeasurable legacy? Here are ten enlightening Harriet Tubman facts you’ll want to know.

Harriet Tubman was not the Underground Railroad conductor’s birth name.

When she was born in the early 19th century, Harriet was given the name Araminta Ross—her mother usually used an affectionate nickname, Minty. When Minty changed her name before her brave escape from slavery, it was her mother’s given name, Harriet, that she assumed. The ‘Tubman’ portion of her name came from the man she married in 1844, John Tubman, a free African American man who lived near Harriet’s owner’s plantation.

Even as Harriet carved an iconic path making her name a staple of history, she would earn several other nicknames along the way—abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison called Tubman ‘Moses’, while John Brown would refer to her as ‘General Tubman’.

The woman who helped hundreds of enslaved people find freedom

A youthful head injury had an outsized impact on her life.

When she was a teenager, Tubman was struck on the head by a two-pound weight. The attack was meant for a nearby enslaved person attempting to make an escape—but the overseer missed their shot, instead hitting Tubman. The crack in Tubman’s skull caused her to have long-term sleeping complications. Throughout her life, Tubman would abruptly lose consciousness. It would be a struggle to rouse her from the spells.

Additionally, the injury caused Tubman to have vivid visions and dreams. She soon believed that her visions were coming directly from God. It was this deep religious faith that inspired her to put her own life on the line to aid slaves in their flight to freedom.

Her injury may have also compelled her own escape. Terrified that she would be seen as inadequate, Tubman attempted to work harder and harder to keep herself from being sold away from her family and loved ones. Eventually, she decided the risk of being caught on her way to freedom was a better one than remaining in place and being sold.

Later in life, her injury further complicated her life, making it difficult for her to fall asleep at night. She opted to have brain surgery and admitted herself to Boston’s Massachusetts General hospital. Though anesthesia was offered to her, Tubman refused. She was determined to bite a bullet as the soldiers did during amputations.

She utilized disguises and codes to allay suspicion along the Underground Railroad.

Once Tubman was known to slavers as a key participant in the Underground Railroad, additional precautions had to be taken. Tubman cleverly dressed herself as men, old women, and even free middle class African Americans to travel across the slave states undeterred. By walking around with chickens, Tubman would assume the identity of a field hand. In a stroke of true genius, she would pretend to read the newspaper, as it was widely known that Harriet Tubman was illiterate.

To send messages to her followers, Tubman implemented the use of spirituals and songs as a system of codes. Further utilizing her cunning mind, Tubman prioritized travel on Saturdays, as she knew that newspapers published their runaway notices on Monday mornings.

The woman who helped hundreds of enslaved people find freedom

She was even tougher than you can imagine.

Harriet Tubman knew that traveling back and forth along the Underground Railroad meant that she and her followers were at risk of being attacked by the police, hunting dogs, mobs, bounty hunters, and notoriously cruel slave catchers. At one point, Tubman’s efforts freeing slaves led to a call for a ,000 bounty on her head. It’s unclear if this bounty was one single bounty, or the combination of a number of bounties offered around the slave-holding states and territories.

The fight for freedom was dangerous business, and Tubman was going to treat it as such—she threatened to kill anyone who was having second thoughts along the way, as anyone turning back during their escape was a liability to all of the others. Tubman also toted a handgun along with her on her travels for protection.

On her final trip on the Railroad, Tubman assisted the Ennals family. The Ennals had an infant child with them—a life-threatening risk with the unpredictable nature of a baby’s moods. However, Tubman was sharp and determined, and she carried on ahead after drugging the baby with paregoric, a tincture of opium.

She never lost a single follower on her journeys of escape.

The number of people Tubman personally guided along the Underground Railroad is widely disputed. Early accounts put that number around 300, while later biographies lowered the number to 70. At any rate, Tubman was proud to proclaim, “I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say—I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.”

The woman who helped hundreds of enslaved people find freedom

She was a vital part of the Union war efforts.

During the Civil War, Tubman did her part by acting as both a cook and a nurse for the Union Army. Thanks to her knowledge of plants and their properties, she was a great resource in aiding soldiers with dysentery. She was also used as a Union scout and spy—a role that was well-suited to her, judging by her Railroad tactics. In fact, she was the first woman to lead an assault during the war, arranging the Combahee River Raid. With the assistance of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, Tubman brought roughly 750 slaves to freedom with this raid.

Unfortunately, Tubman long went uncompensated for her war efforts, and continued to be under-compensated once she secured a pension. She received only 0 for her three-year commitment—payment only for her nursing contributions. She argued with the government that they owed her an additional 6 for her espionage services, but it took 34 years for her to receive a veteran’s pension.

Her second husband was 22 years younger than Tubman when they wed in 1869.

Her second husband was Nelson Davis, a veteran of the Civil War. At the time of their marriage, Tubman was 59 years old, while Davis was just 37. In 1874, the pair adopted a baby girl named Gertie. For two decades before Davis’s early death, they had a happy life together growing vegetables and raising pigs in their back garden.

After her work on the Underground Railroad, Tubman championed for women’s right to vote.

Later in her life, Tubman stood among other prominent women in the suffrage movement. She attended the meetings of suffragist organizations, and it wasn’t long before she was working alongside the notable Susan B. Anthony and Emily Howland to bring women the right to vote. Tubman traveled throughout the east coast to New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. to deliver speeches in favor of women’s suffrage, even at her own financial detriment.

Despite life-long financial struggles, she epitomized the generous spirit.

Tubman spent the last years of her life on the land that abolitionist Senator William H. Seward sold her in Auburn, New York. Though Tubman was well-known across the United States, her reputation did little to help her finances. However, her own poverty was not going to keep her from helping others, and so she gave what she had.

She used her plot of land as a place for family and friends to take refuge with her, embracing an open-door policy. In 1903, she donated a section of her property to the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Five years later, the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged and Indigent Colored People opened up on that very location.

The woman who helped hundreds of enslaved people find freedom

She passed away on March 10th, 1913.

Harriet Tubman was an estimated 93 years old when she succumbed to pneumonia. The brave woman was surrounded by loved ones upon her death. She was buried with full military honors in the Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, New York. Though this incredible woman has been gone for more than a century, her legacy lives on in the pages of history books, across the schools and museums which proudly bear her name, reflected by towering movie screens, and most importantly, through the lives of all of those her selfless risks helped to improve for generations to come.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These 9 countries (probably) have nuclear weapons

The United Nations has introduced a treaty that it believes will eventually lead to the total elimination of nuclear weapons. A recent watchdog report said the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is a historically significant effort that’s gaining traction, which highlights the profound power imbalance between the few nuclear powers and the many countries without the devastating weapons.

“The rate of adherence to the TPNW is faster than for any other weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD) treaty,” the report says.

But with an estimated 14,485 extant nuclear weapons, total elimination is more of a long-term goal.


This is an overview of the nine nuclear-armed states and the 31 nuclear-weapon-endorsing states — countries that do not develop or possess nuclear weapons but rely on another nuclear-armed state for protection.

All of these countries would need to make profound changes to reach the UN goal of a nuclear-weapons-free world.

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Russian nuclear-powered multipurpose attack submarine.

Russia has the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.

The Russian Federation has an estimated 6,850 nuclear weapons in its arsenal.

Armenia and Belarus, who both rely on Russia’s arsenal for “umbrella” protections, stand in violation of TPNW.

Russia is also only one of three nations to possess a nuclear “triad,” which includes intercontinental ballistic-missile delivery.

A nuclear “triad” refers to a nation’s ability to deploy its nuclear arsenal through intercontinental ballistic missiles, sea-launched ballistic missiles, and strategic bombers, as defined by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, an advisory board that conducts research and provides analysis to encourage diplomacy.

The US is the only country to detonate nuclear weapons against an enemy, as it did in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks against Japan in August 1945.

The US has agreed to potentially use its nuclear weapons to protect NATO member states, as well as Japan, Australia and South Korea.

Because of these agreements, all 29 NATO member states, and the three who hold bilateral protection agreements with the US, are in violation of TPNW.

The US, which has a nuclear arsenal that’s nearly the size of Russia’s, is the only nation in the western hemisphere that possesses nuclear weapons, and one of three countries to possess the nuclear “triad.”

The US is also the only nation in the world to store nuclear weapons in other countries.

According to the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor, the US is believed to store some 180 nuclear weapons in other countries.

This number has been “significantly reduced since the Cold War,” according to the report.

The United Kingdom can only launch its nuclear weapons from its four Vanguard-class submarines.

The United Kingdom is a NATO member state and shares in the umbrella protections of the alliance.

The kingdom maintains at least one nuclear-armed submarine on patrol at all times, under a Continuous at Sea Defense Posture, according to NWBM.

British policy also states that the country will not threaten the use of nuclear weapons against any “non-nuclear weapons state.”

The woman who helped hundreds of enslaved people find freedom

A French Air Force Dassault Rafale fighter jet.

The French Dassault Rafale fighter jet can deploy a nuclear weapon with a warhead 20 times the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

France, also a NATO member state, can only deliver its nuclear weapons via aircraft and submarines.

The ASMP-A is a 300-kiloton warhead, approximately 20 times the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, at the end of World War II.

If a warhead of that size were to drop over Washington, DC, it would result in approximately 280,000 casualties.

Israel maintains a policy of “opacity,” while other nations promise not to use their nukes against countries that don’t have them.

China possesses a nuclear “triad,” but has agreed not to employ nuclear weapons against any nation in a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone, which include Latin American and Caribbean nations, as well as some in Africa, the South Pacific and Central Asia.

US-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies reported 13 undeclared missile bases in North Korea.

Although North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has publicly proclaimed a desire to denuclearize the entire Korean peninsula, there is no evidence that he has made any attempt to do so.

Reports vary as to the size of the North Korean nuclear arsenal. While the monitor follows conventional views that the country possesses 10 to 20 nukes, The Washington Post has previously reported that it may hold up to 60, citing confidential US assessments.

Negev Nuclear Research Center in Israel is said to have produced enough plutonium for 100 to 200 nuclear warheads.

Israel has never publicly admitted to possession of nuclear weapons.

Nevertheless, the international community operates on the assumption that since its inception, Israel has developed and maintained a nuclear arsenal.

The size of Israel’s cache remains unclear, and though it is possible that the nation holds enough enriched plutonium for 100 to 200 warheads, the NWBM accepts estimates from the Federation of American Scientists, which show that Israel possesses approximately 80 nuclear weapons.

The next Cold War may be between India and Pakistan, neither of which will back down its nuclear stance.

Attempts to develop intercontinental and submarine-launched nuclear missiles indicate that India may soon possess the nuclear “triad.”

Mainly due to tensions with Pakistan, some experts have questioned whether India’s “no first-use” posture will endure.

Pakistan can deliver its nuclear weapons from the ground and air and is allegedly developing methods of sea-based delivery to complete the nuclear “triad.”

Despite facing sanctions, Pakistan is reportedly expanding its nuclear arsenal faster than any other nation.

Similar to British policy, Pakistan claims it will not use or threaten to use its nuclear arsenal against any “non-nuclear” state, leaving many questions unanswered on the potential use against neighbor India, which also maintains nuclear weapons.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How a Green Beret achieved immortality during one of the fiercest battles of the Vietnam War

Some 53 years ago, in a faraway Special Forces camp in southeast Asia, Sergeant First Class Eugene Ashley Jr achieved immortality during one of the fiercest battles of the Vietnam War.

Ashley joined the Army in 1950. After finishing boot camp and Advanced Infantry Training, Ashley went to Germany. When the Korean War broke out in 1953, Ashley deployed in Korea with the 187th Regimental Combat Team. Then, for a brief period, Ashley got out of the Army and was placed in the Inactive Reserves. A few months later, he reenlisted and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. Up to that point, Ashley had trained in numerous military occupational specialties, including as an infantryman, ambulance driver, anti-aircraft ammunition handler, heavy weapons specialist, and parachute rigger; he had also held leadership positions at the squad and company level.

 In 1966 he decided to make the jump to Special Forces and graduated from the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) a year later. Upon completion of training, Ashley was assigned first to the 7th Special Forces Group and later to the 3rd Special Forces Group. In 1968, he deployed to the Republic of Vietnam with Charlie Company, 5th Special Forces Group.

The woman who helped hundreds of enslaved people find freedom
Sergeant First Class Eugene Ashley Jr. He would end up getting the Medal of Honor for his actions during on the fiercest battles of the Vietnam War (US Army Special Operations Command).

Ashley’s arrival to Vietnam coincided with the Tet Offensive, which began in January 1968 and would last till September. During Tet, the NVA and Vietcong took US and South Vietnamese forces by surprise and attacked several large cities throughout South Vietnam, including the capital Saigon where they briefly penetrated the US Embassy.

Once in country, Ashley found his way to the large Marine Corps base at Khe Sanh, which was under siege by the North Vietnamese. Although the majority of the NVA and Vietcong attacks during the Tet Offensive were quickly dealt with, the siege of Khe Sanh continued for months. Carrying morbid similarities with the Siege of Dien Bien Phu, where the French were defeated by the Vietminh in 1954 and were forced out of Indochina, the fighting at Khe Sanh drew international attention.   

Close to Khe Sanh was the Lang Vei Special Forces Camp, which was just a mile-and-a-half from the border with Laos. Green Berets stationed in Lang Vei were no foreigners to NVA attacks. Artillery and sniper fire was a pretty common occurrence even before the Tet Offensive. But what was coming next was not common at all.

The woman who helped hundreds of enslaved people find freedom
A wounded Special Forces operator after having been evacuated. The battle of Lang Vei was one of the fiercest of the entire Vietnam War (Wikimedia.org).

On the night of February 6, the NVA launched a tank assault on the Special Forces base. Radioing Khe Sanh for assistance, the Marines there couldn’t believe that NVA armor was within the Lang Vei perimeter—this was the first time the NVA had used tanks in force. During the initial hours of the battle, Ashley coordinated airstrikes and mortar and artillery fire in support of his fellow Green Berets in the camp. Then, seeing that reinforcements from Khe Sanh weren’t going to reach the overran camp in time, Ashley and other Green Berets took matters into their own hands.

Ashley hastily organized a relief force comprised of Special Forces operators and partner forces and led them to the nearby camp. In the ensuing hours, Ashley would lead five assaults against NVA tanks and heavy infantry. Time after time, Ashley led by example and destroyed numerous enemy positions. The fifth assault, however, would be his last.

The woman who helped hundreds of enslaved people find freedom
North Vietnamese tanks entering Saigon in 1975. The NVA first used tanks en masse during the battle of Lang Vei (History.net).

Ashley’s Medal of Honor citation offers a glimpse of his actions on that fateful night.

“During his fifth and final assault, he adjusted airstrikes nearly on top of his assault element, forcing the enemy to withdraw and resulting in friendly control of the summit of the hill. While exposing himself to intense enemy fire, he was seriously wounded by machinegun fire but continued his mission without regard for his personal safety. After the fifth assault he lost consciousness and was carried from the summit by his comrades only to suffer a fatal wound when an enemy artillery round landed in his area. Sergeant Ashley displayed extraordinary heroism in risking his life in an attempt to save the lives of his entrapped comrades and commanding officer. His total disregard for his own personal safety while exposed to enemy observation and automatic weapons fire was an inspiration to all men committed to the assault. The resolute valor with which he led five gallant charges placed critical diversionary pressure on the attacking enemy and his valiant efforts carved a channel in the overpowering enemy forces and weapons positions through which the survivors of Camp Lang Vei eventually escaped to freedom. Sergeant Ashley’s conspicuous gallantry at the cost of his own life was in the highest traditions of the military service, and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 ways ninjas were nothing like they are in movies

Quick. Think of a ninja. If you imagined them as an honorable Feudal-Japanese assassin dressed entirely in black and throwing shuriken at their enemies, I’ve got some bad news for you.


This isn’t to say that they weren’t bad asses in their own right. They were definitely real and they definitely did many high-profile assassinations that continue to astound the world hundreds of years later. They just didn’t do things the way films, video games, and literature (in both the West and Japanese pop culture) depict them.

Much of their history is often shrouded in both mystery and myth, making actual facts about them sketchy at best and inaccurate at worst. What we do know about them comes from either the most high-profile, like Hattori Hanzo, or the very few verified sources.

1. They were never called “ninjas” in their time

The term “ninja” is actually a misreading of the Kanji for “Shinobi no Mono” or “the hidden person.” This was shortened when their legends grew to just “Shinobi” or “the hidden.”

“Ninja” became the more popular name for them after WWII for Westerners who found the word easier to pronounce than the actual name for them. Ninja eventually circled back and became the more used term in Japanese culture as well.

On a related note: This is also how the term “kunoichi” or “Female Shinobi” came about. There may not be historical evidence of women acting as deadly shinobi, but they could have been used for other ninja tasks. Which leads us to…

The woman who helped hundreds of enslaved people find freedom
I know, Easy to mix up.

2. They would scout and collect intel more than kill

There were many tasks of a Shinobi. It is well-documented that high-ranking leaders hired Shinobi to assassinate their enemies, like Oda Nobunaga and everyone who tried to kill Nobunaga. But the most useful Shinobi were “monomi” or “ones who see.”

Their espionage skills were so revered that it’s said even Sun Tsu wrote about them in Art of War. Monomi would either hide in crowds or sneak into a meeting so they could eavesdrop on important conversations. Once they learned what they needed to know, they’d get out of there.

The woman who helped hundreds of enslaved people find freedom

3. They never wore the all-black uniform

To nearly every other fighter in the history of war, a uniform has been an advantage. Shinobi, like everyone else doing undercover work in plain sight, would be stupid to wear anything that screams out “Hey everyone! I’m not actually a monk. I’m a deadly assassin!” They wore whatever they need to to fit in.

The uniform that everyone thinks of comes from kabuki theater. The crew who would work behind the stage dressed in the all-black uniforms to not distract from the performance while they were rearranging the sets or setting off the special effects. Fans in attendance would occasionally catch a glimpse of a stage hand and joke that they were shinobi. The “joke” part gained momentum and it just sort of stuck.

The woman who helped hundreds of enslaved people find freedom
Traditional kabuki theater still uses the same get-up. (Screengrab via YouTube)

4. They used everything for weapons except throwing stars

Let’s be honest. Throwing stars aren’t that deadly? It’s just a sharp piece of metal. Want to know what they actually used? Bows, poison, primitive flamethrowers, and damn near everything else. This includes the least stealthy weapon in feudal Japan, guns.

They did use their iconic swords, but the most common weapon was an inconspicuous farming sickle attached to a chain. After Oda Nobunaga tried to ban swords in Japan, no one cared if a farmer still had a sharpened sickle, so it wouldn’t seem out of place.

The woman who helped hundreds of enslaved people find freedom
Mortal Kombat isn’t too far off with Scorpion’s weapon. (Courtesy Photo)

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 things your drill sergeant can do that are worse than getting punched

There’s probably a part of us that is worried about our drill sergeant, drill instructor, training instructor, and RDCs are going to lose their cool and just pummel us into basic trainee mush. If you’ve ever seen their faces close enough to smell what they had for breakfast, they were probably really ripping into you, and that’s enough to make anyone wonder: Am I in danger?

In reality, that’s probably the least of your worries.


The woman who helped hundreds of enslaved people find freedom

Quick! Give him a nickname! I’m going with “The Drew Carey Show.”

Give you a nickname for the rest of your life.

There’s a good chance you’re going to tech school, AIT, or whatever your branch of service calls career training with some of the guys or gals from your basic training unit. While many of us can safely walk away from basic training saying to ourselves, “Well, at least no one saw that,” gaining a funny nickname from your training instructors is the kind of thing that could follow you your whole career – and it’s not cool unless it’s a call sign.

Nothing would be worse than retiring after 20 years and everyone calling you Chief “Chunkin.'”

The woman who helped hundreds of enslaved people find freedom

The opposite of water discipline.

Make you chug your entire canteen.

It’s not easy to chug that much water in one breath, especially without getting it all over yourself, but sometimes, when a grown man is yelling at you, demanding you do it that way, that’s what you have to do. This is the most military punishment since push-ups were created, except this one is dumb. Watching a recruit open their throat and try to take a whole canteen like it’s a beer shotgun is the like watching someone stand to be waterboarded. It did not look fun.

Then, of course, 15 minutes later, you have to ask that same drill sergeant to use the latrine.

The woman who helped hundreds of enslaved people find freedom

But with a mattress.

Force you to use your mattress as a scrub brush.

The first thing training instructors are is funny. Then, when the bizarre punishments happen to you, those same people become awful and absurd. There are few greater absurd punishments than watching a platoon scrub a floor with a wet mattress on a Sunday.

God help you if that’s your mattress.

The woman who helped hundreds of enslaved people find freedom

Smoke you all day.

PT, literally all day. The only time you get to stop is to eat. Until those times, you will run in circles around your platoon or flight as it marches, you will do push-ups until you have to roll your body over and can only get up with assistance, and you will do so many mountain climbers, it creates a defensive fire position for every single person in your unit, so they don’t have to dig.

And you’ll still do PT the next day.

The woman who helped hundreds of enslaved people find freedom

Recycle you.

If you read the previous four entries on this list, imagine having a few more weeks of opportunity to experience them all again. For the civilians of the world out there, recycling means moving a basic trainee into a previous week of training, forcing the recruit to go back and re-do the weeks of training he or she already did, and extending basic training by that long.

No one wants to be in basic training for longer than necessary. It’s summer camp for the power bottom crowd.

The woman who helped hundreds of enslaved people find freedom

A stare as old as time.

Just stare.

The icy, cold stare that informs you:

  1. 1. You messed up.
  2. 2. Bad.
  3. 3. But you don’t know how bad.
  4. 4. And you probably don’t know what it was.
  5. 5. You want to be anywhere else.
MIGHTY MOVIES

Wojtek, the 400-pound artillery bear, will get his own movie

Wojtek endeared himself to members of a Polish army unit in 1942 when he alerted them to the presence of a spy in their camp.

The Polish soldiers, who were released by Russia after the German invasion in 1941, were passing through the Middle East on their way back to Europe. Picking up new members on such a trip wouldn’t be unusual, but Wojtek’s case was a little different, because he was a bear.


Wojtek, whose mother is thought to have been shot by hunters, was bought by Polish soldiers while they were in Iran and eventually joined what would become the Polish II Corps’ 22nd artillery supply company in 1942.

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He continued with them through Iraq and into Egypt.

To board a ship to Europe in 1943, Wojtek needed to be a soldier, so the Poles formally enlisted him as a private — with his own pay book and serial number.

Wojtek, who eventually weighed well over 400 pounds, also got double rations.

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The badge of the 22nd Artillery Support Company of the 2nd Polish Corps.

“He was like a child, like a small dog. He was given milk from a bottle, like a baby. So therefore he felt that these soldiers are nearly his parents and therefore he trusted in us and was very friendly,” Wojciech Narebski, a Polish soldier who spent three years alongside Wojtek during the war, told the BBC in 2011.

They also shared a name — Wojtek is a diminutive form of the name Wojciech, which means “happy warrior.”

Now Wojtek’s story is being documented in an animation feature by Iain Harvey, an animator and the executive producer of the 1982 adaptation of Raymond Brigg’s children’s story “The Snowman,” which was nominated for an Oscar and is still shown every year at Christmas on British television.

The bear smoked, drank, and wrestled with soldiers

When he was told about Wojtek, Harvey thought the story was “pure fantasy,” he told the Times of London this week. “It’s fantastic to have a piece of magic that’s real.”

Wojtek, who eventually rose to the rank of corporal, became a mascot for his unit.

Soldiers would box and wrestle with the bear, who was also fond of smoking and drinking. “For him one bottle was nothing,” Narebski told the BBC. “He was weighing [440 pounds]. He didn’t get drunk.”

He was trained not to be a threat to people and was “very quiet, very peaceful,” Narebski said. But he didn’t get along with another bear and a monkey that were also adopted by the soldiers.

The woman who helped hundreds of enslaved people find freedom

Wojtek was a source of good cheer for the unit, Narebski told the BBC. “For people who are far from families, far from their home country, from a psychological viewpoint, it was very important.”

But he was more than good company during the fighting in Italy.

A British soldier at the Battle of Monte Cassino said he was surprised to see the six-foot bear hauling artillery shells to resupply Allied forces. The company’s patch also featured Wojtek carrying a shell.

Filmmakers released a documentary about Wojtek in 2011. Harvey’s project, “A Bear Named Wojtek,” has secured funding from Poland, but he is still seeking a British partner, telling The Times that he would contact Channel 4 and the BBC as well as companies like Netflix.

Harvey’s project is being set up for release on the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day on May 8, 2020.

According to The Times, it will take 30 animators roughly a year to produce the 30-minute film, hand-drawing each scene on a tablet.

Narebski last saw Wojtek in April 1945, before the Battle of Bologna in Italy.

Once his unit was demobilized in Scotland, the bear was resettled at the Edinburgh Zoo.

The woman who helped hundreds of enslaved people find freedom

A monument to Wojtek in Krakow.

Former members of his unit often visited him at the zoo, where he lived until his death in 1963 at age 21.

Narebski returned to Poland but had trouble keeping in touch with his former comrades — both human and bear — because of restrictions put in place by the Polish government.

He never forgot about Wojtek, however.

“It was very pleasant for me to think about him,” Narebski told the BBC. “I felt like he was my older brother.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

North and South Korea may officially end the Korean War

The upcoming summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae In could result in a historic announcement, with the sides declaring an end to the 68-year long war on the peninsula, according to a report.

Newspaper Munhwa Ilbo cited an unnamed South Korean intelligence source as saying the coming Kim-Moon summit on April 27, 2018, the first time the leaders will meet face-to-face, may result in a peace announcement.


The news follows weeks of planning between the South and North that kicked off with a thawing of previously tense relations during the Winter Olympics.

Since then, Kim has expressed an unprecedented willingness to talk to the South, a desire to talk about denuclearization with the US, and traveled outside his country for the first time since assuming power in 2011 to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.

During the thaw, North Korea has seen an influx of South Korean visitors, including diplomatic delegations and Korean pop bands, with Kim himself sitting in on a performance that he reportedly loved.

The woman who helped hundreds of enslaved people find freedom
Chief of the National Security Office Chung Eui-yong and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un meetingu00a0in Pyongyang on March 5, 2018; Jong-un is holding a letter signed by SK’s president Moon Jae-in to arrange for more talks towards peace.

North Korea has also opened up the Kim family to publicity, sending his sister Kim Yo Jong to the games and upgrading the status of Ri Sol Ju, the wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, from “comrade” to “revered first lady” in a potential bid to create a cult of personality around her.

The US maintains a wait-and-see attitude toward the talks, and has vowed to stay tough on North Korea by not letting up on sanctions or military pressure. But the customary military exercises that take place with the US and South Korea have been delayed and toned down since 2017.

Experts remain skeptical that North Korea would actually go through with its promises to denuclearize, as it has entered into negotiations in the past only to have them fall apart when it came time to inspect their nuclear sites.

But South Korean diplomats repeatedly say Pyongyang has stuck to its promise of denuclearization, and even laid out specific plans for implementation.

In any case, the relations between North Korea and the world have markedly turned since 2017, when President Donald Trump threatened the country with presumably nuclear “fire and fury” and Pyongyang spoke of firing missiles at US forces in Guam and detonating nukes in the sky.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US and Norwegian forces prepare for winter warfare

Service members from the Norwegian Armed Forces and US Air Force 352d Special Operations Wing participated in a week-long exercise Dec. 9-13, 2019, at Banak Air Station, Norway.

The training was part of a larger exercise that encompassed live ammunition fire, infiltration and exfiltration, and cold-weather training utilizing with the 352nd SOW’s CV-22B Osprey and MC-130J Commando II.

“This exercise is designed as a 352nd SOW Winter Warfare trainer, to test all aspects of the 352nd SOW mission, from the airside to the maintenance side, as well as exercising all logistical functions that we expect to use in future operations,” said US Air Force Lt. Col. Jonathan Niebes, 352nd SOW mission commander for the exercise.


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A US Air Force MC-130J Commando II assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing refuels at Banak Air Station, Norway, in preparation for a week-long bilateral training engagement with the Norwegian Armed Forces, December 10, 2019

(US Air Force/1st Lt. Kevyn Stinett)

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US Air Force members assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing and Norwegian soldiers load ammunition onto snowmobiles prior to their range training near Banak Air Base, Norway, December 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

“The high north is unique because it is remote. It is sparsely populated. There aren’t a lot of built-up bases, and the weather is very extreme,” said US Air Force Maj. Shaun, CV-22 instructor pilot.

“The 352nd SOW brings a unique capability of long-range infiltration and exfiltration through low-level penetration in all weather conditions. Here in the Arctic, where half the year it is dark, and the weather is not the greatest, we can overcome those challenges through our unique tactics, techniques, and procedures. We’ve taken lessons learned elsewhere around Europe, Africa, and the Middle East and adapted them to the arctic environment.”

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A Norwegian soldier prepares to fire an M72 Light Anti-Tank Weapon alongside special tactics operators from 352nd Special Operations Wing, during a live-fire training near Banak Air Base, Norway, December 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

This training simultaneously gives Air Commandos from the 352nd SOW the opportunity to train missions in a challenging environment alongside their NATO partners as well as refining how to operate more safely and efficiently in day-to-day operations.

“As part of our standard equipment, our special tactics operators use ratchets in a variety of functions such as locking and securing objects. During this past week, we learned from the Norwegian ranger soldiers, that it is more effective to use ropes with friction knots for certain tasks as they don’t freeze over when you’re going through variables with the weather,” said a special tactics airmen with the 352nd SOW.

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A Norwegian soldier during a live-fire training near Banak Air Base, Norway, December 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

These engagements are opportunities for Norway and the US, to steadily build upon a strong bond, founded on shared values and desires for a robust Trans-Atlantic unity and stability in the European theater and the Arctic region.

“When working with the host nation, it is important to accomplish our training objectives, but more importantly, we are strengthening our already close relationship with our Norwegian allies. These are the folks we are going to integrate with on the battlefield, so the comfortability with our two militaries is vital,” said Niebes.

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US Air Force special tactics members assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing conduct cold-weather training on snowmobiles alongside members from the Norwegian Armed Forces near Banak Air Base, Norway, December 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

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A US Air Force service member assigned to the 352nd Special Operation Wing based out of RAF Mildenhall refuels a CV-22B Osprey before a mission near Banak Air Station, Norway, December 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

“This is an environment like nowhere else in the world, it could very quickly become a battlespace that would be a reality to compete in, and as special operators who can be any place, any time, we must be proficient in every environment,” said Niebes.

“So for us to get the opportunity to train with experts in winter warfare is super important. The 352nd SOW truly appreciates the professional training with our Norwegian partners, and the increase of relationships and skill we collectively received this week. We look forward to coming back and building upon our combined training in the High North.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 forgotten facts about the Forgotten War

In 1945, the unified Korean country was split along the 38th parallel, creating North Korea and South Korea. The communist north was backed by the Soviet Union and the democratic south by the United States. Though the split allowed these two countries to be formed, neither the north or south felt that the division was accurate, and each side believed the other part of Korea was rightfully theirs.

To rectify this, North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, with China’s help and the Soviet Union. This started the Korean War, though the U.S. involvement didn’t officially happen until later.


In the U.S., it’s often called the Forgotten War, since WWII and the Vietnam War largely overshadowed the conflict. As the country tried to heal from WWII, our involvement in the Korean conflict was largely ignored by the media. The U.S. involvement in Vietnam, which began in 1955, also overpowered the conflict in Korea.

What’s in a name?

North Korea calls it the Fatherland Liberation War, and South Korea calls it Six-Two-Five. This numerical reference indicates the date the war started, June 25, 1950. China calls it the War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea. Names aside, here are four more forgotten facts you need to know about the Korean War:

A Never-Ending War

Six decades later, we’re still no closer to a peaceful conclusion. The Korean Armistice Agreement put an end to the “acts of armed violence” but didn’t actually declare an end to the war. The agreement is technically just a ceasefire that was written to hold the countries over until they could come to a more lasting peaceful solution. As time went on and neither side was willing to budge on their terms, no official end was ever declared. Now, the two countries are still technically at war.

Speaking of “war”

On June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea, following approval and a pledge of support from the Soviet Union. In 1950, the US was actively pulling out of South Korea, and there were few service members left in the country. But just two days later, President Truman made the decision for air, and naval action as the North Korean Army approached Seoul.

However, the Korean War was only ever considered a “conflict,” and Congress never officially declared war. As the conflict unfolded, the United Nations publicly demanded that North Korea stop attacking South Korea and retreat back to the 38th parallel. Of course, the order was ignored, so the UN called on the rest of the world to help support South Korea. The call was answered by over 15 countries, including France, Ethiopia, Canada, and Australia.

The 38th Parallel has always been hotly debated

The idea of a North Korea and South Korea isn’t something new. In fact, in the late 1890s, Japan wanted to separate Korea and split the landmass with Russia. Japan wanted to use the 38th Parallel to slip the country, giving Russia control of the North and keeping the South for itself. The peninsula wasn’t officially split apart until 1945 after WWII.

On either side of the 38th Parallel is the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which houses meeting spaces for the two countries to meet in a neutral location for talks. The DMZ was created in 1953, and the zone is about 5 km wide. Ideally, this buffer is supposed to be the place where no military action can occur, but there have been instances of violence, directed to both the military and civilians.

The North Koreans captured an American General

A month after the war broke out, Maj. Gen. William F. Dean, commander of the 24th Infantry Division, was separated from his forces while he attempted to help wounded service members. He was out looking for water when he fell down a cliff and was knocked unconscious. During the next 26 days, Dean was isolated in the mountains and lost 80 pounds. He also suffered a broken shoulder and a head wound from the fall. Two South Koreans found him and told him they were leading him to safety. In reality, they took him to a North Korean ambush site. Dean tried to fight his captors, but couldn’t resist for long. Officially, he was taken prisoner on August 25, 1950, and remained a POW until the end of the war.

Though the Korean War might not have had much time in the media spotlight, it’s still fiercely remembered by the service members who were called to serve as well as the families who lost loved ones during the war.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Sticky grenades are only really a thing in video games and movies

From a video game standpoint, it makes sense: A weapon that racks up in-game kills without the hassle of managing a frag grenade bouncing all over the place. Even in Saving Private Ryan, quickly improvising a sticky bomb to take out a tank proved how smart Tom Hank’s Captain Miller was in battle.


In actuality, sticky grenades did exist, but were far more headache than help. Meet the British Anti-tank No. 74.

They weren’t used against infantrymen like video games would have you believe, though. Packing 1.25 lbs of nitroglycerine along with another pound of plastic and glass meant that the boom from real-life sticky grenades would only destroy things that are stuck to it.

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Diagram of the No. 74 Sticky Grenade. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

As such, the British No. 74 was designed as an anti-tank weapon that troops would break out of its casing, throw (or, more likely, just walk up and plant), and, five seconds after the lever is released from the handle, boom!

As for the “epic sticky grenade throws” you see in Call of Duty — still no. The most common concern with the No. 74 was that once you take it out of the protective casing that conceals the stickiness, you’ve armed it. Everything that it sticks to is now going to be destroyed. Meaning that if it stuck to your clothes or anything around you, you need to remove whatever it’s stuck to without letting go of the lever. If the lever was released… you’d better get as far away from it as you can in five seconds or else… boom!

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You can understand why most troops planted the grenade instead of tossing it. (Image via YouTube)

To make matters worse, they traveled terribly. The inside was made of glass, so if it cracked in transit, the explosive would leak. If the leaked explosive got just a tiny amount of friction… you guessed it: boom!

Even if the handling, arming, and tossing of the grenade all went perfectly, it still may not work as intended. If the Brit managed to get close enough to toss the 2.25 lbs grenade at the German armor, which was usually surrounded by ground troops, tanks were always covered in things that the grenade had trouble sticking on: Wet surfaces and dirt.

Despite being having over 2.5 million sticky grenades produced, it rarely saw as much use as it does in pop culture.

To see the No. 74 in use, watch the old training video below:

(YouTube, Okrajoe)

MIGHTY HISTORY

This German submarine was looted by American divers

It is always interesting to dive on wrecks. This can include wrecks of sunken warships, which can serve as an eerie glimpse into the past. Some ships, like the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Oriskany (CV 34), are old warships being put to use as artificial reefs.


Others were sent to Davy Jone’s Locker the hard way during the war. One such vessel is the German U-boat U-85. According to U-Boat.net, this sub sank three vessels during its wartime service before it ran into USS Roper (DD 147). The Roper put U-85 on the bottom of the Atlantic. All hands went down with the German sub less than twenty miles off the coast of North Carolina.

 

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The German submarine U-52, a Type VIIB U-boat similar to U-85. (British government photo)

The story, though, doesn’t end there. According to Outer Banks Sentinel’s web site, in 2001, divers Jim Bunch, Roger Hunting, and Rich Hunting retrieved the sub’s Enigma machine. The site claimed that Navy divers had attempted a similar objective shortly after the U-boat sank in 1942. The Sentinel noted that the Enigma was worth as much as $200,000, although appraisals supposedly for tax purposes were in the range of $50,000 to $75,000.

A 2003 release by the United States Navy’s Naval Historical Center noted that “the retrieval of the Enigma machine by the private divers was illegal without proper authorization from the German government to do so.” The Navy, the divers, and the German government later arranged for the Engima machine in question to be donated to the Atlantic Graveyard Museum, where it is today.

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A collection of enigma machines at the National Cryptologic Museum. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The looting of war graves has become an epidemic in the East Indies, including the battleship HMS Prince of Wales, the battlecruiser HMS Repulse, and a number of other allied vessels.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what the proposed ‘Atomic Veteran Medal’ could mean

Many of the side effects of war go unaddressed by those outside the military and veteran community. Recent veterans have been exposed to deadly chemicals released from burn pits. Vietnam War veterans fought for decades to get recognition of the impacts of exposure to Agent Orange. But finally, there can be some solace for veterans who have been exposed to nuclear radiation.

The first sort of federal acknowledgement of the unfathomable health concerns involved with being in close contact with nuclear waste, radioactive elements, and even nuclear blast testing came in 1990 with the establishment of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). Now, with the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, radiation-exposed veterans will be honored with the colloquially named “Atomic Veterans Medal.”


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It means that the government is finally saying that being this close to a nuclear explosion is, apparently, “bad for your health”

(US Navy)

H.Amdt.648 to the H.R.5515 requires the Secretary of Defense to design and produce a military service medal to honor retired and former members of the Armed Forces who were exposed to radiation — or, as the amendment calls them, “atomic veterans.”

At first glance, this seems like a paltry concession for someone who has lived a lifetime of hardships stemming from irradiation. It is, in essence, a ribbon, a piece of metal, and a paper that says, “that sucks — we’re sorry that happened!” That sort of thing is of little importance in the minds of atomic vets.

But it means far more in the bigger picture.

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One fire screwed over 16 million vets well over 45 years later.

(Department of Defense)

Federal acknowledgement is paramount. The fact that, according to the House voting record, 408 congressmen agree that this amendment should be included and that the government should do more for atomic veterans is huge.

Care for atomic vets has been an issue swept under the rug for years. That care was made even more questionable after the National Archives Fire of 1973, which saw the destruction of military personnel files for over 16-18 million veterans in a single night. Because of that fire, many cancer-stricken veterans were denied healthcare as it was impossible to prove that they were, in fact, within the proximity of a nuclear blast.

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One hill at a time.

(United States Air Force photo)

The first radiation exposure act gave atomic veterans the ability to receive special, priority enrollment for healthcare services from the VA for radiation-related conditions. The amendment in 2013 allowed even more veterans to be covered by RECA by including veterans who were downwind of nuclear tests. The wording of the medal seems to allow for all veterans who’ve been affected by radiation in some manner.

This alone is a huge win as it now gives treatment for the veterans who’ve long been denied access to medical care. With legislation like this receiving overwhelming support, it’s only a matter of time before Agent Orange veterans and the Burn Pit veterans also get their acknowledgement.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These flashbang grenades are legal for civilians

IWA International is a company based out of Miami, FL that specializes in importing unique tactical gear from all around the world. We recently got a chance to play with a couple of their latest releases — civilian-legal flashbang grenades.

Actual flashbangs produced for military and law enforcement use are classified as destructive devices by the ATF and are not available on the commercial market. They typically consist of an explosive charge and fuse mechanism inside a steel or aluminum grenade body. We have seen simulators and training aids available for unrestricted purchase that use shotgun blanks or even CO2 cartridges to create the bang, popular for use in airsoft and paintball matches.


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But the IWA bangs are a little different. They consist of a small charge inside a cardboard tube. The design actually reminds us of some of the first-generation concussion grenades that used a similar cardboard or paper body. The IWA grenades are classified as pyrotechnics and are governed by the same restrictions that apply to fireworks. Because of this, shipping is limited to ground-transport only which means only those in the Lower 48 will be able to purchase them, state and local laws notwithstanding.

There are currently three models available from IWA – the M11 multi-burst, the M12 Distraction Device, and the M13 Thermobaric Canister. The M11 gives off a single loud bang followed by two smaller bangs. The M12 is a single charge, and the M13 Thermobaric produces a single loud bang and a “mild overpressure” as described by the folks at IWA. Fortunately, they sent us a couple of each for testing. All three models sport OD green cardboard bodies and pull-ring fuses with a safety spoon that flies free when the safety ring is pulled. Each grenade is individually labeled and, though the bodies look identical, the labels are large and clearly marked so you know what you’re getting when you pull the pin. They are roughly the same size as an actual flashbang and seem to fit in most nylon pouches made for the real deal.

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There are, of course, some differences between the IWA products and the real thing. The biggest difference is sound output. The products made by DefTec and ALS produce about 175 decibels on detonation. The IWA grenades are rated for 125 decibels. The other major difference is time delay. Tactical-grade flashbangs usually have a 1.5-second delay, while the IWA versions are currently advertised at 2.5 seconds. They tell us they are working on an improved fuse that will bring the delay down to 2 seconds or less.

The folks we spoke to at IWA say that these are meant primarily for training and simulation purposes. Not to mention the obvious f*ck-yeah-factor of getting to toss grenades for whatever special occasion you can come up with. The lower sound output makes them a more akin to a sophisticated M80 than a tool for post-apocalyptic home defense, but we don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Who needs a reason to set off explosives? All three versions of the IWA flashbang are available for .99 each, with bulk pricing available.

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The photos here will have to hold you over for now but stay tuned to RecoilWeb and RecoilTV for video of our tests of these unique products. In the meantime, check out iwainternationalinc.com and pick up one or two for yourself.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

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