How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

Hashshashin have gone by many namesakes and the word assassin derives from the original religious cult. They consumed hashish to create visions and assassinate Christian crusading leaders and Muslim sultans alike. Their notoriety lives on to this day, influencing cult classics like the Marco Polo Netflix series or mainstream gaming such as the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Assassination was not an unfamiliar weapon in the ancient world, but the Hashshashin turned it into an art form.

Religious roots in Islam

The Hashshashin existed as a religious group of assassins from the 11th to the 13th centuries in Persia and Syria. For hundreds of years, they operated out of hidden mountain fortresses near the Caspian Sea. The new Islamic religion spread throughout the ancient world, but early on it was split between two groups: The Sunni and Shia. The Sunni believe that Abu Bakr was the rightful successor to the Islamic Prophet. The Shia consider Uthman’s son in-law, Ali, to be the legitimate heir. This was the start of different sects of the religion, splintering into other subgroups.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world
Alamout Castle ruins (Wikipedia, CC-BY-3.0)

Al-Mustansir ruled as Caliph of the Fatimid Caliphate from the age of seven for over 50 years. The religious empire spanned across northern Africa to the west and Persia to the east. Ethnic groups in Egypt made it increasingly difficult for Al-Mustansir to maintain a strong grip of the extensive empire. He gave some of his military power to his General Badr Al-Jamali to defeat the enemies of the state. Badr succeeded in defeating the groups and the politicians that supported them. On January 10, 1094 the eighth Fatimid caliph died in Egypt.

Abu Mansir Nizar, Al-Mustansir’s son, was the next in line as successor. Badr had died earlier that year as well. Badr’s son, Al-Afdal Shahanshah, took his father’s place as the Caliph’s vizier, a high office in the Muslim dynasty. Behind the scenes, Al-Afdal controlled the government due to his father’s exploits. To remain in power, he organized a successful coup. Al-Afdal placed Abu’s younger, 20-year-old brother on the throne instead because it would be much easier to control a child. The governor of Alexandria gave refuge to Abu and appointed him Caliph.

A year-long Egyptian civil war ended with a besieged Alexandria and the surrender of Abu. Imprisoned and executed by a pretender, the rightful ruler of the Caliphate met his end. Egyptian and Syrian leaders reluctantly accepted the bloody transition of power, but Persia to east refused. The Turks invaded the lands to the east and forced Sunni beliefs on the populace and executed those who refused.

Hassan-I Sabbah, a religious leader of a smaller faction, was banished long before the coup in 1080s. His loyalty to Al-Musansir and to Nizari beliefs made him a threat to the ambitious vizier’s family. As a consequence, when the rightful ruler died, he dedicated his life to vengeance and personal gain.

During his exile, he infiltrated the fabled fort Alamut disguised as a missionary of the opposing religious faction. Secretly, however, he was converting followers to his own brand of the religion. He won the fort and established his own Nizari Ismailis revolt – and his secret society the Hashashin.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world
Siege of Alamut (Wikipedia)

Consequently, Turkish Sultans did not want a renegade upstart seizing forts in their new empire and sent armies to recapture Alamut. The 2,000 foot high fortress that sat on vertical cliffs was impregnable. The Sultan Malik-Shah applied constant military pressure to seize the fort and kill Hassan-I. With this in mind, mysteriously, the Sultan and his vizier died. Of course, the evidence that this this may or may not have been the first assassination by the Hashashin is a topic of debate among historians. This caused a civil war that presented more opportunities for Hassan-I to capture more forts to use as a base of operations for assassinations. Hassan-I became known as “The Old Man in the Mountain.”

Psychological warfare

In spite of the name, Hashashin was originally derogatory in nature. The assassins embraced this notoriety and expanded on the fantastical tales about them. Hashashin refers to copious amounts of hashish smoked by the assassins.

‘The Assassins as men who were drugged with hashish wine and then taken to a lush valley where all of their sexual desires were fulfilled to gain their loyalty.’ – Marco Polo

‘They called themselves “fidayeen” (“martyrs”), which is what many suicide bombers today call themselves.’ – Pico Iyer, Smithsonian magazine, October 1986

A Fi’dai made peace with the fact a mission meant certain death. This dedication was also what made them terrifying. They turned assassination into an artform and could blend in with the population. Their myth grew further as it seemed they practically appeared out of nowhere and could be anyone at any time.

Hence, they could be hired by anyone to kill political or religious leaders with large sums of money. Crusaders even hired the Hashashin during the first Crusade.

Their tactics were so successful that the word assassin came from the word Hashashin.

Romanticism of the assassin

‘The Country of the Assassins’ exists on crusader maps where they had scatter strongholds. That shows that even crusaders knew that was ‘nope’ territory and to leave them the hell alone.

[Marco Polo’s] medieval best seller mentions the Syrian Old Man of the Mountain administering a drugged potion to his fanatical followers to facilitate their deadly missions. Since the sect’s nickname, the Hashishim, was derived from the Arabic for “hashish,” Marco Polo’s account helped cement their reputation as drug-fueled thugs. Modern historians, however, regard Marco Polo’s description as something of an invention itself. — Vicente Millan Torres, National Geographic

Among some of the most notable assassination attempts was the one of the famed Muslim Saladin where 13 Fi’dais were killed. The order was contracted by Rashid Ad-Din Sinan on behalf of Gumushtigin, the ruler of Aleppo.

Richard the lionhearted hired the assassins in 1192, and Jagati, the son of Genghis Khan, hired them 1242. The long list of assassination attempts even includes Edward the first of England in 1272. They could reach out and touch you from the safety of their hidden fortresses in the mountains.

It didn’t matter how tight security was, they were going to kill you or die trying. That’s some scary sh*t for a medieval ruler of any religion.

Assassins are a staple topic in pop culture. From John Wick to the Assassin’s Creed video game franchise, assassins are cool. You could probably list five real or fictional assassins off the top of your head popularized by film and television. The mystery and lethality of assassins capture the imagination. In fact, the Shia Islamic religious sect is still around today. Probably without the contract killings – allegedly. (Conspiracy music intensifies.)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Martin Luther King Jr.: Planting trees in whose shade he would never sit

On September 20, 1958, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. arrived at the Blumstein’s department store in Harlem, New York for a book signing. His new book “Stride Toward Freedom” chronicled the Montgomery bus boycott that began when Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat on a public bus to a white passenger. The boycott had come to a close in December of 1956, when the Supreme Court ruled that the segregation of public buses was indeed unconstitutional. It was a watershed moment for both the Civil Rights movement and for America itself.

As a crowd formed in the shoe section of Blumstein’s, King took his seat behind a roped-off section of the store. Soon, eager readers were lining up to catch a moment of the influential figure’s time and his signature for their book. He exchanged brief pleasantries with each person as they approached the table, and as a 42-year-old woman in a stylish outfit and sequined cat’s eye-glasses took her turn, King’s demeanor was no different.

“Are you Martin Luther King?” The woman reportedly asked through a notable southern accent.

“Yes,” King replied, but before he could go on any further, the seemingly ordinary woman threw herself at the table and the man behind it, plunging a seven-inch pen knife into King’s chest.

Bystanders responded by pulling the woman away from King and pinning her on the floor as she shouted, “I’ve been after him for six years. I’m glad I done it!”

King, a man who was no stranger to threats, seemed somehow stoically calm, despite the serious bleeding from his chest. As his fans and supporters surrounded him, ushering him toward medical help, he was heard counseling them, soothing their collective anxieties as though he knew everything was going to be okay.

“That’s all right. Everything is going to be all right,” King was heard saying.

Of course, King couldn’t know it would be all right. Maybe it was just in his nature to ease the burden on others. With the knife still in his chest, King was lifted in his chair and carried out to an ambulance that would rush him to Harlem Hospital. Shortly thereafter, the police would march the same dangerous woman back into King’s company. This time there were no books to sign. The police wanted him to confirm that the women they had in custody was indeed his attacker. When they’d placed her under arrest, they also recovered a loaded .25 caliber pistol from her bra.

Related: THE STUNNING COMBAT HISTORY OF THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN

Despite the terrible attack, King was lucky. The seven-inch knife had punctured his chest just a fraction of an inch away from his aorta, or the main artery that carried blood from his heart to the rest of his body. King, who remained conscious and soothing throughout the ordeal, had only narrowly escaped death, but the risk hadn’t passed. He was rushed into surgery, where he had two ribs removed from his side to allow the knife to be pulled out without causing further damage.

“The X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery,” Dr. King later said in his famed ‘I’ve been to the mountaintop’ speech.

“And once that’s punctured, you’re drowned in your own blood — that’s the end of you.”

He would leave the hospital days later with a new scar in the shape of a cross over his heart. Despite the brutal attack, he was resolute when questioned by the press: He bore no ill will toward the woman who had stabbed him and reaffirmed his position that non-violence is the only way to manifest the type of positive change he sought for his country.

The attacker, whose name was Izola Curry, didn’t look like the sort of person most would expect to attack Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Curry was a fashionable middle-aged Black woman, but beneath her polished exterior laid a turbulent and troubled mind. Curry was a paranoid schizophrenic who had struggled with her mental health for years. In her confused state, she’d grown convinced that King and the NAACP were conspiring with communists against her. To King, however, the attack was a symptom of a greater illness than even Curry’s schizophrenia.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

“A climate of hatred and bitterness so permeates areas of our nation that inevitably deeds of extreme violence must erupt,” he said at the time.

“The experience of these last few days has deepened my faith in the relevance of the spirit of nonviolence, if necessary social change is peacefully to take place.”

King would continue to change the world for another decade, before yet another act of violence would rob him of the remainder of his life. It could be argued that, as of that fateful day in 1958, he was acutely aware of the risk his efforts posed to his safety. If he did feel fear somewhere beneath the obvious empathy he felt for the woman who attacked him, however, it never showed. King did not shy away from his work, nor his beliefs, no matter the risk.

Related: 3 BLACK SERVICE MEMBERS WHO HELPED SHAPE HISTORY

Now, as we prepare to honor the memory and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. some 63-years after his death, the story of the near fatal attack offers some uncomfortable parallels with today’s America. As rhetoric about race, mental illness, and the danger of radicalized beliefs permeate our national discourse today just as it did in 1958, we could all learn something from King’s ability to find a catalyst for positive change in even the darkest of places.

In King’s final public speech, he recalled the 1958 attack and how close he came to death… but even amid telling the story, King’s focus was not on his own mortality, but rather on the goodness he found in others as a result of the experience, and the progress he envisioned for America to come.

He told the story of a 9-year-old white girl who wrote to him to say that she’d read that if he had sneezed while the blade was in his chest, he almost certainly would have died.

“And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze,” King recounted.

King went on to echo the young girl’s sentiment, using it to remind the audience about the important steps the Civil Rights movement had made in the years that followed. King didn’t recount these events like he was listing his own victories, but there was an air of pride about his statements. King, like so many great Americans before him, saw each victory and failure as another part of the struggle that has defined America since its very inception. America, he knew, has always been defined by the aspiration for a better tomorrow, the drive to become a more perfect union.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world
(Public Domain)

“If I had sneezed — If I had sneezed I wouldn’t have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been down in Selma, Alabama, to see the great Movement there.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been in Memphis to see a community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering.

I’m so happy that I didn’t sneeze.”

For all of his philosophical wisdom, King was, at his heart, a pragmatic man. He saw the complexity, the hate, the love, the anger, and the joy all woven into the fabric of his nation. He knew his goals were grander than one man, no matter his eloquence and empathy. He knew that the progress he helped usher in was delicate, and that the fight for our nation’s soul was far from over. King knew America would never be perfect… but importantly, he knew that it was in the effort, in the aspiration, that America’s true greatness had always, and will always, lie.

Related: GENERAL CHARLES “CQ” BROWN CONFIRMED AS AMERICA’S FIRST BLACK SERVICE CHIEF

In a way, it’s deeply tragic that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was able to look out over the crowd of supporters that had gathered on that April day in 1968 and know that he wouldn’t be there to see America embrace the equality he longed for… but King was a great American. Like our Founding Fathers, King knew that a society grows great when men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. Progress, like a tree, needs time to take root.

Today, our nation continues to struggle with some of the same issues it faced during King’s days of fighting for equality, as well as daunting new ones that stretch beyond the horizon. America has always been imperfect, but our greatness doesn’t lie in what we are. The real America has always been found in what we, its people, strive to become.

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 memorable Vietnam Veterans

Vietnam Veterans Day is a way to honor and thank those who fought and contributed to the war, as well as families who lost loved ones that served. While we celebrated all the Vietnam Veterans last week who served, we look to remember some of the most notable ones out of the 2.7 million soldiers who dedicated their time and blood to the Vietnam effort (between November 1, 1955 and May 15, 1975).

Many memorials have been created honoring the Vietnam Veterans, including 58,000 names carved into a black granite wall in Washington, D.C. While we remember those that died, we often forget those who lived, including the 304,000 service members who were wounded, 1,253 soldiers missing in action (MIA), and 2,500 prisoners of war (POWs).


Among these names are ones that are still recognized today, including these 5 memorable Vietnam Veterans:

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

John McCain

Famously, Senator John McCain spent five years in the Hoa Loa war prison, where he is said to have been physically and mentally tortured. He was released in 1973 after a ceasefire. For his time, he earned a Distinguished Flying Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart.

McCain is a third-generation Navy member. He served as a pilot, completing several successful missions, before his plane was shot down and he was captured. Though Vietnam officials attempted to trade for his release due to being an admiral’s son, McCain refused and remained in captivity.

Nearly a decade after his release, he joined the House of Representatives via the state of Arizona. In 1996, McCain made a successful bid to the U.S. Senate, and later ran for president, losing to Barack Obama.

Other notable Vietnam Veteran politicians include Colin Powell, who retired from the Army after being injured in Vietnam, and going down in a helicopter crash, and Bob Kerrey, a former Navy SEAL who lost part of his leg in a Vietnam grenade explosion.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

Roger Staubach

Captain Comeback AKA Roger the Dodger was an NFL star quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys who brought home two Super Bowl wins. But before he was making his way in the NFL, Staubach graduated from the Naval Academy and served in the Navy. Upon graduation, he requested a tour in Vietnam, where he spent a year as a supply supervisor.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

Fred Smith

As the founder and Chairman of FedEx, Fred Smith is a notable businessman. But before he was setting up smart, overnight delivery infrastructure, he was serving as a U.S. Marine. In the late 60s, Smith put in two Vietnam tours where he worked as a forward air controller. He has cited his time in the Marines as helping him to understand and utilize military logistics for FedEx’s future success.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

J. Craig Venter

Another incredible Vietnam Veteran is J. Craig Venter, who was the first to sequence the human genome. Venture was drafted to the Navy, where he worked as a hospital orderly. He has said the experience with heavily wounded soldiers and frequent death prompted him to attend school and dedicate his career to medical studies.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

She is one of 8 women named on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.

Annie Ruth Graham

Though little info exists on female service members of Vietnam, there were hundreds of nurses, news researchers and more who put their efforts to the war. This includes Annie Ruth Graham, a Lieutenant Colonel who served in World War II and Korea, before lending her nursing expertise to Vietnam. She died from natural causes during the war.

These are only a few names who helped offer their time and efforts to the Vietnam War. For more on their service, or to read about other veterans, check out the National Archives website.

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 worst military defeats in modern history

It’s easy, when you’re one of the world’s great powers, to think that most battles will go your way. And the ones that won’t? Well, you can only lose so badly when you’ve got better technology, larger formations, and/or God on your side. Unfortunately, that’s not true, and even great powers can get themselves curb stomped in surprising ways.

Here are seven military defeats where someone thought they could be the big dog in a fight only to find out they were facing a bear:


How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

Painting depicting the final minutes, and Russian losses, at the Battle of Tsushima Strait where a Russian fleet was annihilated by a larger, better prepared Japanese fleet in 1905.

Battle of Tsushima

It’s sometimes hard to remember that Russia once fielded a top-tier navy that made enemies around the world quiver in their boots. That actually changed during the Battle of Tsushima, when Russia sent a massive fleet to defend their claims in and around Korea from a growing Japanese Navy. The Japanese Navy used their better ships, tactics, and telegraphy (think ship-to-ship Morse code) to demolish the Russians.

The two fleets closed with each other on May 27, 1905, and the Japanese ships were in better condition, allowing them to sail slightly faster. Even better for the Japanese, there was a heavy fog that their telegraph traffic could penetrate, but the Russians couldn’t communicate as well with their lights and flags.

Japan’s five battleships and 84 other ships and boats were able to twice “cross the T” of Russia’s 38 ships, pounding the Russians with broadsides while the Russians could only reply with forward guns. The Russians were forced to flee, sinking only three Japanese torpedo boats while losing 28 ships.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

Ottoman soldiers man machine guns in 1916, similar to the troops that maintained the Siege of Kut.

(Library of Congress)

Siege of Kut

The Siege of Kut took place in 1915 in what is now Iraq. British-Indian forces, retreating from a defeat at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, decided to stop at Kut, a position easily defended, but difficult to resupply. Since we’re talking about a siege, you can probably guess how that went.

Approximately 11,000 British and Indian infantrymen reached the fortress on December 3, and the Ottomans arrived four days later with 11,000 troops of their own — and with more reinforcements on the way. The British sent away cavalry and other forces that could escape and then settled in for the siege. The Ottoman forces, under command of a German adviser, cut off river and land access to the city.

British forces outside the city attempted to relieve it three times, but all three attempts failed dismally. While the Ottomans suffered approximately 10,000 casualties, the British were eventually forced to surrender after suffering 30,000 casualties and the capture of an additional 10,000 troops, including six generals.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

Australian troops man captured Italian tanks during the capture of the port city of Tobruk in 1941 after Italian forces spread themselves too thin.

(Australian War Memorial)

Italian Western Desert Campaign — World War II

The Italian invasion of Egypt in 1940 was a fine if uninspired victory for the Italian fascists. They moved forward about 12 miles per day for about a week in September, 1940. During the campaign, the Italians failed to keep their troops close enough together to properly support one another, and the British took advantage of that fact the following December in Operation Compass.

The British planned a five-day raid in response. The goal was simply to push the Italians back a little, but the British made a note before the first attacks stating that they should be prepared to keep pushing, just in case — and this came in handy. The British forces quickly made much more progress than expected.

The Italians were occupying a series of fortified camps and, one after another, they fell to a force of 36,000 British soldiers. The British attacked from December 9 to February 9, 1941, and lost less than 600 troops killed and missing while inflicting over 5,000 kills and capturing over 125,000 Italian soldiers, 420 tanks, 564 aircraft, and multiple cities, including the key port of Tobruk.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

​Colorized photo of French artillerymen during the defense of France in 1940 as the German blitzkrieg thunders towards Paris.

(Cassowary Colorizations)

Battle of France

As we head into this one, let’s take a quick break to say that WATM actually really respects the performance of the French military from conflicts like the 100 Years War to the American Revolution to World War I. But the Battle of France in World War II was, uh, not France’s finest moment.

The French military knew that an invasion by Germany was likely in 1940, and they tried to prepare through modernization efforts and training. But, they made two big assumptions that would turn out to be false: The Ardennes Forest’s challenging terrain would prevent an invasion through there, and Belgium would last for weeks or months, allowing France to re-deploy troops as necessary if the Germans invaded through there.

Instead, the Germans proved the many of their tanks could make it through the Ardennes Forest, and Belgium fell within days. France, despite having more modern equipment and slightly more troops, fell to Germany in only 46 days with 1.9 million troops taken prisoner, thousands of tanks and aircraft destroyed or captured, and most of their country under German control.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

Oil tanks burn on Midway Atoll after a Japanese air attack at the outset of the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942.

(U.S. Navy)

Battle of Midway

The Battle of Midway was supposed to be Pear Harbor: The Sequel. It was an ambush set only six months after the attacks at Pearl. The Japanese goal was to draw the American fleet into a battle the Americans would think they could win, then slam them with additional forces and wipe out much America’s remaining carrier and capital ship strength.

Instead, America captured Japanese communications traffic and set an ambush of their own. Japan was working on the assumption that America would only have two carriers and a fleet full of demoralized sailors. Instead, America intercepted the plans and showed up with an extra carrier and prepped over 120 aircraft on Midway itself to join the battle.

On June 4, 1942, the fleets clashed, and Japanese aircraft were outnumbered by a vengeful U.S. presence in the air. Japan would lose three carriers and almost 250 aircraft in the fight while sinking one U.S. carrier and downing approximately 150 U.S. aircraft. The battle tipped the balance of power in the Pacific in World War II.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

Soviets celebrate holding the city of Stalingrad in February 1943 after the German assault failed.

Battle of Stalingrad

The German invasion of Soviet Union relied on a number of horrible assumptions, including the idea that Soviets, especially the Slavs, were racially inferior and part of an uncoordinated system that would crumble at the first real assault from German armor. Unfortunately for them, racism and hope aren’t viable strategies.

Instead, the Soviets forced Germany to fight for nearly every foot of Soviet territory they took, and Stalingrad was arguably the worst of all. For nearly six months, German forces slogged their way through the city, street by street, and some of the streets were impossible to take. At “Pavlov’s House,” an infantry platoon turned an apartment building into a fortress and wiped out German armored formations for weeks.

The Germans threw well over 1 million men against the city and lost over 800,000 of them killed, captured, and wounded. The Soviets actually lost more (over 1.1 million), but they bled the German formations dry of food, ammo, and in some cases, men, allowing the Soviet Union to take the offensive and begin pushing the enemy back towards Berlin.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

The Bridge at Arnhem stands after British paratroopers were pushed back by a German counterattack in 1944.

(Imperial War Museum)

Operation Market Garden

In 1944, the allies hoped they could end the war in Europe before Christmas — push into the German heartland, take out industry, and push into Berlin by December and give all the Allied citizens the world’s best Christmas present. The plan called for a two-force approach, airborne assaults to take key bridges and a ground campaign to envelope portions of the Ruhr River.

The assault on Sep. 17, 1944, didn’t go as planned. German forces had learned lessons from previous Allied offensives, like a little thing called D-Day, and they made sure to reinforce bridges where possible and blow them up when they couldn’t hold them.

In a series of nine key bridges, the capture of most of them was either delayed or prevented. So, the airborne forces remained isolated as the armored forces couldn’t punch through the German defenders without bridges. Over 15,000 troops were killed, captured, or wounded while inflicting somewhere around 10,000 casualties and failing to take the key terrain, guaranteeing that the war would continue into 1945.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This heavy French tank could be pierced with a pistol

French tank designers had an ambitious idea before World War I: What if they could create a vehicle with the protection of an armored car but the firepower of an artillery gun?


How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world
Saint Chamond tanks sit in a line in World War I.
(Public domain)

 

The design that eventually emerged packed a massive 75mm artillery gun into the nose of a tank named the Saint Chamond, but the offensive focus of the designers left glaring oversights in mobility and armor, allowing even pistol rounds through in some circumstances.

While French officers had considered designing an armored weapon platform before the war, the outbreak of hostilities put the effort on old. As Britain started building their first tanks, France got in on the action with two heavy tank designs of their own, the Schneider and the Saint Chamond.

The Saint Chamond was basically built around the French 75mm cannon, and this was significant firepower in World War I. Most Brtitish tanks had 57mm cannons, and the rest of of the world simply didn’t have tanks.

A Saint Chamond tank sits in a museum in western France.
(Fat Yankey, CC BY-SA 2.5)
 

But the design compromises needed to make space for the massive cannon were significant. The vehicle drove on relatively thin and short treads, and the weight of the vehicle pushed it hard against the soil, making it questionable whether the tank would be able to navigate the muddy craters of No Man’s Land.

Worse, the cannon needed to be mounted at the front, and it couldn’t fit properly between the treads while leaving room for the cannon’s crew. So, instead, the entire length of the cannon had to sit forward of the treads, causing the tank’s center of balance to be far forwards of the center of the vehicle. As the French would later learn, this made it nearly impossible to cross trenches in the St. Chamond. Instead, crews would tip into the trench and get their gun stuck in the dirt.

Thanks to the limited traction from the treads, the tank couldn’t even back away from the trench and get back into the fight. Once tipped forward, they usually needed towed out.

But, worst of all, in an attempt to keep the already-heavy vehicle from getting too much heavier, they opted for light armor on the sides of the tank. While the front was only a little thicker, it was, at least, sloped. Col. Jean Baptiste Eugene Estienne, a French artillery officer who is now known as the Father of French Tanks, saw the Saint Chamond and tested its armor by firing his pistol at it.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world
The only surviving Saint Chamond heavy tank takes part in Tank Fest 2017, 100 years after the tank first entered service.
(Alan Wilson, CC BY-SA 2.0)
 

The pistol round passed through the quarter-inch armor.

In the designers’ defense, the St. Chamond’s armor was soon upgraded to 11mm at a minimum, a little under a half-inch. The front armor was up to 19mm, almost .75 inches.

But still, when the British and French tanks made their combat debuts, the shortcomings of early tank design were quickly made apparent. Crews from both countries complained of bullets punching through the sides or, nearly as bad, impacting the armor so hard that bits of metal exploded off from the hull and tore through the crew.

French tanks had even worse trouble crossing muddy sections than their British counterparts, getting bogged down quickly. And that was if the engines held up. Often, they would breakdown instead.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world
The French Saint Chamond tank had a powerful, impressive gun, but it had weak armor and was front-heavy.
(Public domain)
 

As the war continued, though, France did find a successful design: the Renault FT, a light tank with a rotating turret, 37mm gun, and decent speed. It did have even lighter armor than the St, Chamond, but its configuration allowed the road wheels to help protect the crew from the sides, and the speed let them overwhelm German defenses before too many rounds could hit them.

Best, the Renault FT could be produced in much higher numbers, meaning that German defenders couldn’t often concentrate fire on any single target.

The design was so successful that it was one of the designs America licensed for its tank corps as it joined the war and stood up its armored forces. America ordered over 4,000 of the tank, known in American inventories as M1917s, but none of them reached the actual forces in France until after the armistice.

Still, the design was liked by U.S. Army Capts. Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton, officers who would create America’s armored strength and later rise to even greater fame in World War II.

Today, the closest modern equivalent to the St. Chamond isn’t even a tank. After all, the vehicle was created to carry a large cannon into battle, and, by the end of the war, it was used more as mobile artillery than to directly attack enemy trenches. As such, it’s more like the M109 Paladin than the M1 Abrams.

And, as artillery, the St. Chamond wasn’t bad. Its weak armor wasn’t a big deal when far from the front lines, and it wasn’t important that an armored artillery platform couldn’t quickly cross a trench.

Articles

Israel recently buried Ran Ronen, an ace few ever heard of

Early last month, Israel buried an ace who had seven kills — more than twice as many as John Glenn — and hundreds of operational missions under his belt. He was known as Ran Ronen.


According to a report by the Jerusalem Post, Ronen, whose real name was Ran Pekker, was buried on Dec. 4, 2016, following his death after a long struggle with blood cancer. Ronen was best known for flying the Mirage III and F-4 Phantom during the Six-Day War, the War of Attrition, and the Yom Kippur War.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world
An Israeli Mirage III at a museum. Giora Epstein scored the first of his 17 kills, a Su-7, in a Mirage III. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Ronen notably gained publicity from the History Channel series Dogfights, providing interviews in two episodes, “Dogfights of the Middle East” and “Desert Aces.” In the former, he described his involvement in both escorting a defecting MiG-21 to Israel and his involvement in the attack on Ghardaka Air Base in Egypt. The latter episode, best known for relating Giora Epstein’s legendary 1-vs.-11 fight, featured Ronen’s encounter with a Jordanian Hawker Hunter.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world
A U.S. Air Force McDonnell Douglas EF-4C Phantom II aircraft (s/n 63-7474) of the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 18th Tactical Fighter Wing over North Vietnam in December 1972. | U.S. Air Force photo

Ronen later became a diplomat and founded the Zahala project for youth, according to a web site outlining the reasons he received the Moskowitz Prize for Zionism in 2008.

Below are the Dogfights episodes Ronen appears in. His missions are discussed from 13:12 to 32:12 in the first video, and in the first 12:30 in the second video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJIGSysYu8c
Articles

How the election of 1876 was settled with a compromise

After the end of the Civil War, the U.S. was in a state of divide. Tensions lingered between the North and South, yet all remained under jurisdiction of a single force: the federal government. As Ulysses S. Grant chose not to run for a third term, officials began scrambling for presidential candidates to fill his shoes. The result became Rutherford B. Hayes (Republican) vs. Samuel J. Tilden (Democrat) in a “corrupt bargain” and controversial election.

Essentially, a true winner of the presidency could not be decided and it was left to a truce in order to determine the next Commander in Chief.

Here’s why:

Three states in the South had an inaccurate vote count. (And possibly some Northern states, due to ongoing debates.) They sent in two totals, with either candidate winning the electoral votes. As either party couldn’t win without the votes being allocated, a special electoral commission was created by President Grant to settle the dispute. Eventually, the votes went to Rutherford B. Hayes, securing his spot as president. Of course, this upset his competition and earned him the nickname RutherFraud. The deal awarded Hayes the win by a single vote — 185 over 184, while Democratic candidate, Tilden, won the popular vote. 

Rutherford B. Hayes (October 4, 1822—January 17, 1893), 19th President of the United States and 29th and 32nd Governor of Ohio. Public Domain.

Compromise of 1877

Known as a controversial, underground deal, the Compromise of 1877 was never listed on paper. Instead, it was an informal arrangement made between Congressmen. The deal listed that Hayes would earn the presidential votes, or rather, the Democrats would not dispute this fact, so long as he would end Reconstruction. (Among other things.) That meant removing federal troops from the remaining states they inhabited: Louisiana, Florida and South Carolina, despite their presence being important in the survival of Republican programs, and the safety of African Americans. 

Essentially, it was an agreement for federal troops to stop interfering in Southern politics. This soon became a race issue, with violence taking place against blacks, and eventually, a series of laws to prevent them from voting through disenfranchisement. Through the deal, Southern states were to protect African Americans against violence, which largely went overlooked. 

Correspondence with Samuel J. Tilden. Public Domain

Additional terms of the deal

In exchange for the following, Democrats would peacefully hand the presidency over to Rutherford B. Hayes. 

At least one Southern Democrat would be named to Hayes’ Cabinet; he made good on this deal when he appointed David M. Key, from Tennessee, as Postmaster General. 

A transcontinental railroad was to be built with the Texas and Pacific Railroad Company, and was to be located within the South. However, the company went bankrupt the following year, as a bad hurricane season flooded their efforts in Louisiana. 

In order to restore the economy, legislation would be put into place to industrialize the South. However, no real legislation was put into place. 

Southern citizens had “the right to deal with black people without northern interference.” Despite reassurances that African Americans would be treated with respect, this widely led to violence and laws that revoked or blocked rights like voting and land ownership. 

Not all politicians (or followers) got the memo and several Democrats were upset about the deal. However, sitting President Grant thwarted any signs of uprising. 

To this day, the Compromise of 1877 is known as one of the most controversial elections in the U.S. The deal also effectively eliminated a Congressional filibuster and allowing the federal government to move forward with regular proceedings. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Washington tried to burn New York to the ground

America’s favorite Revolutionary War hero and first president had a little wish to, uh, checks notes, burn the city of New York to the ground and watch the flames dance in the tear-filled eyes of his enemies. Wait, can that be right?


How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

Yup. Gen. George Washington himself wanted to burn one of America’s most populous and wealthy cities to the mud. But it wasn’t because he wanted the future city that would be named after him to have no rival in the Big Apple, it was actually a decent military strategy at the time (but would be a war crime now).

The proposed destruction was set for 1776 when Washington felt he could not hold the city. The Patriots had predicted that the British military, relying as it did on roads and ships, would sail down the Hudson and split the colonies. Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island were all east of the river and would be isolated.

And, controlling New York Harbor would give the British a perfect staging ground for joint army-navy operations against New Jersey and the rebel capital in Philadelphia.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

Washington moved the bulk of his forces from Boston to New York just in time for the Battle of Brooklyn in August of 1776. But, the Patriot forces still weren’t strong enough to beat back the British when the British were able to bring their full numbers and logistics advantage to bear.

The Battle of Long Island started Aug. 27, 1776, and was a catastrophe for America, and it nearly ended the war. Washington’s forces were outflanked multiple times, and it took a series of careful withdrawals for Washington to keep his men together and organized. He ended the main maneuvers with his back to the East River and the British arrayed in front of him in strength.

Washington was trapped with the bulk of his troops; easy pickings for the Redcoats. But a storm rolled in and made August 28-29 bad for fighting, and the British commander elected to wait. Washington managed to put together a small flotilla and escape on the water overnight. Washington himself floated out on the last boat, covered only by the mist as the sun slowly burned it off.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

The fog finally cleared and the British found themselves facing an empty battlefield. The Continental Army had escaped.

But New York was now open to the British, and they took it. Washington had asked for permission to burn it to prevent Britain from using it as “warm and comfortable barracks” in the winter of 1776-77, but it was too late. The Redcoats marched in.

Luckily for Washington, New York burned anyway. On the night of Sept. 19, a fire began in Harlem that would consume about a quarter of the city before it was successfully extinguished. It wasn’t as extensive as Washington may have wished, but it was more than enough to piss off the Brits.

The British suspected that Patriot agents were behind the fire. It wasn’t yet illegal to burn a civilian city to prevent its occupation by enemy forces, but it was still frowned upon. And the Redcoats wanted their justice.

British forces captured 100 suspects and hanged one, Nathaniel Hale, as a spy. It would turn out that Hale really was a spy for Washington, so they weren’t too far off the mark.

It can’t be known for sure that the city was burned by Washington’s agents or because of his wishes, but it did serve his purposes.

But, it didn’t stop the British advance. Washington’s men suffered a series of smaller defeats and lost two key forts in New York. But this series of failures is what led Washington to set out on Christmas 1776 to attack the Hessians at the battle of Trenton, salvaging Patriot morale right before thousands of enlistments expired.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’

Today’s U.S. Navy can trace its origins to the Continental Navy of the Revolutionary War. It boasts the largest, most capable fleet in history, proudly serving its mission of “…winning wars, deterring aggression, and maintaining freedom of the seas.” America’s sailors are the finest in the world, and their rousing song — born in victory — suits them well.


Also read: The complete hater’s guide to the US Navy


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Even if you can’t sing along, you’ve probably heard the familiar tune, but here are five things you might not know about “Anchors Aweigh:”

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1. It was written at the U.S. Naval Academy

Bandmaster Lt. Charles A. Zimmerman served as director of the U.S. Naval Academy Band from 1887 until his death in 1916, and he wrote a march for each graduating class. But it was “Anchors Aweigh” would be the one ultimately adopted by the U.S. Navy as its official song.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

The Navy Midshipmen take the field in the 2012 Army-Navy game.

U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad Runge)

2. It helped shut out the Army

By 1906, Navy had not beaten Army on the football field since 1900. Midshipman First Class Alfred Hart Miles approached Zimmerman with a request for a new march — one that would lift spirits and “live forever.” According to legend, Miles and Zimmerman got to work at the Academy’s chapel organ. Later that month, the band and brigade performed the song and the Navy swept the Army in a 10-0 victory.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

Sailors secure a line to the capstan while hoisting the anchor chain.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class David Finley)

3. It’s chock full of naval jargon, starting with the title

An anchor is “aweigh” when it is hoisted from the bottom, freeing the vessel. This event is duly noted in the ship’s log.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

Nimitz Carrier Strike Group conducts an underway.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael D. Cole)

4. It evolved over time

It wasn’t until 1997 that the lyrics were finally revised (by the 8th Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, John Hagan) to be a little less college football and a little more domination of the high seas.

youtu.be

5. It boasts ancient lore — like 2300 BC ancient

The revised lyrics include some naval lore, such as a reference to Davy Jones, whose locker on the ocean floor is home to drowned sailors and shipwrecks, and the “seven seas,” an ancient phrase for all the world’s oceans.

Here are the proud lyrics (both original and revised):

Original Lyrics

[Verse 1]

Stand Navy down the field, sails set to the sky.

We’ll never change our course, so Army you steer shy-y-y-y.

Roll up the score, Navy, Anchors Aweigh.

Sail Navy down the field and sink the Army, sink the Army Grey.

[Verse 2]

Get underway, Navy, Decks cleared for the fray,

We’ll hoist true Navy Blue So Army down your Grey-y-y-y.

Full speed ahead, Navy; Army heave to,

Furl Black and Grey and Gold and hoist the Navy, hoist the Navy Blue

[Verse 3]

Blue of the Seven Seas; Gold of God’s great sun

Let these our colors be Till all of time be done-n-n-ne,

By Severn shore we learn Navy’s stern call:

Faith, courage, service true With honor over, honor over all.

Revised Lyrics

(It is verse 2 that is most widely sung)

[Verse 1]

Stand Navy out to sea,

Fight our battle cry;

We’ll never change our course,

So vicious foe steer shy-y-y-y.

Roll out the TNT,

Anchors Aweigh.

Sail on to victory

And sink their bones to Davy Jones, hooray!

[Verse 2]

Anchors Aweigh, my boys,

Anchors Aweigh.

Farewell to foreign shores,

We sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay.

Through our last night ashore,

Drink to the foam,

Until we meet once more.

Here’s wishing you a happy voyage home.

[Verse 3]

Blue of the mighty deep:

Gold of God’s great sun.

Let these our colors be

Till all of time be done, done, done, done.

On seven seas we learn

Navy’s stern call:

Faith, courage, service true,

With honor, over honor, over all.

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 awesome heroes of the French Foreign Legion


The French Foreign Legion looks for brave men from around the world to fill their ranks. When you cast a net that wide, you’re bound to catch some pretty awesome soldiers. Here are seven of the most decorated and vaunted members of the Legion:

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

French Foreign Legion Capt. Jean Danjou was a veteran of three wars, an amputee, and an all-around pimp when he slapped the crap out of Mexican infantry with his prosthetic hand.

(French Foreign Legion Museum)

Jean Danjou

Capt. Jean Danjou was a French Army officer and veteran of fighting in Algeria when he volunteered for legion duty in 1852. He later fought in the Siege of Sevastopol where he lost his left hand — but his greatest heroism was still before him.

Danjou was a staff officer in Mexico in 1863 when he volunteered to lead a guard force of only 65 legionnaires on a convoy deeper into the country. When the unit was ambushed by nearly 2,000 Mexican soldiers, Danjou ordered his men into an abandoned nearby farmhouse where they fought to nearly the last man, inflicting 300 casualties. Danjou was killed, but his prosthetic hand is still kept in reverent storage by the Legion, which parades it on the anniversary of the battle.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

​Sometimes called the “Swallow of Death,” Eugene Bullard distinguished himself as an infantryman, a fighter pilot, and a spy.

(U.S. Air Force)

Eugene Jacques Bullard

After his father was lynched in Georgia in 1903, a young Eugene Bullard decided to move to France. He worked for ten years to earn his passage and made it to France just in time for World War I. He enlisted in the Legion on the day he was of legal age, 19 years old.

He fought on the front lines of France and was twice in units that took so many losses that they had to be combined with other forces. In March, 1916, Bullard was with a group of men hit by an artillery shell, killing four and knocking out most of Bullard’s teeth. He volunteered to keep fighting and was hit by artillery again three days later. This time, a thigh injury ended his service on the ground and in the Legion.

But the young hero wasn’t done. He would go on to become the first Black fighter pilot, netting his first aerial kill in late 1917. When World War II rolled around, Bullard served as a spy until he was injured while resisting the German advance on Orleans in 1940. In 1954, he went to Paris as one of the military heroes invited to relight the Eternal Flame of the Tomb of the Unknown French Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe.

John F. Hasey

Known as the “only American in the Free French Forces,” John F. Hasey served in World War II. He transferred into the Legion from an American ambulance unit that he helped form. He was made an officer and served with distinction at the Battle of Enghiahat, where he took command after his captain and first lieutenant were injured. He “patrolled without stopping” for three days, according to his award citation.

He later led his platoon at Massawa against numerous enemy positions, capturing them and a “large number of prisoners.” He was severely wounded near Damascus by machine gun fire, taking rounds to his hand, chest, arms, and face. Still he worked to get his men a new officer to lead them while heading to the aid station. While recovering, he received a letter from Gen. Charles de Gaulle, telling him that he would be the first American to receive the Croix de la Libération.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

Prince Dmitri Amilakhvari eschewed a comfortable life in the countryside for a tough existence as a legionnairre. He later wrote a book about his service, mostly in Morrocco.

Prince Dmitri Amilakhvari

A Georgian Prince, Dmitri Amilakhvari joined the Legion in 1926 and saw action in South Morocco in 1933 and 1934. When World War II began, he went to Norway and worked with British forces to resist the German invasion there, fighting at Bjervick and Narvik, netting him the Norwegian War Cross with Sword.

After France fell, Amilakharvi reported for duty with the Free French Forces and was deployed to Eritrea and Syria before being named lieutenant colonel and commander of the Legion’s 13th Demi-Brigade. He led that force in Libya as part of the coalition fighting Rommel’s drive towards the ports in 1942. He was awarded the Ordre de la Libération for his actions there, but died later that year at the Battle of El-Alamein. He posthumously received the Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur, the only award higher than his Ordre de la Libération.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

A celebrated football star and coach, Bluenthal volunteered for the ambulance services and the Lafayette Flying Corps before America joined World War I.

(North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources)

Arthur Bluenthal

Arthur Bluenthal was a wealthy son of German immigrants and a successful football coach when he volunteered for ambulance duty in France. He served in Verdun before heading to the Balkans where he earned the Croix de Guerre for his “indefatiguable ardor and ignoring of danger” while driving to and from the front on a road under artillery bombardment.

He later transferred to the Lafayette Flying Corps, an aviation unit in the Legion. He was a bomber pilot cited for bravery. In early 1918, he made the decision to transfer to an American unit as soon as they joined active fighting or his French unit took a break from the front. On June 5, he was killed in French service after four German fighters spotted him and his artillery spotter surveying German positions. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre with Palm.

Alex Rowe

Alex Rowe was a British child when an injury — a detached retina — prevented him from achieving his lifelong dream of joining the British Forces. He tried anyway, but was turned away. He later joined the Foreign Legion with his mother’s blessing. Funnily enough, he was made a sniper.

Rowe was awarded his fifth medal for bravery in 2010, France’s highest military honor, the Légion d’honneur. He has been awarded for shielding a Bosnian mother and child with his body during a gunfight, and was involved in a 360-degree ambush in Afghanistan where U.S. troops and French legionnaires had to fight their way out.

Ferdinand Capdevielle

Ferdinand Capdevielle was a private first class in the Legion when he took part in the charge on Navarin Farm in the Battle of Champagne, fighting that saw two-thirds of his section killed or wounded. Then, he accepted a transfer to the 170th Line Infantry Regiment, a unit that was soon sent to Verdun. Capdevielle was quickly awarded the Croix de Guerre for his coolness under fire while serving as a dispatch-bearer in the Battle of Caillette Wood.

Capdevielle was cited for bravery multiple times in multiple battles over the following year, eventually rising to the rank of second lieutenant. The American Army offered him a commission as a captain, but the legionnaire preferred to stay with French Forces. He led his men during the wildly successful advance on the Marne in July 1917, seizing miles of territory, hundreds of prisoners, and tons of supplies. He was posthumously awarded the Légion d’honneur after his death in October, 1918.

Articles

These presidents were all (distantly) related to each other

Power — even political power — doesn’t fall too far from the family tree when it comes to the U.S. presidency … then again, sometimes it comes several branches over. At least, that’s the case for many former U.S. presidents, including those that are as far as 10th cousins, twice removed, like George W. Bush and Barack Obama. (Is your head spinning?!) 

Cousins!President of the United States Barack Obama with George W. Bush and Michelle Obama shortly after boarding Air Force One for the trip to South Africa on 9 December 2013.
Pete Souza

Take a look at this list of U.S. presidents and their relations to other former presidents for a new way to look at our leaders who have served as Commander in Chief.

Closely related

George W. and George H.W. Bush were father and son, respectively. No surprise there. They served as the 31st and 43rd presidents of the U.S.

President George W. Bush and former President George H.W. Bush sit on stage at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing Friday, Aug. 8, 2008, during dedication ceremonies. Both are scheduled to attend opening ceremonies scheduled for later in the evening.
White House photo by Eric Draper.

Another father and son duo came in John Adams and John Quincey Adams who served as the second and sixth presidents, respectively. 

William Henry Harrison, ninth president, was the grandfather of Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd president. 

Meanwhile, James Madison, fourth president, was second cousins with Zachary Taylor, the 12th president. 

FDR is related to 11 presidents

Next comes Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president, who was related to 11 — yes ELEVEN — other presidents. Five of them through blood and the remaining six by marriage. This was determined by a study done by multiple genealogists. (There is even controversy that he’s related to a 12th former president.)

They include:

  • Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president, FDR’s fifth cousin 
  • John Adams
  • John Quincy Adams
  • Ulysses Grant
  • Henry William Harrison
  • Benjamin Harrison
  • James Madison 
  • William Taft
  • Zachary Taylor
  • Martin Van Buren, third cousins, four-times removed
  • George Washington 

He was also reportedly related to Winston Churchill and Robert E. Lee. Woah!

Distantly related cousins

The search for distant relatives becomes deep when it comes to former U.S. presidents, practically unending. With generations between them and blood and marriage bonding many in office, the list of distant cousin only continues to grow.

  • James Madison and James K. Polk, second cousins once removed
  • Zachary Taylor and James K. Polk, second cousins once removed
  • Martin Van Buren and Theodore Roosevelt, third cousins three-times removed
  • John Adams and Calvin Coolidge, third cousins, five-times removed
  • James Madison and Barack Obama, third cousins, nine-times removed
  • John Tyler and William Henry Harrison, fourth cousins, once removed
  • Ulysses Grant and Franklin D. Roosevelt, fourth cousins, once removed
  • John Adams and Millard Fillmore, fourth cousins, three-times removed
  • John Quincy Adams and Franklin D. Roosevelt, fourth cousins, three-times removed
  • Zachary Taylor and Franklin D. Roosevelt, fourth half-cousins, three-times removed
  • James Garfield and George H. W. Bush, fourth cousins, three-times removed
  • Lyndon Johnson and Barack Obama, fourth cousins, three times removed
  • John Quincy Adams and Calvin Coolidge, fourth cousins, four-times removed
  • Franklin Pierce and Calvin Coolidge, fourth cousins, four-times removed
  • James Garfield and George W. Bush, fourth cousins, four-times removed
  • John Adams and William Howard Taft, fourth cousins, five-times removed
  • Franklin Pierce and Herbert Hoover, fourth cousins, five-times removed
  • Millard Fillmore and George H. W. Bush, fourth cousins, five-times removed
  • Millard Fillmore and George W. Bush, fourth cousins, six-times removed

And on on on and on, all the way up to 10th cousins, four-times removed. Are they still even related at that point?? 

This is an interesting look into the genealogy of the American president and how families long ago are even distantly related to modern U.S. presidents. 

Featured photo: Presidential portraits taken from Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain

MIGHTY HISTORY

Baseball’s best defensive third baseman also served in the Army National Guard

Most baseball fans recognize the name Brooks Robinson. He played for the Baltimore Orioles from 1955 to 1977 and is widely considered to be the best defensive third baseman ever.

Robinson joined the Arkansas Army National Guard in March 1958. He was activated and assigned to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, and later to the Army‘s 78th Field Artillery Regiment at Fort Hood, Texas.


He served as an ordnance parts specialist. While on the rifle range for qualification with the M1 Garand rifle in November 1958, Robinson received a commendation for his performance as a squad leader for his unit. It stated, ”He has performed his duties in an excellent and commendable manner. It is recommended he be considered for more rapid promotion than his contemporaries.”

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

(Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles)

Officials with the Arkansas National Guard at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in North Little Rock, Arkansas, said he was honorably discharged from Company A, 739 Ordnance Battalion, in Little Rock, Arkansas, on Jan. 2, 1962.

In 1966, Robinson, by then a civilian, visited troops in all four Corps Tactical Zones of South Vietnam. Traveling with him on the morale-boosting tour were Stan Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals, Joe Torre and Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves, Harmon Killebrew of the Minnesota Twins, and sportscaster Mel Allen.

During the tour, Killebrew was heard telling Robinson that the league champion Orioles played the best ball in the American League that year and that the Orioles deserved to win the pennant.

Robinson helped the Orioles advance to the postseason six times, with Baltimore winning four American League pennants (1966, 1969, 1970 and 1971) and two World Series (1966 and 1970) during his career. In 39 career postseason games, Robinson hit .303 with five homers and 22 runs batted in.

The Orioles retired his No. 5 jersey in 1977. He led all American League third basemen 11 times in fielding percentage and eight times in assists. His 2,870 games at third base rank No. 1 on the all-time list.

Frank Robinson, another baseball great, once said that Brooks was the best defensive player at any position. ”I used to stand in the outfield like a fan and watch him make play after play. I used to think, ‘Wow! I can’t believe this,”’ he said.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

(Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles)

Frank Robinson also played for the Orioles. His time with the team overlapped with that of Brooks Robinson from 1966 to 1971.

​More About Brooks Robinson:

  • As a boy, Robinson operated the scoreboard at Lamar Porter Field in Little Rock. The baseball sequence from the 1984 film ”A Soldier’s Story” was filmed there.
  • In 1955, Robinson played baseball in South America; he played in Cuba in 1957.
  • In 2012, a large bronze statue of him was unveiled at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

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


MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what it was like being a female Marine in WW2

Margaret Jessen just wanted a little more excitement in her life.


Fresh out of high school, Jessen didn’t find that excitement working as a linotype operator at the local newspaper. So, what does a young woman in search of adventure do when there’s a war going on?

In Jessen’s case, she joined the Marines.

“I was young then, and I wanted the action. There was nothing going on (here). It was too dull at home,” said Jessen, who was Margaret O’Shaugnessy at the time.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world
Four female pilots leaving their ship at the four engine school at Lockbourne are members of a group of WASPS who have been trained to ferry the B-17 Flying Fortresses. Photo from USAF.

She’d worked for a couple years at the newspaper in Homer, Nebraska, after graduating from Homer High School in 1942. With World War II raging in Europe and in the Pacific Ocean, there were a lot of opportunities to find something more exciting to do. There was the military, and there were jobs available in the many factories that built planes, ships, and other supplies needed for the American war effort.

Jessen considered both before telling her mother that she was joining the Marines.

Also Read: WWII-era female flyers are fighting for military burial honors (and you can help)

“Oh, she was horrified,” Jessen said. “I said I was going to join the Marines or go to California to be a welder. She figured if I didn’t show up for work in the Marines, someone would come looking for me. If I didn’t show up for work as a welder, they wouldn’t look for you.

“She figured I’d be better off in the Marine Corps.”

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world
The first group of 71 Women Marine Officer Candidates arrived 13 March 1943 at the US Midshipmen School (Women’s Reserve) at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, March 13, 1943. Massachusetts. Photo from USMC.

Jessen joined the Marines in May 1944 and was sent to Missouri for basic training. Men also were trained at the base, but kept separate from the women. Jessen said the training was physically demanding, and women were allowed to practice on guns but were not allowed to have them. Once she completed basic training, Jessen was sent to Norman, Oklahoma, to learn how to fix Cosair fighter planes.

“They just thought that’s what I was capable of,” Jessen said.

Jessen passed the training and was sent to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in Santa Ana, California, where she was assigned to work as an office clerk. She never did work on airplanes.

“You know how the government works,” she said. “They train you to do one thing and then have you do another.”

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world
Aluminum paint production. Women work alongside of men in this Midwest aluminum factory now converted to production of war materials. Photo by Alfred T. Palmer.

The women who arrived at El Toro weren’t viewed positively by the men they replaced. For many of the men, it meant they were losing their stateside assignments and heading to war.

“The men were mad at us because we came in and took their jobs and they were sent overseas, so we were resented, I’m sure,” Jessen said.

Jessen spent the remainder of the war at El Toro and was discharged in June 1946. Still looking for adventure, Jessen and another female friend hitchhiked across the country to Florida and up the East Coast to New York.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world
A poster used by the US government to recruit women to the war effort during WWII.

“It drove my mother crazy,” Jessen said with a wry smile and a chuckle.

Eventually, Jessen returned home, where she began dating Alfred Jessen, who had served in the Army in Germany during World War II. They were married in 1947 and raised five sons. Jessen would later work for Iowa Beef Processors in Dakota City for 19 years before retiring in the mid-1970s. Her service in the Marines taught her a valuable lesson for her later work experiences.

“It taught me how to get along with people,” she said. “You don’t judge them. Everybody was the same.”

Over the years, Jessen saw her husband honored for his military service. Few people knew she, too, had served.

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world
USMC photo by Cpl Aneshea S. Yee

“I think my husband was proud of it, too. He realized they didn’t treat us the same,” Jessen said. “When they came around and offered him an award for being in the service, he told them I was in the service, too, but they never offered me an award.”

That slight doesn’t lessen the pride Jessen said she feels about her decision to join the Marines rather than be a welder.

“I’m proud of the fact I served,” she said. “It gave me a lot of experiences.”

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