By the power of the Constitution, American presidents are the ultimate link between the people and the military. As commanders-in-chief, presidents are responsible for committing the nation to war — a very tall order.
Here are 4 presidents that navigated the vagaries of public sentiment better than most:
1. Polk told Americans that Mexico “shed American blood on American soil!”
President James K. Polk was an expansionist and wanted land from Mexico so that the U.S. would stretch from sea to shining sea. There is a dispute among historians on whether Polk wanted a war or was just willing to accept one, but he sent 4,000 troops under general and future president Zachary Taylor to a portion of land claimed by both Texas and Mexico.
Ten months later on May 8, 1846, Mexican troops attacked what they perceived to be American troops on Mexican land.
Polk acted quickly when he got word of the fighting. On May 11 he asked Congress for a declaration of war with the cry that Mexico had “shed American blood on American soil!” While a very few anti-expansionist Whigs – including then-Senator Abraham Lincoln – protested the fact that it was technically not “American soil,” the rest of the Whigs and the majority of Congress voted for war.
2. Lincoln rode on the coattails of his generals
President Abraham Lincoln, one of the most popular and well-respected leaders in American history, was not always popular in his time. Indeed, during the road to the 1864 election with the war going badly. Even Lincoln expected a crushing defeat in his re-election bid. When the Democrats nominated Gen. George B. McClellan on a platform of peace with the breakaway Confederacy, all seemed lost.
But Lincoln had pushed hard for aggressive generals during the war, and two of them saved him in the final months before the election. Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant had been handpicked by Lincoln for the top job, and Grant’s favored subordinate, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, delivered Atlanta to the president on Sep. 3, 1864.
The victory in Atlanta was soon followed by Grant’s wins in the Shenandoah Valley campaign. With the war suddenly going well, Lincoln was able to rally the North to keep going and win the war.
3. Wilson leaked the “Zimmerman Telegram” to the press
President Woodrow Wilson was notoriously reluctant to join World War I despite Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare which killed hundreds of Americans and sank prized ships. One of the tipping points for Wilson was when Britain revealed the “Zimmerman Telegram” to him.
The Zimmerman Telegram was a secret proposal from Germany to Mexico. Germany promised Mexico Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico if Mexico entered World War I as a German ally against the U.S. Wilson authorized the Navy to begin arming civilian vessels and leaked the telegram to the public. Once the American public was in a fury, he went to Congress and asked for a declaration of war.
4. Roosevelt hid his disability, befriended journalists, and held fireside chats
When he wasn’t glad-handing journalists, he spoke directly to the American public over the radio during his iconic “Fireside Chats” that actually started in the early days of his presidency when the U.S. was more worried about the Great Depression than the wars in Europe and Asia.
When people mention “Pappy” — otherwise known as Gregory P. Boyington of VMF-214 — the “Black Sheep Squadron” immortalized in the late 1970s series “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” comes to mind.
There is a good reason; Boyington, a Medal of Honor recipient, is the top-scoring Marine Corps ace with 28 kills. He was also an ace with the Flying Tigers (six kills).
But there is another Pappy who did much to help turn back the Japanese in the Pacific Theater. This was Paul I. “Pappy” Gunn.
“Pappy” Gunn had served in the U.S. Navy for twenty years before retiring to start airlines in Hawaii and the Philippines. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, he returned to the service — and received a Distinguished Flying Cross for flying in medical supplies to besieged troops on the Bataan Peninsula. He was evacuated to Australia, and in the summer of 1942, he began his major contribution to the war effort.
Gunn started to add M2 .50-caliber machine guns to the noses of A-20 Havoc light bombers. The planes had been okay, able to carry a ton of bombs, but bombing from high altitude often didn’t work with ships. So Gunn began modifying the A-20s, and later the B-25s, with M2s scavenged from fighters that had brought back their pilots, but which wouldn’t be repaired. He also developed the tactics these planes would use.
It was a very lethal masterpiece. Word filtered back to the manufacturers, Douglas and North American, and soon new versions of the B-25 and A-20 were out, built and inspired by Gunn’s field modifications. One version of the B-25 would carry 18 forward-firing M2s — the firepower of three P-51 Mustangs!
These planes would make their mark in the Southwest Pacific. Japan was trying to reinforce troops in New Guinea, where the Americans and Australians were fighting fiercely. Gunn’s modifications would be put to the test in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. Japan sent eight transports, escorted by eight destroyers to deliver nearly 7,000 troops to Lae from Rabaul.
On March 3, 1943, they began. The Japanese force was simply unprepared to handle the Allied firepower. Despite cover from 100 fighters, their convoy was savaged. The strafing, combined with skip-bombing and mast-height bombing, tore the transports and half the destroyers apart. Only 1200 troops and practically no equipment made it to Lae.
Gunn would serve throughout the war, retiring as a full colonel. He then went back to re-building the airline he had started prior to World War II breaking out. In 1957, he was killed when his plane crashed during a storm. While not well-known, Gunn’s legend is one that does the United States Air Force proud.
A secret plan was passed around the Roosevelt Administration in 1940 and 1941 that called for dozens of American bombers with American crews masked by Chinese markings to fly bombing missions against Japanese cities, crippling crucial war production facilities and, hopefully, keeping Japan too busy with China to attack British and American interests in the Pacific.
For President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the late 1930s and early 1940s were a minefield of grave threats to the American people. The war in Europe posed a significant threat to American allies while growing tensions in the Pacific were looking disastrous to both allied and American interests and territory. All the while, the American economy was still trying to scramble its way out of the Great Depression.
There is debate today about whether Roosevelt was trying to pull a reluctant America into war with Japan in 1940 and 1941, but it is certain that he saw American and British interests as being threatened by the island nation — and he wanted to make sure that the Japanese were either deterred from attacking Western interests or so hamstrung by the war with China that they couldn’t attack.
One of the plans that emerged from his administration would later become known as “JB 355.” It called for the formation of a new Chinese front company using money from the Lend-Lease Act. This company, headed by former Army pilot and then-director of the Chinese Air Force flight school, Claire Chennault, would be a Second American Volunteer Group. Like the First American Volunteer Group, it would be disguised as a Chinese mercenary group but manned by American pilots and supplied with American planes.
The 1st AVG was already formed and undergoing training in the summer of 1941 when JB 355 was approved. With 100 American fighter aircraft and 99 American pilots, it was preparing to attack Japanese air forces and disrupt their shipping operations.
Some of the pilots in the First American Volunteer Group pose with their P-40.
(U.S. Air Force archives)
The mission of the 2nd AVG, approved in July 1941, would be very different. Comprised of 50 American bombers and the appropriate crews, the 2nd AVG was to drop incendiary weapons on Japanese cities, like Tokyo, that were essential to Japan’s war production.
The attacks were tentatively scheduled for November.
So, why didn’t American bombs strike Tokyo the month before Japanese bombs hit Pearl Harbor?
The first planes ordered for the Second American Volunteer Group were Lockheed Hudsons, but they were never delivered because shortages delayed their production until after the Pearl Harbor attacks made the company unnecessary.
(National Museum of the Air Force)
Because American industry was not yet on a full, wartime footing. There simply weren’t enough supplies to fulfill all the approved requests.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall was struggling to get supplies everywhere they were needed throughout 1941. He detailed some of his efforts and setbacks in a February letter to Lt. Gen. Walter C. Short who had just taken command at Pearl Harbor. In the letter, he explained where all of his supplies were going but promised that his priority was to protect the Navy’s fleet:
You, of course, understand the pressures on the Department for the limited materiel we have, for Alaska, for Panama, and, most confidentially, for the possible occupation of the Azores, not to mention the new leased bases. However, as I have already said, we are keeping clearly in mind that our first concern is to protect the Fleet.
US military hero dog “Cena,” a 9-year-old Black Labrador who served as a bomb detection dog in Afghanistan and saved the lives of his handler and uncounted other American warriors, ended his service July 26 after a battle he could not win with bone cancer.
Cena died peacefully in the arms of his battle buddy, former Marine Corps Cpl. Jeff DeYoung, in their hometown of Muskegon, Michigan.
The two first met during Improvised Detection Dog training in Virginia in July 2009. They were deployed to Afghanistan later that year and during their service together, the two were part of Operation Moshtarak in February 2010 that was the largest joint operation up to that point.
DeYoung and Cena typically led the way as U.S. troops trudged through the rugged and treacherous sandscapes of Afghanistan. Cena was trained to detect more than 300 different types of explosives and if he smelled something suspicious on patrol he alerted DeYoung, who would then call in an explosives technician to safely remove or detonate the bomb.
Cena and DeYoung ate together, slept together, and fought together, forging a deep bond between them.
“Once I laid down on top of him to protect him from gunfire,” said DeYoung. “I carried him through a freezing cold, flooded river on my shoulders.”
Cena and Corporal DeYoung (Photo from American Humane via NewsEdge)
DeYoung’s protectiveness of Cena was repaid many times over. Each military dog is estimated to save the lives of between 150-200 servicemen and women during the course of their career, and one of those lives was DeYoung’s. Suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress and the recent loss of several close comrades in combat, DeYoung tried to take his own life. But Cena intervened and saved his comrade from committing suicide.
Despite their seemingly unbreakable bond, DeYoung and Cena were separated unceremoniously without even the chance for a goodbye when DeYoung left military service and Cena continued working through three deployments. For four years, DeYoung suffered nightmares and flashbacks, missing Cena every single day.
Finally, when Cena was retired for a hip injury, the two were brought back together in an emotional reunion made possible with the help of American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization, which has also been working to support the U.S. military, veterans, and military animals for more than 100 years.
Since then, DeYoung and Cena have served as military ambassadors for American Humane, traveling around the country to raise awareness about the importance of reuniting service dogs with their handlers, and how the dogs can improve and save the lives of veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress.
“Military Working Dog Cena is a true American hero and an inspiring testament to the life-changing power of the human-animal bond,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane. “He will be greatly missed by all those who knew and who owe their lives to him. His work and his example will live on in the memories of all who knew him and were touched by his story.”
“Cena was family to me,” said DeYoung. “It’s always been him and me against the world, and losing him has devastated me to my core. Goodbye, my most faithful friend. I will never forget you.”
The Mohawk is as intertwined with the military history of Airborne paratroopers as the playing card. To this day, a debate rages about which unit shaved the sides of their heads first. The 82nd claims it got the idea from a radio show. The 101st, on the other hand, claims it was the idea of a Choctaw demo-man’s mother who thought, “if they scream ‘Geronimo!’ and sound like Indian warriors, they might as well look like them, too!”
Regardless of who claims ownership, the modern Mohawk has its roots among the paratroopers of D-Day and WWII in general.
While sticking to traditions is a big part of military life, the Mohawk, unfortunately, is only donned by war-reenactors and by soldiers on special occasions.
The hairstyle and accompanying face paint was adopted by paratroopers in an effort to channel the historical fighting spirit of their Native American allies. The Mohawk people of present-day New York were fierce allies during the American Revolution. Lt. Col. Louis Cook (or Akiatonharónkwen to the Mohawk people) was a decisive leader in the Battle of Oriskany and the Battle of Valley Forge.
However, calling it a Mohawk is actually a misnomer. Mohawk warriors traditionally pluck out everything but a square on the crown. The style as we know it comes from the Pawnee warriors of present-day Nebraska. The Pawnee people were also close allies of Americans. They, along with the Mohawks with which they’re often confused, were excellent scouts and raiders who would fight until the last breath — a sentiment that fits perfectly within the Airborne.
Perhaps the most famous of modern military Mohawks were donned by members of the “Filthy 13” of WWII fame. Lead by a member of the Choctaw Nation, demolition expert Sergeant Jake McNiece (aka Sgt. McNasty), these saboteurs sneaked behind enemy lines and planted explosives to devastate the Germans and aid Allied forces. It was under McNiece’s orders that his men shaved their heads, just like his mother suggested.
McNiece was a rebel at heart, demoted for disobedience and quickly promoted again for bad-assery. He and his unit took part in Operation: Market Garden, the Siege of Bastogne, and the Battle of the Bulge. Despite his goofball mentality, he would become acting first sergeant of his company around the time of his unprecedented fourth combat jump into Prüm, Germany.
1. That time French soldiers hid inside papier-mâché horse carcasses
Looking back, trench warfare has to be one of the most insane methods of warfare ever carried out. Between the torrential mud, staggering levels of trench foot, and other diseases that ran rampant, it’s a wonder that everyone didn’t just give up and get the hell out of the ground.
But World War I was still, in some respects, a gentleman’s war. And gentlemen don’t let mud get them down. Gentlemen also don’t complain about their lack of protective cover — at least not if you’re France. While other platoons were bemoaning the crumbling, barren landscape that made up infamous “No Man’s Land” — a stretch of charred earth, tangled barbed wire and broken bodies between opposing trenches — a few French soldiers set up camp right in the middle of it.
They weren’t alone, though. They were using a very special kind of shelter … the hooved kind. Don’t worry, no one was actually crawling inside of dead horse bodies to hide from enemy artillery fire. Though a dead horse is what started this whole thing.
Horses were a huge part of combat in WWI. They pulled ambulances, carried soldiers into cavalry charges, and were the primary means of transporting weapons, ammunition and food supplies for each nation involved. They were also large, bulky and loud, making them primary targets for enemy scopes.
This, as you can imagine, left a lot of dead horses everywhere. Eventually, someone searching for shelter in No Man’s Land probably cuddled up next to one in what he thought were his final moments, only to realize that this decaying Seabiscuit actually made for a pretty awesome barrier.
Enter France’s big idea: hollow, papier-mâché horses large enough for a man to crawl inside and aim his gun through.
Once night fell, the French drug away the dead horses that lay right in front of the German trenches and replaced them with the dummies. Then they ran a telephone wire from inside the horse back to the French trenches, so the sniper who would hide inside the horse would be able to report back on German movements.
This worked for a few days. Then a German soldier spotted a French sniper climbing out of one of the dead horses, and the jig was up. The method quickly became popular though, and “dummy horses” would appear on battlefields throughout Europe for the duration of the war.
2. The sailors who cross-dressed and pretended their warship was a cruise liner
World War II had its share of out-of-the-box camouflage as well. While a Dutch warship was busy disguising itself as an island to hide from Japanese bombers, the British fleet was brainstorming its own method of deception.
German U-boats were becoming more and more of a problem for the Allied merchant fleet. With little means of fighting back, the small ships were sitting ducks for the German watercraft, who could pluck them off easily with their superior weapons and speed. This gave England an idea: if the King’s warships disguised themselves as merchant boats, they could lure them into an ambush, destroying the German U-boats and the submarines that surfaced alongside them during their attacks.
But England wasn’t about to do this deception halfway. If they were going to pull this off, their disguise would have to be elaborate, reflective of the other (hijinks) they had pulled off earlier in the war. So the sailors got creative, and boy did they deliver.
Not only did the British officers don civilian costumes, some dressed in drag, pretending to be ladies sunning themselves on the deck of a cruise liner. When the Germans looked through their periscopes to take in the ship, they would see men and “women” flirting aboard a civilian ocean liner, walking around the deck and taking in the views over the rail.
They would also have to act the part. When a German U-boat was spotted, some ships went as far as pretending to panic, running around the deck and tripping over themselves for the benefit of the German’s view. There are even accounts of sailors haphazardly deploying their lifeboats and “accidentally” leaving one of their own behind, then scrambling to retrieve them as the unlucky “civilian” screamed for help.
The ship, of course, was actually outfitted with plenty of hidden weapons. When the U-boats would close in, the ruse would be over, and they would destroy the enemy ships and submarines as they began to close in.
3. The German soldier who hid inside of a fake tree
Man-sized horse piñatas weren’t the only thing soldiers were hiding inside of during WWI. In 1917, a platoon of German soldiers in Belgium needed to find a way to gain visibility through a small patch of dead trees that blocked their view of the Allies on the other side.
The cluster of dry wood was optimistically named the Oosttaverne Wood, one of the last clumps of nature left in the battlegrounds near Messines. It actually looked like a bunch post-apacolyptic metal posts, which gave the Germans an idea. They couldn’t send a sniper in to hide amongst the trees because there weren’t enough branches to cover him, but they could send them inside their own tree.
A plan was set into motion. The Germans would build a 25-foot-tall tree out of steel pipe, painting it so it looked like it had bark. Then a solider would hide inside, using a small hidden window to spy on the British forces in what was probably one of the most cramped snipers’ nests ever.
Just like the French horse-creators did, the Germans waited until nightfall to get things moving. With artillery fire ringing out to disguise the sounds of sawing and chopping wood, they cut down the real tree and set up their new steel lookout, hoping it wouldn’t draw any unwanted attention.
It didn’t. For several months the Germans were able to spy from their wartime treehouse, with the tree-spy crawling out of his post under cover of darkness each evening to report on his findings. It wasn’t until the British tunneled under the German lines and destroyed their trenches from the ground up in the Battle of Messines that the tree was abandoned. Once they had captured the trenches, the British lived and worked alongside the fake tree for several months before discovering it was a fake. The steel tree can now be found in The Australian War Memorial.
4. Israeli special forces used fake boobs to trick the PLO
Thus far, all of our disguise contenders have been relatively believable. When you have shells exploding next to your trench and artillery fire screaming in your ears, you’re probably not going to spend much time debating the validity of a slightly iron-looking tree, or a particularly limp dead horse. No one has time for that kind of daydream. And even though the cross-dressing sailors were doubly ridiculous, they had the advantage of distance from enemy scopes.
This story, however, is just plain insane. In 1973, a group of Israeli special forces commandos entered Beirut on a mission to take out three key leaders of the [Palestine Liberation Organization] who were responsible for the Munich massacre of the 1972 Olympics. The mission, dubbed “The Spring of Youth,” was incredibly risky, and the operatives knew that some deception would be in order if they were to get in and out of the area safely.
So, the Israeli commandos did the logical thing — they dressed up as women. Besides being confident in their ability to infiltrate the PLO, they were also apparently confident that their enemies had never seen a woman before. Or that they could really rock a pair of heels, who knows.
With wigs, fake boobs and matching shoes all in place, the muscled members of the Israeli special forces strolled down the street on the arms of other members of their secret group, who were normally-dressed men.
The fake couples were able to pass right by bodyguards and police without inciting any suspicions, and the hidden team was able to walk up to the apartment building of the PLO leaders and wait right outside their doors. Once safely inside, the men and “women” burst through the doors and pulled out their hidden guns and explosives, shooting and killing the stunned PLO members and avenging the deaths of their murdered countrymen.
The story gets even crazier from here. One of the femme fatales who carried out the high stakes mission was Ehud Barak, who would eventually serve as Prime Minister of Israel and currently serves as Defense Minister. Just goes to show you that dressing in drag could help you make it to the top.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Oklahoma Air National Guard Airmen from the 138th Maintenance Squadron perform routine maintenance on an F-16 Fighting Falcon Oct. 6, 2016, in Tulsa, Okla.
U.S. Air Force Col. David Mineau, the 354th Fighter Wing commander, prepares to take off in an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft after finishing end of runway checks Oct. 10, 2016, during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 17-1 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. RF-A simulates the first 10 combat sorties of an initial surge during a conflict, enabling pilots to better understand the stresses of the environment.
A U.S. Army Soldier attending Ranger School simulates being wounded and yells for help while lying in the river during a mass casualty exercise at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla, Sept. 28, 2016.
Florida National Guard Soldiers, assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, cross a rope bridge during a mountain obstacle course, part of the final day of the French Marines Desert Survival Course at Arta Plage, Djibouti, Oct. 10, 2016.
CHESAPEAKE BAY, Md. (Oct. 17, 2016) Aircraft CF-02, an F-35 Lightning II Carrier Variant attached to the F-35 Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF) assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 completes a flyover of the guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000).
U.S. Marines and Soldiers from the Singapore Armed Forces stage their vehicles in preparation for the final exercise of Exercise Valiant Mark 2016 Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California Oct. 11, 2016.
Marines with 2nd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (2d ANGLICO) prepare for tactical beach landing drills with 148 (Meiktila) Commando Forward Observation Battery, as part of exercise Joint Warrior on Cape Wrath, Scotland, Oct. 13, 2016. Joint Warrior is a multinational exercise which increases 2d ANGLICO’s capacity to operate and integrate with Joint, International, Interagency, and Multinational (JIIM) partnerships.
A U.S. Coast Guard H-60 Jayhawk departs Coast Guard Base Portsmouth, in Portsmouth, Va., on Oct. 10, 2016, following a a damage assessment of North Carolina. Coast Guard personnel have been working with numerous state and local agencies in response to the storm damage.
USCG Cutter Thetis crewmembers assisted the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) HNLMS Holland crew, Dutch Marines and American Red Cross with loading supplies for the World Food Program USA at the Haitian Coast Guard station in Les Cayes, Haiti, this week.
“I may be one of the few people in this room who remembers when Veterans Day was called Armistice Day, commemorating the armistice that ended the First World War on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year in 1918,” Reagan said in 1982, repeating the memorable line about the end of World War I, a war so horrible that it was known for decades as “The War to End All Wars.”
British troops man their artillery piece while defending against German attacks during the Spring Offensive, a failed German advance.
(Imperial War Museum)
But that tidy line, “the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year in 1918,” came at a cost. Thousands more soldiers, 1,100 of them in one unit, would die during the morning before the Armistice took effect.
See, the end of World War I, like the end of most large wars, was clear for months before it actually came. With the introduction of the tank in 1916 and of American troops in 1917, the stalemate in Europe turned slowly but inexorably in favor of the Allies. The Central Powers, including Germany, were doomed to eventually drown under the industrial might it faced.
But they would fight on for over a year after America entered the war, attempting counter attacks and bloody defenses in order to improve their position at the bargaining table. It was a messy and futile business. The creeping crush of American and Allied steel slowly slaughtered its way east.
British troops hold the southern bank of the River Aisne in May 1918 during Germany’s Spring Offensive.
(Imperial War Museum)
By October, 1918, the writing was on the wall. Germany hadn’t achieved a major victory since February, and the Spring Offensive that was supposed to shift the tide back in their favor had been utterly defeated. Berlin was starving under a British blockade and the front lines were quickly approaching the German border. Turkey surrendered at the end of the month and Austria-Hungary did so on November 3.
On November 7, 1918, the Germans sent a three-car delegation to the front lines and played a loud bugle call through the forest. The Germans informed some very surprised French troops that they were there to discuss terms of surrender with the French commander.
This is the first point where the top French and American officers, Field Marshall Ferdinand Fochs and Gen. John Pershing, could have slowed their advance. They could have ordered subordinate commanders to avoid costly advances against terrain or defenses that favored the Germans. In a war that generated over 2,000 deaths per day, a relatively calm November 7-11 could have saved thousands.
But Pershing and Fochs didn’t know, for sure, that Germany would actually go through with the surrender. The Germans had already committed a number of acts during the war that would’ve been beyond the pale before the conflict. They had introduced chemical gasses to the conflict, killed thousands of innocent, civilian ship passengers with their U-boats, and ignored multiple treaties and other legal agreements in their prosecution of the war.
They said they had come to hear the Allies’ proposal for surrender. Fochs replied that he had no proposals. Count Alfred von Oberndorff of the German foreign ministry told Fochs in French that his men sought the conditions for the Armistice. Foch replied, “I have no conditions to offer.”
The German and French delegation pose at Field Marshall Ferdinand Foch’s rail car after the November 11, 1918, armistice ending World War I was signed.
The Germans would have to beg, or Foch was prepared to push the front on to German soil. And so the German delegation, with added urgency as riots broke out in Berlin amid the ever-worsening food situation, begged. And it turned out that Foch did have conditions, and they were tough.
First, Germany had to cede dozens of ships, hundreds of submarines, and massive tracts of land to France including land then under control of German troops. And, Germany would have to give up massive amounts of transportation equipment, from planes to train locomotives to railway cars. When it came to the submarines and railways cars, France was actually asking for more than Germany physically had.
And the German government had to agree to the deal before November 11 at 11 a.m., or the offer would be withdrawn.
But Foch was unmoved by German pleas. In his and Pershing’s minds, the idea of stopping the war short of German soil was insane. If Germany was allowed breathing room, it could only serve German interests. Either they would be allowed to quit the war without suffering at home the way the French people had, or they would simply use the armistice to re-organize their forces and then resume their attacks without agreeing to a full treaty.
Finally, just after 5 a.m. on November 11, 1918, the German delegation agreed to the terms. They would later seek, in some cases successfully, to negate the most onerous terms of the agreement during the treaty process, though many of them stuck.
But that left the long morning from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m., Foch’s original deadline for an agreement and the legally binding time that the agreement would go into effect. Until then, the war was still raging.
If the ceasefire had taken place immediately after the agreement was signed, then hundreds would have still died as word made its way to the trenches — but the alternative was worse. Commanders were told that an armistice had been signed and that it would take effect at 11 a.m. They were given little or no instructions on how to spend the remaining hours.
For some, the answer was obvious: you don’t get your men killed to capture ground that you can walk safely across in a few hours or days. But for others, this was one last chance to punish the Germans, one last chance to improve France and America’s place at the peace table, one last chance at glory, awards, and promotions.
And so, after the armistice was signed, some Allied forces launched new attacks or decided to continue ongoing ones. Marine Maj. Gen. Charles P. Summerall ordered the 5th Marine Regiment to conduct a contested crossing of the Meuse River, acknowledging, as he briefed his officers, that he would likely never see them again.
Two American soldiers run towards a bunker in a classic photograph that may have been staged after the actual fighting.
(Library of Cogress)
When word came down that the armistice had been signed, the general left his men on the attack, notifying them only that they must cease attacking at 11. And so they continued. Eleven-hundred Marines died at the crossing before the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month arrived. The artillerymen on each side reportedly increased their fire when they learned, at 9 a.m., that the war was almost over.
The 157th Brigade kept fighting, as well, when they learned about the armistice at 10:44. With only 16 minutes left in the war, the American brigade still had a chance at taking a tiny, insignificant French village back. The general gave the order that attacks would continue until 11.
A supply soldier assigned to the brigade went forward with the 313th Regiment and took part in an attack through the fog against a German machine gun. Most of the Americans stopped short as the first German rounds zipped overhead, but Pvt. Henry Gunther pressed on.
A captured German machine gun team moves their weapon.
(National Library of Scotland)
The German gunners, aware that the war would end in mere minutes, attempted to wave him off. They yelled, but Gunther came on. So, finally, the German gunner gave one, last tug on his trigger, sending a burst into the charging private. Gunther was killed, the last official American casualty of the war.
Another town was attacked, and successfully captured, in the final minutes. Stenay was taken by the 89th U.S. Division at the cost of 300 casualties.
Up and down the front, artillery batteries fired until the last seconds. All-in-alll, the belligerents suffered an estimated 2,738 deaths on the final morning. American forces are thought to have suffered over 3,500 casualties of all types. Congress would later look into the “inefficiencies” of American troops being sent to their likely deaths in the final hours of fighting.
Americans celebrate the signing of the armistice that ended World War I.
(Chicago Daily News, Public domain)
But, it’s important to remember that military leaders couldn’t be sure the war was actually over, and they saw Germany admitting weakness as a sign it was time to press home the final attack in order to guarantee peace. If the Allies had rested, it might have allowed Germany to solidify their forces and improve their defenses.
The Allied leaders had heard only rumors or nothing at all about the events eating Germany from the inside. The Kaiser had abdicated and fled into exile. German sailors were in mass mutinies that crippled the already under-powered fleet. The aforementioned riots in Berlin were threatening to overwhelm the new republic, only days old and formed in crisis.
But that doesn’t restore to life the thousands lost in the final days to ensure victory, men whose brave sacrifices didn’t gain a much ground, but did cement the peace that ended mankind’s worst conflict up to that point in history. Their sacrifice may feel more tragic, but is no less noble than the millions lost before November 11.
ISIS initiated the attack on the An Tanf garrison with a vehicle bomb and between 20 to 30 ISIS fighters followed with a ground assault and suicide vests, officials said.
Coalition and partnered forces defended against the ISIS attack with direct fire before destroying enemy assault vehicles and the remaining fighters with multiple coalition airstrikes, officials said.
In southern Syria, officials said, vetted Syrian opposition forces focus on conducting operations to clear ISIS from the Hamad Desert and have been instrumental in countering the ISIS threat in southern Syria and maintaining security along the Syria-Jordan border.
Young veterans often ask me why they should care about resilience. It’s a fair question. At this point, the term is almost meaningless – an overused buzzword.American military culture in particular has packaged “resilience” into an unsexy powerpoint training requirement. It seems like an add-on. An annoyance.
It’s unfortunate, because resilience practices are key to maximizing performance. And when you’re performing optimally, your family, your team, and the other people around you benefit significantly. We’re better off in every area of our lives – personally and professionally – when we practice resilience trait cultivation.
The three pillars of a resilient life are social support, self-care, and spirituality. The individual value of these pillars is backed irrefutably by science, and – when practiced together – their benefits increase exponentially.
I promise not to spend the next few paragraphs trying to convince you to drink green smoothies and sit on a therapist’s couch. There’s a lot more to wellness than that. Instead, we’ll examine some simple tactics you can start using today to build a better life.
1. Social Support: Surround Yourself With Good People
The first and most important step in building resilience is making the hard choice to surround yourself with great people. If you don’t have them around you, you can’t get started. You won’t start or keep growing.
This seems like an obvious step, but it’s a real challenge for some. It was for me.
The truth is, you’ve got a battle ahead and you’re most likely to succeed if you have like-minded people to walk with you as you make some changes. I’m not saying you have to hang out with people who look, think, and talk like you, but you do have to spend time with people who are supportive and interested in their own growth and development.
Take a moment to honestly evaluate the influence of the people in your life. Is their influence negative and destructive or positive? If you don’t have great people around you right now, that’s ok. It means you have plenty of room to grow.
You may need to make some serious life changes to find a more positive tribe. You may also need to put yourself in some uncomfortable situations to meet new people. Perhaps you’ll find your new group volunteering, on a sports team, or as part of a faith community.
If you’re not in a great place right now, or you don’t have many skills when it comes to connecting with other people, you might be feeling shame or a lack of confidence. Do some outreach anyway. Be willing to risk sharing things that feel deeply personal. You’ll be surprised at how supportive people can be when you open up.
Think about this intense challenge in terms of improving yourself for the people you love.
2. Self-Care: Calm Your Body and Mind
Start here by choosing just one or two healthy practices you can incorporate as daily habits, then track how they benefit your life. Don’t worry about trying to change everything at once.
By practicing effective self-care to calm your body and mind, you can become less reactive to external stressors. When you’re less reactive, you’re more capable of engaging in positive social interactions. Better social interactions result in increased social support. Improved social support increases your physical and emotional health. There’s a ripple effect here that’s really exciting.
Self-care can be as simple as cooking at home or going back to the gym. What you’re looking for is something that makes you feel relaxed. You might be working hard, but you’re going to feel your sympathetic nervous system (body and mind) calm down. Some people call it a click. An exhale. A downshift. When you feel it, you’ll know you found your thing.
Think of your sympathetic nervous system like a dashboard: It’s where your perception, speech, and moving about in the world happens. It’s where you live when you’re alert. Our goal through self-care is to pump the brakes and calm down this side of our nervous system.
When our brains shift to rest, our bodies and minds are refreshed and we’re more capable of controlling our emotions, focusing, and engaging in high-level thinking. You can reach this rested state by sleeping, but you don’t have to be sleeping to be in this zone. You may also get there by swimming, snowboarding, gardening, praying, meditating, or hitting flow in some other activity you enjoy. Most of us – particularly those of us with stress injuries – are sadly lacking in this rested state.
As you begin incorporating daily self-care practices into your life, track your progress. Take note of how you feel two weeks in. Do you feel better? More focused? Do you sleep better at night? Are you feeling less pain?
Remember that self-care will differ for every person. For example, if meditation isn’t for you and you keep trying it, it can actually increase your stress. You may not be a meditator – you may be a trail runner. It’s about trial and error. Don’t be surprised if what works for you changes over the years. The most important thing is to maintain your willingness to practice, and understand that it may take time to discover what works best for you.
3. Spirituality: Find Your Meaning
Finally, there’s a clear correlation between physical, mental, and emotional resilience and a sense of meaning in our lives. We all need a connection to someone higher – with God, or a sense of personal purpose. Whether you approach this aspect of resilience from a secular perspective (think Maslow’s hierarchy with transcendance at the top) or with a theological view, give yourself some time to ask questions about the source of purpose and meaning in your life.
To plug into a community that supports you as you explore this aspect of resilience, consider getting involved with your church, synagogue, or specific faith group, volunteering, giving generously, or taking time to study a faith practice you’ve been curious about.
Editor’s note: Each week WATM will be presenting a new column by Dr. Hendricks Thomas on topics important to the veteran community.
About the Author
Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance, here.
Russia carried out the latest test of a new high-speed cruise missile last week as part of a program that is raising concerns in the Pentagon about the threat the missile poses to American warships.
The test of the Zircon hypersonic missile was tracked by U.S. intelligence agencies, according to a senior defense official familiar with reports of the test. No other details of the test were available.
However, state-run Russian news reports say the Zircon can reach speeds of between Mach 6 and Mach 8, or between 4,600 and 6,100 miles per hour — enough to outpace any current missile defense interceptors.
Such high speeds pose dangers for Navy destroyers, cruisers, and aircraft carriers currently outfitted with anti-missile defenses but that are not capable of countering the missile.
Defense analysts said the test was probably carried out from a ground-based launcher near an area of the White Sea in northern Russia around May 30 — the date that Russian authorities issued an air closure notification for the region.
The Zircon has been billed by the Russians as an anti-ship cruise missile that media have said will be deployed on Moscow’s nuclear-powered missile cruisers. Production is expected to begin this year.
Vladimir Tuchkov, a military analyst, told the state-run Sputnik website that Zircon missiles will be deployed between 2018 and 2020.
“The Russian development of hypersonic weapons is clearly a very serious threat,” said Mark B. Schneider, a senior analyst at the National Institute for Public Policy and a former senior Pentagon official. The missile’s estimated range of up to 620 miles “would give it very great capability against defenses,” he added.
Mr. Schneider said the Pentagon is “clearly well behind” in the race for developing hypersonic weapons, and that the problem is not technology but a lack of funding. China also is developing a hypersonic missile called the DF-ZF.
The Pentagon is planning a test this year of a missile called the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon as part of its Conventional Prompt Strike program. That program until recently was dubbed the Conventional Prompt Global Strike and is seeking weapons capable of striking any location on Earth within minutes.
The 6th Marine Regiment color guard marches towards the parade field at Aisne-Marne American Memorial Cemetery in Belleau, France, May 29, 2016. The ceremony marks the 98th anniversary of the Battle of Belleau Wood and continues as a symbol of the everlasting brotherhood between the U.S. Marines and the French military. The cemetery, lined with epitaphs, marks hundreds of plots where military members from all around the world rest after giving the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Photo/Preston McDonald
I nearly died just days after arriving in Iraq. This was my first deployment and although I had never seen combat, I was a well-trained, physically fit, mentally prepared Marine. None of that mattered when a grenade landed near us. Luckily, we all walked away. That first patrol seemed like a blur at the time but years later the memory is still scarred into my brain, like a small burn on a child’s hand. It’s not about what happened that day but the reminder of what could have.
That reminder came just days after I returned home. One of my fellow Marines, a friend, was killed by a sniper’s bullet, then, another fell from a roof and died, and yet another lost his legs in an IED attack. I had survived months without a scratch but my friends who were just as well-trained were killed and injured within a week. My brain couldn’t understand the logic of what happened … because there is no logic in war.
You don’t get to pick where the bullet goes, you just have to face it. Since the founding of the United States, thousands of men and women have stared down our enemies. Many have paid the ultimate sacrifice and are still buried on the battlefields where they said their last words.
Sunrise in Section 35 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, Oct. 25, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser/ Arlington National Cemetery / released)
Today, the living reminder of the fallen remains in places like Gettysburg, Arlington National Cemetery and Aisne-Marne, France. Over 100 years before I stepped foot into Iraq, thousands of Marines patrolled the forests of Belleau Wood. They were all that stood to protect Paris, and the war effort, from a German assault. Outnumbered, isolated and low on ammunition, they fought and held the line. Their tenacity in battle earned them the name “Teufel Hunden” or “Devil Dogs” by the Germans. This is a name that Marines proudly still use today.
In battle, words matter. “Covering fire” has a completely different meaning than “take cover.” “Fix” is different from “flank” and so on. In peace, words matter even more. When we think of war in terms of winning and losing, we not only do ourselves the disservice of simplifying the chaos of battle but we negate the reminder that the fallen give us.
A Sailor assigned to Special Operations Task Force West folds an American flag during a memorial marking the anniversary of the death of Petty Officer 2nd Class Tyler Trahan, an explosive ordnance disposal technician. Trahan was killed in action April 30, 2009 in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. U.S. Navy photo/Aaron Burden
While war may have a clear victor, there are no winners on the battlefield. The gravestones, memorials and scars – both physical and invisible – that veterans carry are the reminders of that.
We are the land of the free because of the brave. Countless men and women have raised their hand to serve our country with nothing expected in return. As it’s said, “All gave some, some gave all.” The very least we can give those who paid the ultimate price is to honor their memory, acknowledge their unyielding patriotism and cherish their last great act with awe and humility, for they willingly gave their lives in service of our great nation.