What’s it like to take part in a modern air battle, flying some of the most sophisticated planes ever to take to the sky? We’re talking the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon here, during the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot.
The F-15 and F-16 have seen a lot of action, the vast majority of which has taken place in the Middle East. One of the most notable engagements these airframes saw was the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot. During the 1982 Israeli-Lebanon War, the Israelis were dealing with terrorist attacks from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The PLO had relocated to Lebanon shortly after wearing out its welcome in Jordan.
After a PLO assassination attempt that targetted the Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom, the Israelis went into Lebanon to deal with the terrorists. The thing was, the PLO was backed by Syria. So, when the Israelis went in, the Syrian Army went in to stop them. A crucial part of the Syrian strategy was to take control of the air.
This wouldn’t work out so well for the Syrians. Not only had Israelis just acquired the latest and greatest fighters from the United States, they had also acquired the Grumman E-2 Hawkeye. This radar plane was perhaps the biggest advantage for the Israelis. Ground-based radar stations have a lot of trouble seeing low-altitude planes and cruise missiles. Airborne radar, however, has much less difficulty.
Between June 9 and 10, nearly 200 fighters from both the Israeli Defense Force and the Syrian Air Force clashed over the Bekaa Valley. When the shooting had stopped, all the Israeli planes returned safely to their bases. Over 80 Syrian combat planes were not so lucky, destroyed in the ferocious air battle.
You can see what this battle was like from an Israeli pilot’s perspective in the video below. There probably aren’t very many Syrian perspectives available.
When America threw its weight behind the Allies in World War I, optimistic politicians and the writers of the day predicted that, soon, tens of thousands of top-tier planes would pour from American factories to the front lines, blackening the skies over the “Huns.” In reality, American aviation was too-far behind the combatants to catch up, and so American pilots took to the air with French castoffs that gave them diarrhea and nausea, obscured their vision, and would lose its wings during combat.
A pilot in his Nieuport 28 fighter aircraft.
(San Diego Air and Space Museum)
World War I plane designs relied on a small selection of engines, and most of them were lubricated with castor oil. As the war wore on and the oil was in short supply, Germany did turn to substitutes. But most engines, especially the rotary designs that gave a better power-to-weight ratio crucial for flight, actually burnt castor oil that escaped in the exhaust.
America’s top ace of the war, Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, was famous around the aerodrome for often running around the corners of buildings after he landed so he could vomit from a combination of airsickness and castor oil exposure. He eventually got control of his stomach and could fly confidently, but it was a significant distraction for a long time.
But the bigger problem for early American pilots was that the U.S. had to buy French planes, and France kept their best models for their own pilots. So America got planes like the Nieuport 28. The manufacturers had little time to test designs before they had to press them into production and service, and the 28 had one of the worst flaws imaginable.
In rigorous aerial flight, if U.S. pilots took a common but aggressive aerial maneuver, their top wings could break away.
American pilot Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker with his Nieuport 28 in World War I.
Yup. They would lose their literal, physical wings.
It was a biplane design, meaning that it had two sets of wings, one above the other. That upper set of wings was attached with a thin spar. It would break if subjected to significant strain.
And World War I pilots attempting to escape a fight gone bad would often trade altitude for speed and distance. They did this by diving a short distance and then pulling up hard. The plane would gain speed during the fall, and the aviator could hopefully get away before the pursuer could get a bead and fire.
But the weak upper wings of the Nieuport 28 couldn’t always take the sudden force of the pull up after the dive, and so an upper wing would snap during the pull up. So the pilot, already in a dire situation, would suddenly have less lift and it would be unequal across the wings, sending the pilot into a spinning fall.
The Spad XIII didn’t have the drawbacks of the Nieuport 28, but it also had a worse power-to-weight ratio and maneuverability.
(San Diego Air and Space Museum)
Despite these handicaps, American aviators proved themselves faster learners and braver than their allies had expected, leading to a grudging respect from the other pilots.
And, eventually, America would get access to the Spad XIII, an aircraft about as quick as the Nieuport 28 but without the weak wings. But, by that point, not everyone wanted to give up the Nieuport. That was partially because the Nieuport had great handling at high speed as long as the pilot knew how to nurse the engine and not exceed the tolerances for the wings.
The Spad XIII was a little more reliable and stable in normal flight, but some American pilots felt like they couldn’t maneuver as tightly in the new planes, and they actually fought to keep the Nieuport 28s.
World War I pilots began by simply waving at each other in flight, greeting their adversary as each pilot headed to his own reconnaissance mission. But as World War I quickly became brutal—and the pilots themselves saw friends die on the ground by the thousands and in the air by the dozens—they quickly sought out ways to kill each other.
And one of the pioneers who pulled it off was Roland Garros, a daredevil pilot who barely escaped Germany with a night flight into Switzerland at the war’s start.
French Pilot Roland Garros in a plane with a canine.
Garros was a French pilot who had already made a name for himself as a daredevil and aviation expert by flying across the Mediterranean in 1913. But when World War I broke out, he was in Germany and made his unscheduled night flight into Switzerland to get away, quickly joining the Storks Squadron, a group of aviators who would be the highest ranked French air-to-air combatants in the war.
And Garros led the way. Fighter combat in the air began with pilots carrying pistols to shoot at enemy aviators and darts to drop on hostile troops on the ground. But most pilots were looking for some way to mount machine guns on their planes.
But pilots usually looked through propeller blades while flying, and that was the most logical place to mount a gun for pilots to control. But, obviously, shooting through their own propeller would inevitably cause the pilot to shoot down himself. One of the early fixes was to mount the machine gun above the propeller blades, but that pointed the gun into a weird angle, and no one was able to shoot anyone down with that configuration.
Garros figured out another way. He mounted his gun right in front of his seat so he could look down the barrel to aim. To get around the problem of destroying his propeller, he simply armored the wooden blades with a metal sheath and trusted them to deflect those rounds that would’ve downed him while the rest of the rounds flew toward his target.
It is sometimes counted as the first known aerial victory, though it’s important to note that “aerial victory” today is often used to refer to shooting down an enemy plane, not forcing it to run. That feat was first accomplished Oct. 5 by another French pilot.
An illustration of aerial combat in World War I.
But Garros would go on to down five enemy planes in March 1915, causing the American press to dub him an “ace,” one of the first times that term was used. He also may have been the first pilot to achieve five kills.
Either way, his bravery, and ingenuity helped put France at the forefront of the changing face of aerial warfare. Unfortunately, air combat was a risky business, and Garros would not survive the war. In April 1915, he was shot down and crashed behind German lines.
Leonid Rogozov was one of 13 scientists and researchers on the Soviet Union’s sixth expedition to Antarctica from 1960 to 1962. One morning in 1961, he woke up feeling general malaise, weakness, and feverish along with pain in his abdomen. He soon understood what was happening. His appendix needed to be removed. Unfortunately, he was the only one who could do it.
So he did.
If movies and television taught us anything during the Cold War, it’s that Russians are amazingly strong superpeople who punch with the force of a full ton, can train even the worst armies to become special operators, and seem to know everything about everyone. In this case, movies and television were absolutely right. Rogozov was the only medical doctor on the team of Soviet scientists at Novolazarevskaya Station, almost 47 miles from the Antarctic Coast, separated by the Lazarev Ice Shelf. On April 29, 1961, the morning he woke up with pain in his abdomen, the average daily temperature would have been around 13 degrees Fahrenheit.
The doctor recognized his symptoms as indicative of appendicitis, an inflammation affecting the appendix that can cause it to burst. Without any kind of treatment, this condition can kill in a matter of a few days. Rogozov had to act fast because his condition was only getting worse. He was beginning to vomit and believed his appendix might soon burst. With the help of two fellow scientists holding mirrors, he used a novocaine solution to numb the direct area and then went to work.
No big deal.
The doctor made a 12-centimeter incision and began looking into his own abdomen and the organs within. He noticed his appendix was discolored with a dark stain and estimated it was about to burst. For two hours, he poked around, resected his appendix, and battled bouts of nausea and the weakness caused by his condition. He sometimes even had to work by feeling alone, being unable to see from the angle he was sitting. But the operation was a success.
Four days later, his digestive system began functioning normally. After five days, his fever receded, and after a week, the incision was completely healed. In two weeks, he was back to duty and after a month, back to heavy labor in Antarctica as if he hadn’t just cut out his own appendix.
The United States sent its forces into Syria in 2014 to hasten the demise of ISIS. After the fall of the “caliphate” capital in the Syrian city of Raqqa three years later, the U.S. remained. It was determined to conduct operations that would bring the government forces of Bashar al-Asad to heel.
In 2018, U.S. forces and U.S.-backed militias from the Kurish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), controlled the Conoco gas field near the town of al-Tabiyeh in eastern Syria. The Americans and SDF were on the eastern side of the Euphrates River, while Syrian government troops and Russian mercenaries were on the other.
As far as the United States knew, there were no official Russian troops operating in this province. Then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis made certain of that using official channels to the Russian government, in place to prevent a clash between American and Russian troops. The Russians operating with Bashar al-Asad’s troops were military contractors hired by the Wagner Group.
Pro-Assad forces controlled the nearby major city of Deir-ez-Zor, which allowed them a staging area for nearby attacks and to easily cross the river.
The pro-government forces had begun massing in Deir-ez-Zor for days prior and the American-led Coalition could see every move they made, even if they didn’t know who exactly was making those moves. For all the Coalition forces knew, they could have been ISIS. That’s when a large force departed the city, headed for the headquarters of the U.S.-SDF forces at Khasham.
On Feb. 7, 2018, 500 pro-government Syrian troops, including Iranian-trained Shia militiamen, along with Russian military contractors began their attack on the SDF headquarters. The assault began with mortars and rockets, supported by Soviet-built T-72 and T-55 tanks. Unfortunately for the Syrians, the SDF base just happened to be filled with 40 American special operations forces. After calling to ensure no official Russian forces would be harmed in the making of their counterattack, the operators called down the thunder.
American Special Forces called in AC-130 “Spooky” Gunships, F-15E Strike Eagles, Reaper drones, Apache helicopters, F-22 Raptors and even B-52 Stratofortress bombers. If that wasn’t enough to kill everything coming at them, nearby Marine Corps artillery batteries got in on the action. The attack was turned away, decisively. The only questions that remained were how many were killed in the “fighting” and how was the Syrian government going to cover up this epic mistake?
Coalition forces took one casualty, an SDF fighter who was wounded. The United States estimated the Syrians lost 100 killed. The Syrian government says 55 were killed in the fighting with a further loss of 10 Russian mercenaries. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 68 Syrians dead. Russian media lamented the idea that Russian remains were “abandoned” on the battlefield.
“Write it on your forehead: 14 volunteers were killed in Syria. I’m fed up with you chewing snot and telling fairy tales in your petty articles. As for your speculations there, what you write about those f****** investigations – no one has abandoned anyone.”
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US Army quickly mobilized to engage with Japan in the Pacific Theater. Fortunately for America, we had a few advantages on the ready. Not only did we have the semi-auto M1 Garand to face up against Japan’s bolt-action Arisaka. We also had the M1911 paired against the Japanese Nambu. For the most part, our weapons were far superior to the Japanese – with one major exception. Japan had the Knee Mortar and that was pretty scary.
Don’t let the name mislead you. The knee mortar was really a grenade launcher. Japan called it Type 89, since it was introduced in the 2,589th year of Japan’s existence.
The Knee Mortar makes its appearance
The Knee Mortar was created so Japan’s soldiers stood a chance facing off with the US. Even though their Army included some well-trained infantrymen, the Knee Mortar was definitely their back pocket weapon.
A little history
The short version: Japan had pretty crappy tanks. Their artillery was not much better. When it came down to anti-tank weapons, they didn’t have much there, either. Furthermore, the Imperial Japanese Navy got a lot of the RD priority for new ships and planes. Japan figured – correctly – that their best course of action was to try to ensure naval dominance.
According to a U.S. Army manual, the Type 89 fired a 50mm round and weighed ten pounds. Depending on the round used, it had a maximum range of just under 750 yards. It could fire incendiary rounds, smoke rounds, and high-explosive rounds. Think of it as kind of an M79 grenade launcher on steroids. You didn’t want to fire it from your knee, unless you wanted to be on a medevac flight or ship home. Instead, you braced it on the ground.
Two Marine Corps legends, “Chesty” Puller and Merritt Edson, both came away very impressed by this weapon. Edson, who lead the Marine Raiders on Guadalcanal, noted that a Japanese soldier could carry that weapon and ten rounds with no problem. The weapon was issued in large quantities to Japanese troops and had a high rate of fire. As a result, it was believed to have caused 40 percent of American battle casualties in the Pacific.
Today, the knee mortar is out of service, but the concept is alive in the form of “commando mortars” like the British L9A1, the South African M-4, and the Iranian 37mm “marsh mortar.” In short, grunts have options for lightweight firepower.
One day in 1765, a 5-year-old boy wearing fine clothes and speaking no English was found on the docks of City Point, Virginia. No one knew where he came from, where his parents were, or even how old he was at the time. All they knew was that he kept repeating the name “Pedro Francisco.” So that’s what they called him, eventually anglicizing the name to Peter.
His past didn’t matter to history, but his future did. When the American colonies declared independence from Great Britain more than a decade later, he would be part of it and become known to history as America’s first one-man army.
The nickname of “Hercules” would come much later, when the boy grew into a man. When the average size of an American colonist was around 5’6”, Peter Francisco stood a whopping 6’6” and 230 pounds – large even by today’s standards. A blacksmith by trade, he was a member of the 10th Virginia Infantry when the American Revolution broke out and subsequently became a member of the Continental Army.
His fighting ability would prove crucial to winning some of the most pivotal battles of the war, and perhaps the Revolution itself.
Francisco was just 17 when he enlisted, and saw action at the September 1777 Battle of Brandywine, where the Americans were attempting to halt the British advance on Philadelphia. Washington was a master of strategic withdrawal, and at Brandywine, it became crucial. The British outflanked the Americans. Washington needed time to escape.
Luckily for the famous general, Peter Francisco’s unit was fighting to hold the 12,500-man British assault. He and the rest of the Continentals were able to hold the line for a full 45 minutes, giving Washington’s army plenty of time to escape. Francisco was wounded in the leg, but he learned he had a real talent for killing Redcoats.
By October, he was back in the fighting, once again keeping the British from advancing on Philadelphia. This time, he fought at Germantown, a battle that very nearly saw an American victory. His strength and prowess on the battlefield became the stuff of legend among his fellow soldiers.
Along with the rest of the Continental Army, Peter Francisco wound up at Valley Forge. There, the army learned to fight from one of the best military minds of the day, Baron von Steuben. He taught the Americans not just how to march, but how to fight with the bayonet.
This would serve Francisco and the Continentals well at the upcoming Battle of Stony Point, where a silent, night time assault on the fortress there began and ended with Francisco leading an advance force of 20 men to mercilessly hack the British and expel them from the area. But Peter Francisco was allegedly not using a bayonet.
According to a legend, which has never been confirmed by historians, Gen. Washington presented Francisco with a six-foot broadsword to honor his skill in battle. Some say this was the weapon he used to slash through the British at Stony Point.
As the second man over the wall at Stony Point and being a man of his size, his legend grew among the soldiers of the American army. But his enlistment was up and he returned home to Virginia. Unfortunately for the British, they started attacking the Southern Colonies, which Peter Francisco took personally.
He rejoined the Continental Army, this time marching to Camden, South Carolina under Gen. Horatio Gates. The result of the battle was a humiliating defeat, but Francisco was able to salvage some of his commanding officer’s dignity. He impaled an British cavalryman with a bayonet and picked the man up off his horse. He then mounted it and put his colonel on it, saving the officer’s life.
Another, maybe mythical story has the big man picking up an American cannon from the field so it wouldn’t be captured by the British. Even if it didn’t really happen, it could have, and that’s all that matters.
Francisco’s next interaction with the British Army came under Gen. Nathaniel Greene at Guilford Courthouse. This is another battle where Francisco is supposed to have received the broadsword from General Washington. Whether he had it or not, he and the Americans killed so many of Lord Cornwallis’ regulars that the British victory became a pyrrhic one. Cornwallis wrote that the Americans fought like demons there.
The next time Peter Francisco encountered Lord Cornwallis’ men was when the British surrendered to the Americans and French at Yorktown in Virginia, effectively ending the war with an American victory.
It was Gen. George Washington who did really say that, “Without him we would have lost two crucial battles, perhaps the War, and with it our freedom. He was truly a One-Man Army.”
It wouldn’t do much good for a wounded World War I veteran trying to reintegrate into society to have a passersby gasp in shock and horror every time they saw him. The town of Sidcup in England attempted to ameliorate this shocked, audible response by attempting to warn the locals about the tenants of a nearby soldiers hospital.
Seeing a man on a blue bench when all the other benches in town were a different color warned the locals the image of a man sitting on it might come as a shock – and the veterans were grateful.
WARNING: Some of these images might be disturbing to even modern eyes.
A World War I veteran who was treated at Sidcup
World War I was an entirely different kind of warfare than the world had ever known previously. With that new, modern, and mechanized destruction, came new wounds and scars that would mark its veterans forever. Few in any military had ever seen anything like the gruesome scars of war left on World War I vets, so it’s safe to say that few civilians had either.
The Great War was packed with horrifyingly disfiguring weapons similar to wars past. Bullets are nothing new, neither was shrapnel. But the new weapons of war were able to unload hundreds of bullets in a minute and fire high explosives and poison gas from places the soldiers on the ground couldn’t even see. Soldiers on both sides suffered disfigurement at an astonishing rate. For the lucky ones who survived, that meant coming home to a population that wasn’t entirely prepared to see the horrors of the war.
The effects of the earliest plastic surgery on World War I veterans, this work done in London.
Sidcup, England had a hospital devoted to such soldiers. The hospital held hundreds of troops whose facial features were an object of terror to the unprepared. The benches of Sidcup were a warning to passersby that a veteran sitting on the bench might be disfigured, and it’s best not to stare. While this may seem offensive to us these days, for veterans who suffered from these afflictions, it was a blessing. Sidcup became the one place in the world where wounded, disfigured vets could walk around without the gasps and cries found everywhere else.
More than that, such hospitals featured pioneering medical techniques to attempt to mitigate the physical damage and return some kind of normalcy to the subject. World War I veterans were essentially the world’s first plastic surgery recipients. For those who couldn’t get that kind of work done, masks were an option – a painted replica of an unwounded face, covering the wounds of war that marked their daily lives.
Masks for WWI-era wounded soldiers were usually specially designed for the individual, created for the subject’s unique injury or war wound, and then painted one by one to ensure the look and fit of the mask matched the person wearing it. There are many occasions where (albeit in black and white photos) it’s hard to distinguish the masked face from what might be the soldier’s undamaged face.
They were remarkably accurate and allowed the soldiers a degree of freedom, walking around without the horrors of war written upon their faces.
For Andrew Jackson, living through the Revolutionary War did more than just decide to whom the land belonged. It shaped his entire family … and him into an eventual politician and leader. It was a war that made him into an orphan — both his brothers and mother were killed (his father died while he was still in the womb).
A family who emigrated from Ireland two years before he was born, the Jacksons made their home along the North Carolina/South Carolina border, where they worked as farmers.
Only to be torn apart by the onset of war.
Less than two decades later, at 14, Andrew Jackson was left alone, with incredible life experience under his belt. Including a stint as a prisoner of war. Yes, the future president was captured by the British and held against his will.
Jackson joins war efforts as a teen
Jackson’s eldest brother, Hugh. was first to join the efforts of the Revolutionary war. He fought in the Battle of Stono Ferry in 1779, but succumbed shortly after due to heat exhaustion. This was the first slight that Jackson is said to have felt personally from the British.
But he wasn’t alone, soon after, widespread British distaste would grow among the locals.
During the battle of Battle of Waxhaws in 1780, the Continental Army was losing and attempted to surrender. However, a British commander was shot during the transaction, causing the British to charge full force on the remaining Continental forces. It’s now known as the Waxhaw Massacre.
Outraged and encouraged by their mother, Elizabeth, Andrew and his brother, Robert, joined themselves. Just young teenagers — Andrew was 13 — they began attending local militia drills, where they found work as messengers.
Captured by the British
It was in April of 1781, that the pair was captured by the British while delivering mail. In captivity, the brothers were severely malnutritioned and were struck with smallpox and became close to death.
Jackson himself was slashed from a sword after he refused to clean an officer’s boots. His brother, too, refused and was slashed, but less noticeably so. The scars on Andrew’s head and left hand were still visible in adulthood. It’s also said to have even further intensified his hatred for the British.
Meanwhile, their mother negotiated their release. She met them upon said release to take them home, some 40-plus miles away. With one horse between the three of them, Robert was placed on the animal due to his declining health. Unfortunately, Robert died two days after making it back home. Andrew was able to recover.
Elizabeth returned to the war efforts, volunteering to nurse other prisoners of war back to health. However, she contracted cholera and died in November of that year, leaving her youngest son as an orphan at just 14 years old.
It’s said that, even as an adult, Jackson personally blamed the British for all three deaths.
Life after the Revolutionary War
Jackson went on to live with distant relatives, until he received an inheritance from his grandfather, who remained back in Ireland. Jackson then went to school and worked as a teacher, before embarking to study law at just 17. Then by 21, he began his career as a politician. He is said to have been wild, ambitious, and one who loved to gamble in taverns and carry on with friends.
He’s the last U.S. President to have involvement in the Revolutionary War, and the only U.S. President to have been a prisoner of war.
When America joined the Great War, the British Fleet was holding most of the German Navy in the North Sea, meaning that American warships and troop ships rarely faced severe opposition. But one ship did fall prey to an unknown assailant: The USS San Diego, sank off the U.S. East Coast due to a massive explosion from an unknown source.
The USS San Diego in March 1916.
But the ship is now a fish sanctuary, and researchers looking at the wreck and at historical documents think they’ve figured out what happened all those years ago.
On July 19, 1918, the armored cruiser was sailing from Portsmouth Naval Yard to New York with a full load of coal in preparation to strike out across the Atlantic. But, as it was coming up the coast, an explosion well beneath the waterline suddenly tore through the ship, hitting so hard that it warped the hull and prevented the closure of a watertight door.
USS San Diego sinks in this 1920 painting by Francis Muller.
(Naval History and Heritage Command)
His working theory was that they had been hit by a German torpedo, and he wanted to both kill the bastard who had shot his ship and save the vessel. Unfortunately, he could do neither. The ship sank in 30 minutes into water 110 feet deep, and the crew never spotted the vessel that attacked them.
Six sailors died in the incident. They were Engineman Second Class Thomas E. Davis, Engineman 2nd Class James F. Rochet, Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Frazier O. Thomas, Seaman 2nd Class Paul J. Harris, Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Andrew Munson, and Fireman 1st Class Clyde C. Blaine.
It was a naval mystery for years, but there was a theory competing against the torpedo one: The ship might have struck a mine placed there by a submarine that was long gone when the San Diego arrived.
The proud USS San Diego, also known as Armored Cruiser 6.
Researchers created a 3-D map of the wreck, and found damage that was most similar to the larger explosive load of a torpedo, but could have been caused by a large mine. And so they turned to naval records handed over by Germany after World War I.
In those records, they found reports from the U-156, a German submarine that did operate on the East Coast that month. But it wasn’t concentrating on finding ships to torpedo. She was carrying mines.
The mine explosion took place well below the waterline and against relatively thin plating. The mine detonated against a half inch of steel. If it had contacted at the armored band, it would’ve done paltry damage against the ship’s 5-inch thick armor belt.
Because of the limited ships the Central Powers could put to sea in the later years of World War I, the Navy concentrated on protecting and conducting logistics operations rather than chasing elusive fleet action. The Navy delivered more than 2 million soldiers to Europe without losing any soldiers to U-boats.
In World War II, it would be forced to conduct fleet actions while also delivering troops and supplies across the Pacific, Europe, and Africa.
Strategists say the first casualty of war is the plan. In a few cases, the plan never reached the war stage. And if these 10 invasions happened, the world would be a dramatically different place.
1. War Plan Red: The U.S. Invasion of Canada
In the post-WWI era, fresh from battlefield victory in Europe, the United States was building its military to compete with those of the other world powers. It was a time of global imperialism, when the aspirations of any country could end up sparking a war anywhere, with anyone. To this end, the U.S. drew up a series of “Rainbow War Plans,” filled with possible war scenarios that were coded by color. The first on the list was War Plan Red: The U.S. War with Britain.
In the age of the “Special Relationship” the U.S. enjoys with the UK, we tend to forget Anglo-American relations haven’t always been this close. Before the rise of the Soviet Union, the U.S.’ “special relationship” was more akin to its relations with Russia. Catherine the Great traded directly with the American Colonies despite the British ban on such trading and Russian ships traded with the colonies during the Revolution. The Russians kept other European powers out of the American Civil War.
War Plan Red did not involve any U.S. vs. UK action outside the Western Hemisphere. The authors believed capturing Canada would make Britain sue for peace. The first step would be an American invasion of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, followed by a move West into Quebec. Once the Province of Quebec falls, the Canadians would have been unable to move men and supplies in either direction. This would have been followed by thrusts to capture the Great Lakes area (which is also the Canadian industrial center) to prevent attacks on the American industrial centers in the Rust Belt regions. An attack from Grand Forks, North Dakota would capture the Canadian Central Rail system in Winnipeg, and a joint blockade an amphibious invasion was called to capture British Columbia in the West.
2. The Canadian Invasion of The United States
As if the Canadians knew something was up down south, they had an invasion scheme of their own. Literally called Defence Scheme No. 1, it called for immediate action as soon as evidence of an American invasion was uncovered. The Canadians believed the U.S. would strike Montreal and the Great Lakes regions first, then Westward into the prairies and into British Columbia.
In 1930, Canadian intelligence developed its counter plan. It was designed to buy time for Canadians to mobilize for war and to receive help from Great Britain. Units designed for speed of movement would capture major cities in Washington State as others in the East would capture cities in Minnesota and the Great Plains States. French Canadian forces would move to capture Albany, New York while an amphibious assault would land in Maine. As the Americans began to push the Canadians out, the retreating troops would destroy food and infrastructure as they went.
Operation Downfall was the codename for the Allied invasion of Japan at the end of World War II. Japan surrendered after the United States dropped two atomic bombs and the Soviet Union entered the Pacific War, handily defeating Japanese forces on the Chinese mainland. Downfall would have been the largest amphibious operation in world history, a landing even bigger than the ones at Normandy the previous year.
The invasion was divided into two parts, Operations Olympic and Coronet. Olympic was the capture of the southern portion of the Japanese main island of Kyushu. Coronet used assets captured in Olympic to invade the main island of Honshu in the plains areas near Tokyo. The plan called for five million American troops with an additional one million British and Commonwealth forces. The Japanese are estimated to have mustered 35 million regular, reserve, and conscripted troops.
The Japanese correctly predicted the U.S. war plan and their defensive operation plan was an all-out defense of Kyushu with little left for defenses anywhere else. A study conducted for the War Department at the time estimated at least 1.7 million American casualties because the study assumed Japanese civilians would join in the island’s defense.
4. The Soviet Invasion of Western Europe
The Eastern Bloc countries maintained a defensive posture for much of the Cold War. None of the Soviets’ war plans called for nuclear weapons until after Joseph Stalin’s 1953 death. It was after 1953 that the nuclear tensions began to ratchet up on the continent. NATO countries had their own individual plans for nuclear war, as well. The UK alone planned to drop at least 40 nuclear weapons on Eastern Europe. The American Single Integrated Operation Plan, first created in 1960, called for raining thousands of nuclear strikes on Communist countries, even if they weren’t at war with the U.S. For the West, the destruction would be so absolute, it didn’t matter what came after. For the Russians and their allies, the war didn’t stop at the nuclear exchange. Nukes only shaped the conventional battlefield.
After the exchanges, Eastern armies were to pour West, capturing cities in West Germany and pushing all the way to France. Czechoslovak armies took the middle of Europe, through to the Pyrenees while Polish and Soviet armies took the Northern parts. They planned a five-to-one advantage in troop strength and hoped to be at the Atlantic Coast within 14 days.
5. Sino-Soviet War
This one was actually a “border conflict” between the two Communist countries that almost turned into a nuclear conflict. It started over a small island on the Ussuri River, 3/4 of a mile in area. The river is the border between Russia and the People’s Republic of China. In 1964, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev ceded the island to China but rescinded the recognition after Chairman Mao threatened to claim other Russian areas for China. By 1968, the Red Army was massed on the border.
At the time, the Chinese were numerically superior but technologically inferior to the Russians. Mao’s strategy of “man over weapons” essentially meant he would throw as many Chinese troops at the Soviets as it took – and the Soviets were ready to oblige him but not really sure if they could win. The Politburo in Moscow believed that if it came to war, the USSR would have to use nuclear weapons to win. Leonid Brezhnev even asked the U.S. to remain neutral if the Russians used nukes in the war.
6. The Soviet Invasion of Israel
The 1967 Six-Day War began with a massive Israeli pre-emptive strike against Egyptian airfields. The Israelis destroyed the Egyptian Air Forces on the ground within hours. With air superiority, Israeli forces moved into the Gaza Strip and advanced into the Sinai Peninsula inflicting heavy losses on the Egyptians while taking few of their own. In response, Egypt convinced Jordan and Syria to intervene, which resulted in the Israeli capture of the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Golan Heights.
In the days of the Cold War, the Israeli-Arab conflict extended far beyond the borders of the contemporary Middle East. The Soviet Union was the patron of the Arab countries in those days, a counterweight to the U.S. support for Israel. The Soviets were not happy about the rapid Israeli advance and warned the U.S. that if they didn’t do something about it, the Soviet Union would. The Russians prepared an amphibious invasion of Israel on the Mediterranean coast, with full air support. Strategic bombers and nuclear-armed naval forces were already en route to the Middle East when the Soviet Premiere delivered his threat to Washington.
7. The Mexican Invasion of The U.S.
In the days leading up to the U.S. entry into World War I, British intelligence intercepted a telegram from the German Foreign Secretary, Arthur Zimmerman, to the German ambassador in Mexico. The note instructed the ambassador to offer a German-Mexican alliance in case the Americans join World War I against Germany. The Germans would fund a Mexican invasion of territories lost during the Mexican-American war in the 1840s. Instead, the intercepted telegram was published in the U.S., causing a huge public furor and inflaming anti-German sentiment.
The plan called for an invasion and annexation of Texas, New Mexico, California, Nevada, and Arizona, as well as parts of Utah, Colorado, and Oklahoma. The Germans hoped that, even if Mexico didn’t reconquer the territory, the declaration of war would keep American men and ships in the West and stem the flow of arms and supplies to the World War I allies.
8. The Kaiser’s Invasion of the U.S.
That wasn’t the first time Kaiser Wilhelm planned an attack on U.S. soil. The Kaiser disliked and distrusted Americans, believing American capitalism an immoral and corrupting practice. He also believed U.S. imperialism in the Pacific threatened German hegemony over the Samoas there. In 1897, he ordered the German General Staff to develop an invasion of the United States to stem its growing regional and economic influence. The Imperial German Navy would never be large enough to carry out any of the plans developed.
The first draft plan called for the invasion of Hampton Roads, Virginia, in an operation that specifically targeted the U.S. Navy. After the decisive American victory in the Spanish-American War, the plan was changed to focus on invading via New York and Boston. The plan required sixty warships and 100,000 German troops. The German ships were to bombard and invade the largest cities on the Atlantic.
9. Confederate Invasion of Mexico and the Caribbean
150 years after the Civil War, it’s hard to remember that a Union victory in the Civil War wasn’t guaranteed. And in the years surrounding the war, Americans on both side of the slavery issue were anxious to expand American territory. That didn’t change just because there were now two Americas.
The Confederates never thought of their cause as lost, either. In their postwar plans, Confederate leaders made plans for expansion into Latin America and the Caribbean. They even attempted to destabilize areas of Mexico so they could take their battle-hardened army right to Mexico City. They also planned to expand their slave territories to Brazil, where two Confederate explorers established colonies (New Texas and Americana) for 20,000 rebels after the South lost the war.
10. Napoleonic France Invades Australia
In 1800, L’Empereur sent a French expedition to British New Holland (now Australia) ostensibly to conduct surveys in geography and natural history. Two ships led by a Frenchman named Nicolas Baudin sailed for three years along Australia, Tasmania, and other islands in the region. They collected natural specimens that were sent back to France and uncovered some 2500 species of plant and animal. Baudin did not survive the expedition, dying on Mauritius in 1803.
One of the explorers, Francois Peron, authored a confidential report for Napoleon that outlined what they saw as English encroachments on the territory, accusing the English of land grabs. He believed the French could use the land more effectively and Peron began to feed military and political information back to France. Baudin himself may even have had a role in developing the invasion information, allegedly preparing a report on how to invade Sydney Cove. They believed 1,800 French troops back by Irish soldiers and convicts could topple British control of the entire area.
A Regulus is test-fired from USS Tunny (SSG-282) (U.S. Navy).
In 1951, the Navy built the SSM-N-8A Regulus cruise missile in conjunction with the Chance Vought Aircraft Company. Developed from the German V-1 missile, the Regulus was built to maintain the Navy’s relevance in the nuclear age. The turbojet-powered missile could be equipped with a nuclear payload and launched from surface ships or submarines. However, in its first operational launch, the Regulus carried a much more benign payload: mail.
On June 8, 1959, USS Barbero (SSG-317) conducted not only the first operational launch of a Regulus missile, but the Navy’s first operational launch of any cruise missile, off the east coast in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s target, roughly 100 miles away, was Naval Auxiliary Air Station Mayport, Florida. Rather than a nuclear warhead, the Regulus was loaded with two Post Office Department (known today as the United States Postal Service) containers which held 3,000 pieces of mail.
All 3,000 pieces were copies of a letter from the Postmaster General, Arthur E. Summerfield, and were addressed to government officials including President Eisenhower and other postmasters around the world. The Post Office Department set up an office aboard the submarine and even validated the stamps with a USS Barbero postal mark. Members of the crew were also given copies of the letter and envelope, which Summerfield called “a significant philatelic souvenir.”
At noon, the mail-laden cruise missile was fired at Mayport and landed just 22 minutes later. Afterwards, the letters were sorted as routed as any other mail. The stunt was meant to validate Summerfield’s idea of so-called “missile mail” in the age of jets and rockets. “Before man reaches the moon, mail will be delivered within hours from New York to California, to Britain, to India or Australia by guided missiles,” he predicted. “The great progress being made in guided missilery will be utilized in every practical way in the delivery of the United States mail.” Of course, Summerfield’s idea of missile mail was simply not to be.
While the technology of guided missiles has certainly advanced, the cost of sending letters missile mail would be truly astronomical, even today. However, Summerfield was partially right. Advances in jet aircraft have allowed us to send mail overnight and across the globe via air mail. While it may not be as exciting as missile mail, it’s certainly a lot cheaper.
Although the missile mail stunt did not lead to a revolution in postal delivery, it did result in another success. Unlike the secret tests conducted by the military, the public operational launch of the Regulus demonstrated America’s capability to accurately and reliably launch its nuclear-capable cruise missiles to the world. Along with the nonstop flight of the nuclear-capable B-52 just two years prior, the Navy’s Regulus launch was a major milestone in the Cold War.
For three centuries, the Vikinger (or Vikings) of the countries of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden aggressively expanded their reach into Europe. The Viking Age started in 793 A.D. with the pillaging of the wealthy yet unprotected monastery in Lindisfarne, England. Christendom was officially under attack by heathen hordes of pagan murderers. These heretics fought with a deliberate recklessness that struck fear into the hearts of men.
Like many warrior cultures, the Norse believed the best seats in the afterlife were reserved for those who fell in battle. But they did not go to heaven — instead, they went to Valhalla, where they dined with the creator, fought to the death daily, and partied harder than a Marine infantry battalion the weekend before a deployment. That is, until it was time to fulfill their true purpose.
Lance Corporal: What is my future, oh wise one?
Mimir: Your leave will be denied and you’ll have duty.
To understand Valhalla, one must first understand its ruler: Odin. Odin is the central figure in Norse mythology. He goes by over 200 different names, but is most famously known as The Allfather.
The world of the Norse was created from two elemental realms: Muspelheim, a realm of fire, and Niflheim, made of icy mist. The intertwining of these primordial ingredients created two beings: Ymir, the giant, and Auðumbla, an equally massive cow. The cow nourished itself with salt from rime-stones in nearby ice. The cow licked until a man named Búri was freed from the ice. Not much is known about Búri other than the fact that he had a son, Bor. Bor married Bestla and, together, they had three sons. The eldest of these sons was Odin.
Odin had two ravens who traveled the world, providing him information as the world took shape. He sought wisdom wherever he could find it and his quest lead him to the World Tree, called Yggdrasil. He hung himself from its branches, stabbed himself with his spear, and fasted for nine days to learn the secrets of powerful runes — but this was not enough to satiate a God’s curiosity.
Odin’s thirst for knowledge turned literal when he heard a giant was protecting the actual well of knowledge. Mimir the giant drank deeply from the well, growing wiser with each passing day. Odin wanted a drink — and, thankfully, he had something Mimir was after. The Allfather was omniscient — he could see all. So, a trade deal was stuck: Mimir would happily trade a drink for an all-seeing eye. Without hesitation, Odin plucked out his eye, gave it the giant, and then drank from the well — because that’s just the kind of guy Odin was.
Legend has it NJP’d Marines are also welcomed in Valhalla.
(William T. Maud)
Valkyries carry the chosen to the afterlife
Valkyries are warrior maidens who assist Odin in transporting his chosen slain to Valhalla. These noble maidens were said to be unbelievably beautiful and have love affairs with brave men. The Valkyrie also had the task of aiding Odin in selecting half of the dead to admit into Valhalla. The others went with the goddess Freyja to enjoy a simple, relaxed afterlife.
It was because of this selection process that the Norse welcomed (and often sought) the chance to die a death worthy of Odin’s recognition.
Some say you can literally feel Chesty Puller’s knife hand cut the sound barrier from here.
Odin’s hall is in Asgard
Valhalla is in Asgard, the land of the Gods, which rests high above the realm of man. It is made from the weapons dawned by warriors: The roof is made of golden shields, the rafters are of spears, and coats of mail hang over the benches where the warriors feast.
Valhalla has a golden tree (called Glasir) planted in front of the hall overlooking a rainbow bridge. The stag Eikþyrnir and the goat Heiðrún live on top of the roof, chewing on the leaves of the World Tree. The chosen warriors drink their fill of liquor, harvested from the utters of the goat. Meat for the feasts comes from a boar that regenerates its meat daily so it may be slain again and again. Odin sustains himself on wine alone.
Every day, the chosen warriors fight each other, training for the end of days. After their ferocious training, they become whole again and dine in the great hall like old friends.
Odin’s horse doesn’t seem to share his enthusiasm.
The true purpose of feasting and fighting in Valhalla
The warriors of Valhalla train tirelessly, day after day, until the time comes to fight by Odin’s side against a massive wolf, named Fenrir, during Ragnarök (the Norse apocalypse). Daniel McCoy, author of The Viking Spirit: An Introduction to Norse Mythology and Religion, writes
Odin will fight Fenrir, and by his side will be the einherjar, the host of his chosen human warriors whom he has kept in Valhalla for just this moment. Odin and the champions of men will fight more valiantly than anyone has ever fought before. But it will not be enough. Fenrir will swallow Odin and his men. Then, one of Odin’s sons, Vidar, burning with rage, will charge the beast to avenge his father. On one of his feet will be the shoe that has been crafted for this very purpose; it has been made from all the scraps of leather that human shoemakers have ever discarded, and with it Vidar will hold open the monster’s mouth. Then he will stab his sword through the wolf’s throat, killing him.
The greatest warriors train in Valhalla to fight alongside their creator in the apocalypse and are destined to die a permanent death.