This is why everything about history's most infamous assassination was dumb - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb

The dark and mysterious Black Hand gives weapons and aid to a small group of revolutionaries. One of these men — with two shots — kills two people to set off the powder keg that forever changed the world. This is history-book speak about the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. To be fair, the gravity of the aftermath is immense. However, everything from the preparation, the target, the assassin, the attempts, the killing, and the initial response of Austria-Hungary was very stupid.


The Preparation

Captain Dragutin Dimitrijevic, also known as Apis (after a sacred bull worshiped in Ancient Egypt), led the secret military society known as the Black Hand. Years prior, the group had organized the May Coup in Serbia in an attempt to unify the ethnic Serbian territories free from the other Balkan states.  Within years, they had become the most feared terrorist organization in the region.

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb
Apis of the Black Hand. (Photo via Wikimedia)

Apis greenlit the operation to assassinate the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. He gave the mission to a smaller group within the organization, Young Bosnia. He did this without the sanction of the full Executive Committee and then left for Sarajevo to meet all the conspirators.

When they arrived, they sat around for about a month. This was because they couldn’t get the weapons, explosives, suicide pills, or funds. They scraped together six grenades and four FN Model 1910 pistols. They would use what little ammunition they had to practice with…in the middle of a city park.

The Target

The first target was Oskar Poiorek, the governor of Bosnia. They scrapped this because of the lack of weapons. (Spoiler alert: Poiorek would ride in the same car as Ferdinand that fateful day and would make it out unharmed.) So they turned their attention to Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb
The Archduke of Austria Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo moments before their assassination. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/Mansell/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

He was not popular as a political leader. He was extremely prejudice against Hungarians, viewed Slavs as “less than human,” and called Serbs “pigs.” Yet, he felt that autonomy for the Czechs in Bohemia and the southern Slavic peoples in Croatia and Bosnia would strengthen the empire.

He had goals of turning the Bipartite state of Austria-Hungary into a tripartite state to include the union of the Slavic peoples. Franz Ferdinand was also absolutely against any confrontation with Russia and helped maintain peace between the two nations.

The Assassins

Coordinated by Danilo Ilic, the group Young Bosnia consisted of ten members who thought they were ready. None of them had formal training and they all had faulty gear — if they even had gear. The leader constantly bickered with Apis of the Black Hand.

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb
Group Photo of Young Bosnia. Most would die by execution or in prison. But not the guy in the top right. That is Ivo Andric. He would later win a Nobel Prize for Literature. (Photo via LSE Blog)

Young Bosnia largely consisted of young men with diseases who weren’t afraid to die. They were all ready and willing to die during their missions, or even  take cyanide pills to prevent capture and execution. Too bad the pills were expired…

The Attempts

On Sunday, June 28th 1914, the Archduke and his wife died by an assassin’s bullet. But the events that lead up to Princip pulling the trigger were ridiculous.

First, Ferdinand’s car overheated. He said, “Our journey starts with an extremely promising omen. Here our car burns and down there they will throw bombs at us.” Which they did.

Assassins lined the bridges the Archduke was sure to cross. The first attempt on the his life was by Nedeljko Cabrinovic. He threw a grenade at the vehicle as it toured the city for their wedding anniversary. The grenade had a ten second delay, causing it to roll off the hood and explode under another car wounding bystanders, but not the royal couple.

Cabrinovic took one of the cyanide pills and jumped into the river below to ensure his death. The pill expired the month before and only got him sick. Also, the river was only about 4 inches deep.

He was immediately detained by police.

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb
Arrest of Nedeljko Cabrinovic (Photo via Smithsonian)

 

Franz Ferdinand was to leave Sarajevo but changed that plan in order to visit the people wounded by the first attempt. General Potiorek urged that if they were to go, they should take a different route to arrive safely. No one told the driver, so they went down the same route that the assassins were still on.

Gavrilo Princip, who left his post to grab a sandwich, noticed the vehicle with the Archduke of Austria and the Duchess of Hohenberg.

And it stopped.

Five feet away from where Princip was eating.

He pulled out his pistol and took two shots. One hitting Franz Ferdinand in the jugular. The second shot, intended for General Potiorek, hit Sophie in the abdomen. They both died shortly after.

The Fallout

Princip attempted suicide, but he, too, had an expired cyanide pill. He then tried to shoot himself, but police wrestled the pistol from him before he could do it.

Both Princip and Cabrinovic refused to speak, but Ilic, the leader, cracked. Ilic told authorities everything about the operation and gave up everyone else involved. Both men active in the assassination were too young to die by execution according to Habsberg law. Instead, they did from tuberculosis while in prison.

They feared Princip’s bones would become relics of Slavic nationalists, so they buried him in an unmarked grave. A Czech soldier assigned to his burial gave the location away, and the remains were then placed beneath a Sarajevo chapel “to commemorate for eternity our Serb Heroes” in Sarajevo.

 

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb
An actor reenacting the assassination in front of Princip’s statue in Sarajevo unveiled on the 100th anniversary. So as you can tell, not making him a martyr totally worked… (Photo via Baltimore Sun)

The nation honored the one man who called for peace with Russia by launching a chain of events that started the first World War.

To learn more about the assassination and World War I, check out the series “The Great War,” which details week by week the events of the first World War as it occurred one hundred years later.

(YouTube, The Great War)

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is actual footage of the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri

On December 7th, 1941, the Empire of Japan launched a brutal attack on Pearl Harbor, killing over 2,300 American military personnel and catapulting the America into World War II. After nearly four years of fierce fighting, the Japanese surrendered to allied forces.


General Douglas MacArthur flew into Okinawa on his C-54 Skymaster to officially accept the Japanese surrender — his crowning achievement. Meeting up at the USS Missouri, the victor finally meets face-to-face with his defeated Japanese foes at the surrender ceremony on Sept. 2, 1945.

As thousands of fighting men stood witness to this historic event, MacArthur accompanied Adms. Chester Nimitz and William Halsey as they greeted the Japanese delegation aboard the Navy vessel.

The delegation in attendance signed the document which brought the grueling conflict to a halt. After the Japanese were led away, allied forces conduct one more flight maneuver to seal their victory — 1,500 planes roar across the sky over the bay in what many called a “victory lap.”

Related: This Air Force jet landed itself after the pilot ejected

Check out the Smithsonian Channel video below to see the historic surrender in color.

(Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)

Also Read: This legendary Navy skipper sank 19 enemy ships

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A cut-rate Gaston taught U.S. infantry how to kill tanks

The U.S. Army made a lot of training videos for World War II. Think of them as the PowerPoints of yesteryear. And when it was time to teach infantry to fight tanks, the Army hired an actor that looks suspiciously like the character Gaston and then filmed him drinking beer in a hunting lodge.


This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb
(GIF: YouTube/PeriscopeFilm)

Seriously, even the lights hanging from the ceiling are similar. He’s one dentally-challenged sidekick away from being this guy…

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb
(Screenshot: YouTube/Theano Sakalidou)

Considering the fact that the new Beauty and the Beast revealed that Gaston was a veteran, it’s starting to look like Disney based their character on an old War Department training film.

But while Gaston is known for being an idiot, the staff sergeant in the training film knows his stuff. He’s a tanker who takes a little time out to teach infantryman how best to destroy armor.

He starts with how small arms can be used to force tankers to “button up,” diving into their hatches. Once the tanks are buttoned, they can be completely blinded by rounds hitting the view slits and periscopes:

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb
(GIF: YouTube/PeriscopeFilm)

Then, it’s time for grenadiers to try and shoot the crew through the armor with anti-tank rifle grenades:

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb
(GIF: YouTube/PeriscopeFilm)

But if the tanks make it past the grenadiers, the rest of the riflemen can throw Molotov Cocktails at the fleeing armor:

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb
(GIF: YouTube/PeriscopeFilm)

All of these were real weapons and tactics in the fight against German armor, and Gaston helped make it happen.

You can see the whole clip — and learn how to destroy Axis tanks — below:

MIGHTY HISTORY

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution

Spartans have a weird reputation for being the undeniable kings of Classical warfare while in reality, they get a lot of really great press from the Battle of Thermopylae, but they weren’t really better or worse than any of the other Greek city-states. In fact, for 17 years, the Army of Messenia, led by King Aristomenes, handed the Spartans their asses for 17 years until he was captured and executed by Spartans.

And he soon appeared again at the head of the Messenians, ready to kick more Spartan ass.


This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb

Can’t stop, won’t stop.

A lot of U.S. military veterans are gonna have a hard time hearing this, but there was very little that was special about Sparta. Contrary to popular belief, the upbringing of Spartan boys had nothing to do with military training and everything to do with being a good citizen and obeying the law. Between 550 BC and 371 BC, Sparta’s win rate in pitched battles was 1-1, and the loss to Thebes in 371 really did them in. For good. Even at Thermopylae, yes 300 Spartans made a brave last stand, but Herodotus (and later, Frank Miller) forgot to mention the 700 Thespians who were also there, along with the 900 other lightly-armed infantry who couldn’t afford the gear to be a hoplite.

The Spartans, while perhaps brave, weren’t the bearded Hellenic crack team of ancient special operators they somehow get credit for being today. What they were was aggressive and present. The Messenians, sick of being slaves to stupid Spartans, rose up against their overlords and fought them at the Battle of Deres. Though no one really won that battle, one man stood out above the rest – Aristomenes. He fought so well the Messenians declared him their leader.

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb

Aristomenes would be captured after a night of carnal delights with Spartan priestesses.

Aristomenes took the fight to Sparta and immediately took their temple to Athena. The Spartans returned and fought him again, only to lose once again. Aristomenes and the Messenians routed the Spartans over and over at Boar’s Grave and Great Trench. After these victories, it was said that Aristomenes was captured and taken to Sparta, where he was sentenced to die a warrior’s death. The Spartans led him to a cliff where he would be thrown off. But the sentence of a warrior’s death meant Aristomenes would be tossed over while still wearing his armor. He was tossed over, and the Spartans went home, certain that a Messenian army without Aristomenes was no match for them.

The Messenian King, however, was still very much alive. Using his shield, which the Spartans gave him to die with, he slowed his fall against the side of the cliff. The descent itself wasn’t even that far, considering he landed on the bodies of hundreds of his former fellow Messenian warriors who were sentenced to a similar fate. Using the bones of his comrades, Aristomenes climbed back up the cliff and walked back to his forces.

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb

Some sources say a fox led Aristomenes away from the cliff. Either way, he survived.

As the two forces met up the next day, the legend goes, Aristomenes strode to the front of his forces. The Spartan Army was so surprised at seeing the reanimated corpse of the king they killed the day before that they broke ranks and fled. The Messenians would next move on the fortress at Mount Eira, one they would hold for some 11 years, from which they would conduct guerrilla raids.

Of course, time was not on the side of the Messenians holed up in the fortress. The siege ended Aristomenes when he led a column of women, children, and refugees out of the fortification and to safety on the island of Arkadia while 500 of the remaining defenders launched a diversionary attack on the Spartans. The refugees escaped and the defenders were killed to a man. Aristomenes left the Army for Rhodes, where he later died.

But this time, he stayed dead.

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These are the slave soldiers that defeated the Mongols

The rulers of the Islamic world in the 1200s were not born into aristocracy or priesthood, as was the custom in Europe. They were an army of former slaves. Trained in combat and Sunni Islam from a young age, these “Mamluks” (from the Arabic for “property”) soon grew so vast in number that they wrested control of the Empire from the Abbasid Caliphs — one of very few times in history.


 

During the Crusades, it was Mamluks who met the Crusaders as they attempted to retake the Holy Land for Christendom. But the most important imprint the Mamluks have on history is a single battle that took place in modern-day Israel that meant the difference between centuries of rule and utter annihilation.

In the 13th Century, a wave of destruction flowed across Asia and into Europe. The Mongols, an amalgamation of far-east tribes and clans from the Mongolian Plateau, united their people, reorganized their armies, and began to expand their controlled territory.

 

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb

The Mongols began to expand under Genghis Khan, and that expansion continued long after his death. For over 100 years, the Mongol armies swept South and West, demanding immediate surrender and destroying and slaughtering those who didn’t submit.

They didn’t suffer a real defeat until more than 60 years into the conquest at the Battle of Ain Jalut, near the Sea of Galilee — at the hands of the Mamluks.

 

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb
I don’t know what that weapon is but I want one.

The Mongols’ loss at Ain Jalut shattered the image of Mongol invincibility and slowed their advance so much they actually had to retreat from the Levant. The Mamluk victory kept the Mongols from taking Cairo and sweeping into Africa.

The Mamluks continued to rule the Islamic world for centuries, where they were subsumed by the emerging Ottoman Empire — though they remained influential in the Empire for centuries afterward, even fighting both Napoleon and U.S. Marines (but losing to both).

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These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

Snipers are undoubtedly the most lethal shooters on the battlefield, able to take out targets from hundreds and hundreds of yards away, without their marks being alerted to their presence.


They are experts at blending into the environment, masters of patience, physically developed and always well-trained. But snipers still can’t take the shots they they’re known for without a decent rifle in their hands, capable of helping them reach targets at longer-than-normal ranges.

Over the past 50 years, records for the longest kill-shots in history have been made and broken repeatedly by some of the greatest snipers the world has ever seen. These are the four guns they have used to break and set these records on confirmed kills at unimaginably far distances:

4. Browning M2 ‘Ma Deuce’ Heavy Machine Gun

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb
The M2 machine gun Carlos Hathcock used for his longest confirmed kill in 1967 (Photo US Marine Corps)

 

A WWII-era machine gun used as a sniping system doesn’t exactly evoke any images of precision shooting, but it’s exactly what a 24 year-old Marine by the name of Carlos Hathcock used in early 1967 to take out a Vietcong militiaman pushing a bicycle loaded with weapons and ammunition. Built to fire the .50 BMG round, the M2 had exactly the range and stopping power Hathcock wanted in a gun that would allow him to hit targets at distances far beyond what a standard-issue sniper rifle permitted.

With an Unertl scope mounted to a custom-made bracket crafted by Hathcock himself, and the M2 in single-shot mode, the gun could engage targets at distances over 1600 yards. The machine gun was balanced on an M3 tripod and kept in place with sandbags.

His record-breaking February 1967 kill was made using this setup at 2500 yards, creating a record for the history books which would stand until the War in Afghanistan in 2002.

3. Barrett M82A1 Special Application Scoped Rifle

 

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb
An M82A1 sniper rifle without its signature muzzle brake, circa 1990 (Photo US Army)

According to Chris Martin in his book, “Modern American Snipers,” Sgt. Brian Kremer currently holds the American record for the longest sniper kill in Iraq, while serving with the 75th Ranger Regiment. The M82 SASR is every bit the beast it looks, firing a .50 Browning Machine Gun round at effective ranges up to nearly 2,000 yards. Weighing in 30 pounds, and measuring 48-57 inches long depending on the barrel used, the M82 is without a doubt one of the most fearsome small arms on the battlefield.

The M82 was originally put into service with the US military in 1990, and has been used in every conflict since. Though smaller-caliber sniper rifles are typically unable to hit targets behind cover, American snipers have been able to use the M82 and the Raufoss Mk 211 .50 caliber round to simply shoot their way through obstacles at great distances to reach their marks. Kremer’s shot reportedly measured 2,515 yards.

2. Accuracy International L115A3 Long Range Rifle

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb
British Royal Marine commandos training with L115A1 sniper rifles (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

 

In 2009, British Army sniper Craig Harrison set a new world record for the longest confirmed kill in history with his L115A3, the standard long-range marksman’s rifle of the British military. During an ambush on a convoy he was attached to, Harrison hit a pair of Taliban machine gunners using 10 carefully-placed shots at a range of 2,707 yards, beating out the previous record by 50 yards.

Known in civilian markets as the Arctic Warfare Magnum, the L115A3 is chambered to fire the .338 Lapua round — a devastating bullet with phenomenal range. Known for its armor-piercing abilities at long distances, the .338 is now extremely popular among military snipers and marksmen across the world.

1. C15 Long Range Sniper Weapon

 

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb
A Canadian sniper training on the C15 .50 caliber sniper rifle (Photo Canadian Army)

 

Commercially known as the McMillan Tac-50, this is the rifle which has broken the world record for longest kill on three separate occasions over the last 15 years.

In March 2002 during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, Canadian sniper Arron Perry broke Carlos Hathcock’s 35-year record with a confirmed kill at 2,526 yards. Later that month, another Canadian sniper, Rob Furlong, topped Perry with a shot ranging 2,657 yards. Recently, it was reported that yet another Canadian set and holds the world record — now at a mind-blowing 3,540 yards… that’s over half a mile longer than Furlong’s 2002 kill!

The C15, like its commercial name suggests, is built to fire .50 caliber rounds, and has seen service with a number of elite military units, including the US Navy’s SEAL teams, Canada’s Joint Task Force 2, and Israeli special forces.

This monster of a weapon weighs 26 pounds on its own, and measures 57 inches from stock to barrel.

 


Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

MIGHTY HISTORY

This stunning Nazi attack came 2 months before Pearl Harbor

On Oct. 23, 1941, US Navy destroyer USS Reuben James left Newfoundland to escort a convoy bound for Britain. Two days later, the German U-boat U-552 left the French port of St. Nazaire to prowl the North Atlantic on its sixth patrol.

The US was not a belligerent in the war in Europe at the time, but Washington had set up neutrality zones in the Atlantic in which its ships would guard British and neutral merchant ships. US ships would also notify convoys of U-boats’ locations.


The James and the U-552 sailed a few weeks after a U-boat fired on the Navy destroyer USS Greer without hitting it. After that incident, President Franklin Roosevelt told the public that “if German or Italian vessels of war enter the waters, the protection of which is necessary for American defense, they do so at their own peril.”

In the early-morning hours of October 31, when the Reuben James and the U-552 crossed paths near Iceland, the de facto state of war between the US and Germany in the Atlantic intensified.

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb

German Capt. Lt. Erich Topp and other crew members aboard the U-552 in St. Nazaire, France, Octo. 6, 1942.

The James and four other US destroyers were escorting the more than 40 ships that made up HX-156, a convoy of merchant ships sailing from Halifax in Canada to Europe. At that time, US warships would escort convoys to Iceland, where British ships took over.

As day broke on October 31, the Reuben James was sailing at about 10 mph on the left rear side of the convoy. Just after 5:30 a.m., the U-552 fired on the James, its torpedoes ripping into the left side of the destroyer.

“One or more explosions” occurred near the forward fire room, “accompanied by a lurid orange flame and a high column of black smoke visible for several minutes at some miles,” according to the Navy’s Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

The ship’s forward section was blown off, and it sank rapidly. Only two sailors on that part of the ship survived the blast. Others who made it out were sailors “berthed, or on watch, [aft of] the forward fireroom.”

No official order came to abandon ship, but crew members launched three rafts and started to leap overboard as the sea swallowed the ship. The captain had issued life jackets to the crew and told them to have them on hand at all times, which meant many sailors were able to get to them as they fled the ship.

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb

A German U-boat.

While many men made it off, a number of those in the water around the ship were killed or later drowned after at least two depth charges on the ship detonated as it sank.

The escort commander sent two destroyers to investigate. With a smooth sea and little wind, they were able to spot the James’ sailors just before 6 a.m. and began rescuing them minutes later. The destroyers’ crews used cargo nets, Jacob’s Ladders, life rings, and lines to pull survivors, many covered in oil, out of the water.

Rescue operations were over by 8 a.m.; 44 of the crew were recovered, but 93 enlisted men and all the ship’s seven officers were killed.

US merchant ships had already been sunk in the Atlantic, and in mid-October, another US destroyer was hit by a torpedo but made it to Iceland. But the James became the first US warship sunk by the enemy in World War II.

“The news of the torpedoing of one of our destroyers off Iceland was the first thing that the President spoke of this morning, and that has cast a shadow over the whole day,” Eleanor Roosevelt wrote on November 1. “I cannot help but think of every one of the 120 men and their families, who are anxiously awaiting news.”

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb

US Coast Guard cutter Spencer crew members watch a depth charge blast a German submarine attempting to break into a large US convoy, April 17, 1943. The U-boat was critically damaged and sunk off the coast of Ireland.

Germany was unapologetic, saying US ships were escorting British ships in a war zone and had fired on German vessels before. The US didn’t declare war, but the sinking drew the US further into the conflict in Europe, which was already more than two years old.

On November 1, Roosevelt signed an executive order reassigning the US Coast Guard from the Treasury Department to the Navy. About two weeks later, under pressure from the president, Congress further amended the Neutrality Acts passed in the 1930s, revising them to allow US merchant ships to be armed and to sail into war zones.

On December 8, the US declared war on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Three days later, Germany declared war on the US.

The James was stricken from the Navy’s official register on March 25, 1942. The U-552 continued the fight. It joined U-boats that preyed on US ships along the East Coast in 1942 but was later transferred to waters closer to Europe.

The U-552’s success waned, as did that of the rest of the U-boat force, as the Allies improved their convoy and anti-submarine tactics and invaded Europe, recapturing ports. In early May 1945 — days before the surviving Nazi leadership surrendered in Berlin — the U-552 was scuttled in waters off the North Sea.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

There’s ongoing debate among historians and military history buffs about which general was better, Grant or Lee? Or maybe the question should be Sherman or Jackson? The name you never hear in these debates is George H. Thomas, who is arguably better than all of them, because he would not publicize himself or allow history to give him the credit he richly deserves.


Thomas cut his teeth in the Mexican War under General Zachary Taylor. There, he learned the harsh lessons that come with poor planning and poor logistics. He also learned to trust the fundamentals of fielding an Army and keeping it secure — a lesson that would later earn him the nickname “The Soldier’s Soldier” from enlisted Union Men.

But when Civil War came, Gen. Thomas was not well-trusted by President Lincoln, seeing as Thomas was born a Virginian — and your home state really meant something at the time. Thomas remained a loyal Union man because his wife was born in the North and, considering his skill as a leader, we should be glad he was. Still, his family turned their backs on him, President Lincoln never accepted him, and other officers never trusted him, but that didn’t matter. He did whatever was asked of him with whatever tools his superiors gave him without complaint.

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb
Because real bosses don’t need to talk shit.

The main tool they gave him was the battered, bloodied, and often undisciplined rabble from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio, many of whom were basically thrown into the meat grinder at Shiloh by General Ulysses S. Grant (whose mismanagement of the battle nearly lost it for the Union). Conversely, Thomas, known by his fellow officers at the beginning of the war as “Slow Trot,” emphasized planning, preparation, and attention to detail — and how it made a difference when the bullets started to fly.

Thomas did not get an easy start in the Civil War, however. His first opponent was General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s cavalry shortly before the Battle of Bull Run. Though first Bull Run pitted even numbers of Northern troops against Southern, the North performed terribly. They broke and ran in a disastrous rout — all except Thomas’ cavalry. Thomas earned a promotion to brigadier for manhandling Jackson’s cavalry.

His next opponent was Albert Sidney Johnston, the Texan whom Confederate President Jefferson Davis considered the best officer before Robert E. Lee’s rise. The North needed a win — any win — to boost morale. Thomas gave it to them, plowing the Confederates at Mill Springs and pushing them into the Cumberland River. In doing so, he completely smashed Johnston’s hold on Kentucky.

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb
Epic mustaches, all of them.

By 1863, Thomas was moving into Tennessee as second to Gen. William Rosecrans, pushing Confederate General Braxton Bragg out of Chattanooga. Believing Bragg was in full retreat, Rosecrans marched the Army of the Cumberland into a trap. Bragg hit Rosecrans at a place called Chickamauga Creek — “the River of Death” according to the the Cherokee.

As James Longstreet committed his men, veterans returning from the fighting at Gettysburg, to the battle, the Union right flank began to fold. Rosecrans began riding for Chattanooga, some of his officers in tow — but Thomas wasn’t going anywhere. As fleeing men came into his sphere, he reorganized them along a ridge and implored them to hold the line at any cost. With the support and guidance of General Thomas’, or “Old Reliable,” as he was called by his men, they held off the Confederates long enough to save the Army of the Cumberland, along with the Union hold on Tennessee.

Rosecrans lost his job, but Thomas, now called “The Rock of Chickamauga,” inherited the Army.

Grant wrote off Thomas’ army as used-up during the Battle for Chattanooga. Thomas and the Army of the Cumberland were to hold until all the attacking armies in position to advance on Chattanooga. But when Grant’s plan fell apart, Thomas had to move his army to support General Sherman’s troops, who were struggling. Not only did Thomas’ men relieve Sherman’s troops, they forced the Confederate Army from the field.

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb
Because once you take one hill, you just can’t stop.

Despite his higher rank and superior ability, Grant instead chose William T. Sherman to lead the march on Atlanta. Still, Thomas commanded most of Sherman’s infantry and protected the column as it moved south into Georgia. After they took the city, Confederate General John B. Hood moved North, deftly avoiding the Union Army and moving into Nashville. Sherman reduced the Army of the Cumberland and ordered Thomas to take the remaining troops north in pursuit.

He destroyed Hood’s entire army, earning the nickname the “Hammer of Nashville.”

After the war, Thomas stayed in the military for the rest of his days. He was never celebrated like his contemporaries and he never bothered to publish memoirs of his time in combat. He even deliberately burned his notes to keep someone else from doing it in his stead. Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan would sometimes give him credit, but always with the caveat that he was slow.

“Time and history will do me justice,” Thomas said before his death in 1870.

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The famed Olympic torch relay was actually created by the Nazis for propaganda

On August 1, 1936, Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler opened the 11th Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany.


In doing so, he  inaugurated what is now a famed ritual of a lone runner bearing a torch carried from the site of the ancient games in Olympia, Greece into the stadium.

“The sportive, knightly battle awakens the best human characteristics. It doesn’t separate, but unites the combatants in understanding and respect. It also helps to connect the countries in the spirit of peace. That’s why the Olympic Flame should never die,” he reportedly said.

If that sounds like PR for the Nazi Party, that’s because it was.

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb
Crowds give the Nazi salute as Hitler enters the stadium. | Bundesarchiv

The relay “was planned with immense care by the Nazi leadership to project the image of the Third Reich as a modern, economically dynamic state with growing international influence,”according to the BBC.

Or, in other words, Hitler wanted the games to impress foreigners visiting Germany.

The organizer of the 1936 Games, Carl Diem, even based the relay off the one Ancient Greeks did in 80 BC in an attempt to connect the ancient Olympics to the present Nazi party.

“The idea chimed perfectly with the Nazi belief that classical Greece was an Aryan forerunner of the modern German Reich,” according to the BBC. “And the event blended perfectly the perversion of history with publicity for contemporary German power.”

And according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Hitler’s torch run, “perfectly suited Nazi propagandists, who used torch-lit parades and rallies to attract Germans, especially youth, to the Nazi movement.”

The torch itself was made by Krupp Industries, which was a major supplier of Nazi arms.

Here’s a view of one of the Olympic torch bearers:

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb
National Archives and Records Administration

And here’s a view of the last bearer ahead of lighting the Olympic flame:

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb
The last of the runners who carried the Olympic torch arriving in Berlin to light the Olympic Flame, marking the start of the 11th Summer Olympic Games. Berlin, Germany, August 1, 1936. | National Archives and Records Administration

Unsurprisingly, the 1936 Olympic Games were not without controversy.

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb
Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals in Berlin — despite the racist ideology. | Wikimedia

Despite Hitler’s aforementioned pitch that “the sportive, knightly battle … unites the combatants in understanding and respect,” the Nazis tried to keep Jews and blacks from competing in the games.

The official Nazi Party paper, the Völkischer Beobachter , even put out a statement saying that it was “a disgrace and degradation of the Olympic idea” that blacks and whites could compete together. “Blacks must be excluded. … We demand it,” it said, according to Andrew Nagorski, who cited the article in his book “Hitlerland.”

Various groups and activists in the US and other countries pushed to boycott the games in response.

The Nazis eventually capitulated, saying that they would welcome “competitors of all races,” but added that the make-up of the German team was up to the host country. (They added Helene Mayer, whose father was Jewish, as their “token Jew” participant. She won the silver medal.)

During the games, Hitler reportedly cheered loudly for German winners, but showed poor sportsmanship when others won, including track and field star Jesse Owens (who won 4 gold medals) and other black American athletes. According to Nagorski, he also said: “It was unfair of the United States to send these flatfooted specimens to compete with the noble products of Germany. … I am going to vote against Negro participation in the future.”

Ultimately, the most disconcerting thing about the 1936 Olympics is that the Nazis’ propaganda push was actually effective on visitors and athletes — despite all the racism and anti-Semitism.

William L. Shirer, an American journalist living in Berlin at the time, and later known for his book “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” noted his disappointment with the fact that tourists responded positively to the whole affair. And according to Nagorski, an older American woman even managed to kiss Hitler on the cheek when he visited the swimming stadium.

But perhaps the most chilling line cited by Nagorski came from Rudi Josten, a German staffer in the AP bureau who wrote: “Everything was free and all dance halls were reopened. … They played American music and whatnot. Anyway, everybody thought: ‘Well, so Hitler can’t be so bad.'”

World War II officially started a little over three years later in 1939.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This police detective is looking for an uncle who went MIA over occupied France

Tom McCaslin is a police detective in Omaha, Neb. and his coldest case is turning 75 in 2019. It’s the search for his uncle, Staff Sgt. Thomas J. McCaslin, one of eight crew members of a bomber that was shot down over Nazi-occupied France on June 22, 1944.

All these decades later, his nephew is hunting for his remains in order to bring the bomber crewman back home while four of his 12 siblings are still alive.


This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb

Top row, from left: Lt. Col. Don Weiss, Lt. David Meserow, Lt. Axel Slustrop. Bottom row: Staff Sgt. John H. Canty,, S/Sgt. Tom McCaslin, T/Sgt. Clement Monaco. All but Monaco were aboard the B-26 when it was shot down.

Their B-26 Marauder was shot down by Nazi flak while supporting the Allied push inland. As the British Second Army fought the German Panzergruppe West in the streets of below, the crew of the B-26 tried in vain to stay aloft. They went down anyway, and that was the last anyone ever heard of them. Well, most of them, anyway. The first was found in 1946, buried after the crash by locals. The remains of the bird’s four officers were discovered in 1986 by a farmer in his fields. They were taken to the American cemetery at Normandy. Another, the enlisted top tail gunner, was found by an amateur historian who also found the man’s dog tag.

That leaves two – and one of those is Thomas J. McCaslin, the Marauder’s bottom turret gunner. McCaslin’s nephew is looking for his uncle and the other crewman.

“If there’s a lead to follow, I’ll keep looking into it,” McCaslin told the Hartford Courant.

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb

Det. Tom McCaslin of Omaha, Neb.

McCaslin’s mission has led him to talk to both the historian and the farmer who found the previous remains. He has also obtained numerous documents about the B-26 mission. It was one of 36 planes to fly over a chateau being used as a headquarters building by the Nazi SS. As the bomber began to make its run and open the doors, a flak burst cut the plane in two and sent it careening to earth. No one was able to bail out. In 40 seconds, it was all over, leaving those eight men among the 73,000 who would be unaccounted for during the war. McCaslin even has aerial recon photos of the crash site taken right after the crash.

McCaslin and his detective skills are largely responsible for the 2018 discovery of Staff Sgt. John Canty’s remains. His work persuaded French authorities to further search the field where his dog tag was found. Canty was later buried in Arlington National Cemetery. From interviewing relic hunters to requesting documents, McCaslin has worked tirelessly to track down the entire crew since the discovery of the first remains – which he only learned about through a newspaper.

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb

The B-26 Marauder.

Detective McCaslin and his family have all worked the case tirelessly for years. As a family, they have hounded government agencies in an effort to step up the recovery of his uncle and another unaccounted-for airman from his crew. All hope is not lost. McCaslin is currently waiting for the DNA identification of some finger bones found in the area. He even has an eyewitness to the battle who reports that she saw parachutes as a young girl.

“The stuff they’ve uncovered is incredible,” says Jed Henry, a journalist and independent researcher who has become an advocate for families of missing service members from World War II. “To have the intelligence to sort through it, and the tenacity — and to care about it. … I’ve never seen a family that has gotten into this as much as they have.”

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb

“My uncle joined (the military) in 1942, and we never saw him again,” Tom McCaslin said. “If there’s a chance to find him, we should do it.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 Old-Time celebrity favorites who wanted to join the OSS

When William “Wild Bill” Donovan created the Office of Strategic Services during World War II, he was looking to create a truly unique intelligence outfit whose ranks included the least suspicious group of spies, saboteurs, and strongmen who were willing to infiltrate enemy countries and gather intelligence for the Allied cause. This precursor to the modern-day Central Intelligence Agency included a number of famous agents.


This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb

Actor John Wayne visiting troops in Brisbane, Australia.

John Wayne

For such a military supporter to not have served in the military seems strange – and it seemed strange to him too. As a matter of fact, his service (or lack thereof) during World War II seemed to follow the actor for the rest of his life. But when he died, a certificate was found among his personal papers, from William Donovan, commander of the OSS, thanking him for his service to the office. All the Duke ever divulged about WWII service was gathering information while on a trip to Brisbane to entertain American troops, but ever since his death rumors swirled about what exactly his roles could have been. Only two people knew for sure – Wayne and Donovan.

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb

Moe Berg

Moe Berg was possibly one of the most brilliant Americans who ever lived. And his service to the OSS was invaluable. Berg personally jumped into occupied Norway to help take down a Nazi heavy water plant in an attempt to keep the Third Reich from its nuclear ambitions. But Berg’s most valuable service was capturing film of important Japanese military targets while on a goodwill baseball trip before the war. A film he happily provided American authorities.

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb

Marlene Dietrich

Before the United States entered World War II, Marlene Dietrich was way ahead of the game in hating on Hitler. After helping Jews escape persecution with her Hollywood salary, she renounced her German citizenship. During the war, she made so many trips to the front to entertain the troops, it was said she’d seen more action than General Eisenhower. The OSS recruited Dietrich to record propaganda songs in German to demoralize the enemy.

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb

Julia Child

Before she began serving up French cuisine, TV Chef Julia Child was serving up French freedom with the OSS. She began her career working directly for Donovan, writing the names of agents on index cards. She later helped develop shark repellant for the OSS to keep sharks from detonating sabotage charges intended for German u-boats. Child also worked as the head of the OOS registry in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) memorizing every message that passed through her office.

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb

John Steinbeck

The Of Mice and Men author and World War II correspondent was one of the earliest recruits for the Office of Strategic Services. In 1942, Steinbeck penned The Moon Is Down as an epic piece of pro-Norwegian propaganda that was translated into Danish and distributed by the Danish Resistance.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Cannonballs literally bounced off the USS Constitution

If you look at the USS Constitution today, berthed at the Boston Navy Yard, you might find yourself wondering how a wooden ship got the nickname, “Old Ironsides.” The answer to that question is actually very simple: Cannonballs used to literally bounce off the hull of the Constitution in battle, falling harmlessly into the sea below.

The Constitution is currently the oldest active ship in the US Navy today. Launched in 1797, it was one of the earliest ships to enter service with the fledgling Navy. Ordered as a heavy frigate as part of the Naval Act of 1794, the Constitution and five other similarly-configured ships were to be the backbone of the new Navy — heavy warships that other, smaller, ships could support and rally around.

Though slated to carry 44 guns (cannon of varying sizes), sailors often crammed more than 50 aboard the vessel when it put out to sea. Three masts, decked out with massive sails, would provide the propulsion needed to drive the nearly 1600-ton ship through the rough Atlantic waves.


 

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb
USS Constitution under pursuit (Painting by Anton Otto Fischer)

It was during the War of 1812 that the Constitution earned her now-famous nickname, under the command of Isaac Hull. Well-liked and revered by those who served under him, Hull took it upon himself to personally ensure that the Constitution and her crew were ready for combat at all times. In mid-July, 1812, the heavy frigate encountered a small squadron of British ships, who gave chase. With a bit of planning and a little creativity, Hull managed to maneuver his ship away to safety.

The following month, the Constitution encountered one of those pursuing ships — the HMS Gurriere, commanded by James Dacres. This time, battle was inevitable and the two ships began trading blows. Hull quickly repositioned his ship, giving his gunners a clear view of the Gurriere.

Scrambling over the upper and the gun decks of both ships were sailors and Marines, frantically reloading their weapons for the next salvo. Aboard Constitution, sailors watched as 18-pound cannonballs whistled through the air, bracing for an impact that would certainly penetrate the walls of the ship, killing and maiming anybody in their way.

And then, nothing happened.

Though some of the cannonballs did inflict damage, others bounced off and fell into the roiling sea, much to the bewilderment of both sides. An American sailor notably yelled out, “Huzzah, her sides are made of iron!” and thus, the nickname, “Old Ironsides” was born.

 

(US Navy)

A combination of different types of oak layered around each other made the ship’s surfaces dense and difficult to pierce. The multiple layers of wood absorbed the cannonballs’ impacts of the and dissipated the forces quickly. Extra ribbing and bracketing on the internal walls also contributed to making the Constitution so sturdy.

By the end of the battle, the Guerriere was beyond salvage, much to the disappointment of Hull. Broadside after broadside had done the frigate in. The British crew was taken aboard Constitution and salvage parties took what they could off the smoldering Royal Navy vessel before lighting it afire and setting the ship adrift to descend to its watery grave.

Old Ironsides sailed into Boston Harbor, packed with prisoners of war, as jubilant American sailors and Marines celebrated their triumphant return home. After doing battle with more British ships in the following years, Constitution was briefly laid up in mothballs while her future was decided by the Department of the Navy.

Amidst fears that the Constitution would be scrapped, having long outlived its original intended lifespan, public outcry spurred on by a poem written by Oliver Wendell Holmes, entitled Old Ironsides after the ship’s nickname. The powerful poem motivated the Navy to fund a refit and refurbishment of the battle-scarred frigate. The nickname has since stuck, even through the Constitution‘s years of obscurity in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the President named his predecessor Commander-In-Chief

The President of the United States has a few jobs, and one of the most important is his role as Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces. Another part of the job is knowing when to delegate authority to someone who is just as much, if not more qualified than the President in a certain area.

For President John Adams, looking down the barrel of a possible French invasion, that meant asking the previous President to be Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces again.


This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb

Every time you think you’re out, they pull you back in.

(Mount Vernon)

It was John Adams who suggested to the Continental Congress in 1775 that George Washington be named Commander-In-Chief to lead the new Continental Army. In 1798, Adams was doing it again. The first challenge of the Adams Presidency was not just being the second president after a war hero like Washington; it was a looming war with revolutionary France.

The United States refused to pay its Revolutionary War debt to France after the French Revolution toppled the Bourbon monarchy that had helped the Americans separate from England. What’s more, is the U.S. further angered the French by actively seeking the British as a trading partner. France began to authorize its privateers to attack American merchants, and the United States retaliated in kind. Battles raged at sea, and the only reason it was called the “Quasi-War” is that it was undeclared.

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb

Like our Quasi-War in Afghanistan.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Joseph Chenelly)

While the U.S. Navy, though young, was holding its own at sea, led by legendary sailors like William Bainbridge and Stephen Decatur, the land forces of the United States were still found to be wanting. At this time, the defense of the U.S. relied heavily on state militias, raised locally, and sent into federal service by the state’s governor. And until this point, the President who was expected to be Commander-In-Chief of these forces was a battle-hardened veteran of at least two wars. President Washington even led a 13,000-strong U.S. Army to put down the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794.

John Adams was a smart guy and realized he just didn’t have the chops for something like that, especially if the French invaded. Luckily, Adams and Washington were on the same page in two very important ways.

This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb

John Adams knew when to delegate.

The first point was that the U.S. should remain neutral in the war between England and France. The second point was that John Adams didn’t have the skills required to lead a young country – and likely its actual army – in a war. So he appealed to George Washington’s military prowess once again and was able to name him Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces, despite the fact that Washington was no longer president.

If the United States was ever in danger of actually being invaded from French forces isn’t known. They were certainly near the young United States, but with a government in such a state of upheaval as Revolutionary France’s was and the number of troops and ships the French could have brought to bear, it was probably wise for Adams not to take any chances. If the French had any notion of invading the U.S., they probably thought better of it once the man who’d beaten the mighty British Empire took command.







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