How female spies change the course of the Civil War - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How female spies change the course of the Civil War

In almost every war in history, spies have had a big role in the outcome of the war. Those who played both sides, put themselves in danger in order to learn secrets, and played the part to get helpful information — they played a huge part in the history books. And in most cases, they don’t earn the credit they deserve. Because they were successful, their roles were under the radar, leading few people to understand just how they helped turn the course of a given war. 

In the Civil War, female spies were especially helpful in providing key information. There are noted individuals who brought their espionage skills to the table in order to help their side. This is worth noting because — when considering the war and who sacrificed, most often, men get the glory. They were on the front lines, they were being injured or killed for their duty, while women stayed home and filled in with the work that needed to be done at home and in factories. 

However, it’s this very stereotype that caused women to be such successful spies during the Civil War. In most cases, they were trusted and considered to not have a role in the war. Therefore, women could easily find information or infiltrate the other side. It’s said that hundreds of women got information by flirting and tricking soldiers into giving up key information. 

How female spies change the course of the Civil War
Pauline Cushman, a trained actor and Union spy.

Other methods were used to share secrets, such as hiding items in intricate hairdos, or flashing a fan with Morse Code. In one particular instance, it’s said that a Confederate spy, Rose O’Neal Greenhow, flashed her fan across the Potomac River, sending a message to hidden soldiers. 

But war secrets weren’t the only things being communicated during the Civil War. Harriet Tubman famously helped free hundreds of slaves, thanks to her work obtaining secrets and the locations of hidden underwater mines. 

Smuggled Items and Belle Boyd

In addition to finding secrets and passing them along, women would also smuggle goods to their respective side’s forces. They might place medicine, ammunition or even weapons in a basket or in the hoops of their skirts. Due to modesty trends of the time, it was considered indecent to check women’s clothing, so it was known that they would not be searched by male guards. Women also sewed important notes into the seams of their dresses, hiding key information in plain sight. 

How female spies change the course of the Civil War
Maria Isabella “Belle” Boyd, one of the most prolific Confederate spies.

Maria “Belle” Boyd was a known force of the time. She pioneered these methods of smuggling and even recruited others to do the same. Working for the Confederacy, Boyd got her start when she killed a drunk Union soldier who “addressed my mother and myself in language as offensive as it is possible to conceive.” Armed, she shot him and received no repercussions for the action. 

At just 17, this was the start of her stint as “the Rebel spy.” Soon after, Boyd began making friends at Union camps and eavesdropping on their talk, reporting back to the Confederates. She flirted with soldiers, who shared secrets with the temptress time and time again. 

The Union learned of her interactions and gave her many nicknames in the press, including: the Rebel Joan of Arc, Amazon of Secessia, La Belle Rebelle, and the Siren of the Shenandoah. Her attire was listed in the New York Tribune so that she might be identified by soldiers who saw her in person. 

Eventually, a Union soldier helped her escape to Canada. She wrote an exaggerated memoir while living in Europe, having married the soldier who helped her escape. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happens to North Koreans caught trying to defect

Scott Kim first escaped North Korea at the age of 17 in 2001. At the time, he and his mother only wanted to get across the border to China so they could eat hot meals. Growing up during North Korea’s deadly famine in the late ’90s, Kim had spent much of his childhood starving.

Today, Kim owns a business trading automobile and railway parts in South Korea. He is currently working on an English-language memoir about his experiences with the help of Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR), a volunteer-run organization in Seoul helping defectors develop English skills.

But it was a long and dangerous six years in and out of China and North Korea before he got to Seoul.


Most North Koreans defect by crossing North Korea’s northern border to China via the Tumen or Yalu rivers. Then they must smuggle their way across China’s vast expanse to its southern border with Laos or Vietnam. From there, they cross into Thailand or Cambodia and go to the South Korean embassy to ask for help. It’s a journey that can cost up to $5,000, which must be paid to “brokers” in each country to arrange the escape.

How female spies change the course of the Civil War
Inscription stone marking the border of China and North Korea in Jilin

Paying $5,000 to make it to South Korea or the United States was far out of reach for Kim and his mother. Instead, he and his mother lived as undocumented immigrants and worked as farm laborers. But one year after escaping North Korea, Kim’s neighbor reported his status to the police, who brought him and his mother back to North Korea. Kim was taken to a detention center, where authorities determine where to send defectors next.

“When we reached the detention center in North Korea, we lost all our rights as human beings,” Kim told Business Insider. “We were treated like animals, literally. We had to crawl on the floor to move from place to place.”

Kim was put in a cell with 20 other defectors. There was one toilet in the corner and no space to lie down. Day and night, the defectors sat on the ground.

“It was our punishment because we were sinners. I don’t know why we were sinners,” he said.

When he or other defectors were told to down the corridor to the warden’s office, they were made to crawl on their hands and feet. Officers beat them with gloves and sticks as they went.

An estimated 100,000 North Koreans or more currently live in detention centers, political prisons, or labor camps where they endure hard labor, torture, and starvation.

Kim’s description of his experience comes amid President Donald Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has been accused of killing his own people. But when asked about the North Korean dictator’s human rights violations, Trump appeared to be an apologist for the dictator’s actions.

How female spies change the course of the Civil War

The first time Kim was caught, he got lucky.

Despite the fact that one of North Korea’s biggest reeducation camps is in Chongori, near his hometown in Musan, Kim was sent to a center further south. Because no one knew him — and internet and phone service was nonexistent at the time — he was able to lie about his age. He told the guards he was only 15 years old and had been in China looking for his mother.

Rather than send him to one of the country’s brutal labor camps or political camps, he was sent to a medical center for orphaned children. Shortly after arriving, he escaped and went back to China, where he got work as a farm laborer near Helong, a city in northeastern China.

“Everyday, I planted, farmed, logged on the mountain. Corn, beans, potatoes,” he said. “Life was better because I was not starving. I could eat and be full at meals. It was enough food for me … At the time I left North Korea, I was starving.”

Kim was caught a second time when he visited a friend in China looking for his mother. A neighbor again reported him to the police. The second time he was sent back to North Korea, he wasn’t so lucky. He was sent to the concentration camp near his hometown. From there he was sent to a labor camp, where he chopped down trees on a mountain for months.

He escaped one day when he realized that all his fellow laborers were at the top of the mountain chopping while he was at the bottom. He ran away as fast as he could until he found a train that he could take him north to cross the border with China again.

After some time in China, he was caught a third time and sent to a camp for political prisoners — the worst place to be sent, as imprisonment there is interminable. He escaped the camp by bribing the authorities through a broker, who helped him make it across the border with China a final time.

After six years, Kim reunited with his mother and made it to South Korea

How female spies change the course of the Civil War
Seoul, South Korea

In China, he went back to work to pay off his debt to the broker. One day, he got a call from a North Korean woman from Musan who told him that he had to come visit his mother. She was dying of cancer. For the first time in many years, the two saw each other.

“When I opened the door of my mother’s house, I froze, and couldn’t say anything, because my mother looked incredibly different,” he said. “There was no fat on her, and her whole body looked like a triangle, I just went outside and cried for a long time and came back again, and I embraced my mother and we cried together.”

Several days later, a friend of his mother offered his mother the opportunity to escape to South Korea via Laos and Cambodia. A broker was taking a group through; they had an extra space.

Unable to walk, Kim’s mother told Kim he had to go and become educated. Once he was settled, she said, he could bring her and help others in need. He decided to go.

The night before Kim and the group of defectors were to cross the border into Laos, he received a call telling him that his mother had died. The man on the phone said he had to come back for the funeral.

“After hanging up, I couldn’t say anything, I just cried all night. I really, really wanted to go back, but I thought that if I go back there, I couldn’t do anything for her,” he said. “I decided to go to South Korea, believing that my mother would agree with my decision.”

In 2007, six years after he first escaped, Kim finally made it to South Korea.

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

Lists

9 things we miss from our Afghanistan deployments

With possibility of a huge troop surge to Afghanistan coming from the Trump administration, We Are The Mighty asked several OEF combat vets what they missed most from their time “in the suck.” Here’s what they had to say.


Related: 7 items every Marine needs before deploying

Thanks to the Facebook page “Bring the Sangin Boys Back” for contributing.

1. Afghan naan bread

Regardless of the rumors how the bread is pressed (by Afghans’ feet) it was delicious.

Here they’re just mixing the bread. (image via Giphy)

2. Band of Brothers

The lifelong friends you made in combat are priceless, and there’s nothing else like it.

Yup. (images via Giphy)

3. Awesome nights

With a lack of electricity, there was no artificial illumination to spoil the night sky, it made the stars pop even more.

Not an Afghan night sky, but you get the point. (images via Giphy)

4. Low responsibility

You went on patrol, pulled some time on post, worked out, slept and…pretty much that’s about it.

woke right up when sh*t went down. (images via Giphy)

5. You got to blow sh*t up  

The best part of the job while serving in the infantry was delivering the ordnance.

3/5 Get Some! (image via Giphy)

6. Firefights

Getting a chance to put all your tough training to use and put rounds down range at the bad guys was freakin’ epic.

It was that fun. (images via Giphy)

7. Getting jacked

When you’re stuck out in the middle of nowhere and have 24 different of high-calorie MREs to choose from, there’s no better way to pass the time than hitting a gym made of sand bags, 2x4s, and engineer sticks.

1,2,… 12 (images via Giphy)

8. Movie night

Huddling around a small laptop watching a comedy or “Full Metal Jacket” was considered a night out on the town. And we loved it.

And felt like you’re in a real theater… not really.  (images via Giphy)

Also Read: How to make a movie theater with your smartphone on deployment 

9. Making memories

Although you we experienced some sh*tty times, nothing beats looking back and remembering the good ones while having a beer with your boys.

To the good times! (image via Giphy)

Bonus: The emotional homecomings

Leaving your family to deploy sucks, but coming home to them — priceless.

We salute all those who serve. Thank you! (images via Giphy) WATM wishes everyone to stay safe and watch your six. That is all.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how San Francisco wound up with a self-proclaimed ’emperor’

The United States has been very proud to call itself a constitutional republic that is led by citizen-elected representatives. America is and has been, historically, very much opposed to monarchies. That is, until 1859, when a legitimately crazy guy wrote into a newspaper, proclaiming himself the “Emperor of these United States.”

Of course, he had absolutely no legal authority and no one truly believed his claim. In fact, “Emperor” Joshua Norton was actually a homeless man dressed in nice clothes. He ended up being a major tourist attraction for the city, however, so the locals just gave him a collective, “sure, buddy. Whatever you say.”

And so, an empire was born.


How female spies change the course of the Civil War

That’s enough to drive anyone flippin’ crazy…

Before his nosedive straight into the deep-end of crazy town, Joshua Norton was a highly successful businessman. He bought real estate outside of goldmines just before the Gold Rush really boomed. He would sell all of his holdings to invest in rice in 1852. The Chinese rice industry had been struck with a famine that barred the export of rice, which drastically raised the price of rice in San Francisco to 25 cents per pound.

Norton, being the savvy businessman that he was, found a source for Peruvian rice, which was being sold for 12 cents per pound. His idea was to spend all of his money on rice from Peru and resell it in the U.S. at the swelled rate of Chinese rice. As soon as the sale was finalized, however, the per-pound price of Peruvian rice dropped to 3 cents and would be sold at near cost. In short, Norton blew everything he had on rice he couldn’t sell.

By 1858, the once-powerful businessman was bankrupt, penniless, forced into a boarding home, and forgotten by his elite former peers.

How female spies change the course of the Civil War

He would also declare himself a pope, but that was more or less for the funeral for a stray dog.

Not much is known about his downward spiral into insanity but it was during that transition that he decided he couldn’t have been the son of regular English parents, but was rather a child of the House of Bourbon (despite the beheading of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette twenty five years before he was born.) This was confirmed in his mind by the fact that his first name was ‘Joshua’ — his logic was that his parents gave him a common name to hide his royal lineage.

He took his ramblings to the San Francisco Bulletin on September 18th, 1859. It’s remains unclear why the newspaper allowed it to run, but the audiences found it hilarious. In his editorial, he declared himself Emperor of these United States, decreed that Congress be abolished, and called for his “subjects” to gather at the city’s Musical Hall the following February 1st.

Congress was not abolished due to the whims of some random homeless guy — obviously. He ordered General Winfield Scott, Commander of the Union Armies, to clear the halls, but didn’t — obviously. Readers of the Bulletin did gather in droves at his call — likely because they figured it’d be funny. The doors were locked, but the crowds embraced the joke nonetheless.

How female spies change the course of the Civil War

He even printed out worthless “Norton-bucks” that San Franciscans embraced and used because that’s exactly how fiat money works.

By 1861, the legend of “Emperor” Norton I had spread around the country and was fully embraced by San Franciscans. Among his many decrees, he demanded that…

  • …the unpopular California State Supreme Court would be abolished.
  • …anyone using the word ‘Frisco’ in reference to San Francisco would be exiled.
  • …a bridge be built between Oakland and San Francisco (which was impossible at the time).
  • …and that Governor Henry Wise of Virginia be fired for hanging the abolitionist John Brown of Harper’s Ferry fame.

These were all things locals agreed with before the Civil War.

“Emperor” Norton I became so popular that even politicians and business owners would placate him in order to not upset the townsfolk. Officers at the U.S. Army post at the Presidio of San Francisco offered him an elaborate blue uniform with gold epaulets to keep the joke going, because you know, it was still kind of funny.

In 1876, the actual Emperor of Brazil, Don Pedro II, would visit San Francisco on an official trip — only to be greeted by Norton I. They met for an hour at the Palace Hotel and enjoyed what we can only assumed was an awkward conversation.

“Emperor” Norton I passed on January 8th, 1880. His funeral saw the attendance of 10,000 people who mourned their local celebrity. Many years after his death, the Oakland-San Francisco Bridge was completed and many called for it to be renamed “The Emperor’s Bridge” in honor of the goofy homeless guy who jokingly became an emperor.

Remember, if you fall on hard times and feel your sanity start slipping… lean hard into that crazy and you could just wind up becoming a legend.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The insanely lucky sub that changed naval warfare in one fight

U-boats were still in their infancy in 1914, and most naval officers looked down on the fleet. At best, they were considered defensive weapons that could help hold an enemy fleet away from the coasts. But then, on Sept. 22, 1914, a German U-boat saw a cluster of three British warships and managed to sink them all in under 90 minutes without suffering damage.


The September engagement took place while the war was less than two months old. The three British cruisers were old and considered unreliable. They were so fragile, in fact, that many naval leaders had argued they shouldn’t be assigned to the North Sea at all, but they were overruled. The three vessels and their escorts became known as the “Livebait Squadron.”

Despite the ships’ flaws, though, the crews did know how to mitigate their risk of submarine attack, mostly through zigzagging and posting lookouts to watch for periscopes or surfaced vessels, but they didn’t take those precautions.

The seas were rough, too rough for their destroyer escort, and so the British officers assumed they were too rough for submarines. This wasn’t entirely off base. Submarines rode close to the surface or even above it most of the time, and the water tossed around the boats quite easily. America’s future Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz, who spent a lot of time on submarines early in his career, would complain about how badly the boats were battered by the waves.

But for the crew members of the German boat U-9, it was just a cross they had to bear. It wasn’t like they could slip back to Germany every time the waves got bad. So, on September 22, they were still in their assigned zone, riding close to the surface and sucking up any pain, when the Livebait Squadron came into view.

How female spies change the course of the Civil War

A painting depicts the HMS Aboukir sinking after being hit by the U-9 in 1914. The other two ships would sink within an hour.

(National Museum of the U.S. Navy)

And when they spotted the three British cruisers, none of them zigzagging to make their shot harder, they decided to go ahead and rob the Royal Navy of one of those big, important ships. The captain, Kapitänleutnan Otto Weddigen, ordered two torpedoes fired at the lead vessel, the HMS Aboukir.

One of them struck home, setting off a massive explosion that unquestionably doomed the ship. But no one had spotted the tell-tale stream of bubbles from the torpedo as it had raced to the ship in the rough seas, and so the ship’s captain just assumed he had hit a mine. He signaled to the other ships for assistance.

On the German U-boat, it must have looked like a gift from heaven. If the cruisers had realized they were under attack and set up to sink the U-boat, then the U-9 would have had to choose between bailing on the fight, diving for a few minutes or hours, and risk sinking in the engagement. But since the cruisers just lowered their lifeboats and didn’t prepare for combat, the U-9 could take another consequence-free swing at Livebait.

Weddigen fired next at the HMS Hogue, dooming that ship as well. By this point, the remaining ship, HMS Cressy understood it was under attack and deployed torpedo defense batteries and began to sail in a zigzag pattern, but it stayed in the area to try and rescue more sailors. This was a mistake.

At 7:20 and then 7:30, Weddigen fired torpedoes that sank it, and then watched it drop beneath the waves. Low on ammo and already successful beyond his wildest dreams, Weddigen turned for home.

On the surface, Dutch and English ships raced to save all the sailors they could, including 15-year-old Kit Wykeham-Musgrave of the HMS Aboukir. He had barely survived the suction of the first ship sinking, had been rescued by the crew of the Hogue and made it onboard right before that ship was sank, and then climbed onto the Cressy only to have it shot out from under him as well.

Almost 1,400 enlisted men and 62 officers would not be so lucky, drowning in the rough and cold water of the North Sea instead.

How female spies change the course of the Civil War

The HMS Aboukir sinks after being hit by the German submarine U-9.

(Public domain)

The German sailors were greeted as heroes in their home port. The entire crew received Iron Crosses Second Class, and the captain was awarded that medal as well as the Iron Cross First Class. But in Britain, the people were furious and demanded that senior Navy leadership be held accountable.

For Weddigen, the success would be sweet. He received his medals from the Kaiser personally and wrote a memoir titled The First Submarine Blow is Struck. (His success on September 22, while revolutionary, was not actually the first “submarine blow” as both the German and British navies had already each lost a cruiser to the other side’s submarines.)

But he would not long enjoy his fame. While the U-9 would rack up 18 kills before retiring in 1916, Weddigen was soon re-assigned to U-boat 29. While attacking British ships in March 1915, the boat was spotted by the famous British battleship HMS Dreadnought which proceeded to ram and sink the German submarine, killing Weddigen.

(A final admin note: Weddigen claims in his memoirs to have fired only four torpedoes that day: one at the Aboukir, one at the Hogue, and two at the Cressy, all of which hit. This might have been true, but his memoirs reek of propaganda and were written in the late months of 1914 when his fame was peaking. Naval historians think it is more likely that he fired six and had four hits.)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Marines stole the spotlight from the National Guard in the LA Riots

When the Los Angeles Police Department responded to this particular domestic dispute during the 1992 LA riots, they likely didn’t need the backing of the United States Marine Corps – but they had it anyway. Upon approaching the house, one officer was hit by a shotgun blast of birdshot. He called back to the Marines to cover him. Unfortunately, what “cover” meant to the Marines and to the LAPD were two different things.


The officer just wanted the threat of M-16s pointed at the house to keep the shooter from shooting again. The Marines thought the 200 rounds they fired into the house would be enough. They were probably both right. But that’s not how the U.S. Army National Guard would have done it.

How female spies change the course of the Civil War

Before the Marines were called in, thousands of Guardsmen took to the streets of LA during the 1992 riots.

In the early 1990s, the streets of LA were a dangerous place. Even the LAPD officers who regularly walked their beats admitted to losing the streets to the tens of thousands of gang members who controlled much of the city’s south side. Los Angeles was soon a powder keg of racially and socially fueled frustration that exploded on April 29, 1992. Four LAPD officers were acquitted of using excessive force against Rodney King, a black motorist who was beaten by the officers after evading them on a California freeway.

Their acquittal sparked the 1992 LA Riots, a huge civil disturbance that covered 32-square-miles, from the Hollywood Hills to Long Beach. Eventually, the governor of California would call in more than 10,000 California National Guard troops and 2,000 active troops to quell the riots. That wasn’t enough. Then-Gov. Pete Wilson, a Marine Corps veteran, knew what he needed and asked President Bush to send in the Marines.

How female spies change the course of the Civil War

I bet they made record time driving from San Diego to LA on the I-5 Freeway. And they didn’t even have carpool lanes back then.

Within 36 hours, state and local agencies, along with thousands of California National Guardsmen had largely restored order. That’s when they were suddenly federalized and augmented with more active duty troops and the United States Marines from nearby Camp Pendleton. According to U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James Delk, this caused the morale among the soldiers of the California Guard to plummet, after all their work in restoring Los Angeles. Suddenly being told the Marines were coming in to finish the job didn’t look so good.

Local civilians, on the other hand, knew exactly who to thank. According to Gen. Delk, locals cheered at the appearance of the California National Guard in their neighborhoods. Shopkeepers and restaurants refused to take money from the Guardsmen often even delivering food and drinks to the staging areas.

How female spies change the course of the Civil War

So in the immediate aftermath of the rioting and violence, the media latched on to the idea that calling in the Marines was the solution to restoring law and order, despite the fact that the job was mostly done by the time the Marines arrived. The Guardsmen, for their part, continued to do their jobs despite the lack of national appreciation. By the time the Guard withdrew, the streets were much safer than they were before the riots began. The crime rate dropped by 70 percent and local citizens did not want the troops to leave. In fact, it was more than a month before the last National Guard soldier left Los Angeles.

The good news is that the federalization of the joint task force worked exactly as it was supposed to and no one wearing a uniform of the U.S. military was killed or seriously injured. Most importantly, no U.S. troops killed or wounded any innocent civilians.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the luckiest sailor on earth survived being sucked into a jet engine

During Desert Storm, the USS Theodore Roosevelt was on high alert. Petty Officers JD Bridges and Michael McDonald were prepping an A-6 Intruder fighter jet before takeoff. It was business as usual.


Mere seconds before the jet will sped down the runway, an accident that forever changed flight operations procedures occurred.

Bridges was completing checks to ensure the fighter was connected to the deck’s catapult for launch when he got too close to the high-powered engine and the turbine intake sucked him up in a split-second.

At full throttle, the Intruder’s engine generates 9,300 pounds of thrust — twice as strong as the most powerful tornado on record.

After Bridges got sucked in, the engine’s force violently pulled off his float coat, goggles, and the helmet from his head. Investigators believe that because his helmet was shredded by the sharp spinning blades, it partially jammed the engine.

The way the engine was designed, it ceased its own power and shut down immediately.

Miraculously, Bridges’ shoulder wedged against the nose cone as the engine slowed and he managed to remove himself out from the powerful intake space — escaping certain death. The aircraft’s pilot was ready to take off when he heard the disruption and powered down right away.

Also Read: This is why landing on an aircraft carrier never gets easy

Within moments, Bridges was carried to safety, suffering from a broken collarbone, superficial cuts from a few pieces of shrapnel, and a blown ear drum.  The Navy now uses this historic video as a training tool of what not to do while on the flight deck.

Bridges at a news conference a day after the accident. (Lithdad, YouTube)

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how the military challenge coin came to be

Challenge coins mean different things to different troops. Senior enlisted and officers tend to place them on a desk to gloat to peers and the more junior troops slam them on the bar to see who’s buying the next round. How you earn the coin also ranges widely, from “pleasure to meet you, have a coin” to “you made a great cup of coffee, have a coin” to even “you did something worthy of an award, but nah — have a coin.”


Throughout history, warriors have carried coins, going as far back as the ancient Greeks and, eventually, the Romans. Coins carried by warriors were seen as the payment for the ferryman, Charon, to be exchanged for passage into the afterlife. They served as a memento mori, which roughly translates from Latin to mean, “remember that you will die.” This is also the root of the English word ‘memento.’ Even back in the Civil War, troops from both armies carried coins with them as a cheap reminder of being back home.

 

How female spies change the course of the Civil War

 

The legend of the challenge coins, as we know them, started with WWI pilots. A young and rich lieutenant felt the need to flaunt his wealth to his new peers, so he spent his own money to buy solid bronze medallions of his unit insignia for his peers. Another pilot accepted it as a nice gift and wore it in a small leather pouch around his neck. Shortly after, he would be shot down behind enemy lines. He was captured by Germans, who stripped him over everything, but overlooked his medallion.

Related: These are some of the best military challenge coins

He escaped in civilian attire, crossed no man’s land undetected, and stumbled into a French outpost. Unfortunately, the French didn’t understand English nor his American accent and thought he was a German saboteur. The Germans took every bit of personal identification from the American pilot, so the only proof he had to show the French to not shoot him was the bronze unit medallion his rich peer gave him.

One French captor recognized the insignia and delayed his execution until they could confirm if he was American or not. Instead of a bullet to the head, the French gave him a bottle of wine and sent him on his way. When the pilot returned and told everyone of what happened, carrying those medallions became immediately important among all pilots. This also started the joke punishment of having to buy the next round if you’re not carrying your coin.

 

How female spies change the course of the Civil War
So, if you’re wondering, nearly every tradition the military dates back to WWI. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Another lower enlisted tradition began in post-WWII Germany as assigned U.S. troops would carry West German money with them. The exchange rate was so bad that the One Pfennig coin was hardly worth a fraction of a penny and had nearly zero value to American troops. So, only the poorest of the poor would bother saving them — until troops gathered to drink. If someone would shout, “Pfennig check!” everyone would empty their pockets to see who was poor (if you had the near-worthless coin) and who wasn’t (if you were above keeping them). If you were “rich” enough to not need to carry a worthless coin, you were rich enough to buy your brother-in-arms a drink. This soon shifted to include challenge coins, which also had no monetary value.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Germany planned to bomb the U.S. from across the Atlantic with these massive planes

Germany started WWII with the introduction of blitzkrieg. The new lightning warfare called for fast, overwhelming ground attacks supported by dive and light bombers. This combined arms doctrine was extremely effective and allowed the Germans to steamroll across Europe. However, the focus on close air support left the Luftwaffe lacking in terms of long-range strategic bombers.

How female spies change the course of the Civil War
Messerschmitt’s Me 264 submission for the Amerikabomber (Bundesarchiv)

Due to restrictions on military development following WWI, Germany’s bombers were engineered under the guise of being civilian airliners, hence their focus on lighter bombers with smaller payloads. On the other hand, the allies developed a wide range of bombers including heavy bombers like the legendary American B-17 Flying Fortress and the British Avro Lancaster. Both aircraft carried more than double the payload of the German He 111.

Adolf Hitler was keen to see New York City in flames. However, German U-boats lacked the firepower to cause sufficient damage and the Luftwaffe didn’t have any planes that could do the job. “I completely lack the bombers capable of round-trip flights to New York with a 4.5-tonne bomb load. I would be extremely happy to possess such a bomber, which would at last stuff the mouth of arrogance across the sea,” said Luftwaffe commander-in-chief Herman Göring in 1938. The problem was always the incredible distance a bomber would have to cover to reach New York.

The massive Junkers Ju 390 in flight (Bundesarchiv)

By early 1941, Germany was in an extremely advantageous position in the war. Britain was the only real threat left in western Europe and U-boat wolfpacks hounded the supply convoys that sustained the island nation. Moreover, Portugal allowed German ships to refuel in the Azores. The archipelago provided a more feasible launching point for a trans-Atlantic bomber to reach the American east coast. Hitler himself expressed the need to, “deploy long-range bombers against American cities from the Azores.”

Called the Amerikabomber, the translation of which is extremely literal, the project was drafted up in a 33-page Luftwaffe document in 1942. Major German aircraft designers Messerschmitt, Focke-Wulf, Junkers and Heinkel submitted concepts for the proposed bomber. Messerschmitt’s Me 264 was the first concept to be built and flown. Submitted in May 1942, it carried the heaviest payload at 6.5 tonnes. The Junkers Ju 390 was built, flown, and submitted just after the Messeschmitt, also in May 1942. It had a smaller payload capacity of 5 tonnes. Neither the Heinkel nor the Focke-Wulf concepts made it to production or flight.

How female spies change the course of the Civil War
A good view of the enormous 14-cylinder BMW engines on the Me 264 (Bundesarchiv)

The potential effect of a strategic bombing campaign against the United States would have been multi-fold. First, strikes against industrial targets, especially those involved in the aircraft industry, would severely inhibit America’s ability to serve as the arsenal of democracy. Fewer planes going overseas for use by the British and Soviets would mean less resistance to German offensives. Moreover, attacks against the American mainland would force the nation to significantly bolster its air defense systems. This would draw air defense resources that would otherwise be sent to allies overseas. Again, it would make it much easier for Germany to win the war in Europe.

However, with allied bombing targeting Germany’s industrial capability, the development of the Amerikabomber was slowed significantly. Additionally, Hitler developed a stronger interest in other miracle weapons like the V2 rocket. As a result of reduced materials and funding, the Amerikabomber project was abandoned before the war’s end. All of the submissions were deemed too expensive or simply not feasible by 1944. Ironically, Hitler’s pre-war vision of a long-range strategic bomber and New York City in flames was killed by allied bombers like the B-17 and Lancaster.

A crashed Me 264 prototype (Bundesarchiv)
MIGHTY HISTORY

After 75 years, members of 101st Airborne share ties to Battle of the Bulge

Seventy-five years ago in Bastogne, Belgium, German soldiers captured American Pfc. Marold Peterson of the 422nd Infantry Regiment, 106th Infantry Division. Peterson escaped from the work camp where we was held prisoner, only to be captured again and killed by Hitler Youth.

Sgt. Travis Paice, the great-grandson of Peterson, said it is surreal to be in Bastogne where Peterson lived his last moments.

“Maybe he was standing right where I stood,” Paice, a soldier with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, said.


Paice is one soldier with family ties to the World War II Battle of the Bulge who participated in the 75th anniversary commemoration ceremonies and parade. Sgt. Coleton Jones of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101 Airborne Division, is another.

How female spies change the course of the Civil War

US infantrymen crouch in a snow-filled ditch, taking shelter from a German artillery barrage during the Battle of Heartbreak Crossroads in the Krinkelter woods, December 14, 1944.

(Pfc. James F. Clancy, US Army Signal Corps)

Jones’ great-uncle Ed Jones was a Sherman tanker with the 10th Armored Division during World War II. While Jones is unsure of his great-uncle’s rank, he heard stories growing up about his service from his father and uncle. During the Battle of the Bulge, three of Ed Jones’ tanks took extreme damage.

On his last time evacuating a Sherman tank, he took shrapnel from a German stick grenade in his leg and was captured as a prisoner of war. He was missing for about four months until a Canadian HAM radio operator intercepted a message from the Germans including the locations of POWs from both American and Allied forces.

“It’s amazing to feel like I am walking in his footsteps,” said Jones of walking through the streets where his great uncle served. “To see Bastogne and where he was is a sobering feeling.”

On December 14, 2019, American and Belgian soldiers, along with members of the Bastogne community and World War II veterans, marched in a parade through the town center. Guests of honor, including Prime Minister of Belgium Sophie Wilmes, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and the US Ambassador to Belgium Ronald Gidwitz threw walnuts from the balcony of the Bastogne City Center into the crowd.

The nut throwing, or “Jet de Noix,” commemorates Gen. Anthony McAuliffe’s famous response of “Nuts” when petitioned by the Germans to surrender.

How female spies change the course of the Civil War

Anthony C. McAuliffe, left, and then-Col. Harry W.O. Kinnard II at Bastogne.

(US War Department)

Both Jones and Paice said they felt a great sense of pride knowing their unit has lineage to World War II and the Battle of the Bulge.

Paice had the opportunity to fly his great grandfather’s flag at the 101st Airborne Museum in Bastogne. He plans on gifting the flag to his grandfather, who is also a veteran.

Before arriving in Bastogne, Paice was given documents by the Army which provided an account of his great grandfather’s capture. He brought these documents with him as a reminder of what his family had endured. While Paice said the documents do not go into much detail, it is just enough to be harrowing.

“I never knew him, and my grandfather never knew him, but to get, somewhat, a little bit of closure was a little surreal,” Paice said.

How female spies change the course of the Civil War

Sgt. Coleton Jones of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101 Airborne Division, center, meets reenactors at a community event at the Bastogne Barracks in Bastogne, Belgium, December 14, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Erica Earl)

Paice said the most emotional part of his great grandfather’s history is knowing that American soldiers liberated the prisoner camp Stalag IX-B, also known as Bad Orb, the day after he was killed in his effort to escape.

According to Army documents, soldiers in that prison were starved, with many men weighing only between 70 and 80 pounds when they were rescued.

As soldiers lined up to prepare for the parade, there was a mixture of snow, rain and harsh winds as temperatures dropped, but participants acknowledged that was nothing compared to what Soldiers who had gone before them endured.

Jones said if he could say something to his great uncle, it would be “thank you.”

“Thank you for paving the way for us and giving everything for our values, our freedoms and our allies’ freedoms,” Jones said in heartfelt appreciation to both is late great uncle and veterans of World War II.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

This bridge is one of the most underrated engineering feats of WWII

Throughout history, bridges have been one of the most targeted structures on the battlefield, as opposing forces do everything in their power to blow them up and cut off incoming supply lines.


After a bridge is destroyed, a new one needs to be established, or occupying forces can risk losing their resupply sources permanently.

In World War II, Japanese, Italians, and German armies used explosive motorboats as a technique to take down allied bridges. Enemy troops in scuba gear would point these motorboats in the direction of the bridge’s supporting structures and bail out right before the vessel strikes and detonates.

The explosive motorboats in action. (Images via Giphy)Because of the effectiveness of the explosive motorboats, allied forces needed to create a portable bridge that could be quickly set up and could handle the massive stress of getting blown up.

The resolution came from an unlikely source — the mind of a British civil servant named Donald Bailey.

How female spies change the course of the Civil War
Donald Bailey carefully examines one of his bridge designs. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Related: Why WWII soldiers nicknamed the Sherman tank ‘death trap’

While returning home after working at an experimental bridge, an idea popped into Bailey’s mind. He began sketching out the new architectural idea on the back of an envelope — something that later became the “Bailey Bridge.”

This new creation could support large armored tanks across 200 feet of water and set up quickly just by using some wrenches and a few engineers.

“The Bailey bridge is a very fabricated bridge, and it can be broken down into parts, trucked to a site, and then reassembled in a big hurry,” military historian William Atwater explains.

Also Read: This forgotten soldier survived 4-months in Dunkirk by himself

After being successfully set up under fire during the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy, President Dwight D. Eisenhower reportedly claimed the bridge was one of the pieces of equipment that most contributed to the victory in Europe.

Check out Lightning War 1941’s video below to see how this quickly fabricated bridge helped change the course of the war.

YouTube, LightningWar1941
MIGHTY HISTORY

5 heroes who earned a Medal of Honor in Hue City

At the end of January in 1968, the Viet Cong launched an offensive that turned the tide of the Vietnam War.

The Tet Offensive began on January 30 as the North Vietnamese occupied the city of Hue. US Marines spent nearly a month fighting a brutal urban battle to retake the city — which was 80% destroyed by the battle’s end, according to H.D.S. Greenway, a photographer embedded with the Marines during the war.

An estimated 1,800 Americans lost their lives during the battle.


But in the midst of the chaos, five men who faced harrowing circumstances risked their lives to save those of their comrades — and earned the nation’s highest award for courage in combat, the Medal of Honor.

During one of the ceremonies honoring these heroes, President Richard Nixon remarked on the incredible risks they took.

“They are men who faced death, and instead of losing courage they gave courage to the men around them,” he said.

How female spies change the course of the Civil War

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense inducts U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) John L. Canley into the Hall of Heroes during a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 18, 2018, after being awarded the Medal of Honor by the President.

(DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Gunnery Sergeant John L. Canley received his award over 50 years after carrying wounded Marines to safety.

Gunnery Sgt. John Canley, suffering from shrapnel wounds, led his men in the destruction of enemy-occupied buildings in Hue City.

When his men were injured, he leapt over a wall in plain sight — twice — to carry them to safe positions.

He was awarded the Medal of Honor in October 2018, over 50 years after he risked his life for his men.

Read the award citation here.

How female spies change the course of the Civil War

Medal of Honor recipient Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Ferguson shakes hands with President Richard Nixon after receiving his award in May 1969.

(Richard Nixon Library/YouTube)

Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Ferguson flew his helicopter through a barrage of anti-aircraft fire to rescue wounded comrades.

Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Ferguson ignored numerous calls to avoid the airspace surrounding Hue City during the early days of the battle.

He flew his helicopter through enemy fire, guiding the damaged aircraft so he could rescue wounded comrades and fly them back to safety.

His bravery saved the lives of five wounded soldiers.

Read the award citation here.

How female spies change the course of the Civil War

A photo shows Sgt. Alfredo Gonzalez with Gunnery Sgt. John Canley during the Vietnam War. Both have earned the Medal of Honor for actions taken during the brutal Battle of Hue City.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tessa Watts)

Sergeant Alfredo Gonzalez

Sgt. Gonzalez and his unit were among the first to deploy into the Viet Cong-occupied Hue City.

Through five days of fighting, Gonzalez repeatedly exposed himself to direct enemy fire, leading his men despite his personal wounds.

Although he died during the battle, his actions ensured his comrades’ survival.

Read the award citation here.

How female spies change the course of the Civil War

Medal of Honor recipient Joe Hooper listens as his citation is read during the award ceremony in March 1969.

(National Archives/YouTube)

Sergeant Joe Hooper is described as the most decorated soldier of the Vietnam War.

Sgt. Hooper earned the Medal of Honor on the same day as company mate Staff Sgt. Sims.

Hooper suffered extraordinary wounds as he fought during the Battle of Hue City, during which he destroyed numerous enemy bunkers and raced across open fields under intense fire to save a wounded comrade.

Read his full award citation here.

How female spies change the course of the Civil War

Mary Sims accepts the Medal of Honor on behalf of her husband, Staff Sergeant Clifford Sims, who died during the Battle of Hue City.

(National Archives)

Staff Sergeant Clifford Sims, once an orphan, flung himself on top of an explosive device to save his platoon.

During an intense search-and-rescue mission, Staff Sgt. Sims heard the click of a booby trap as his platoon approached a bunker.

Shouting for his team to stay back, Sims jumped on top of the device to absorb the explosion.

Read the full award citation here.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Airships were surprisingly hard to shoot down in World War II

Zeppelins, as it turns out, are slightly more durable than your average dollar store water balloon. Maybe that’s why they were a staple of the U.S. military of the time. The Hindenburg Disaster aside, 20th-Century airships were built to go the distance – and they did.


The United States was the only power to use airships during World War II, and they used them to great effect. Some 89,000 ocean-going ships were escorted by K-series airships during the war, and only one was lost to the enemy, the Panamanian oil tanker Persephone. The U.S. used them in both theaters of war, conducting minesweeping, search and rescue, photographic reconnaissance, scouting, escort convoy, and anti-submarine patrol missions.

How female spies change the course of the Civil War

The massive hanger No. 2 near Tustin, California filled with six airships. Each airship is nearly 250 feet long.

For their anti-submarine missions, K-class airships were equipped with two .50-caliber Browning M2 machine guns and 4 Mark-47 depth charges. The ships flew on helium (the Hindenburg was filled with hydrogen, and thus became a fireball), which the United States had a monopoly on at the time, and was able to operate them safely. Airships were not just a child’s balloon, they were made with solid, vulcanized rubber to hold air in. But just shooting a blimp wouldn’t take it down, their gas bags were much more effective and could take a few shots.

Other airships that were used by all forces included barrage balloons. These unmanned aerial vehicles pulled double duty in both obscuring the target cities or ships from incoming fighters and bombers while protecting the area around them using the metal tethers that kept them attached to the earth. The tethers would tear through enemy aircraft as they attempted to buzz by the balloons.

How female spies change the course of the Civil War

A Navy K-class airship at Gibraltar, 1944. The 1400-foot Rock of Gibraltar is in background.

For the entire duration of the war, only one K-ship was ever lost to the enemy. K-74 was shot down by a German U-boat in the Straits of Florida in 1943. Of the 10-man crew who went down in the airship, nine survived, and the only lost crewman was eaten by a shark awaiting rescue. The U-boat was assaulted by Allied bombers trying to limp back to Germany and was sunk.

The Navy continued to use blimps to patrol the American coastline until 1962, despite their unique abilities to stay aloft for more than a day at a stretch and the ability to sniff out submarines better than any alternative at the time. The U.S. even tested the effects of a nuclear blast on its K-ships, believing it could be armed with nuclear depth charges.

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