The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines

America’s defense of the Philippines from December 1941 to April 1942 was a desperate one. It was a time when the most powerful military leaders in the world, including America’s renowned General Douglas MacArthur,  scrambled to get basic food and ammunition to American, Filipino, and other forces gallantly holding out against what was the one of the world’s fiercest fighting forces, the Imperial forces of Japan.


The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
U.S. Army troops move up against Japanese Forces in March 1945, nearly three years after Japan conquered the Philippines.
(Army photo by Lt. Robert Fields)

 

For Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur and other military leaders tasked with preventing a complete collapse, the solution was clear: Run the blockade by any means available, including hiring smugglers and submarines, offering bonuses to civilian or Navy crews who successfully delivered supplies to the islands and survived.

The first Japanese attacks on the Philippines began just hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, with Japanese aircraft catching American interceptors on the ground between patrols. Japanese landing parties arrived hours later, and the Japanese march on Manila was underway.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
​Army air crews pilots and ground personnel pose in front of a P-40 pursuit aircraft in the Philippines in 1942, just before the islands were conquered by Japan.
(U.S. Army Air Corps)

American defenders outnumbered their Japanese attackers, but the Japanese forces were battle-hardened veterans from other theaters of the war while the American and Filipino forces included a lot of green troops, some of them recruited as recently as that fall.

With the Japanese fleet dominating the ocean around the islands and elite Japanese forces pushing the Americans back, it quickly became clear that American forces were fighting a delaying action. MacArthur, desperate to hold the ground and keep his men alive, pushed for immediate resupply.

One early proposal was that the Navy put together a task force of submarines to smuggle supplies, especially rations, in under the Japanese blockade. But the Navy resisted the plan, saying that their submarines were needed to keep pressure on the Japanese Navy, and that their naval clashes tied up large numbers of Japanese ships and planes that would otherwise be used against American forces ashore.

This argument carried the day at first, but as January arrived with no real resupply, the defenders were forced onto reduced rations. Worse, jungle diseases were taking an increasing toll on the Americans, especially those forced to fight in low-lying and jungle areas.

So, leaders, from colonels on the ground to Chief of Staff Gen. George Marshall, pushed for creative options with next to no regard for cost. Planes from other islands and Australia were sent to airdrop what supplies they could, but they were mostly limited to relatively light items, like medicine and bandages, with almost no capability for the heavy stuff, like rations and ammo.

MacArthur requested anti-aircraft ammunition via submarine, but was turned down. Marshall, meanwhile, dictated orders for ships and funds in Australia to be used to resupply the Philippines:

Use your funds without stint. Call for more if required. Colonel Chamberlin has a credit of ten million dollars of Chief of Staff’s fund which can be spent in whatever manner latter deems advisable. I direct its use for this purpose. Arrange for advance payments, partial payments for unsuccessful efforts, and large bonus for actual delivery. Your judgement must get results. Organize groups of bold and resourceful men, dispatch them with funds by planes to islands in possession of our associates, there to buy food and charter vessels for service. Rewards for actual delivery Bataan or Corregidor must be fixed at level to insure utmost energy and daring on part of masters. At same time dispatch blockade runners from Australia with standard rations and small amounts of ammunition on each. Movement must be made on broad front over many routes. . . . Only indomitable determination and pertinacity will succeed and success must be ours. Risks will be great. Rewards must be proportional. Report initiation of plan

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
​The USS Narwhal, one of the submarines eventually pressed into service to deliver supplies to beleaguered American forces in the Philippines.
(U.S. Navy)

But the blockade runners also had issues getting through, and precious few were even sent. Eventually, the need to remove MacArthur, by order or President Frankiln D. Roosevelt, as well as precious metals and Filipino officials before Japan could capture them necessitated the use of submarines for evacuation.

So, the armed forces went ahead and put food and bullets on the submarines for the way in. A few more submarines were loaded with supplies in late winter and early spring, including three from Hawaii, but few were able to find their dropoff point and get fully unloaded before Japanese forces either captured their destination or preemptively forced the their withdrawal.

After all, submarines aren’t made to be rapidly unloaded, especially outside of normal port facilities. And the supplies typically had to be stored in ballast tanks, increasing the challenge.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur returns to the Philippines in 1944.

(U.S. Army)
Gen. Douglas MacArthur returns to the Philippines in 1944.
(U.S. Army)

So, by March, some units were on quarter or starvation rations, and Roosevelt ordered MacArthur to evacuate himself and his family. MacArthur still believed that sufficiently determined commanders could run the blockade, and he effected his escape in in a patrol torpedo boat.

But, despite aerial, surface, and submarine attempts at resupply over the following month, adequate supplies just couldn’t make it through to the men. Finally, Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright IV, acting commander of all Allied forces in the Philippines, was forced to surrender the garrison. Before he did so, he put large sections of his command back under the direct control of MacArthur so that they wouldn’t be included in the surrender.

Still, Japan took over 60,000 prisoners, and forced most of them on the Bataan Death March where over 10,000 died on their way to prison camps. American and Filipino forces that were not part of the surrender fought on for the duration of the war, celebrating MacArthur and conventional forces’ return to the islands in October, 1944.

Articles

This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar

Airman 1st Class John Lee Levitow was a loadmaster on an AC-47 — an aerial gunship and the predecessor to the AC-130 — that was pounding Viet Cong forces on the night of Feb. 24, 1969.


But then disaster struck.

The plane was dropping flares and firing in support of a U.S. base under attack, and one of the Viet Cong mortars firing on the base sent a round up that struck the AC-47 instead.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
Airman 1st Class John L. Levitow’s Douglas AC-47D was struck by a mortar round on Feb. 24, 1969. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The mortar round detonated on impact, sending thousands of pieces of shrapnel through the plane and crew. Levitow was hit with 40 pieces of shrapnel, and the other six members of the crew didn’t fare much better.

But the worst piece of news was still coming. Levitow started to drag another injured crew member away from the door before he spotted an armed Mk-24 flare that was smoking and rolling around near stored ammo.

The flares operate on a timer set to anywhere between 5 and 30 seconds. Once armed, a crewmember would throw the flare out the door and it would parachute down. Magnesium in the flare would ignite a 4,000 degree Fahrenheit flame that illuminated the battlefield.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
Airman 1st Class John L. Levitow saved the life of his crew and the plane they were flying in in 1969 by throwing an ignited flare out of the craft despite his serious injuries. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

But with the flare counting down to an ignition inside the aircraft, it would instead set off nearby ammo, burn a hole through the floor, and cook everything in the cabin, including the seven crewmembers aboard.

Levitow, despite his serious wound from the shrapnel, crawled his way to the 27-pound flare and attempted to grab it three times, but it kept escaping his hands. So he threw himself on it, clutched it to his body, and dragged it towards the door.

“I had the aircraft in a 30-degree bank, and how Levitow ever managed to get to the flare and throw it out, I’ll never know,” said pilot Maj. Kenneth Carpenter.

Somehow, Levitow got the flare to the door and out of the plane just before it ignited, saving everyone aboard. The pilot was able to limp the plane back to an emergency landing.

For Levitow, that was his 181st mission. He recovered from his wounds and completed another 20 combat missions before heading home and receiving his discharge paperwork in August 1969.

Less than a year later, he reported to the White House to receive the Medal of Honor from President Richard M. Nixon. He is the lowest-ranking member of the Air Force to ever receive the award.

An Air Force C-17 was named for him in 1998, “The Spirit of John L. Levitow.” He passed away in 2000.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How a single frat-house tourniquet helped the Soviets kill American spies

A bizarrely ironic tale came to light recently in the wake of the publication of an opinion piece written by Doctors Frank K. Butler and John B. Holcomb in the Wall Street Journal on December 20th, 2020. The original opinion piece by Butler and Holcomb (full disclosure: Butler is the father of this author) makes the case for increased tourniquet use in the civilian — i.e., EMS, police, and fire — sector, based on the number of lives tourniquets have saved among U.S. service members in multiple war zones over the past 20 years.

It is a no-brainer for most modern-day EMTs, paramedics, police officers, and firefighters that tourniquets are essential and save lives when applied to life-threatening extremity hemorrhage (arterial bleeding from the arms and legs) to stop the bleeding. However, that fact does not mean that all EMS, police, and fire services field tourniquets widely within their trauma load-outs. Hence, the need for the WSJ opinion piece.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
A tactical operator, part of the Illinois Special Weapons and Tactics team, applies a tourniquet to a mannequin. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Kristina Forst) 

A number of readers responded to the piece, in writing, one of which was published on December 27th in the “Letters” portion of the Opinion section of the paper. That letter is what revealed the hitherto unknown (at least to me) story of the time a tourniquet saved one life and condemned ten times that number to execution. 

The Journal titled the letter “Sometimes the Tourniquet Works All Too Well,” and boy is that an understatement given the details of the story. The letter’s author is Gerald Holmquist, writing from Roseville, CA. He recounts how his fraternity at the University of Chicago in the early 1960s was in need of money and thus occasionally took in boarders at its frat house. He notes that the house was more focused on physics than parties. One such boarder — in 1962 — was a young 20 year-old university student named Rick whom Holmquist describes as a “seldom-bathed alcoholic,” and whom they wanted to boot out soon after he moved in.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
A young “Rick” Ames a few years prior to meeting Holmquist. (WikiMedia Commons)

Holmquist then describes how one night they found a reason to get rid of the malodorous inebriate, as Rick severed an artery while launching his arm through one of the house’s glass windows. Holmquist found Rick laying in a pool of blood, bleeding out, and says that his Boy Scout training kicked in, he put direct pressure on the wound, and then placed a tourniquet on it. Holmquist even went so far as to write the time of tourniquet application in marker on Rick’s forehead. (Well done, sir.)

Holmquist and his fellow frat brothers then managed to get Rick to a local emergency room, and the next day he had packed his stuff, returned his key, and moved out of the frat house. According to Holmquist, they all forgot about him until roughly 30 years later, when Rick was arrested — in 1994 — for committing espionage against the United States in the waning days of the Cold War.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
Aldrich Ames is arrested outside his home in Virginia (Image courtesy of the FBI)

Related: THE WWII SPY ROOTS OF THE PHRASE ‘SECRET SQUIRREL’

The boozy and fetid boarder, and former University of Chicago student, turned out to be none other than Rick Ames. When he was exposed as a spy for the Russians inside the CIA, where his father had gotten him a job soon after he left the University of Chicago, Rick became world-famous by his full name, Aldrich Ames.

Ames started spying for the Russians in 1985 and soon afterward, provided to them the names of ten top-level CIA and FBI Soviet sources (Russians spying for the United States). The Russians quickly wrapped up the sources, crushing American intelligence networks on the Soviets, and killing a number of the Russian spies. Ames would go on to expose roughly one hundred Russian agents (assets) spying for America over approximately eight years.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
Aldrich “Rick” Ames’ mug shot. (FBI)

In all, Aldrich Ames was paid nearly $5 Million for spying on his own country, and the intelligence information he provided to the Russians led directly to the deaths of at least ten Russians working on behalf of America.

As you can see, Holmquist probably regrets that a tourniquet worked so well on Rick Ames. Had he let Ames bleed out, ten more men might have escaped execution at the hands of the Soviet Union, and America might not have suffered such a severe blow to its intelligence operations against the USSR. Ironic, indeed. 

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

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

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


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

In Jessen’s case, she joined the Marines.

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

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
Four female pilots leaving their ship at the four engine school at Lockbourne are members of a group of WASPS who have been trained to ferry the B-17 Flying Fortresses. Photo from USAF.

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

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

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

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

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

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
The first group of 71 Women Marine Officer Candidates arrived 13 March 1943 at the US Midshipmen School (Women’s Reserve) at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, March 13, 1943. Massachusetts. Photo from USMC.

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

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

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

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

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
Aluminum paint production. Women work alongside of men in this Midwest aluminum factory now converted to production of war materials. Photo by Alfred T. Palmer.

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

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

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

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
A poster used by the US government to recruit women to the war effort during WWII.

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

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

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

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

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
USMC photo by Cpl Aneshea S. Yee

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

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

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 highlights from the CIA’s medical history of Hitler

Pretty soon after the Y2K craze passed, the CIA declassified a 56-page report on Hitler’s medical history from November 1945. The document is filled with all sorts of great information like the state of the fuhrer’s anus, lymphatic glands, and sex life in the years leading up to his death.


If it seems odd that the CIA compiled medical data for a man six months after he killed himself, they didn’t exactly do it to help his doctors make sound decisions about his care. The cyanide capsule, gunshot wound to the head, and cremation had sort of made all that moot. Instead, the report opens with an explanation for its compilation:

The information is being published in order to provide:
a. medical data useful for the identification of Hitler or his remains;
b. further material for the debunking of numerous Hitler Myths;
c. the knowledge needed to expose those frauds who in later years may claim to be Hitler, or who may claim to have seen or talked to him.
d. research material for the historian, the doctor, and the scientist interested in Hitler.

They probably didn’t guess that future internet writers would use it to describe Hitler’s butthole. But, here goes:

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
(Bundesarchiv Bild, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Are you imagining his anus? You can imagine his anus. It’s for history.

Hitler’s anus

Hitler was, quite literally, a tight ass, with doctors noting, “No disturbance of vesical or rectal sphincter tone, and no evidence of prostatic pathology or hemorrhoids.” Yup, Hitler had a normal butt. Note that “tone” in the preceding text referred to the strength of the rectum, not its color. So we can’t say definitively whether or not Hitler bleached. Also, we still don’t know exactly how tight Hitler’s butt was since Dr. Morell neglected to do an “anal flex” test.

But the sphincter was capable of holding in his stool and stretching appropriately to accommodate the load until his voluntary relaxation and release. He did need anti-gas pills and, in May 1944, his doctor expressed worry about whether or not Hitler’s defecation was still regular.

(BTW, if you don’t want people making jokes about your bum and bowel movements more than seven decades after your death, maybe don’t be a genocidal a–hole. #sorrynotsorry.)

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
(Bundesarchiv Bild, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Don’t know why him being brown makes him less intimidating to me, but it does.

Fuhrer had some rank pee and “bronze” skin with uncertain causes

Doctors disagreed about what, exactly, was causing Hitler to pee brown from time-to-time. Two doctors thought it was caused by poisoning from years of taking strychnine as a component of some of his medication. Strychnine, in addition to medical uses, is a poison often used to kill rodents.

Dr. Morell, the same one who failed to do the anal flex test, was of the opinion that the discoloration and gastric pain was caused by bad flow of bile, particularly around the gall bladder.

Either way, the intermittent discoloration of the urine sometimes presented alongside a bronzing of the skin similar to jaundice. Yup, yellow skin and brown pee. Superior race indeed.

He had swelling of the liver and kidney as well as eczema tied to diet

Hitler was a vegetarian but didn’t take proper steps to ensure he was getting all of his nutrients despite the lack of meat. Doctors believe that’s what led to swelling of his stomach, the left lobe of his liver, and his right kidney, as well as a spot of eczema on his left leg.

The nutrient imbalance led to a bacterial imbalance that was discovered after a fecal examination revealed the presence of “dysbacterial flora in the intestinal tract.” Hitler had to take some bacterial pills that balanced everything back out, which is a shame, because we would prefer to think of him spending the entire war filled with abdominal pain. Luckily, the condition did resurface from time to time.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
(Karl-Ludwig Poggemann, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Really wish Hitler would just die. #popularopinions

Hitler required heart stimulants and oxygen

At multiple times, including the last year of his life, Hitler was prescribed heart stimulants with glucose and in 1944 this was combined with oxygen treatments. Hitler’s issues were tied to his poor diet.

The medication and lifestyle changes seemed to have positive effects when the instructions were followed, but it seemed like the leader may have had some other stuff on his mind because he didn’t always seem to follow the medical instructions.

He might have been working towards a heart attack 

Hitler had some electrocardiograms done in the final years, and doctors found signs of “rapidly progressive coronary sclerosis.” Basically, plaque was quickly filling his arteries. Coronary sclerosis often results, eventually, in a heart attack. Combined with his other heart problems mentioned above, chances were high that Hitler didn’t have much time left.

Couldn’t have given out a little faster, heart?

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
(Bundesarchiv Bild, CC BY-SA 3.0)

See that big ‘ole nose? That honker could barely get any air through it.

Chronic sinus inflammation

The dictator often suffered from “catarrhal inflammation and obstruction of the nasal passages.” Basically, dude got swollen sinuses and sinus pressure a lot. Apparently, he should’ve sounded a bit more nasally and congested in Inglorious Basterds.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
(Hoffmann, Heinrich, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Hitler shows off his tiny labia in front of the Supreme Court in Leipzig.

Hitler had small labia

According to the CIA’s summary, Hitler’s “Labia were normally red in color and rather small.” We would love to say that this is a reference to the fuhrer having some unexpected genitalia, but doctors were actually just referring this the fuhrer’s pretty standard mouth parts. Yeah, males and females have oral labia.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Case remains open in death of US Ambassador to Afghanistan

On Feb. 14, 1979, Adolph Dubs, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, was kidnapped at gunpoint, held hostage in a Kabul hotel, and killed in a botched rescue attempt.

Forty years on, the precise circumstances surrounding the death of the 58-year-old diplomat remain shrouded in mystery. Several questions remain unanswered, including who was behind Dubs’ kidnapping, who fired the fatal shots, and whether the Soviet Union was involved.


The death of Dubs, a former charge d’affaires in Moscow, came at a critical time during the Cold War — it was a year after communists seized power in Kabul and months before the Soviet Union sent in troops to prop up the Marxist government.

The incident prompted international shock and outraged the administration of U.S. President Jimmy Carter, which closed the U.S. Embassy in response, although it did keep a charge d’affaires. Months later, Washington began its covert support to the mujahedin, the Islamist guerrilla fighters who were battling the Kabul regime and would later fight the Soviet Army.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines

President Jimmy Carter.

Room 117

On the morning of Feb. 14, 1979, Dubs’ car was stopped by four gunmen in Kabul as he was traveling to the U.S. Embassy. There were reports that at least one of the gunmen was dressed as a uniformed Kabul traffic policeman. Dubs’ abductors took him downtown to the Hotel Kabul, now known as the Serena Hotel.

By noon, Afghan security forces had surrounded the hotel. Soon after, Afghan forces stormed Room 117, where Dubs was being held. After a brief exchange of fire, Dubs was found dead. The ambassador had suffered multiple gunshot wounds to his head and chest.

Two of the four gunmen involved in Dubs’ abduction were also killed in the assault.

‘Suppression of the truth’

Washington protested to Kabul, saying that Afghan forces stormed the building despite a warning from the U.S. Embassy “in the strongest possible terms” not to attack the hotel or open fire on the kidnappers while attempts were being made to negotiate Dubs’ release.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines

Garden area of the Serena Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan.

In 1980, the State Department issued a report on its yearlong investigation into Dubs’ death, attributing blame to Afghan authorities and Soviet advisers assisting them.

The State Department said that at least three Soviet advisers had played an “operational role” during the storming of the hotel.

Moscow acknowledged that its advisers were present but said they had no control over the Afghan decision to storm the hotel room. Kabul said Soviet advisers were not present.

Washington said it was also not able to reach Foreign Minister Hafizullah Amin for hours, a claim denied by Amin, who would later become the leader of the country.

The State Department report said Dubs died of “at least 10 wounds inflicted by small-caliber weapons.”

The report said physical evidence in the hotel room, including weapons, had disappeared.

Afghan officials produced for the Americans the body of a third kidnapper who had been detained by police. Kabul also provided the corpse of the fourth kidnapper, who U.S. officials did not see at the hotel.

It is still unknown whether Dubs was killed by his abductors, his would-be rescuers, or a combination of both.

The State Department said the Kabul government’s account was “incomplete, misleading, and inaccurate,” with “no mention of the Soviets involved in the incident.” The U.S. report concluded: “Sufficient evidence has been obtained to establish serious misrepresentation or suppression of the truth by the government.”

Cold case

The identities of Dubs’ kidnappers were never revealed, and Washington, Moscow, and Kabul all have their own take on the incident.

Carter’s national-security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, blamed Dubs’ death on “Soviet ineptitude or collusion,” according to his memoirs. He described the Afghan handling of the incident as “inept.”

In the book Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion In Perspective, author Anthony Arnold suggested that “it was obvious that only one power…would benefit from the murder — the Soviet Union,” as the death of the ambassador “irrevocably poisoned” the U.S.-Afghan relationship, “leaving the U.S.S.R. with a monopoly of great-power influence over” the Kabul government.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines

(Hoover Institution Press)

In the months after Dubs’ death, Carter would dramatically draw down America’s diplomatic presence in Afghanistan and cut off economic and humanitarian aid.

In Russia, the kidnapping was blamed on the CIA, which state media said wanted to provide an excuse for U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan.

Kabul claimed the abductors were members of a small Maoist group, while officials at the time also blamed the mujahedin.

The abductors had demanded the release of “religious figures” who they said were being held by the Kabul government.

In a newly published book, Afghanistan: A History From 1260 To The Present, author Jonathan Lee writes that U.S. officials suspected the communist government in Kabul was behind the incident “either in a naïve attempt to discredit the Islamist resistance or to force the U.S.A. and NATO powers to disengage with Afghanistan.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Leaked documents reportedly show the CIA secretly bought an encryption company and used it to spy on clients — while turning a profit

In leaked documents, newly published by The Washington Post and ZDF, the CIA describes how it pulled off “the intelligence coup of the century:” for decades, a company that sold encryption devices to more than 120 countries was secretly owned and operated by the CIA itself.


The company, Crypto AG, was acquired by the CIA at the height of the Cold War. Through a classified partnership with West Germany’s spy agency, the CIA designed Crypto AG’s encryption devices in a way that let the agency easily decrypt and read all messages sent by the company’s clients.

Some details of Crypto AG’s coordination with US intelligence agencies had been previously reported — a 1995 investigation by The Baltimore Sun revealed that the National Security Agency reached an agreement with Crypto AG executives to secretly rig encryption devices. However, the newly-published CIA report unveils the full extent of the US’ operation of Crypto AG.

For decades, Crypto AG was the leading provider of encryption services. It boasted hundreds of clients ranging from the Vatican to Iran, generating millions of dollars in profits. The CIA maintained control over the company until at least 2008, when the agency’s confidential report obtained by The Post was drafted.

Crypto AG was liquidated in 2018, and its assets were purchased by two other companies: CyOne Security and Crypto International. Both have denied any current connection to the CIA, and Crypto International chairman Andreas Linde told The Post that he “feels betrayed” by the revelation.

“Crypto International and Crypto AG are two completely separate companies without any relationship,” a spokesperson for Crypto International said in a statement to Business Insider. “Crypto International is a Swedish owned company that in 2018 acquired the brand name and other assets from Crypto AG … We have no connections to the CIA or the BND and we never had.”

A representative for CyOne Security did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s requests for comment.

In a statement to Business Insider, CIA press secretary Timothy Barrett declined to confirm or deny the report, saying the agency is “aware of press reporting about an alleged U.S. government program and do not have any guidance.”

Crypto AG began selling encryption devices in 1940, marketing a mechanical device that was powered by a crank. The CIA reportedly purchased the company with a handshake deal in 1951, which was renewed with a secretive “licensing agreement” in 1960.

In the decades that followed, the CIA oversaw technical advances in Crypto AG’s devices, shifting to electronic devices. The company reportedly contracted with Siemens and Motorola to modernize its gadgets.

The CIA’s surveillance continued through the 1990s and 2000s, even as Crypto AG’s revenue began to dwindle. It was ultimately dissolved in 2018 and sold for between million and million, according to anonymous current and former officials quoted by The Post.

Read the full report by The Washington Post and ZDF here.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Navy used a carrier to transport an Army brigade

When you think about the nuclear-powered aircraft carriers that the United States Navy operates, it’s natural to immediately think of them launching fighters to carry out strikes against the enemy. Over the years, history has proven that carriers are very good at that. However, instead of orchestrating combat in the sky, one Nimitz-class carrier ended up carrying American troops into battle.


The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) with USS George Washington (CVN 73). (US Navy photo)

Now, the use of American carriers to carry troops isn’t entirely outlandish. At the end of World War II, some carriers, including USS Enterprise (CV 6), took part in Operation Magic Carpet, the returning of GIs en masse from overseas. It’s easy to see why – a carrier transports up to 5,000 sailors and Marines, only about 3,200 of which are crew. The remaining 1,800 are in the air wing. If you were to eliminate some of that air wing, you’d quickly create capacity for other personnel.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) conducts a replenishment-at-sea with Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS William McLean (T-AKE 12) in the Atlantic Ocean March 29, 2016. (US Navy photo)

In 1994, the United States was preparing to invade Haiti to remove a military junta that had taken power in 1991. The plan involved getting special operations and light infantry troops into Haiti. The problem was, there weren’t many good bases on the island of Hispaniola, of which Haiti accounts for half. The other half of the island, owned by the Dominican Republic, didn’t have much in the way of usable bases, either – after all, P-51 Mustangs were still that country’s front-line fighter at the time.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
Numerous Army AH-1T Cobra gunships and UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters are parked on the flight deck of USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), which carried a brigade of the 10th Mountain Division to Haiti in 1994. (US Navy photo)

That left the U.S. with one option: a floating base. Meanwhile, the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) was preparing for a deployment. These ships can usually haul up to 90 aircraft. It didn’t take long for someone to get the idea to load elements of the 10th Mountain Division, along with special ops unit, like Delta Force and the Nightstalkers, onto the carrier.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division, Ft Drum, N.Y., dressed in full combat gear, line up to board UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters at Port-au-Prince airport Port-au-Prince, Haiti to take them to Bowlen Airfield during Restore Democracy on 22 Sept 94. (US Army photo)

The Eisenhower sailed from Norfolk, hauling 56 helicopters and 2,000 troops. Army UH-60 Blackhawks and other choppers were very quickly parked on the ship’s flight deck. The good news was that this arrangement never had to be tested in combat – a delegation that included retired general Colin Powell and Jimmy Carter convinced the Haitian regime to vacate peacefully. The 10th Mountain Division entered without a fight via helicopters launched from the carrier’s deck.

Even without facing combat, the Eisenhower had proven that carriers can be very versatile instruments of national policy.

Articles

It’s the end of the road for the USS Enterprise

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) will be decommissioned on Feb. 3, marking the next step on her journey to the “Ship-Submarine Recycling Program” – what a 2012 National Review article dubbed a sanitized way of saying “the scrapyard.”


Her predecessor, the Yorktown-class carrier with the hull number CV 6, also was a victim of this alleged crime against naval history.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
NORFOLK (Nov. 4, 2012) The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) arrives at Naval Station Norfolk. Enterprise’s return to Norfolk will be the 25th and final homecoming of her 51 years of distinguished service. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rafael Martie/Released)

According to a report from the Virginian-Pilot, this sendoff will be a relatively private one, with about 100 people present. The 2012 “inactivation” ceremony saw over 12,000 people attend, according to a Navy release. At that ceremony, it was announced that CVN 80 would be the ninth U.S. Navy vessel to carry the name Enterprise. A CNN report this past April notes that construction of the new Enterprise, a Gerald R. Ford-class carrier, will begin in 2018.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Oct. 23, 2012) An E-2C Hawkeye assigned to the Screwtops of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123 flies past the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) during an air power demonstration. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman/Released)

According to the Navy’s command history of the Enterprise (so long that it took nine entries in the Navy’s online Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships), the ship saw her first action during the Cuban Missile Crisis – less than a year after she was commissioned. She then did Operation Sea Orbit in 1964, a cruise that circumnavigated the globe.

In 1965, the ship carried out the first of six combat deployments to the Vietnam War, carrying two squadrons of F-4 Phantoms, four squadrons of A-4 Skyhawks and assorted support planes.

After the Vietnam War, the Enterprise was the first carrier to operate the F-14 Tomcat. In the 1980s, she would see combat by taking part in Operations El Dorado Canyon in Libya and Preying Mantis near Iran. The carrier missed Desert Storm due to receiving her complex overhaul and refueling, but she would have the honor of launching the first retaliatory strikes on al-Qaeda and the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) transits the Arabian Sea on her last deployment. Enterprise was deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom. Even at 51, she could still kick ass. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jared King/Released)

The carrier would make numerous deployments during the War on Terror, until the decision was made in 2009 to retire the ship early.

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The insane way Vlad the Impaler turned back an enemy army

In 1462, the prince of a small area called Wallachia went to war with arguably the most powerful military force on the planet at the time, led by one of the greatest military minds of the time. The one thing that the prince knew for certain was he would need an extraordinary plan to stay alive and keep his principality from being conquered.

That prince was Vlad III, the Impaler and he was going up against Sultan Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire, fresh from his resounding victory over the Byzantines, relegating the once-great Roman Empire to the history books, once and for all.


The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
Can’t blame him for feeling cocky, I guess.

 

In just 53 days, Mehmed II earned the title “Fatih” – or Conqueror – by doing what no Ottoman Sultan before him could: bringing down the vaunted walls of Constantinople and an end to the Byzantine Empire. Now all of Europe was open to the Ottoman Turks, and one of the closest principalities to the new Ottoman Empire was Romania and its small provincial fiefdoms. The Turks would exert their influence by first charging the un-Islamic a jizya, the tax for not being a follower of Mohammed. When Prince Vlad III of Wallachia refused to pay, Mehmed set out to teach him a lesson.

But Vlad Tepes wasn’t about to sit around and wait for the Ottoman Sultan’s tens of thousands of men to come lay waste to his small lands.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
You can probably guess what’s coming.

 

After a long cat and mouse game, the sultan decided to send an envoy as bait for an ambush. But Vlad got wind of the plot and ambushed the ambush in one of the first European uses of handguns. He took the Turkish uniforms, disguised himself, and moved to the nearest Turkish fortress and simply ordered them to open the gates in Turkish. When they did, Vlad slaughtered the defenders and destroyed the fortress. Then he went on a rampage.

Vlad invaded neighboring Bulgaria and began to split his army up to cover more ground. They systematically rounded up Turkish sympathizers and captured troops in a 500-mile area and slaughtered them. Vlad reckoned killing more than 23,000, not counting those he burned in their own homes. He then routed an Ottoman invasion force 18,000 strong under Mehmed’s Grand Vizier. Only 8,000 walked away from the battle. Mehmed was pissed and decided to go take care of Vlad personally.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
Vlad Tepes, seen here, calling his shot.

 

The sultan assembled an army so large, historians repeatedly lost count trying to keep it all together. Mehmed requested an army of at least 150,000 men but what he got was anywhere between 300,000 to 400,000 and a naval force to sail up the Danube with them. With this force arrayed against him, Vlad freaked out. He asked the King of Hungary for help, and when none came, he conscripted women and children to fight for him. In the end, he amassed an army about one-tenth the size of the Ottoman invaders. Vlad needed some way to level the playing field and scare the sultan back to Constantinople. When the Ottoman Army closed in on him, he got his chance.

The Impaler poisoned wells and destroyed anything of use that Mehmed might capture. He also sent men infected with the plague and other diseases into the Ottoman ranks to infect as many as possible. But still, the enemy made their way to Târgoviște, where their first night in camp turned out to be an unforgettable one. Vlad and his men infiltrated the camp and wreaked havoc on its sleeping men. As the Wallachians slaughtered the now-confused Turks, Vlad attempted to assassinate the sultan in his tent, missing and hitting the tents of his viziers instead.

But that’s not what drove the sultan out of Wallachia.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
You can probably guess what’s coming.

 

Sultan Mehmed’s elite Janissaries pursued the Wallachians and managed to inflict casualties numbering in the thousands. The rest of the army pressed on the Wallachia’s capital, prepared to lay siege to the city and destroy it. But instead of a fortified citadel, the Turks found the gates of the city wide open. Inside, as they rode around, they were treated to a “forest of the impaled” along the roadside. Vlad impaled some 20,000 more enemy soldiers and sympathizers. Historical accounts aren’t clear on the sultan’s reaction, if he was horrified or impressed, but they do agree Mehmed decided to leave Wallachia the very next day.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why wounded viking warriors ate strong onion soup

There’s nothing like a bowl of strong French onion soup on any given day, who cares how cold it is outside. But rampaging Norsemen from the days of yore had no need for the froufrou gimmicks that the cheese-eating surrender-monkeys of France use to adorn their stanky broth. There’s no need for croutons and definitely no time to melt cheese over it all.

That’s because viking warriors eating onion soup were probably close to bleeding out.


The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
“Stay back! Your breath is most foul!”

 

Medieval combat was a brutal affair in Europe and the areas along its northern shores were no exception. For 400-some years, the coasts of Ireland, England, and Frankish territories, all the way east to Russia were the subject of frequent Viking raids. When confronted on land, Vikings would form a wedge with their feared berserkers at the tip of the formation as they rushed forward, hurtling spears and fighting in close combat.

This kind of shirtless, unarmored, Viking rage could get a guy killed – and often did. It definitely saw a lot of injuries and war wounds. But the Viking society wasn’t all piracy and plunder. They actually formed a vast trade and agricultural network they depended on, but this access was limited due to climate.

Vikings planted and gathered food throughout the year, but when the weather turned cold, conservation became a necessary way of life. It wasn’t just food that became a scarce resource, the herbs Vikings used to cure disease and heal wounds became just as scarce, so they needed some metric of how to dole out the lifesaving plants. Not having access to the medical knowledge we enjoy today meant that they needed some way to determine who had the best chance of survival.

Onion soup soon became a form of triage and resource conservation.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
“Seriously Karl, someone’s gonna get hurt.”

 

If a Viking warrior was wounded in the stomach during a battle, they were fed a strong, pungent onion soup. Afterward, the Vikings tending to the wounded would smell the belly wounds to look for the signature onion smell. If they could smell the onions through the man’s wound, then they knew the stomach wall was cut, and the man would not survive his wounds. It would be pointless to try to save the man and another with a better chance of survival would be treated.

That’s just life (and death) as a Norseman. Enjoy your croutons.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Curtiss Helldiver’s other nickname was way better

Some of the iconic photos of the combat in the Pacific theater feature the Douglas SBD Dauntless. This dive-bomber was the plane that won the Battle of Midway in June 1942, fatally damaging three Japanese carriers in a span of five minutes. What may not be as famous, however, is the SBD’s successor.


The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver was in the works at the start of World War II but didn’t really see combat until November 1943. While the SBD was a popular plane — proving to be not only a capable Japanese ship killer, it was also a deadly air-to-air combatant in the hands of pilots like Stanley “Swede” Vejtasa — it was relatively old, having entered service in 1938.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
Bomb’s away! The Helldiver could carry a 2,000-pound bomb in its bay. (US Navy photo)

That replacement was the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver. This far-more-modern plane could carry a greater payload and was faster than its predecessor. The problem was, however, that the plane wasn’t the easiest to fly, which helped it earn a dirty nickname — one that claimed it had some canine ancestry.

Yes, they called it the “Son-of-a-Bitch Second Class.”

Despite the moniker, the SB2C became a very good plane in its own right. Not only could it carry a heavy bomb in its bomb bay, rockets could also be carried under the wings when necessary. This is very useful when you want to suppress the enemy’s anti-aircraft fire. The SBD, despite its superb track record in combat, couldn’t do that. The SB2C also had two 20mm cannon that were forward firing, giving it a far greater punch than the SBD could provide with two M2 .50-caliber machine guns.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines

The dive-bomber, though, was in its twilight. One big reason was that fighters like the F6F Hellcat and Vought F4U Corsair were both capable in air-to-air combat and very proficient in dropping bombs. On a carrier deck, space is limited, and the multi-role fighters proved to be better, more efficient investments than dive-bombers. Still, the Helldiver played its part in bringing victory over the Axis in World War II.

Learn more about this plane with a nasty nickname in the video below.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj8nPN5bkO0
MIGHTY HISTORY

How John McCain survived Hanoi ‘flabbergasted’ fellow prisoners of war

The lout of a prison guard they called the “Bug” told Bud Day with a satisfied smirk that, “We’ve got the Crown Prince.”

As usual, Day, an Air Force major who would later receive the Medal of Honor, ignored the Bug.


Later in December 1967, the guards hauled a new prisoner strapped to a board into Day’s cell.

Day was in bad shape himself. He had escaped and was on the run for two weeks before being caught. The beatings had been merciless, but the condition of the new guy was something else.

“I’ve seen some dead that looked at least as good,” Day would later reportedly say. The new prisoner was in a semblance of a body cast. He weighed less than a hundred pounds. He had untended wounds from bayonets. His broken and withered right arm protruded from the cast at a crazy angle.

Day thought to himself that the North Vietnamese “have dumped this guy on us so they can blame us for killing him, because I didn’t think he was going to live out the day.”

Then Day caught the look: “His eyes, I’ll never forget, were just burning bright,” and “I started to get the feeling that if we could get a little grits into him and get him cleaned up and the infection didn’t get him, he was probably going to make it.”

“And that surprised me. That just flabbergasted me because I had given him up,” Day said, as recounted in the book “The Nightingale’s Song” by Marine Vietnam War veteran Robert Timberg.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
Cover of the 1995 Robert Timberg book The Nightingale’s Song
(Simon & Schuster)

Day had just met Navy Lt. Cmdr. John Sidney McCain III, or as Radio Hanoi called him, “Air Pirate McCain.” Day realized this was the Bug’s “Crown Prince,” the son of Adm. John S. McCain, Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Command.

Two reckonings

The nearly five years he spent as a POW were a reckoning for the future senator from Arizona.

But now, he’s facing a different kind of reckoning.

In July 2017, he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer that usually is terminal.

Shortly after the diagnosis, McCain went to the Senate floor to plead for bipartisanship.

“Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and on the Internet. To hell with them,” he said.

“We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle,” he added. “We’re getting nothing done, my friends; we’re getting nothing done.”

McCain, still chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, went home to Arizona before Christmas and has not returned.

Before leaving the Senate, McCain said in a floor speech that “I’m going home for a while to treat my illness,” McCain said in a floor speech before leaving the Senate. “I have every intention of returning here and giving many of you pause to regret all the nice things you said about me.”

“And I hope to impress on you again, that it is an honor to serve the American people in your company,” McCain added.

At his ranch in Sedona, Arizona, McCain has reportedly not been a model patient. He has jokingly accused his nurses of being in the witness protection program.

“His nurses, some of them are new, they don’t really know him, so they don’t understand that sarcasm is his form of affection,” Salter said May 28, 2018, on the “CBS This Morning” program.

“He fights, he’s fought with everybody at one point or another,” Salter said. “You know, he always talks about the country being 325 million opinionated, vociferous souls — and he’s one of them.”

In an audio excerpt from the book, McCain faced mortality.

“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here,” he said in the book. “Maybe I’ll have another five years. Maybe with the advances in oncology, they’ll find new treatments for my cancer that will extend my life. Maybe I’ll be gone before you hear this. My predicament is, well, rather unpredictable.”

Maverick no more

In the 1990s, A&E ran a documentary on McCain that included in its title the moniker “American Maverick.” The title was probably suitable for a politician who clashed so frequently with others but managed to maintain friendships with rivals, including Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton.

McCain said he’s seeking to shed the “maverick” label, discussing the subject in an HBO documentary on his life that will air on Memorial Day.

“I’m a human being and I’m not a maverick,” McCain said in a trailer for the documentary obtained by ABC.

“I’ve been tested on a number of occasions. I haven’t always done the right thing,” he said, “but you will never talk to anyone who’s as fortunate as John McCain.”

Throughout his life and public career, McCain has demonstrated humor in dire circumstances and the ability to absorb grave blows and continue on.

When he was told that the Hoa Lo prison, dubbed the “Hanoi Hilton” by the POWs, had actually been turned into a hotel, McCain said “I hope the room service is better.”

He could also be self-deprecating.

“I did not enjoy the reputation of a serious pilot or an up-and-coming junior officer,” McCain, with long-time collaborator Mark Salter, wrote in his book “Faith of My Fathers,” describing life before his A-4 Skyhawk was shot down over Hanoi.

He had crashed three planes in training. He was assigned to attack aircraft and was not among the elite who flew fighters.

The look that riveted Bud Day in the prison camp signaled that the gadfly and carouser McCain was renewing a commitment “to serve a cause greater than oneself.”

It is a message that he has delivered to Naval Academy graduates and to congressional colleagues, and he has admitted to often falling short of living up to his own mantra.

After his return from Vietnam, there was a failed marriage and his implication in the “Keating Five” scandal, a bribery affair with a a corrupt wheeler-dealer that almost ended his career in politics.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
McCain being interviewed after his return from Vietnam, April 1973

McCain recently described to CNN’s Jake Tapper how he wanted to be remembered.

“He served his country, and not always right,” McCain said. “Made a lot of mistakes. Made a lot of errors. But served his country. And I hope you could add ‘honorably’.”

On the campaign trail with McCain

The famously named “Straight Talk Express” campaign bus was actually reduced to a minivan when McCain was broke and running on fumes in the New Hampshire presidential primary of 2008. The few reporters still covering him had no problem squeezing in. The small group included this reporter, who covered the McCain campaigns for the New York Daily News in 2000 and 2008.

McCain would be off to some high school gym to speak, but mostly to listen. Everybody knew the script, because there wasn’t one, and that’s part of what made him a treat to cover.

His “Town Hall” events really were town halls. There might be a talking point at the top, or some message of the day fed to him by handlers, but McCain would get rid of it quickly and throw it open to the floor.

The practice had its downside. There was the guy who seemed to show up everywhere and always managed to grab the mic. He wanted to grow hemp, or maybe smoke it, and thought McCain should do something about it. It drove the candidate nuts.

The ad-lib nature of his campaigns sometimes backfired. There was the time in New Hampshire when he was headed to Boston for a Red Sox game and a sit-down with pitching hero Curt Schilling. Red Sox? New Hampshire primary? Impossible to screw that up.

The news of the day was that opponent Mitt Romney had hired undocumented immigrants to sweep out his stables, blow the leaves off his tennis courts, or similar tasks.

A small group of reporters hit McCain with the Romney question on his way to the car. McCain hadn’t heard. He started to laugh, thought better of it, and rushed back inside the hotel.

He could be seen in the lobby doubling up as aides explained the Romney situation. He came back out, said something to the effect of, “Of course, if true, this is troubling … ” and went to the ballgame.

Somebody wrote that McCain was the only candidate who could make you cry, and that was true.

In 2000, McCain was basically beaten when the campaign reached California. George W. Bush would be the Republican nominee.

McCain was running out the string in San Diego with many of his old Navy buds. On the dais was Adm. James Stockdale, who had been the senior officer in the prison camps. Stockdale received the Medal of Honor for his resistance to his captors.

Somehow, Stockdale had become the running mate of the flighty and vindictive Ross Perot, who had disrespected him and sidelined him from the campaign.

In his remarks, McCain turned to Stockdale and said that, no matter what, “You will be my commander — forever.”

There was a pause, and then the crowd stood and applauded.

His friends from the prison camps would occasionally travel with him on the bus or the plane. They were easy to pick out. During down times, they were the ones who would rag on him about what a lousy pilot he had been. It was a learning experience for those who covered McCain.

One of the former POWs was Everett Alvarez, who was the longest-held Navy pilot from the camps. At an event in California, there was a great rock n’ roll band that opened and closed for McCain. Outside the hall, as the crowd filed out, Alvarez was at an exit, enjoying the band as they blasted out ’60s hits.

“Great stuff,” he said to this reporter, who wondered later whether that was the first time Alvarez was hearing it.

Son of a son of a sailor

The title of the cover song of a Jimmy Buffett album applies to John McCain: “Son Of A Son Of A Sailor.”

His grandfather, John S. “Slew” McCain Sr., was an admiral who served in World War I and World War II. His father, John S. McCain Jr., was an admiral who served in submarines in World War II. Both father and grandfather were in Tokyo Bay after the Japanese surrender in World War II.

John S. McCain III was born on August 29, 1936, at Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone. The family moved 20 times before he was out of high school, and his transience became an issue when he first ran for Congress in 1982.

His opponent tried to pin the “carpetbagger” label on him, and said he had only recently moved to Arizona. McCain said his opponent was correct: the place he had been in residence longest was Hanoi. He won easily.

McCain was an indifferent student and his poor academic record continued at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he graduated in 1958 fifth from the bottom in a class of 899.

The crazy ways MacArthur tried to get supplies to the Philippines
McCain (front right) with his squadron and T-2 Buckeye trainer, 1965

After flight school, he was assigned to A-1 Skyraider squadrons and served on board the aircraft carriers Intrepid and Enterprise.

In 1967, in his first combat tour, he was assigned to the carrier USS Forrestal, flying the A-4 Skyhawk in Operation Rolling Thunder.

On July 29, 1967, McCain was in his A-4 on the flight deck when a missile on a following plane cooked off and hit the A-4, starting a fire that killed 134 and took more than a day to bring under control.

McCain transferred to the carrier USS Oriskany. On Oct. 26, 1967, McCain was flying his 23rd combat mission over North Vietnam when his aircraft was hit by a missile. He broke both arms and a leg when he ejected and nearly drowned when his parachute came down in Truc Bach Lake in Hanoi.

McCain’s decorations include the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars with combat ‘V’ devices, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart.

“In all candor, we thought our civilian commanders were complete idiots who didn’t have the least notion of what it took to win the war,” McCain would later write of the Vietnam war.

A final fight

McCain did not vote for President Donald Trump. The antipathy was there when Trump said during the campaign that McCain was “a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured,” but the break came later when a video emerged of Trump spewing vulgarities about women.

In speeches and in his writings since, McCain has not referred to Trump by name but made clear that he is opposed to some of the policies and crass appeals that won Trump the election.

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In an address in October 2017, at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, McCain said that it was wrong to “fear the world we have organized and led for three quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership, and our duty to remain the last, best hope of Earth.”

He said it was wrong to abandon those principles “for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.”

To do so was “as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history,” McCain continued.

While hoping for recovery, McCain has made plans for what comes next. He said in the HBO Memorial Day documentary that “I know that this is a very serious disease. I greet every day with gratitude. I’m also very aware that none of us live forever.”

In his new book, McCain said that he was “prepared for either contingency.”

“I have some things I’d like to take care of first, some work that needs finishing, and some people I need to see,” he said.

He has asked that Barack Obama and George W. Bush give eulogies when his time comes. He has asked that Trump not attend his funeral.

McCain has also asked that he be laid to rest alongside Adm. Chuck Larson at the Naval Academy’s cemetery in Annapolis. Larson, who was twice superintendent of the Naval Academy, was McCain’s roommate at Annapolis.

In a message of his own last Memorial Day, McCain recalled his friend, the late Air Force Col. Leo Thorsness, a Medal of Honor recipient for his valor in Vietnam. Thorsness was shot down two weeks after the actions for which he would receive the medal.

“I was in prison with him, I lived with him for a period of time in the Hanoi Hilton,” McCain said.

Through the nation’s history, “we’ve always asked a few to protect the many,” McCain said. “We can remember them and cherish them, for, I believe, it’s only in America that we do such things to such a degree.”

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

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