How the Vietnam draft wasn't as random as you think - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think

December 1969 was not a very merry Christmastime for many American families. The war in Vietnam was ramping up and the draft lottery was held for the first time. 366 blue capsules were drawn, each containing a day of the year. Each calendar date was assigned a number based on draw order. The lower the draft number, the higher the possibility was of being drafted.


soldiers who were chosen in the vietnam draft

Related: This is how to see if you would have been drafted for Vietnam

Conscription in the United States was a common practice, especially during wartime. It had been a part of American life since the Civil War. It wasn’t until 1975 that the draft disappeared and the U.S. military turned into an all-volunteer force.

But back in 1970, one Ph.D. student in computer planning saw the “random” Vietnam draft lottery as flawed — mathematically flawed. According to a New York Times article from the period, he wasn’t the only one.

Mathematicians and statisticians challenged the legality of the process, as it did not produce a truly random result. As the Times’ article points out, hundreds of thousands of men were already preparing for service in Vietnam.

The Nixon White House and the Selective Service System claimed they made a great effort to produce a random result, one that was as fair as possible. Pentagon experts, at the time, estimated that anyone with a number over 200 was unlikely to get drafted.

Soldiers from vietnam draft

Experts said the resulting monthly average number could have been predicted if the capsules containing the dates early in the months were on the bottom and the later days were at the top and the capsules were not adequately mixed — which is exactly what happened.

David Stodolosky, the aforementioned Ph.D. student, is the one who filed a suit against Selective Service, based on the findings that the drawing wasn’t truly random. His lawyers argued that President Nixon’s orders called for a random draft and that wasn’t what they got.

His argument was that later birthdates were drawn much earlier than others and, thus, were more likely to be drafted for wartime service.

The student tried to get an injunction against the government pressing men into service until the draft lottery process was truly randomized — a task as simple as attaching numbers to dates using a random number table and then sorting them.

A judge refused the injunction. Besides, a live lottery made for a much better show.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Wildcat held the line against the Zero

When Japan introduced the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, it gained a remarkable plane that racked up an impressive combat record through 1941. However, despite its incredible performance for the time, the Zero couldn’t hold up.

The Grumman F6F Hellcat achieved fame as a Zero-killer after it was introduced in 1943. But it was its predecessor, the Grumman F4F Wildcat, that held the line during the first campaigns of World War II.


So, how did the Wildcat match up so well against the fearsome Zero? First, it’s important to understand that a big part of the Zero’s reputation came from racking up kills in China against a lot of second-rate planes with poorly-trained pilots. After all, there was a reason that the Republic of China hired the American Volunteer Group to help out during the Second Sino-Japanese War – Chinese pilots had a hard time cutting it.

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think

The Mitsubishi A6M Zero had racked up a seemingly impressive record against second-rate opposition.

(U.S. Navy)

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think

A damaged F4F Wildcat lands on USS Enterprise (CV 6) during the Battle of Santa Cruz. Japanese pilots would put hundreds of 7.7mm machine gun rounds into a Wildcat to little or no effect.

(U.S. Navy)

But, believe it or not, the Wildcat almost never made it to the field. The original F4F Wildcat was a biplane that lost out to the Brewster F2A Buffalo in a competition to field the next carrier-born fighter. Grumman, unsatisfied by losing out a contract, pitched two upgraded designs, and the F4F-3 was finally accepted into service. It was a good thing, too. As it turned out, the Brewster Buffalo was a piece of crap — whether at Midway or over Burma, Buffalos got consistently fell to Zeros, costing the lives of Allied pilots.

When the F4F faced off with the Zero, however, it proved to be a very tough customer. A Zero’s armament consisted of two 7.7mm machine guns and two 20mm cannon. The former had a lot of ammo, but offered little hitting power. The latter packed a punch, but the ammo supply was limited. As a result, in combat, many Japanese pilots would empty their 7.7mm machine guns only to see the Wildcat was still flying.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZteXsIWefo

www.youtube.com

By contrast, the Wildcat’s battery of four to six M2 .50-caliber machine guns brought not only hitting power to bear against the lightly armored Zero, but also came with an ample supply of ammo. Stanley “Swede” Vejtasa was able to score seven kills against Japanese planes in one day with a Wildcat.

But ammo wasn’t the only advantage. Wildcat pilots had an edge in terms of enemy intelligence thanks to the discovery of the Akutan Zero, a recovered, crashed Zero that gave the U.S. insight into its inner-workings (this vessel made a cameo in a training film featuring future President Ronald Reagan).

Learn more about this plane that held the line against the odds in the video below.

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The Holocaust caused German POWs to fight against the Axis

During World War II, more than 425,000 German prisoners of war were held in some 700 camps across the United States. Some of them did their duty to try and escape, but most spent the remainder of their war in these camps, entertaining themselves however possible.

For many POWs, this included the latest in Hollywood cinema, which was, of course, so much propaganda at the time. The Germans enjoyed them anyway. But when the Americans began to show them footage of the Holocaust, the good time suddenly stopped.


How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think
Nazi POWs included three admirals and 40 generals. (Armed Forces Museum)

 

German prisoners, those who surrendered to the British or Americans, were shipped back to the U.S. on Liberty Ships. Most went quietly, thankful to not be killed – and avoiding capture by the Red Army. The United States followed the Geneva Conventions to the letter, paying Germans for labor and constructing camps equivalent to their own military quarters. For some, their lives as prisoners were better than their lives as civilians back in Germany. This was especially true in passing the time.

The prisoners worked, maintained their own discipline, were provided art supplies and letter writing materials. Many camps even had film projectors, and showed movies provided by the Americans. The U.S. was happy to oblige, as Hollywood films of the era could be a good way to de-program the captured soldiers from the effects of Nazi propaganda. Even War Department films such as Why We Fight were popular.

The movie nights were really popular among many of the camps, no matter what the marquee was showing. It was a great morale booster for many imprisoned so far away. Until one day, it wasn’t. After the Allies began liberating concentration camps, they began showing the footage of those camps to Nazi POWs. The films sparked rage and disbelief among many of them, including one instance where the camp detainees burned their German uniforms.

In a few extreme cases, some POWs held in the United States called on Germany to surrender. But the most stirring moment was a plan devised to create units of German troops who volunteered to fight against their onetime Axis ally, Japan, in the Pacific War.

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think
Arkansas National Guard Museum

By war’s end, only the most hardcore Nazi POWs were still against the United States. Many POWs met their wives in the U.S. and settled in the unspoiled land of plenty that had become their new home. While there were many, many resisters throughout the war, there were few incidents of escape or chaos created by the prisoners.

Feature image: U.S. Army

MIGHTY HISTORY

Declassified CIA images revealed a US spy technique against Soviets

According to the National Security Archives, the CIA used to spy on the Soviet Union in broad daylight at the nation’s military parades.

The archives have collected declassified images that were taken at ceremonies marking national holidays like May Day and the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.

The parades were perfect settings for spies to collect intelligence on the Soviet Union, which was normally much more secretive about displaying its military capabilities.


How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think

Scrooge missiles pass by an image of Vladimir Lenin, Friedrich Engels, and Karl Marx.

(National Security Archive)

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think

Taken in 1960, this image from a May Day parade in Moscow is labeled “400-mm (?) self-propelled guns.”

(National Security Archive)

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think

Rocket launchers pass by an image of Vladimir Lenin and Karl Marx.

(National Security Archive)

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think

SA-2 Guideline Rockets on transporter trailers, taken by a “Soviet source.”

(National Security Archive)

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think

The CIA assessed them to be 210-mm rocket launchers.

(National Security Archive)

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think

The missile, identified as the V-301, had a maximum speed of Mach 2.5, according to the CIA.

(National Security Archive)

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think

The CIA identified this as the SS-9, a submarine-launched ballistic missile.

According to a CIA memo, the SS-9 premiered during a Moscow parade in 1967.

This photo was labeled, ‘Exempt from automatic downgrading and declassification.’

(National Security Archive)

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think

The missile system shown here was assessed to be a new anti-ballistic missile capability.

(National Security Archive)

This image from the 49th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution shows typical Soviet propaganda in Red Square.

This photo appears to be mislabeled.

The ABM-1 Galosh was an anti-ballistic missile defense system arranged to protect Moscow.

ABM-X-2 is the nomenclature for project Aurora, an apparently unsuccessful attempt to expand the Galosh system.

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think

(National Security Archive)

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think

The SCUD missile identified here was a mobile ballistic missile with a warhead that weighed up to 1,500 pounds.

(National Security Archive)

Although these images were clearly geared towards the weapons systems, it’s just as interesting to see the scenery and propaganda of the era.

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

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How machine guns on World War I biplanes never hit the propeller

There was a lot of new technology brought to the battlefield during World War I. Two of those were used in tandem – and somehow managed to perfectly compliment each other. It was the fighter plane and the machine gun, mounted perfectly for the pilot’s use, without shooting up the propeller that kept the bird aloft.


Was it the gun that was designed to fire through the propeller or the propeller designed to be used with the machine gun? Yes.

The system worked because of its synchronization gear which kept the gun from firing when the propeller would be hit by the bullet. While airborne the prop would actually be spinning five times as fast as the weapon could fire, so there was little margin of error. The problem was solved by the addition of a gear-like disc on the propeller that would only allow the gun to fire in between the blades’ rotation.

Often called an “interrupter” the disc did not actually interrupt the firing of the weapon, it merely allowed it to fire semiautomatically instead of at an even pace. When the prop spun around to a certain position, it would allow the weapon’s firing mechanism to fully cycle and fire a round. Usually, when the round was supposed to be interrupted, the weapon was actually just in the process of cycling.

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think
Synchronization gear was also needed for later planes, such as the German Me-109 fighter, seen here in World War II.

 

So pulling the trigger would essentially connect the weapon to the propeller, and the prop would actually be firing the gun. Letting the trigger go would disconnect the weapon from the propeller.

Later versions, such as the Kauper interrupter used on the Sopwith Camel, allowed for multiple machine guns at different rates of fire. The interrupter was a welcome change from the early days of combat aviation, where props were sometimes metal plated just in case mechanically uncoordinated rounds hit the propeller, so the bullet would ricochet.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This building in Stalingrad became the Russian version of The Alamo in World War II

In the Battle of Stalingrad a group of 25 men in a nearly abandoned apartment held off thousands of German soldiers during nearly two months of fighting. Time and time again, the assaulting German forces attacked the building occupied by Junior Sgt. Yakov Pavlov and his platoon.


In the fighting at Stalingrad, Russian and German soldiers clashed in bloody, close-quarters combat. Some buildings held Germans and Russians on different floors for days, fighting the other side through the stairwells.

One of these heavily contested buildings was a four-story apartment building that overlooked the Volga river and had a clear line of fire down two roads intersecting in front of it. Whoever controlled that building could stop nearly any traffic moving within a kilometer of it.

The Russian Army sent a 30-man platoon to take the building from German occupiers, but only four survivors were left victorious. Junior Sgt. Pavlov, now the acting platoon commander, and his three men began constructing defenses of barbed wire and mines while also requesting reinforcements. In the basement of the building, 10 Russian civilians huddled with slim hopes of surviving the battle.

When 21 Russian soldiers arrived, they helped prepare the building for an extended siege. A PTRS-41 anti-tank rifle was placed on the roof, machine guns were placed in every available window facing the main square, mortars were emplaced, and walls were knocked out to facilitate communications between the men.

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think

Then the Germans came. Armored and infantry columns would move up the streets to try and take out the building. They were forced to cross “9th January Square,” a wide open space named for Russia’s Bloody Sunday. While the Germans were in the square, the Russians would strike.

The Russian soldiers would open fire with the anti-tank rifle on the roof, piercing the thin turret armor of the tanks. The men found that if they waited until the tanks were within 25 meters of the building, the enemy tanks could not elevate their own guns high enough to retaliate.

Meanwhile, machine gunners would begin firing from the windows, shattering the bodies of German infantrymen. When they had the rounds, the men would begin lobbing mortars out of the building and onto the attacking column.

From Sep. 23 to Nov. 25, 1942, this fighting continued unabated. The Germans would attack at regular intervals and would often keep a few machine guns firing during lulls to keep the Russians from sleeping.

The Germans were devastated in the fight for the building that they eventually marked on their maps as a fortress. Inside, the Russians were sticking to Order 227 which demanded that Soviet soldiers take, “Not one step back!”

They held out until Nov. 25 when a Russian counterattack allowed fresh soldiers to replace Pavlov and his men in the defense of Pavlov’s house. The civilians in the basement were also allowed to evacuate.

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think
The reconstructed apartment building in Stalingrad.

The building was reconstructed after the war. Bricks and materials from the bombed out structure that Pavlov and his men held was used to construct a monument on the corner of the new building.

MIGHTY HISTORY

West Virginia veterans remember Vietnam

The Vietnam War went on for a long time, from 1955-1975. The war killed over 58,000 Americans and had a total death count of millions. For US soldiers, many of whom were drafted, one of the worst parts of the whole deal was that they knew their efforts were in vain. Why? No one likes to admit defeat, least of all America. At a certain point, it became clear the US couldn’t win the war.

Vietnam has never been an easy conversation

Talking about war has never been easy. Vietnam was the first war that was televised and reported on in real-time, so the public formed opinions as events unfolded. As anyone who’s spent time downrange can tell you, that’s not always a good thing. As the country navigated 20 years of war, the American people continued to feel its effects more and more. That’s no more true than in smaller communities like those in the West Virginian mountains.

The town of Wheeling, West Virginia’s population hovers just over 20,000 today. During the Vietnam Era, it was even smaller. The tight-knit community endured funeral after funeral of fallen Vietnam War soldiers. In late February 1967, Wheeling buried another one of their own, Marine Corporeal George Edward McRobbie. He was only 21 years old. By that time, two other Wheeling soldiers had already been laid to rest that year. And in 1967 alone, Wheeling lost 26 young men to the war.

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think
One of the several West Virginian veterans interviewed shares his experiences.

West Virginians sure showed up in large mumbers for the Vietnam War

It wasn’t just Wheeling, either. More West Virginians served and fell in the Vietnam War per capita than any other state. In total, 36,578 West Virginians served, and most of them began as teenagers. Of those, 1,128 were killed. Throughout the 1960s in West Virginia, burying fathers, sons, husbands, and brothers was a common occurrence. 

Among the West Virginians who served was a conscientious objector and medic Thomas W. Bennett from Morgantown. He was the only conscientious objector in the Vietnam War to earn the Medal of Honor. 

In general, rural guys from West Virginia and even some women were ready to fight in the Vietnam War, draft, or no draft. Once in active combat, many of their assignments were things like walking points in the jungle, thanks to the fact that they already had experience tracking and with guns. This prior experience may be the key to understanding why West Virginia soldiers had such a high fatality rate per capita in the war. So many were put on the front lines in dangerous positions because they could handle it. 

But the West Virginian youth eventually turned their backs on the war

As we all know, the news coverage of the war, particularly the brutal series of attacks by the North Vietnamese Tet Offensive, turned many citizens against the conflict. Unfortunately, the young soldiers often took the brunt of the criticism. By 1968, West Virginia high schoolers who had once been eager to serve their country no longer viewed the war as honorable and began to dread the potential of being drafted. 

Regardless, the brave soldiers from West Virginia and throughout the country who served in Vietnam simply did what their country required of them.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how the Roman Empire structured its military

The Roman Empire had one of the best militaries of ancient times. It steamrolled over the Carthaginians, Greeks, Egyptians, Gauls, more than held their own against many other forces for centuries.


So, how did the world’s most powerful government organize its deadly legions? Well, it started with a group of eight men known as a contubernium – which was a little smaller than a typical infantry squad (usually nine personnel). Ten contuberniums, plus the command staff, formed a century of 85 men.

 

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think
Some of the specialist roles that were usually filled by auxiliaries. (Youtube Screenshot)

Six centuries – about 540 men – made up a cohort. This unit was roughly the size of a present-day infantry battalion. Ten cohorts, plus attachments including a force of cavalry, made a legion of about 6,000 men, roughly the size of a brigade.

The legions were the largest force in the Roman military. Only citizens could serve in the legions but the Roman military also had cohorts of auxiliaries which allowed non-citzens to serve in the Roman army.

These auxiliaries were usually slingers, archers, and additional cavalry. Many Roman citizens, who had to provide their own equipment, served as infantry.

After 25 years of service in the Roman army, legionnaires and auxiliaries could look forward to a generous retirement. Those who weren’t citizens gained Roman citizenship and all that meant, plus a plot of land and a generous retirement bonus.

ISO Design, YouTube
MIGHTY HISTORY

What really happens at Fort Ord?

Army posts aren’t typically known for their beauty, but an exception can be made with Fort Ord. Between the rocky cliffs, the fantastic ocean views, and the excellent weather, this Army post was, well, actually pretty decent.

Located about 100 miles south of San Francisco, California on the Monterey Bay, millions of Soldiers have trained here over the years. No, we’re not exaggerating. Literally millions of Soldiers passed through Fort Ord. That’s because it used to be one of the Army’s principal training centers. As many as 50,000 soldiers trained at Fort Ord in just one year when it was at its peak.

Fort Ord Beginnings

In 1940, Fort Ord was first constructed and designated as a fort. Before that, the military used the land as a field artillery target range and maneuver area. The 7th Infantry Division was first activated at Fort Ord in 1917, during World War I, and it remained there for the majority of its history.

The 7th Infantry Division is particularly special because is it the only active-duty multi-component division headquarters in the entire US Army. It is most famous for its placement at Ford Ord in the Pacific theater of World War II to fight off US enemies. These days, 7th ID calls JBLM home. Not a far stretch from Fort Ord, but they’re definitely not getting California sunshine in Washington state.

A Booming Monterey Bay Thanks to Fort Ord

After the Vietnam War, training missions at Ford Ord were redesigned with technology in mind. Both education and physical training occurred here. Throughout the years, Soldiers all lived in town, spending a lot of their hard-earned money supporting many of the neighboring communities. You could say business was always booming thanks to the Soldiers. Often, it was the first taste of Army life as well as the last stop before deployment for many soldiers.

Fort Ord closed in 1994 after the Base Realignment and Closure Act passed in 1988. At the size of San Francisco, 28,000 acres, it is the largest army base to ever have closed in the US. Unsurprisingly, the nearby cities took an economic beating as a result.

What to Do with All That Land?

The neighboring communities received divided portions of the land, with proposals to use it for artist colonies, amusement parks, golf courses, you name it. No one could agree on how to use the ex-Fort Ord land, which caused more than a few scuttles. In the end, the State of California had to step in and make the final decision.

Their verdict was to use Fort Ord for education, the environment, and economic vitality. California State University – Monterey Bay was established on Fort Ord grounds. As of 2009, the majority of the land became Fort Ord Dunes State Park and National Monument. That was an easy choice because ot its wildlife variety and lush natural beauty. Both the educational and environmental uses of the land also helped the economy.

While thousands of acres of toxic buildings and empty lots still remain on Fort Ord land, the decisions about what to do with them and the rest of the land lie in the hands of the community. Hopefully, they will keep the best interest of the land and its rich history in mind.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This pioneer is considered the founder of the Navy SEALs

During WWII, Adolf Hitler knew that American forces would invade somewhere on the coast of France and fight their way inland. To prevent the invasion, the Germans constructed a massive Atlantic wall full of dangerous obstacles along the beachheads to combat amphibious vehicles from pulling up landing onto the shoreline.


U.S. forces had no internal expertise on how to breach Hitler’s solid barriers — so they turned to one man — Draper Kauffman.

After Kauffman graduated from the Naval Academy years before the invasion, he was denied an officer’s commission due to having poor eye-sight. Wanting to serve in the military, Kauffman traveled overseas and became an ambulance driver for the British. After a short period as a German POW, he went to London to join the fight as “The Blitz” was in full swing.

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think

Related: This SEAL was shot 27 times before walking himself to the medevac

On the first day, German bombers had dropped 377 tons of ordnance onto the city — many of the explosives did not detonate. The government asked for volunteers to help with bomb disposal, Kauffman stepped up to volunteer and raised his hand.

Kauffman learned all he could about his new field and rapidly excelled at it. His advanced bomb disposal knowledge earned him a transfer from the British Navy to the American one.

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think
Draper Kauffman (left)

Soon after entering the American Navy, an event took place that would change our history forever — the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Navy gave Kauffman orders to create a bomb disposal unit; he went right to work.

One of his first tasks was to disarm a 500-pound bomb located in the harbor. He completed the deadly mission and received the Navy Cross for his excellent work.

Also Read: This sailor has one of the most impressive resumes you’ll ever see — and he’s not done yet

In 1943, Kauffman received a life-changing phone call during his honeymoon that was to report to Washington as directed. His newest assignment was to create a plan to mitigate Hitler’s beach obstacles.

He would go from disarming bombs to now planting them. Along with a few other Naval officers, the “U.S. Navy Combat Demolition” unit was born.

Kauffman and his officers began training “frogmen” out of the swampy and mosquito infested area in Fort Pierce, Florida — the first BUD/s class started training. Kauffman and the instructors taught the Navy’s bravest men how to sneak up onto an obstacle undetected and take it out.

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think
U.S. Navy Combat Demolition

In 1962, the Navy SEALs were officially declared when former President John F. Kennedy had them established to conduct Unconventional Warfare — and they’ve been kicking a** ever since.

Articles

This daring commando raid’s only injury was from a negligent discharge

In March 1941, over 500 British and Allied commandos, sappers, and sailors launched a daring four-pronged raid against Norwegian towns occupied by the German Army. Despite the German forces spotting the commandos 24 hours before the attack, the British suffered only one casualty.


An officer accidentally shot himself in the thigh.

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think
(Photo: War Office Capt. Tennyson d’Eyncourt, Imperial War Museum)

Operation Claymore, as it was known, was a commando raid targeting fish oil factories in the Lofoten Islands. The fish oil was a prime source of glycerin which is a crucial propellant for most types of weapons ammunition in World War II.

The islands are 100 miles into the Arctic Circle and guarded by a force of over 200 German troops. The commandos expected potentially heavy resistance and spent about a week in the Orkney Islands rehearsing their assault plan.

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think
(Photo: War Office Capt. Tennyson d’Eyncourt, Imperial War Museum)

On March 1, they began a three-day journey through rough seas to the targets. Two days later, they were spotted by a German aircraft but pressed forward, risking the possibility of hitting beaches with prepared and dug-in Nazi defenders.

When the British arrived, ice had formed further out than expected and the commandos were forced to get out of the boats early before running across it to hit the towns. All four groups managed to cross the ice and hit their targeted towns without facing any real resistance.

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think
(Photo: Royal Navy Lt. R. G. G. Coote, Imperial War Museum)

In fact, the local Norwegians watched the British coming at them like it was a small show, and the commandos made it into the buildings before they even began to see German uniforms. With many of the defenders separated or still asleep, the attackers were able to quell resistance with few shots fired.

They captured 225 prisoners while taking every one of their objectives. Despite the attack force having been spotted by the German plane, none of the defenders were ready.

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think
(Photo: War Office Capt. Tennyson d’Eyncourt, Imperial War Museum)

The grateful locals brought out coffee and treats for the attackers, the sappers planted charges against the fish oil tanks, and the Norwegians started recruiting the citizens into the Free Norwegian Forces.

There was an additional lucky break for the commandos. They hit a German-held trawler and killed 14 of the defenders.

The ship commander managed to throw the Enigma machine over the side but the British still captured technical documents and spare parts for the machine, giving code breakers in Bletchley Park near London a leg up.

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think
(Photo: Royal Navy Lt. R. G. G. Coote, Imperial War Museum)

The mission was a huge success, but as mentioned above, the British did suffer a single casualty when an officer accidentally shot himself in his thigh with a revolver.

The British knew how well the mission had gone, and got a bit cocky about it.

One group sent a telegraph to Hitler with the captured communication gear asking him where his vaunted German soldiers were. Another group hit a nearby seaplane base and took all their weapons, just for additional giggles.

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think
(Photo: War Office Capt. Tennyson d’Eyncourt, Imperial War Museum)

The German commander, who probably should’ve been grateful that he and his men weren’t added to the 225 prisoners the British had captured, later complained to his fuhrer that the commandos had displayed “unwarlike” behavior.

(Pretty sure the dudes captured without a shot fired were the “unwarlike” fellows, but whatever.)

When the commandos finally left, they blew the fish oil tanks, sending huge fireballs into the sky. They also sank some ships vital to the fish oil production including the most advanced fish factory-ship of the time.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Have you seen the Abandoned B29 Bomber Airfield in Herington?

Once the US entered World War II, the government did not have any time to waste in getting new air bases and training facilities up and running. One of such bases was a short eight miles outside of Herington Kansas: the Herington Army Airfield. Construction on the base began in September 1942 with completion just 14 months later. One minute it was a grassy prairie and the next, a rumbling concrete jungle. Who would have thought?

Herington’s Path from Rags to Riches

Herington Army Airfield’s original purpose was to serve as an Interceptor Command Base for B-17 and B-24 Bombers from the Wichita Boeing Assembling Plant. But by June 1944, Herington kicked it up a notch and was transformed into one of the most powerful Air Bases of World War II. 

They expanded the runways for B-29 Superfortress bombers, the largest, most devastating war machines the world had ever seen. The rapid building, modification, and delivery of tons and tons of B-29’s was nicknamed the Battle of Kansas, in part because of all the technical issues these massive aircraft faced in their production. Also, it was up to the already overworked, tired personnel at Herington and other Kansas airfields to get these machines up and running. 

But Herington exceeded expectations. Of all the B-29’s that went to war, 60 percent were processed at Herington. At its height, it processed an average of 76 aircraft and 86 crews per month. It was a B-29 processed by Herington, the Enola Gay, which dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and ended the war once and for all. In other words, Herington was as essential to the war as they come. 

Turning a Depression Town Upside-Down

Herington served the people of the US in more ways than providing top-notch fighter planes and crews, however. The war effort turned Herington from a sad Depression town into a booming hotspot in the middle of Kansas. Farmers, housewives, and high schoolers all had to go to work to support the base. People opened their homes and turned spare bedrooms into spaces to accommodate Airmen and their sweethearts.

Herington’s Slow Return to Mother Nature

Then suddenly, the war ended, and Herington Army Airfield was shut down and considered surplus war property. Still, plenty of its structures were salvaged for reuse. This includes buildings that were transformed from housing for troops to housing for farm animals. Next, the infirmary turned into Herington’s municipal hospital. Beech Aircraft Corporation bought the runways for airplane manufacturing. When Beech left Herington in 1960, the former base was all but forgotten for many years. It wasn’t until 1988 when an entrepreneur from California bought the derelict north-end hangar for his company Military Aircraft Restoration Corporation and poured money into its restoration. Today, it technically still serves as a place to restore old warbirds, though sadly, production is now at an indefinite standstill and Mother Nature is slowly taking the area back over as her own.

Related: Here’s what it’s like to train for the Air Force’s elite

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the safest place to be in a US bomber flying through German flak in WW2

While most movies and TV series on the war over Germany in World War II focuses on the aerial duals between American P-51 Mustangs, British Spitfires and Luftwaffe fighters like the Bf-109, the Bf-110, and the FW-190, the bulk of the air casualties came from anti-aircraft guns, or “flak.”


 

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think
Bf 109E off North Africa. (Wikimedia Commons)

Here’s how to put those losses into some form of perspective — during one bomber raid in October, 1943, three-fourths of the bombers suffered some sort of damage from anti-aircraft fire. The German guns ranged from 20mm auto-cannon to big 128mm pieces. Perhaps the most common was the German 88mm gun, which was not only a potent anti-aircraft gun, but also a lethal tank-killer.

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think
A German 88mm flak gun. (Wikimedia Commons)

The crewmen who had it worst from the flak were the waist gunners, who accounted for 21.6 percent of casualties. Bombardiers and navigators, who were stationed in the very front of the plane and who had only a glass nose between them and a very long drop, also had a bad time of it, accounting for 15 percent and 13.2 percent of casualties respectively.

The safest crew member was the ball turret gunner (5.5 percent), the pilot (7.7 percent), and co-pilot (6.6 percent), who together accounted for 19.8 percent of casualties).

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think
A U.S. Army Air Forces Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress flying through flak over a target. A hit by flak lead to the capture of Brigadier General Arthur Vanaman, placing ULTRA at risk. (USAF photo)

They were most likely to be hit in the legs (44 percent of the time), followed by the arms (31 percent). The development of flak vests meant that only 9 percent of casualties were hit in the chest and abdomen, while 16 percent of hits were in the head.

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think
A B-24 that was hit by German flak on April 10, 1945. One crewman survived. (USAF photo)

You can see a video on how and why German flak was such a threat below.

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