There’s a long list of interesting technologies that almost made their way onto the front lines during the brutal days of World War I.
In trench warfare, as troops set into position to attempt a shot, they often became the enemy’s target. They needed some way to protect themselves.
To this end, Gen. Sir Sam Hughes, the Canadian Minister of Militia and Defense during the war, engineered a device that looked just like an infantryman’s shovel, but slightly modified — with a hole. This unique invention was intended to act as a shield for allied forces and was dubbed the “MacAdam shovel,” named after Hughes’ secretary, Ena MacAdam, who sparked the idea. The E-tool was made of durable metal and was standard-issue, making this shield a potential lifesaver across the service.
In 1914, thousands of MacAdam shovels were produced for the Canadian army. However, the invention came with a few drawbacks.
First, the new shovels were made using a new, bullet-deflecting steel, making it much heavier than previous E-tools. Additionally, it didn’t have a carrying handle — as it was supposed to stick in the ground — making it more cumbersome for troops.
Secondly, the shield shovel was mass produced to deflect incoming enemy rounds — but failed to do just that. Small caliber rounds managed to drill right through.
Lastly, and most obviously, the E-tool was used for digging, which is hard to do with a hole in your shovel. After testing the shield, many military minds refused to accept the shovel as a multi-use tool.
Hughes and MacAdams’ brainchild was, ultimately, scrapped. Bummer.
Check out Simple History‘s video below for more details on this odd shield that couldn’t protect much.
During the Vietnam War, the Republic F-105 Thunderchief — affectionately known as the “Thud” — was one of the U.S. Air Force’s primary strike aircraft. But amidst mounting losses from North Vietnamese surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery, the Thud took on a new role — the Wild Weasel.
The Wild Weasels of the United States Air Force were some of the most courageous pilots in Vietnam. In a deadly game of cat and mouse, they flew fighter jets like the F-100, F-105 and F-4s deep into hostile airspace to coax the enemy into opening fire with their surface-to-air missiles. Once the Weasels located the site, other fighter bombers were called in to destroy the installations. In this episode of Warriors in their Own Words, Jerry Hoblit, Bill Sparks, Mike Gilroy, and Tom Wilson tell dramatic stories of their days as Wild Weasels.
F-105s take off on a mission to bomb North Vietnam, 1966.
A history of the Wild Weasels
The F-105 was originally conceived as a single-seat, tactical nuclear strike-fighter. In the early days of the war, these single-seat variants, F-105D’s, flew strike missions with Combat Air Patrol provided by F-100s to defend against MiG fighters.
However, during Operation Rolling Thunder in 1965, North Vietnamese air defenses improved with the addition of Soviet-made SA-2 Guideline missiles.
As American losses mounted from North Vietnamese SAMs and AAA, the decision was made to employ specialized F-100F two-seat fighters in a suppression role code-named “Wild Weasel.”
When the idea of flying directly into enemy air defenses was first briefed to the men flying the mission, an Electronic Warfare Officer gave the Wild Weasels their first motto by exclaiming,
“You gotta be sh*ttin’ me!”
After heavy losses in just seven weeks, it quickly became apparent that the F-100 was an insufficient aircraft to carry out the missions. The first Wild Weasel unit flying F-100’s was declared combat ineffective.
As luck would have it, Republic had produced two-seat trainer variants of the F-105 shortly before the end of the production run in 1964. These were quickly modified as the F-105F and rushed into the Wild Weasel role.
The newest Thud was also equipped to carry the first ever anti-radiation missile, the AGM-45 Shrike. These initial aircraft were designated Wild Weasel II.
Even with the improved F-105F, the tactics often remained the same as with the F-100. Using hunter-killer teams, a Wild Weasel aircraft would guide a flight of Thuds loaded with bombs and rockets to find the SAM sites and destroy them.
The Wild Weasel was essentially the bait.
Using their advanced radars and warning devices — or sometimes good ol’ drawing enemy fire — the Wild Weasels would “ferret out” the SAM sites, which then allowed the Thuds to come in and pulverize the position. This was often accomplished by simply following the missile’s smoke trail back to its launch site.
As the F-105F models were upgraded to G-models, known as Wild Weasel III, the Air Force began to change the tactics employed. The Wild Weasels would fly in ahead of a strike package to clear the area of SAMs, stay over the target during the bombing raid in order to attack any other SAMs or AAA that appeared, and then maintain their position until the bombers left the area, at which time they themselves would head for home as well.
This led to incredibly long, dangerous missions for the Wild Weasel crews–often three to five hours of intense flying in hostile air space. It also led to another motto for the Wild Weasels: “First In, Last Out.”
The Wild Weasel mission was exceedingly dangerous, but there was no shortage of brave, if not slightly crazy, volunteers willing to carry it out. Two Wild Weasel Thud pilots would be awarded the Medal of Honor for their gallantry in the air.
As his flight entered the target area, the lead engaged in a duel with a SAM site but was shot down while his wingman, Lincoln 02, was put out of action by flak. This left Dethlefsen and his wingman, Lincoln 04, to deal with the SAMs in the area. As Dethlefsen dove for an attack on the SAM site, he was jumped by two MiG-21 fighters.
Dodging two enemy missiles, he fled for cover in the enemy’s flak zone, betting that his pursuers wouldn’t follow. He again pressed the attack on the SAM and was again driven off by the fighters, his Thud absorbing several 37mm cannon shells.
As the strike package egressed from the area Dethlefsen decided to try one more time to destroy the SAM site. Leading his wingman in, he fired his AGM-45 and destroyed the radar. With the defenses down, the two Thuds pummeled the site with their bomb loads.
For good measure Dethlefsen rolled over and strafed the site with his 20mm cannon.
The second Medal of Honor was awarded to Lt. Col. Leo Thorsness for his actions on April 19, 1967. While leading a Wild Weasel mission of F-105’s, Thorsness and his wingman attacked and destroyed a SAM with missiles. Spotting another SAM, they proceeded to move in and destroy it with their bomb loads.
However, Thorsness’ wingman was shot down in the attack. The two crewmen bailed out and as they descended, Thorsness circled them to provide protection and maintain sight for the inbound rescue crews. As he did this, a MiG-17 approached.
Thorsness quickly responded and blasted the MiG with his 20mm cannon, sending it to the ground. As the rescue crews approached the scene, Thorsness peeled off to refuel; however, hearing of more MiG-17’s in the area, he quickly returned to the fight. Seeing the enemy fighters attempting a wagon wheel maneuver, he drove straight in and raked a MiG as it crossed his path.
Thorsness bugged out on afterburners at low-level to avoid the pursuing fighters. Eventually Thorsness was forced to return to base, almost out of fuel. He put his plane into a “glide” and landed at a forward air base with empty tanks.
Eventually high losses and improving technology would see many F-105’s replaced by the newer F-4 Phantom II in the Wild Weasel and strike roles, though F-105G’s continued to operate as Wild Weasels through the end of the war.
Today, Sutton Bonington campus, part of the University of Nottingham, houses the schools of bioscience and veterinary medicine. But a century ago, during World War I, it was home to a prisoner of war (PoW) camp for German military personnel captured by the British on the Western front. And it was the site of a great escape, when Germans managed to flee the camp on Sept. 25, 1917.
At the outbreak of war in 1914 the government took over buildings and sites around the country to convert into PoW camps. Sutton Bonington was a group of buildings completed in 1915 for the Midland Dairy Institute, an agricultural college, but it was taken over by the War Office before the institute’s staff and students could move in. Barbed wire fencing and some additional huts were added to the site and around 600 German military officers moved in.
German officers who were made prisoners of war, by contrast with ordinary soldiers and sailors, were not allowed to work. Many became extremely bored, and sought to relieve the tedium by playing sports such as football and tennis, putting on concerts and plays, and planning how to escape. The preferred escape option was to tunnel under the barbed wire, and to disappear into the countryside beyond.
Two attempts to tunnel out at Sutton Bonington failed, but the third succeeded, and at 1.30am on Sept. 25, 1917, 22 men slipped, slithered and pulled their way along a tunnel, which was less than a metre high. They emerged into a field of turnips, and were hidden from the guards in the sentry posts by a ridge running through a nearby field. It helped their cause that the moon had set before they started, that the search lights were out because of concerns about Zeppelin raids, and that it was not raining.
The main administration block at Sutton Bonington campus. It was used as a prisoner of war camp for German officers between 1916-19.
In terms of simple numbers, no other breakout was as successful. Usually only two or three men were involved with a tunnel project. The 22 from Sutton Bonington made it the largest breakout in Britain of World War I.
Best laid plans
The men planned to split into groups of four, preferably with an English speaker in each one, and to head for different ports along the east coast. They had maps and a compass with them, as well as food supplies which had arrived in the camp from Germany the previous day. The absconders hoped to stow away on board a vessel passing through the English channel, and return to Germany, re-join their regiment and re-engage with the war.
The breakout was discovered at 4.30am when a policeman patrolling the village of Plumtree came upon Herman Genest walking alone but wearing a German officer’s uniform. He arrested him, took him to the nearest police station, and from there saw him returned to the camp at Sutton Bonington. Genest had been free for approximately three hours.
His arrest led to a roll call at Sutton Bonington which confirmed that 22 men were missing. All police, special constables, and other groups concerned with law and order in the area were ordered from their beds to find the Germans.
Within hours they were reeled in. My own research into the episode has uncovered that three of the German men, claiming to be seeking work in one of Nottingham’s munitions factories, were arrested at Trent Bridge. Two more, including the leader Otto Thelan, were arrested at Tollerton at 11am, and two others later in the day. Also arrested that day was Karl von Müller, a German naval hero from the early days of the war, who was found by children when he was blackberrying at Tollerton.
The rest were picked up over the ensuing days with the last four German officers captured at Brimington Woods, near Chesterfield. A police sergeant found them on September, 30, “and immediately upon being challenged they admitted their identity”, according to a report a few days later in the Derby Daily Telegraph.
Getting out was unlikely
The experiences of these men were typical of other German prisoners who tried to escape during World War I. They were expected to wear their uniforms in camp, but this made them conspicuous if they managed to escape. They had to walk because catching trains was too problematic, and they normally travelled at night and hid in barns and hay stacks during the day. They carried food, but could struggle to find enough liquid, and if they reached the coast there was no guarantee of a passage across the Channel.
Escape was a romantic ideal rather than a rational expectation. Gunter Pluschow, who escaped from another PoW camp at Donington Hall, in Leicestershire, was the only German to make it home in World War I, largely because he managed to adopt a disguise and stow away on board a cargo ship at Harwich.
The Sutton Bonington camp was used for PoWs until February 1919 when those remaining were moved to Oswestry in Shropshire. The site was then cleared and cleaned, including the removal of the huts and barbed wire, and returned to the Midland Dairy Institute, which formally opened in October 1919. In 1946 the institute joined the University of Nottingham as the faculty of agriculture.
I’m known among my friends as a bit of a heartless cynic (#NotPopularAtParties #PleaseStopInvitingMe #HowManyOfTheseDoIHaveToRuinToBeLeftAlone). Maybe that’s why We Are The Mighty’s president and CMO, U.S. Air Force veteran Mark Harper, sent me this heartwarming story about Admiral Nimitz arriving at Pearl Harbor after the attack.
But then, I ruined it.
Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, a bold and brave man too busy being optimistic for your “history facts” or his own notes.
(San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)
The story is entitled God and the 3 Mistakes, and it makes the rounds on the internet every once in a while. Here’s a version of it from armchairgeneral.com:
Tour boats ferry people out to the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii every thirty minutes. We just missed a ferry and had to wait thirty minutes. I went into a small gift shop to kill time. In the gift shop, I purchased a small book entitled, “Reflections on Pearl Harbor” by Admiral Chester Nimitz.
Sunday, December 7th, 1941 — Admiral Chester Nimitz was attending a concert in Washington D.C. He was paged and told there was a phone call for him. When he answered the phone, it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the phone. He told Admiral Nimitz that he (Nimitz) would now be the Commander of the Pacific Fleet.
Admiral Nimitz flew to Hawaii to assume command of the Pacific Fleet. He landed at Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve, 1941. There was such a spirit of despair, dejection and defeat–you would have thought the Japanese had already won the war. On Christmas Day, 1941, Adm. Nimitz was given a boat tour of the destruction wrought on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Big sunken battleships and navy vessels cluttered the waters every where you looked.
As the tour boat returned to dock, the young helmsman of the boat asked, “Well Admiral, what do you think after seeing all this destruction?” Admiral Nimitz’s reply shocked everyone within the sound of his voice. Admiral Nimitz said, “The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever make, or God was taking care of America. Which do you think it was?”
Shocked and surprised, the young helmsman asked, “What do mean by saying the Japanese made the three biggest mistakes an attack force ever made?” Nimitz explained:
Mistake number one: the Japanese attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of every ten crewmen of those ships were ashore on leave. If those same ships had been lured to sea and been sunk–we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.
Mistake number two: when the Japanese saw all those battleships lined in a row, they got so carried away sinking those battleships, they never once bombed our dry docks opposite those ships. If they had destroyed our dry docks, we would have had to tow every one of those ships to America to be repaired. As it is now, the ships are in shallow water and can be raised. One tug can pull them over to the dry docks, and we can have them repaired and at sea by the time we could have towed them to America. And I already have crews ashore anxious to man those ships.
Mistake number three: every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater of war is in top of the ground storage tanks five miles away over that hill. One attack plane could have strafed those tanks and destroyed our fuel supply. That’s why I say the Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could make or God was taking care of America.
I’ve never forgotten what I read in that little book. It is still an inspiration as I reflect upon it. In jest, I might suggest that because Admiral Nimitz was a Texan, born and raised in Fredricksburg, Texas –he was a born optimist. But anyway you look at it–Admiral Nimitz was able to see a silver lining in a situation and circumstance where everyone else saw only despair and defeatism.
President Roosevelt had chosen the right man for the right job. We desperately needed a leader that could see silver linings in the midst of the clouds of dejection, despair and defeat.
There is a reason that our national motto is, IN GOD WE TRUST.
Look, an optimistic photo of a re-floated battleship. Let’s all go get coffee and not read the rest of this.
(San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)
Stop here to remain happy. No? Alrighty, then.
Was that heartwarming and satisfying for you? Good. Stop reading. Go away. Be happy. Don’t let my factual poison into your soul. Ignore the holes and historical discrepancies and return to the world as a satisfied human being.
Or, let’s go through this together and destroy joy.
(Author’s note: For some of the debunking done here, we’re turning directly to Adm. Nimitz’ notes from December, 1941, compiled in his “gray book,” which the Navy put on the internet in 2014. Citations to that document will be made with a parenthetical hyperlink that will give the PDF page, not the printed page number. So, “(p. 71)” refers to his December 17 “Running Summary of Situation” that is page 71 of the PDF, but has the page numbers 9 and 67 printed on the bottom.)
Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Navy Adm. Chester W. Nimitz.
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
That phone call on December 7 didn’t happen
First: “Sunday, December 7th, 1941 — Admiral Chester Nimitz was … told there was a phone call for him. When he answered the phone, it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He told Admiral Nimitz that he (Nimitz) would now be the Commander of the Pacific Fleet.“
Nope. At the time, no one knew exactly what had happened or who to blame, and Adm. Husband E. Kimmel was still very much in charge. How screwed up would it have been if Roosevelt’s first action, while the fuel dumps were still burning and sailors were still choking to death on oil, was to fire the guy in command on the ground rather than shifting supplies and men to the problem or, you know, investigating what happened?
The bulk of the losses at Pearl weren’t even announced until December 15 (p. 51) because no one, even at Pearl, could be sure of the extent of the damage while the attack was ongoing.
In reality, Nimitz wasn’t ordered to Hawaii until December 17, the same day that Kimmel was told he would be relieved (p. 71).
National ensign flies from the USS West Virginia during the Pearl Harbor attack.
No, it wouldn’t have been worse if the Japanese had lured the ships to sea
The single most non-sensical claim in this story is that Nimitz was glad Pearl Harbor was a surprise attack.
Mistake number one: the Japanese attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of every ten crewmen of those ships were ashore on leave. If those same ships had been lured to sea and been sunk–we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.
What? Nimitz thought he would’ve lost more men if the Japanese had lured them into a fight near the island? Does anyone believe that he had that little belief in the skills of his men?
If the Japanese had tried to lure the American ships to sea, we would’ve only sent the ones ready to fight, with full ammo loads and readied guns with crews. We would’ve tried to recall the carriers conducting exercises at sea. Yes, losing 38,000 sailors is worse than 3,800, but we’ve never lost 3,800 in a fair fight.
Meanwhile, at Pearl, the U.S. lost over 2,000 killed while inflicting less than 100 enemy deaths. Who the hell would be glad it was a surprise attack?
In his notes on Samoa dated December 17, Nimitz specifically cites Japan’s use of surprise as to why it had been so successful (p. 64).
The largest fuel dumps at Pearl Harbor did survive the attack, but they weren’t enough.
Yes, Japan did ravage America’s fuel dumps and hit drydocks
Nimitz, when he got the actual call on December 17, quickly tied up his duties in Washington, D.C., and reported to Pearl Harbor. (He arrived Christmas Day, not Christmas Eve.)
There, he found an island still burning and heavily damaged. The Japanese planes absolutely did hit fuel dumps at Pearl Harbor. They hit drydocks as well, heavily damaging three destroyers that were in the docks at the time.
Luckily, Pearl Harbor didn’t have “every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater of war” in December 1941 as the story says, but the other dumps were under attack as Nimitz was supposedly giving this pep talk. Fuel dumps on the Philippines and Wake Island were destroyed or isolated by the Japanese attack in the days and weeks following December 7.
(Seriously, how would you even run a Pacific fleet if your only gas station was in Hawaii? That would mean ships patrolling around the Philippines and Australia would need to travel 10,000 miles and over three weeks out of their way every time they needed to refuel.)
But, what damage was done to these facilities was important, changing the strategic calculation for America at every turn.
On December 17, Nimitz wrote a plan to reinforce Samoa that specifically cited the lack of appropriate fuel dumps being ready or filled at Pearl or Samoa (p. 63 and 70). It even mentioned how bad it was to shift a single oiler from replenishing Pearl to getting ships to Samoa. The fuel situation was dire, and Nimitz knew it.
Two heavily damaged U.S. destroyers sit in a flooded drydock. Both destroyers were scrapped and the drydock was damaged, but it did return to service by February 1942.
The ship repair situation was worse
If the fuel situation was bad, the repair situation was worse. Drydocks were attacked during the battle. Two ships were destroyed in Drydock number one, and Floating Drydock number 2 was sunk after sustaining damage. Both were back in operation by February 1942.
But the number of drydocks wasn’t the biggest factor in whether a ship could be repaired at Pearl, because there weren’t nearly enough supplies and skilled laborers in and around the harbor, anyways. Capt. Homer N. Wallin, the head of the salvage effort from January 1942 onward, lamented shortages of firefighting equipment, lumber, fastenings, welders, carpenters, mechanics, engineers, and pumps for the duration of salvage.
That’s why three battleships left Pearl Harbor for repairs on the West Coast on December 20, and ships were heading back to the continent for repairs as late as the end of 1942, nearly a year after the attack, because drydocks had insufficient space or supplies to repair them on site.
But the worst problem facing Pearl Harbor was invasion
But the most naive claim of this entire story is that Nimitz was optimistic as to the situation in December 1941. His actual notes from the period paint a much grimmer picture of his mind.
In the wee hours of December 17, hours before Nimitz was ordered to replace Kimmel, Nimitz sent Kimmel a message on behalf of himself and Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox. Kimmel was ordered to “reconsider” his beliefs that Pearl Harbor was safe from further attack (p. 74).
Knox and Nimitz wanted Kimmel to keep ships out of the harbor as much as possible, to reinforce defensive positions. Most importantly:
Every possible means should be devised and executed which will contribute to security against aircraft or torpedo or gun attack of ships, aircraft and shore facilities [on Hawaii];
Given that Nimitz was actively cautioning about how vulnerable Pearl Harbor was on December 17, it would be odd for him to feel cocky and optimistic on December 25 (the earliest he could have actually taken this supposed boat tour).
Adm. Chester W. Nimitz pins the Navy Cross on Doris Miller at Pearl Harbor on May 27, 1942.
While it took most of 1942 and 1943 to fully ramp up America’s wartime production, the seeds were all in place in 1941 thanks to Roosevelt’s Cash-and-Carry and Lend-Lease policies. Nimitz was no fool. He knew he could win, even though the challenge facing him on Christmas 1941 was still daunting.
We can honor him, the sailors lost at Pearl Harbor, and the stunning achievements of the greatest generation without sharing suspect anecdotes about a Christmas Eve boat ride.
(As an added side note: The book this story supposedly came from wasn’t actually by Nimitz, it’s an “oral history” by William H. Ewing. And it was published five years after Nimitz died. Maybe it is a faithful account of Nimitz’ words at some point, but it doesn’t match his notes or the tactical situation in 1941.)
There are going to be a lot of significant 50-year anniversaries in 2018. This is because 1968 was probably the most tumultuous year in American history since the Civil War. To this day, we still haven’t fully recovered as a country.
The tumult began immediately. Americans were buffeted by watching the Prague Spring roll over Czechoslovakia with the election of reformist Alexander Dubcek on January 5th. He instituted many meaningful reforms that spelled the end of Communism in the country. But the hopes of a peaceful collapse of the Iron Curtain were crushed by August, when Soviet and Eastern Bloc tanks rolled over the same ground.
That was only the beginning. Americans orbited the moon for the first time, Star Trek aired the first interracial kiss, and African-American athletes in the Mexico City Summer Olympics made the most political statement in the history of the games.
The captured crew of the Pueblo.
1. The USS Pueblo is captured by North Korea
The Pueblo was a Navy Signals Intelligence ship. On January 23rd, she was attacked and boarded by North Koreans in international waters. But Pueblo’s crew didn’t go down without a fight. As the ship attempted to evade capture and destroy captured intel, it took two North Korean subchasers, four torpedo boats, and two MiG fighters to stop Pueblo. One U.S. sailor was killed and 83 others were captured and held for the next 355 days. They were beaten and used as propaganda tools the entire time.
South Vietnamese Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the national police, shoots Vietcong officer Nguyen Van Lem, also known as Bay Lop, on a Saigon street on Feb. 1, 1968.
(Photo by Eddie Adams)
2. The Tet Offensive begins in Vietnam
The U.S. was fully engaged in the Vietnam War by 1968 and, although there was evidence of a coming attack, it was not really suspected to come during the Tet holiday. At midnight on January 30th, Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces assaulted some 100 towns and cities, catching American and South Vietnamese troops completely by surprise. The next day, they hit the U.S. embassy in Saigon. Although most losses were quickly recaptured, the ancient capital of Hué was held for a full month.
The Tet Offensive, while a technically a battlefield failure, shook much faith in the Americans’ ability to win the war, including reporter and “Most Trusted Man in America,” Walter Cronkite. In February, the execution of Viet Cong Nguyễn Văn Lém by Nguyễn Ngọc Loan, a South Vietnamese police chief, as captured by famed photographer Eddie Adams, further turned the U.S. against the war.
Johnson soundly beat Eugene McCarthy’s anti-war candidacy in the 1968 Democratic primary in New Hampshire. But just a few days later, Senator Robert F. Kennedy announced his candidacy and the Democrats were split between pro-war and anti-war Democrats, along with segregationist Democrats from the South. Johnson, unable to unite the party and concerned he wouldn’t survive another term, announced he would not seek another term as president on March 31st.
The president was right about uniting the party. Divided Democrats did not rally to their candidate Hubert Humphrey’s cause and Richard Nixon won the election.
President Lyndon B. Johnson meeting with King in the White House Cabinet Room, 1966
4. Martin Luther King, Jr. is shot and killed
The famed Southern preacher and civil rights leader was killed at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4th. Riots erupted in major American cities, some lasting for days. His assassin, James Earl Ray, was a fugitive from justice who escaped the Missouri State Penitentiary. Ray was apprehended at London’s Heathrow Airport on June 8th.
During the ensuing riots, President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968, The Fair Housing Act, into law.
(Photo by Boris Yaro for the Los Angeles Times)
5. Robert F. Kennedy is shot at the Ambassador Hotel
Kennedy, fresh from his win in the June 4th California primary election, just finished addressing supporters at Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel. As he walked through the hotel’s kitchen, he was shaking hands with staff members and other supporters when Sirhan Sirhan rushed in and repeatedly shot him with a .22-caliber pistol. He died of his wounds the next day. Sirhan’s motive was Kennedy’s pro-Israel views.
Police and demonstrators clash near the Conrad Hilton Hotel during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
(Bettmann Archive – Getty Images)
6. Democratic Convention protests become a battle with police
From August 22-30, Democrats met to nominate Hubert Humphrey as their candidate for president. Outside, some 10,000 protestors descended upon Chicago’s streets. Mayor Richard Daley met them with 23,000 policemen in riot gear and National Guardsmen. At 3:30pm, police moved to arrest a man who lowered the American flag in Grant Park and began to beat him. The crowd responded by throwing rocks, concrete, and food at them. Violence spread throughout the area and America decided to vote for Richard Nixon.
The loss of the nuclear attack submarine USS Scorpion (SSN 589) was the last peacetime loss of a Navy vessel until the Avenger-class mine countermeasures vessel USS Guardian ran aground off the Philippines. Unlike the case of the Guardian, 99 sailors lost their lives when USS Scorpion sank after an explosion of undetermined origin.
For the time, America’s Skipjack-class submarines were very fast. According to the “13th Edition of Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet,” these 3,075-ton submarines had a top speed of over 30 knots. Armed with six 21-inch torpedo tubes capable of firing anything from World War II-vintage Mk 14 torpedoes to the early versions of the multi-role Mk 48, this sub was as lethal as they come.
The USS Scorpion was the second of the six vessels to be completed and was commissioned in 1960. According to GlobalSecurity.org, she carried out a number of patrols between then and 1967 before being slated for an overhaul. However, this overhaul was cut short by operational needs. The Scorpion was sent out on Feb. 15, 1968, for what would become her last patrol.
After operating in the Mediterranean Sea, she began her return voyage, diverting briefly to monitor a Soviet naval force. The last anyone heard from the sub was on May 21, 1968. Six days later the Scorpion failed to arrive at Norfolk, where families of the crew were waiting.
The Navy would declare her to be “overdue and presumed lost,” the first time such an announcement had been made since World War II. The sub would not be found until October of that year.
The Navy would look into the disaster, but the official court of inquiry said the cause of the loss could not be determined with certainty. But there are several theories on what might have happened.
One centered around a malfunction of a torpedo. But others suspect poor maintenance may have been the culprit, citing the rushed overhaul.
Check out this video about what it was like to be on the Scorpion.
Ask any American to list the rights enshrined by the United States Constitution and they’ll be awfully quick to tell you the first two. Hell, take a drive on any freeway in America and you’ll see a couple of bumper stickers supporting the right to free speech and right to bear arms.
Then, there’s the third amendment, which states, “no soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”
It remains the least controversial amendment in the Constitution and is rarely litigated. To date, there has never been a Supreme Court ruling that has used the third for the basis of a decision. Today, the idea of troops seizing and occupying a U.S. citizen’s home sounds absurd. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case back when the Constitution was written.
Emphasis on the “maybe.”
(Hessian troops in British pay in the US war of independence, C. Ziegler After Conrad Gessner, 1799)
In 1765, the British Parliament needed to shelter their troops as they fought in the French and Indian War. So, the Crown did what they liked to do and made a decision that benefited British troops. They enacted the Quartering Acts of 1765, which stated that inns, stables, taverns, and wineries were required to house troops at the discretion of a British officer. Troops were allowed to take as they pleased, which would run taverns and wineries dry.
The cost of quartering troops would often fall on the shoulders of local business owners. Eventually, their expenses were reimbursed by colonial authorities — not the British government. Soon, British troops started taking refuge in private homes. Without fear of penalty, they could barge into your house, kick you out of your bed, take your food, and tell you that you’d (maybe) be paid back in a few months.
Taking colonists’ homes was so despicable that Washington and his men would rather freeze than stoop to the Brits’ level.
(Washington’s Army as it marches toward Valley Forge, William Trego, 1777)
To the colonists, this was a headache, but at least there was a reason for it — for a time. After the French and Indian War ended, the British troops continued to use private residences. Many returned to their own fortifications, but many others continued to exploit the Quartering Acts for their own gain.
This, coupled with the fact that the colonists were still paying for a foreign standing Army for no discernible reason, fostered resentment towards the British by many Americans. Then, the Boston Tea Party happened. The Brits saw a rebellion brewing and enacted the Quartering Acts of 1774. This time around, it clearly gave all British troops the right to occupy any building they saw fit without any obligation to reimburse the owner.
While everyone argues about everything else in politics, at least we can all agree that this was an amazing right.
(Jon Stewart Stephen Colbert Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear)
Most colonists weren’t personally affected by the tea tax and were simply inconvenienced by the stamp tax. Having Brits come into your home without warning or cause and being forced to give them whatever they pleased, however, was the straw that broke many colonists’ back.
When the dust settled and the American colonists became American citizens, one of the concerns they voiced most was that something like the Quartering Acts never happen again. And it became so when it was enshrined in the Bill of Rights and became the Third Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
They were some of the most feared and lethal warriors of their time, Scandinavian raiders who were experts in navigation and mobility, armed with iron weapons and advanced tactics, who would bear down on other European settlements for loot and pillage. Vikings were terrifying for all those not protected by high walls or standing armies.
For victims of these raids, death could come quickly and with little warning. The Vikings would raid deep inland by taking their longboats upriver, meaning that death could always be lurking just around the next bend. Towns on the coast were more likely to be raided, but they could at least see ships approaching on the horizon.
Viking shield walls provided plenty of defense while allowing the raiders to use their swords, spears, and axes over the top.
Smart victims would then cower and hide, allowing the village to be plundered without resistance or they might even drag valuables out and buy off the Vikings. This might sound like cowardice, but the Vikings were professional raiders who worked hard to ensure that they had the upper hand, partially through reconnaissance.
The Battle of Stiklestad was fought between Norse kingdoms.
(Peter Nicolai Arbo)
Yeah, by the time you saw the Vikings, they probably already had a whole dossier on you, complete with whatever it is you did with those kind ladies in the expensive inn.
The Vikings actually took plenty of time to conduct quiet observation when they could before a raid, making sure there weren’t a bunch of enemy warriors that happened to be in town. Once they were sure it was just you and a few farmers and craftsmen around, they would launch their attack, keeping their men in tight formation and eradicating serious resistance before it could prepare.
Richer or more established raiders were likely to carry a sword and might even have chain mail or other iron armor, making them extremely challenging to kill for startled farmers in England or France.
Archers and spear men would engage any brave defenders as soon as they got into range, and swordsmen and raiders equipped with axes would charge forward with shields for protection.
So, yeah, unless the Vikings stumbled into a fight with the king’s army because of some bad intel gathering, they were going to win. Every once in a while, they’d do something bold like besiege Paris, and even then they’d usually win, because, again, great intelligence and professional are raiders are typically victorious.
Douglas Hegdahl walked freely around the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” prison camp, one of many American prisoners of war held there in 1967. He was sweeping the courtyards during the prison guards’ afternoon “siesta.” The American sailor that fell into their laps was known to the guards as “The Incredibly Stupid One.” They believed he could neither read nor write and could barely even see. But the “stupid” Seaman Apprentice Hegdahl was slowly collecting intelligence, gathering prisoner data, and even sabotaging the enemy.
He even knew the prison’s location inside Hanoi.
Hegdahl was a South Dakota native who was blown off the deck of the USS Canberra as the ship’s five-inch guns fired on nearby targets of opportunity. Once overboard, he floated in the South China Sea for 12 hours before being picked up by fishermen, who turned him over to the North Vietnamese.
Hegdahl’s enlistment photo and a photo of the sailor in captivity.
Certain he could be tortured for information, the Communists tried to get Hegdahl to write anti-American and anti-war propaganda. They showed him similar documents that other captives – higher ranking captives – wrote for the North Vietnam. Hegdahl thought about it for a moment, then agreed. The Communists were amazed. No other captured American did this voluntarily. They went off to get ink and paper.
The young sailor was thinking quickly. He figured the officers who wrote the propaganda material were probably coerced into doing it. He decided the best thing he could do was play dumb. He was very, very successful. The North Vietnamese thought Doug Hegdahl was a developmentally challenged “poor peasant” and set out to teach him to read and write. After failing at that, they decided to write a confession for him to sign, which he did:
“Seaman Apprentice Douglas Brent Hegdahl III United States Navy Reserve, Commanding Officer, USS Canberra.”
The sailor was first put into a cell with Air Force officer Joe Crecca, who taught Hegdahl 256 names of other POWs and then taught him how to memorize the information to the tune of “Old McDonald.” After that, Hegdahl was imprisoned with Dick Stratton, who was the ranking officer for a time.
Because they thought Hegdahl so developmentally challenged, the Hỏa Lò Prison guards essentially gave him free reign to do a lot of the cleaning and sweeping around the prison yard. He was even allowed to go and clean up around the front gates of the prison itself. That’s how he was able to later tell U.S. intelligence where the prison could be found within the North Vietnamese capital.
Hegdahl on sweeping duty at “The Plantation,” Hanoi.
But the sailor didn’t stop there. As the sailor swept the prison grounds, when the single guard assigned to him took his afternoon siesta, Hegdahl would add a little bit of dirt to the gas tank of the nearest truck. Over the course of his captivity, he managed to disable five NVA prison trucks this way.
Eventually, it came time for the NVA to offer early releases to some of the prisoners of the Hanoi Hilton. Even though there was a strict order among the POWs to not accept any early releases, Hegdahl was ordered to accept an early release — the only Hoa Lo prisoner ever ordered to do so — by his senior officer, Lt. Cmndr. Dick Stratton. He was not only the most junior prisoner in the camp, he also had all the information the U.S. government needed to expedite the release of the POWs — all of them. He didn’t want to, but someone needed to tell the U.S. about the torture they were receiving there.
When he was released, not only did Hegdahl recite the names of the 256 men who were shot down or captured in North Vietnam, he could say their dog’s name, kids’ names, and/or social security numbers. These were the means by which other POWs verified the information given. He picked up all of this information through tap code, deaf spelling code, and secret notes.
Released in 1969, Hegdahl was able to accuse the North Vietnamese of torture and murder of prisoners of war at the Paris Peace Talks in 1970. Flown there by H. Ross Perot, he accused the North Vietnam delegation of murdering Dick Stratton, assuring Lt. Cmndr. Stratton would have to be repatriated alive at the war’s end.
But the prisoners back in Hanoi didn’t have to wait long for treatment to change. Once Hegdahl described the treatment of POWs in public and to the media, the ones he left behind saw their treatment improve, receiving better rations and less brutality in their daily life.
In his memoirs, Stratton wrote of Hegdahl:
“The Incredibly Stupid One,” my personal hero, is the archetype of the innovative, resourceful and courageous American Sailor.
Born as a slave in February of 1840, William Carney’s father managed to escape and make his way north via the Underground Railroad, ultimately earning the funds to purchase his wife and son’s freedom.
The family moved to Massachusetts, where Carney began to get involved in academics even though laws and restrictions still prevented African Americans from learning how to read or write.
Although pursuing a career in the ministry, once the Civil War erupted, Carney determined the best way he could honor God was by enlisting in the military to help rid the world of oppression.
In March 1863, Carney entered the Union Army and was assigned to Company C, 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry Regiment along with 40 other African American men. This was the first official black unit fighting on behalf of the North.
Carney and the other men were sent to James Island in South Carolina where they would see their first days in combat.
On July 18, 1863, the soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry Regiment were led on a charge on Fort Wagner. During the chaos, Carney witnessed the unit’s color guard as he was mortally wounded, nearly dropping their flag to the ground.
Carney, who was also severally injured, dashed toward the falling patriotic symbol and caught it before it touched the dirty ground.
With the flag in his hand, Carney crawled up to the walls of Fort Wagner while motivating his fellow troops to follow his lead. He managed to plant his flag at the base of the fort and angled it upright for display.
Although Carney suffered deadly blood loss, it’s reported he never allowed that flag to touch the ground. This action inspired his fellow troops, and the infantrymen managed to secure the fort.
For his bravery in action, Carney was awarded the Medal of Honor on May 23, 1900, making him the first African American to ever earn the distinguished accolade.
In the trenches of World War I, German and French troops would call out over the trenches looking for “Tommy” when they wanted to talk to a British soldier. You don’t hear the term quite so much anymore, but for centuries, Tommies reigned supreme.
How exactly British troops came to be called Tommy is not quite as complex as why German troops were known as “Jerry” (in case you were wondering, it’s believed to be either because “Jerry” is short for German, or because their helmets looked like chamber pots).
Britain’s Imperial War Museum says the origin of the literal nom de guerre is disputed. One theory says it originated with the Duke of Wellington who made it the nickname in 1843. Another says the Imperial War Office established it in 1845 — a sort of British “John Doe.”
But the Imperial War Museum found evidence of “Tommy” more than a century before Wellington supposedly coined it.
During the British rule of Jamaica, researchers found a 1743 letter to the war office that reported a mutiny among mercenaries there, saying “Except for those from N. America, ye Marines and Tommy Atkins behaved splendidly.”
It was also at this time the red coats worn by British regulars earned them the nickname “Thomas Lobster.”
By 1815, the British War Office was using the name “Tommy Atkins” as a generic term – a placeholder name – for sample infantry paperwork. An enlisting soldier unable to sign his name to his enlistment papers would make his mark – leaving the name Tommy Atkins spelled out where his real name should have been.
“Tommy Atkins” and everyone known to history as Tommy Atkins had a distinguished career in the British military. During the Sepoy Rebellion in India in 1857, a soldier of the 32d Regiment of Foot remained at his post when most others already fled. He was, of course, overwhelmed and killed. A witness of his heroism later wrote:
“His name happened to be Tommy Atkins and so, throughout the Mutiny Campaign, when a daring deed was done, the doer was said to be ‘a regular Tommy Atkins.’ “
Computer programming is a complex, detail-oriented skill that is extremely prone to human error. Oftentimes, those little errors are found and fixed before anyone even notices, but when a tech giant like Google makes even the slightest mistake, there are massive, real-world consequences.
Mapmaking is as painstaking a task as it is a political one. It’s easy when a border follows distinct geographical markings (such as the Rio Grande, which demarcates Texas to the north and Mexico to the south), but when lines are drawn based on nothing but territorial claims, there is almost always conflict. Borders on maps are created after both parties agree on where each side’s land ends. If they don’t agree and maps are created anyways (declaring one region, in part, belongs to another), you get conflicts, like that of Kashmir.
Today, many rely on Google Maps for a fairly accurate representation of the world. Years of research and the collection of billions of bytes of data has helped Google calculate where roads are, figure out which restaurants serve the best grub, and determine where borderlines are drawn. This is rarely an issue but, in October 2010, Nicaraguan troops invaded Costa Rica because Google Maps showed a region, which was indisputably Costa Rican, belonged to Nicaragua.
Eden Pastora, former Sandinista commander turned politician, was in charge of dredging a river along the border. For the safety of the workers, the Nicaraguan military sent 50 troops for protection. The river was created and the armed troops entered the Costa Rican territory of Isla Calero unannounced. When pressed on the issue, Pastora responded that he was only following the map he picked up from Google.
Google apologized, corrected their mistake, and the world laughed — but the troops didn’t leave. In fact, the conflict was very heated.
Costa Rica disbanded their military in 1948 following a bloody civil war, retaining only a small commando unit. The 50 Nicaraguan soldiers and 70 Costa Rican police officers stared each other down at Isla Calero for well over a month, each ready to fight over the land.
It wasn’t until Nov. 12, when the Organization of American States voted that the land did, in fact, belong to Costa Rica, that Pastora backed down. Five years later, Pastora watched from Nicaragua as the river was filled in with sand.
One of history’s most brutal tyrants was a diagnosed schizophrenic on a mission to avenge his childhood years of repressed rage, according to Henry Murray, an American psychologist and a Harvard professor.
“It is forever impossible to hope for any mercy or humane treatment from him,” Murray wrote.
After a frustrating childhood, Hitler felt obligated to exert dominance in all things.
Hitler suffered from intolerable feelings of inferiority, largely stemming from his small, frail, and sickly physical appearance during his childhood.
He refused to go to school because he was ashamed that he was a poor student compared to his classmates.
His mother appeased him by allowing him to drop out.
“He never did any manual work, never engaged in athletics, and was turned down as forever unfit for conscription in the Austrian Army,” Murray writes.
Hitler managed his insecurities by worshiping “brute strength, physical force, ruthless domination, and military conquest.”
Even sexually, Hitler was described as a “full-fledged masochist,” who humiliated and abused his partners.
Much of his wrath originated from a severe Oedipus complex.
As a child, Hitler experienced the Oedipus complex — love of mother and hate of father — which he developed after accidentally seeing his parents having sex, Murray’s report says.
Hitler was subservient and respectful to his father but viewed him as an enemy who ruled the family “with tyrannical severity and injustice.” According to the report, Hitler was envious of his father’s masculine power and dreamed of humiliating him to re-establish “the lost glory of his mother.”
For 16 years, Hitler did not exhibit any form of ambition or competition because his father had died and he had not yet discovered a new enemy.
Hitler frequently felt emasculated.
Another blow to Hitler’s masculinity: He was “incapable of consummating in a normal fashion,” old sexual partners shared with Murray.
“This infirmity we must recognize as an instigation to exorbitant cravings for superiority. Unable to demonstrate male power before a woman, he is impelled to compensate by exhibiting unsurpassed power before men in the world at large,” he writes.
As mentioned, when Hitler did have sexual relations with a woman, he exhibited masochistic behaviors. Hitler was said to have multiple partners, but eventually married his long-term mistress, Eva Braun, hours before the two committed suicide together in his Berlin bunker.
He suffered from indecisiveness and collapsed under pressure.
Even at the peak of his power, Hitler suffered from frequent emotional collapses from a guilty conscience.
“He has nightmares from a bad conscience, and he has long spells when energy, confidence, and the power of decision abandon him,” Murray writes.
According to Murray, Hitler’s cycle from complete despair to reaction followed this pattern:
• An emotional outburst, tantrum of rage, and accusatory indignation ending in tears and self-pity.
•Succeeded by periods of inertia, exhaustion, melancholy, and indecisiveness.
•Followed by hours of acute dejection and disquieting nightmares.
•Leading to hours of recuperation.
•And finally confident and resolute decision to counterattack with great force and ruthlessness.
The five-step evolution could last anywhere from 24 hours to several weeks, the report says
He was ashamed of his mixed heritage.
Hitler valued “pure, unmixed, and uncorrupted German blood,” which he associated with aristocracy and beauty, according to Murray.
He offered the following explanation of Hitler’s contempt for mixed blood:
• As a boy of twelve, Hitler was caught engaging in some sexual experiment with a little girl; and later he seems to have developed a syphilophobia, with a diffuse fear of contamination of the blood through contact with a woman.
• It is almost certain that this irrational dread was partly due to the association in his mind of sexuality and excretion. He thought of sexual relations as something exceedingly filthy.
Hitler denied that his father was born illegitimately and had at least two failed marriages, that his grandfather and godfather were Jews, and that one of his sisters was a mistress of a wealthy Jew.
He focused his hatred on Jews because they were an easy target.
Murray explains that Jews were the clear demographic for Hitler to project his personal frustrations and failings on because they “do not fight back with fists and weapons.”
The Jews were therefore an easy and non-militarized target that he could blame for pretty much anything, including the disastrous effects after the Treaty of Versailles.
Anti-Semitic caricatures also associated Jews with several of Hitler’s dislikes, including business, materialism, democracy, capitalism, and communism. He was eager to strip some Jews of their wealth and power.
He was moody, awkward and received compliments on his eye-color.
According to Murray’s report, Hitler received frequent compliments on his grayish-blue eyes, even though they were described as “dead, impersonal, and unseeing.”
He was slightly below average in height and had a receding hairline, thin lips, and well-shaped hands.
Murray notes that the merciless Nazi leader was known to offer a weak handshake with “moist and clammy” palms and was awkward at making small talk.
Sources say Hitler appeared to be shy or moody when meeting people and was uncoordinated in his gestures. He was also incredibly picky about his food.