That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield

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.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield
A sniper demonstrates using the MacAdam shovel.

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.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield
A drawing of MacAdam shovel from Hughes’ patent design request.

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.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the deadliest insurgent sniper in Iraq

The name struck fear in the hearts of U.S. and coalition troops during the war in Iraq. A sharpshooter who could unleash his deadly round in an instant and melt away unscathed.


He was almost like a ghost — a hyper accurate sniper that built a legend around his stealth and lethality. Videos peppered YouTube and LiveLeak that reportedly chronicled his exploits, adding to the growing legend.

In fact, “Juba,” as he was known, became a media sensation in his own right, his lethal skills were condensed into the character “Mustafa” that fought a sniper duel with Chris Kyle in the popular “American Sniper” film. And he’s the central villain in the sniper thriller movie “The Wall.”

Insurgent propaganda credited Juba with 37 kills and he became well known among American troops in Iraq during the height of the insurgency in 2005 and 2007.

“He’s good. Every time we dismount I’m sure everyone has got him in the back of their minds,” Spc. Travis Burress, an sniper based in Camp Rustamiyah, told The Guardian newspaper in 2005. “He’s a serious threat to us.”

Videos purported to show several of Juba’s kills are a vivid reminder of why he was so feared by American troops. With pinpoint accuracy, the insurgent sharpshooter was able to target the gaps where heavily-armored U.S. service members remained vulnerable, dropping coalition forces with heartbreaking deftness.

And when he killed, he proved difficult to track.

“We have different techniques to try to lure him out, but he is very well trained and very patient,” a U.S. officer told The Guardian. “He doesn’t fire a second shot.”

Insurgent videos taunted U.S. troops — and even President Bush —that Juba was everywhere. (YouTube screen shot)

To hunt Juba, the U.S. dispatched the notorious Task Force Raptor, an elite unit of Iraqi special operators akin to Baghdad’s version of Delta Force. The Raptors harried Juba on his home turf of Ramadi, chasing him around the insurgent hotbed until the trail went cold. Most analysts at the time argued that Juba had fled Ramadi for another battlefield.

Though Juba became a well-known name among American troops on patrol in Iraq, there are some who argue the insurgent marksman was a myth — a composite of several enemy snipers that was built into a legend by the insurgency to frighten coalition troops. At Juba’s height, about 300 American troops had been killed by gunshots in Iraq, and one video of Juba’s exploits claimed he’d killed more than 140 soldiers and Marines.

“Speculation is [that] there was more than one Juba,” said former Special Forces and Iraq war vet Woody Baird. “My estimation is the bad guys were running a psychological operation attempting to terrorize the conventional forces by promoting a super sniper.”

It’s unclear what happened to Juba, though most agree that he was killed in action — either by American or Iraqi sharpshooters or even ISIS terrorists.

But some believe Juba is a made up insurgent meant to strike fear in U.S. troops at checkpoints and in vehicle hatches.

“Juba the Sniper? He’s a product of the U.S. military,” Capt. Brendan Hobbs told Stars and Stripes in 2007. “We’ve built up this myth ourselves.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

These are the 7 finest moments in Army history

The U.S. Army has over 240 years of storied history, defending America in war after war. The branch ensures American ideals around the world and has stood strong against fascists, dictators, and kings. These are seven of their finest moments.


That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield
American infantrymen in the snows of Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge.
(U.S. Army)

1. The Army stops the German’s massive counterattack

The Battle of the Bulge was, ultimately, Hitler’s fever dream. The thought was that the German Army could buildup a massive force, cut apart the western Allies, destroy them, and then turn around and beat back the Soviet Union. It was never possible, but someone had to do the nitty-gritty work of shutting down Hitler’s advance and then resume the march to Berlin.

American Army paratroopers rushed in to hold the line at key crossroads, and soldiers dug in and slowly beat back the 200,000 troops and 1,000 tanks of the German Army. Artillery barrages rained down on German armor even as it crawled up to the firing positions. American armor got into legendary slugfests with German Panzer columns and infantrymen traded fire at close range, even as shells rained down.

From December 16, 1944, through January, 1945, the Americans cut apart the German bulge and prepared for the drive into the German heartland.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield
The British surrender to America on Oct. 17, 1777, after the Battles of Saratoga. The victory at Saratoga convinced France to openly enter the war in support of the Continentals.

2. The Army embarrasses the world’s greatest military power at Saratoga

During the American Revolution, the nascent United States needed a large victory to prove to foreign countries that the rebellion was viable and that they should be recognized as a new nation. A great chance came in late 1777 when British forces coming down from Canada prepared for a massive attack against American General Horatio Gates and his men.

British commander Gen. John Burgoyne lacked the troops during the First Battle of Saratoga, which took place on September 19. He attacked and was barely able to take the field by end of day, suffering twice as many casualties as he inflicted. On October 7, they fought again and the Americans looked good in early fighting — but their attack began to falter. Right as it looked like as though a reversal may occur, Brig Gen. Benedict Arnold charged in with a fresh brigade and saved the day.

Burgoyne managed to retreat the next day, but was eventually surrounded and was forced to surrender on October 17, leading to French recognition of America and open support for the continentals.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield
Soldiers of Headquarters Company, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, fire a 37mm gun during the Meuse-Argonne offensive.
(U.S. Army)

3. America drives the final nails in Germany’s coffin in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive

On September 26, 1918, America launched a massive offensive in support of its French allies against the Germans. The operation was under the control of the American Expeditionary Force and Gen. John J. Pershing. They led 37 American and French divisions under artillery cover against the German 2nd Army.

The Americans captured 23,000 Germans in the first 24 hours and took another 10,000 the following day. American and French forces took ground more slowly than expected, but fairly persistently. The Germans were forced into a general retreat and just kept falling back until the armistice was signed on November 11.

The American offensive helped lead to a nearly complete surrender, negotiated in a train car between Germany and France, by which Germany was forced to give into nearly every French demand. America’s victory there solidified America’s prominence as a true world power.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield
Crew of an M24 tank pulls security in Korea in August, 1950.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Riley)

4. America rolls back the Communists in Korea

The Korean War was initially a war between the two Koreas, with communist forces invading south on June 25, 1950. America sent troops within days to help protect the democratic South Korea, and Task Force Smith fought its first battle on July 5. Early on, American troops fought with limited equipment and reinforcements, but gave ground only grudgingly.

Still, the tide was unmistakable, and democratic forces were slowly pushed until they barely held a port on the southern coast by September, 1950. The Army landed reinforcements there and sent an Army and a Marine division ashore at Inchon, near the original, pre-war border. The two forces manage to break apart most North Korean units and drive north.

By Oct. 19, they had captured the communist capital at Pyongyang and were continuing to drive north. This is the “forgotten victory” as U.S. troops had successfully destroyed the communists on the field. Unfortunately, China would soon join the war, overshadowing the Army and Marine’s success in 1950.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield
Lee surrenders in 1865.

5. The Army peacefully accepts the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House

The Union Army was very effective during the Appomattox campaign, harrying the retreating Confederates and pinning down Lee’s forces to ensure the war didn’t drag on much longer, but that wasn’t the reason that Appomattox Court House represents one of the Army’s finest moments. The real miracle there was that the two forces, both of which would later be accepted as part of Army lineage, were able to negotiate a peaceful end to the hostilities, despite the animosity.

The war had raged for four years, and Gen. Robert E. Lee still had 28,000 men with which he could have drug out the fighting. But when it became clear that his army would be destroyed or descend into broken looting, he contacted Gen. Ulysses S. Grant to surrender at a house near the fighting.

Grant silenced a band that tried to play celebratory songs, declaring,

“The war is over. The Rebels are our countrymen again.”

He gave generous surrender terms, allowing those with horses to keep them so that they could use the animals for late planting. For everyone who remained at the field, the Union opened up their rations to ensure all would eat.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield
American troops and equipment are moved ashore after the success of D-Day.
(U.S. Army)

6. Allies land at Normandy on D-Day

It’s one of the most storied and iconic moments in U.S. military history. Thousands of boats carried tens of thousands of troops against reinforced, German-held beaches of France. Machine gun fire rained down from concrete bunkers and engineers were forced to blow apart wire, mines, and other obstacles for the men to even get off the beaches, most of which extended 200 yards before offering any real cover.

Rangers climbed steep cliffs to capture enemy artillery and paratroopers dropped behind enemy lines to secure key infrastructure and silence the big guns inland. Engineers constructed new harbors to rapidly land all the materiel needed to push forward against the staunch German defenses in the hedgerows of France.

In the end, over 1,400 U.S. soldiers were killed in the first 24 hours of fighting, and four men were later awarded Medals of Honor for their valor. Their incredible sacrifices were honored with success. The western Allies had their toehold, and a new front opened in the war against Germany during the Holocaust.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield
An Army Multiple Launch Rocket System fires during training. Rockets like these saw combat for the first time in Desert Storm.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Carlos R. Davis)

7. The dissection of Saddam Hussein’s Army

Operation Desert Storm was a true joint fight with the Navy providing a fake amphibious landing, the Marines conducting operations on the coast and inland, and the Air Force dropping bombs across the country while downing enemy planes.

But the U.S. Army formed the bulk of the maneuver forces, and the huge left hook through the desert was a logistical nightmare that allowed the coalition to absolutely wallop Iraqi forces. Within that left hook, then-Capt. H.R. McMaster led an armored cavalry charge where one troop cut a huge swath through an Iraqi division while suffering zero losses.

Meanwhile, an Army artillery battery conducted a rocket raid from inside enemy territory, and the unit’s battalion destroyed 41 Iraqi battalions and a tank company in less than 72 hours. The Iraqi military had been one of the largest in the world when the war started, but it lost roughly half of its tanks and other equipment in the fighting while inflicting little losses on the U.S.

The ground war had lasted only 100 hours.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These four photos are the only ones ever taken inside a Nazi death camp

The “Sonderkommando Photographs” are the only known photos taken of the gas chambers and cremation pits at Auchwitz, the infamous Nazi death camp. Shot by a Greek prisoner, the four photos were smuggled to the Polish Resistance where they were cropped and retouched to make them clearer. They were published in a 1945 Polish legal report about the camp. They were later published in a Polish-language book, called “We Have Not Forgotten.”


 

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield

The Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in occupied Poland was among the most notorious of the Nazi death camps. The SS guards there methodically killed inmates once they were no longer deemed fit to work by leading them into a gas chamber under the auspices that they were taking a shower.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield
Photo 280

The Nazi death camp used Jewish inmates — called sonderkommandos — to work the gas chambers and the four crematoria. The sonderkommandos would collect the dead inmates’ personal belongings and dispose of the bodies.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield
282 shows women being taken into the Auschwitz gas chamber.

One such prisoner was Alberto Errera, a Greek naval officer who was eventually killed by the guards after punching a Nazi SS officer. He took the photos with a German Leica that was smuggled into the camp by four other prisoners. They had to be careful when taking the photos, as the SS guards would have surely killed them had they been were discovered.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield
A cropped and corrected version of 281

The Greek prisoner shot the photos from the hip while the other four men kept an eye out for the guards. As a result, some of the photos are strangely framed, showing only trees. All of the photos were reportedly taken within 20 minutes of each other.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield
Cropped, corrected 280

The film was smuggled out of the camp via a toothpaste tube carried by the woman who ran the SS’ canteen. She got the film to the Polish Resistance, along with a note from two political prisoners that read the following:

Urgent. Send two metal rolls of film for 6×9 as fast as possible. Have possibility of taking photos. Sending you photos of Birkenau showing prisoners sent to gas chambers. One photos shows one of the stakes at which bodies were burned when the crematoria could not manage to burn all the bodies. The bodies in the foreground are waiting to be thrown into the fire. Another picture shows one of the places in the forest where people undress before ‘showering’ – as they were told – and then go to the gas-chambers. Send film roll as fast as you can. Send the enclosed photos to Tell – we think enlargements of the photos can be sent further.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield
283. Just the branches of a nearby tree.

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Today in military history: Winston Churchill becomes prime minister as Germany invades

On May 10, 1940, Nazi Germany invaded Western Europe while Winston Churchill became prime minister of Great Britain.

Marking the beginning of Hitler’s Western offensive, German bombers struck Allied airfields in Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, and France while paratroopers rained from the sky at critical junctures. Ground forces invaded along two main routes, a northern route that was expected by the defending armies, and a southern thrust through the Ardennes forest that was not.

The Allies did not know about the southern attack and rushed most of their defenders to the north. The southern thrust quickly broke their backs. Luxembourg fell on the first day while Belgium and the Netherlands surrendered before the end of May. France would survive until June.

The war in Europe would continue for five more brutal years.

England knew the continent was doomed and accelerated their preparations for defending the isles. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, known for his policy of appeasement, was replaced by Winston Churchill, a man known for his bulldog temperament and military vision.

Churchill would go on to serve as Conservative Prime Minister twice, from 1940 to 1945 and from 1951 to 1955. A war veteran himself, he was active in both administrative and diplomatic functions during World War II, as well as giving rousing speeches that are credited with stimulating British morale during the hardship of war.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield
Churchill in 1904 when he “crossed the floor“. (Public Domain)

He would live until Jan. 24, 1965, dying at the age of ninety and receiving the first State Funeral given to a commoner since the Duke of Wellington’s death more than a century before. 

“It has been a grand journey — well worth making once,” he recorded in January 1965 shortly before his death, possibly his last recorded statement.

Featured Image: “The Roaring Lion” photograph by Yousuf Karsh depicting Winston Churchill on Dec. 30, 1941.

MIGHTY HISTORY

10 royals that could claim the throne of the United States

No, the U.S. did not suddenly become a monarchy, nor are we even starting to think about it. But Americans, despite their historical disagreements with the idea of royalty, are very much enamored with some of the world’s royal families. The Shah of Iran, Princess Grace of Monaco, and (of course) the House of Windsor in the United Kingdom have all been the subject of Americans’ interest for a time.


That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield
My personal favorites are King Abdullah and Queen Rania of Jordan. #couplegoals, amirite?

The fact is that the United States could well have been a kind of constitutional monarchy, with George Washington on the throne. A small cabal of Continental Army officers wanted to give that a go, being unsure of a republican government. Washington rebuffed the men, and the rest is history – but what if there had been one chair to rule all of the United States? Who today could win that game of thrones?

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield

Deal with it.

1. Queen Elizabeth II

This one is pretty obvious. As the current reigning monarch of the last monarch that ruled what we now call the United States, reverting back to a monarchy would see the U.S. go along with who the British Empire proclaimed to be the rightful heirs to the throne throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries, which brings us to Queen Elizabeth.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield

Looks like the Prince enjoys a few smokes with his beers. Welcome to America.

2. Ernst August V, the House of Hanover

When the United States won its independence from Britain, the reigning monarch was King George III of the House of Hanover. The Hanoverians ruled the British Empire until the end of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1901 but if we were to give Hanover the throne of the United States to pick where they left off, the current head of the House of Hanover would be H.R.H. Prince Ernst August V, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth, great-grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm II, son-in-law of Princess Grace of Monaco, and public urination aficionado.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield

3. Louis Alphonse de Bourbon, Duke of Anjou

Also known in some circles as Louis XX, the Duke of Anjou is the current pretender to a French throne that no longer exists and is the direct descendant of Louis XVI. Louis XVI, of course, is the last Bourbon king of France before the French Revolution caused his head to be removed from the rest of his body. It could be argued that since the Louisiana Purchase of French North America resulted in doubling the size of the young United States, French kings have a legitimate claim to any would-be American throne.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield

Spanish King Felipe VI meets President Donald Trump at the White House.

4. King Felipe VI of Spain

Since many of the United States current possessions were once Spanish possessions, it makes sense that the current King of Spain, King Felipe VI, be considered for the U.S. throne. Making Felipe’s claim even stronger is that he is also descended from the Bourbon king Louis XVI and is the second cousin to France’s Duke Louis Alphonse de Bourbon.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield

5. Jean-Christophe, Prince Napoléon

Remember that time the French people got rid of their king (we just briefly mentioned it)? Eventually, the country was ruled by First Consul – later Emperor – Napoléon Bonaparte. Bonaparte ruled France as it sold its North American possessions to the United States in 1803. Well, he still has living heirs, the most prominent being Jean-Christophe, Prince Napoléon, a descendant of Napoléon’s youngest brother Jérôme, and the Emperor’s great-great-great-great-nephew.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield

Who? seen here with Pope Benedict XVI.

6. Count Maximilian von Götzen-Iturbide

Much of what is today the United States once belonged to Mexico before the U.S. took it in the Mexican War of 1846. At that time, Mexico was ruled by the dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. But before Mexico took on a republican form of government, it was ruled by a legitimate Mexican Emperor, Augustin I. He ruled very briefly before being executed and overthrown, but his living descendants include Count Maximilian von Götzen-Iturbide, the current head of Mexico’s royal family.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield

Who says we can’t have a Queen? Or Tsarina?

7. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna

Given the number of Russian holdings in North America, it’s not crazy to consider a Russian claim to the throne. Russia’s last possession, Alaska, was sold to the United States during the reign of Tsar Alexander II, grandfather to the last official Russian Tsar. As many are aware, the Imperial Romanov’s reign over Russia ended when the family was murdered by Bolsheviks during Russia’s transition to becoming the Soviet Union. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna is now the recognized head of the Imperial Family of Russia, now that there are no more male members of the Romanov Dynasty left.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield

8. Andrew Romanov, Prince of Russia

Wait, I thought I said there were no more male Romanovs? I did, but monarchy is tricky. If it were that simple, there wouldn’t be so many stupid wars about who gets what throne. Prince Andrew is a direct descendant of Tsar Nicholas I, whose reign ended with his death in 1855. His grandmother was Russian Duchess Xenia who fled Russia in 1917 aboard a British warship. Romanov is a World War II veteran of the British Royal Navy who even lived in California for a time.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield

How do you like them apples, your Royal Highness?

9. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

Yes, Queen Elizabeth’s husband, consort of the British Monarch, actually has a claim to the throne of Imperial Russia, and as a result, a weak but possible claim to the fictional throne of the United States. Since Philip is both great-great-grandson of Tsar Nicholas I and grandnephew of the last Tsarina Alexandra Romanov, it gives him a claim to the same lands and titles.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield

Your potential Queen of the United States is in the center, wearing purple.

10. Princess Owana Ka’ohelelani Salazar

If Alaska gives Russia a claim to the throne of the United States, why not Hawaii? Before Hawaii became a U.S. territory by annexation in 1898, it was a sovereign republic, led by American businessman Sanford Dole. Before that, though, it was a sovereign kingdom, ruled by Queen Liliʻuokalani, a native Hawaiian. Though Queen Liliʻuokalani’s dynastic succession ended with her death in 1917, the royal lineage continued, and today the head of the Hawaiian royal family is HRH Princess Owana Ka’ohelelani Salazar, who is also an accomplished steel guitar player.

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Listen to the tango the Red Army used to intimidate the Nazis at Stalingrad

The Battle of Stalingrad is widely considered the turning point for the Soviets on World War II’s Eastern Front, and maybe the entire war. From the rubble of Stalingrad came hundreds of small stories each more difficult to believe – yet, still true.


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

Another eerie, true story to come from the fighting there was the music the Red Army played as propaganda as the two sides fought over the now-infamous city.

In “Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege 1942-1943,” Antony Beevor describes how the NKVD, the Soviet secret police and forerunner to the KGB, set up loudspeakers throughout the city. For weeks, the Soviets played a tango they believed conveyed a sinister mood: “The Tango of Death”

Interspersed with the music was the sounds of a ticking clock and messages in German about how hopeless their position in the city really was or that a German soldier died every seven seconds.

These musical programs were also driven around on vans throughout the city streets. They began with quotes like “Stalingrad, mass grave of Hitler’s army!” then go into the music, clock, and demoralizing quotes. Often times, the ends would be punctuated by the firing of Katyusha rockets at Nazi positions.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield
Katyusha rockets fired during the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942.

The propaganda effect may not have worked the way it was supposed to, but the constant bombardment of audio sure did. The Nazis became increasingly exhausted in “Counting Sheep, the Science and Pleasures of Sleep and Dreams,” Paul Martin quotes German soldiers at Stalingrad, who suffered from extreme exhaustion waiting for the Soviet broadcasts to end.

Doing the math, if a song is roughly four minutes, it will play 15 times in an hour, 360 times in a day, 2,520 times in a week – or 58,680 during the 163-day Battle of Stalingrad. Beevor also notes that the Red Army’s favorite song to play for the visiting Germans was “Zemlyanka” by Aleksey Surkov.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYZGvWqF7hU
Just in case the Germans found “Tango de la Muerte” more than a little upbeat, that is.
MIGHTY HISTORY

The teen who spied on Nazis as she sold them soap

Phyllis “Pippa” Latour Doyle parachuted into Normandy in early May 1944, posed as a teen whose family had moved to the region to escape Allied bombing, and sold soap to German soldiers. 

Meanwhile, she obtained military intelligence about them and encoded it, hiding it on silk she kept in her hair.

A teen used soap to spy on nazis
Soap: Now a weapon against Nazis.

Codenamed Genevieve, Latour was a flight mechanic with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force as a teen. At the age of 23, she was selected for a covert mission, which required training in unarmed combat, weapons, morse code and parajumping. 

In one of her few interviews, she told New Zealand Army News that she joined the fight to honor her godmother’s father, who had been shot by the Nazis.

For months, she lived behind enemy lines, gathering intelligence on German forces. Her father was a French doctor who had married a British citizen living in South Africa. Fluent in French, she lived undercover as a teenage French girl, riding bicycles to pass along her coded messages. 

At one point, she directed the bombing of a German listening post, which resulted in the deaths of a German woman and two children. “I heard I was responsible for their deaths,” she said in her interview. “It was a horrible feeling. I later attended the funeral of a grandmother, her daughter and her two grandchildren, knowing I had indirectly caused their deaths.”

She was detained once by the Germans, who never thought to look for a message knitted into a hair scarf and released her.

After the war, she married an engineer and lived in Kenya, Fiji, Australia and New Zealand. She did not share her military stories; instead, her family learned about her heroics by reading about them online. In 2014, she was presented with France’s highest decoration, an appointment as a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, as part of the 70th anniversary of the battle of Normandy.

In April 2021, she will celebrate her 100th birthday.

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The Army once considered putting the A-10’s BRRRRT! on a tank

The A-10 Thunderbolt II, popularly known as the Warthog, was originally designed as a “tank-killer”. In fact, the entire aircraft was essentially built around a 30 mm rotary cannon, known as the GAU-8 Avenger, a fearsome name for a gun capable of spitting out depleted uranium shells the size of soda bottles designed to shred heavy Soviet tanks and armored personnel carriers into mental confetti.


While the Avenger’s primary use has been as the A-10’s main weapon, seeing combat action from the Persian Gulf War onward, the US Army once considered making this cannon its own by mounting it on the very thing it was created to destroy: tanks.

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General Electric’s concept of the M247 Sergeant York, complete with a shortened version of the Avenger (General Electric)

In the late 1970s, the US Army began looking to replace their aging force of self-propelled anti-aircraft guns with newer, more effective systems that could do a similar job with even more lethality and effectiveness than ever before. The result of this search for new air defense artillery would be fielded alongside the Army’s newest and fighting vehicles — namely the M1 Abrams main battle tank and the M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, as part of the service’s vision for the future.

A competition under the Division Air Defense name was thus created.

The goal of the DIVAD program was to design, build and field a self-propelled air defense gun system, able to engage and shoot down low-flying enemy aircraft with controlled bursts of shells from a cannon mounted on a turret. The system would be manned by a small crew, aided by a radar tracking system that would pick up targets and “slave” the gun to them before firing.  In concept, the DIVAD vehicle could go anywhere, dig in and wait for enemy aircraft to appear, then shoot them down quickly.

One of the various participants in the competition, according to Jane’s Weapon Systems 1988-1989, was General Electric, fresh from designing the GAU-8 Avenger for what would be the Air Force’s next air support attack jet – the A-10 Warthog. General Electric had the bright idea to take a modified version of the Avenger and place it in a turret, configured to hold its weight while moving the cannon around quickly to track and hit new targets as they appeared.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield
The GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling gun next to a VW Type 1. Removing an installed GAU-8 from an A-10 requires first installing a jack under the aircraft’s tail to prevent it from tipping, as the cannon makes up most of the aircraft’s forward weight. (US Air Force photo)

The turret, in turn, would be mated to the chassis of an M48 Patton main battle tank as per program requirements, giving it mobility. Able to spit out shells at a rate of 3900 rounds per minute at an effective range of 4000 feet, the Avenger would’ve been a major threat to the safety of any aircraft in the vicinity, sighted through its radar.

However, General Electric’s entry, referred to as the Air Defense Turret, didn’t advance during the DIVAD program. Instead, Ford and General Dynamics were given prototype production contracts to build their designs for testing, with Ford ultimately winning the competition. Known as the M247 Sergeant York, Ford’s anti-aircraft gun system was much more conventional, significantly lighter and apparently somewhat cheaper to build than the Avenger cannon concept.

However, it under-performed severely, much to the embarrassment of its parent company and the Army.

The DIVAD program soon proved to be an abject failure, with nothing to show for pouring millions into the project and the Sergeant York prototypes. The M247 couldn’t adequately track target drones with its radars, even when the drones were made to hover nearly stationary.

In 1985, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger finally put the program out of its misery, noting that missiles were the future of air defense.

The Avenger cannon nevertheless does serve in a somewhat similar role today, functioning as the core of the Goalkeeper Close-In Weapon System, found on a number of modern warships around the world. Goalkeeper is designed to engage surface-skimming missiles aimed at naval vessels and obliterate them by putting up a “wall of steel” – essentially a massive scattered burst of shells which will hopefully strike and detonate the missile a safe distance away from the ship.

Still, one can’t help but wonder just how incredibly awesome mounting a 30mm Gatling cannon to a tank could have been, had the Army chosen to pursue General Electric’s idea instead of Ford’s.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents in just 8 days

The battle for Shal Mountain, named Operation Rugged Sarak, went from October 8-15, 2011. Shal Mountain sat above Shal Valley and controlled two important supply routes, one vital to coalition forces for resupply and one critical to insurgent smuggling between Pakistan and Afghanistan.


The insurgents controlled the mountain for years, but the men of Bastard Company, 2-27th Infantry Regiment, decided to finally take it from them after the insurgents used it to attack two convoys, killing one Bravo soldier in each of the attacks. The battle for the summit would rage for eight days.

Spc. Jeffrey A. Conn was the medic that responded to the second convoy attack as well as the medic on top of Shal Mountain during the fight for the summit. On the mountaintop, he would earn a Silver Star for saving the lives of at least nine U.S. and Afghan soldiers while also taking the lives of many insurgents — at least 12 in a single attack.

October 11

Conn began the climb up the mountain on Oct. 8 with the rest of first platoon. While a dozen men ran up the mountain carrying minimal gear to begin constructing an outpost that morning, Conn and the bulk of the American platoon arrived on Oct. 11 after fighting up the mountain with the platoon’s heavy weapons and special equipment. Americans on the mountaintop still only numbered 23.

The enemy had made multiple attempts to take the summit before the rest of the platoon arrived, but on the night of Oct. 11 they attacked hard to try and keep the new arrivals from digging in. Using the terrain to sneak up in the dark, insurgents closed to within five meters of the perimeter and began an attack that opened with 12 machine guns firing into the small base. RPGs and recoilless rifle rounds pelted the defenders as they took cover and attempted to return fire.

 

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield
A 101st Airborne Division medic engages targets in the Shal Valley in 2010. Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell

Conn climbed a Hesco barrier on the southern flank and began throwing grenades at enemy positions before initiating claymores positioned around the base. The platoon was ordered to collapse the perimeter. As Conn fell back, he saw RPGs striking the platoon’s Mk-19 fighting position, so he rushed to it and looked for wounded before moving to cover. Conn’s actions are credited with preventing the southern flank from collapsing and saving the lives of 30 Afghan and American defenders.

October 12

Enemy fire throughout the day had harassed the American forces, but the main effort to push the Americans from the mountaintop began in the late evening. Conn was nearly taken out in the opening salvo as RPGs and machine gun fire impacted within inches of him, according to his Silver Star citation. Conn moved first to the command and control position when he saw that the platoon’s radio was unmanned. He sent reports to the headquarters so they could coordinate the battle until he saw enemy fighters maneuvering their way into the outpost. Conn moved to a nearby 60mm mortar tube, put it in direct fire mode, and began engaging the fighters. He killed 12 of them.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield
A 101st Airborne Division medic scans his sector in the Shal Valley in 2010. Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell

On this day, another U.S. soldier struck two insurgents with a TOW missile, killing both of them. One was an Afghan commander whose death would become a rallying cry for the insurgents.

October 13

The following afternoon, the enemy launched its strongest attack of the battle after a funeral for the dead commander. Enemy elements managed to stage a base 100 meters from the OP, hiding in dips in the terrain. Enemy mortar and machine gun fire rained down onto the base. Two 82mm mortar rounds struck a fighting position on the northern flank, severely wounding five U.S. and three Afghan soldiers.

Conn rushed to the position from the opposite side of the OP, exposed to fire the entire way. He quickly stabilized the worst Afghan casualty. As the enemy focused on the new weak point in the flank and sniper fire pelted the ground near him, Conn engaged the assaulting forces with grenades before throwing smoke and pulling the casualties back to the casualty collection point. The casualty collection point gave little cover to the medic, but he stabilized his nine patients, the eight from the northern flank and another from elsewhere on the OP. All nine patients survived and Conn’s actions were again credited with preventing the collapse of a flank, saving the OP.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield
A 101st Airborne Division medic escorts a casualty off of a hilltop in the Shal Valley in 2010. Photo: Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell

Late that evening, amid accurate sniper fire from a nearby mountain, an air ambulance tried to evacuate some of the wounded. The flight medic, Staff Sgt. Robert B. Cowdrey, approached the helicopter from the front while bringing the casualties to the bird and was struck by a rotor blade. Conn arrived on site first, stabilizing the other medic and recovering the five other wounded on the flight line. The helicopter had left the landing zone amid enemy fire, and Conn kept the injured soldier alive for thirty minutes while waiting for another Medevac. Staff Sgt. Cowdrey later died of his wounds.

After the fierce attacks of that day, every member of the platoon showed signs of traumatic brain injury.

October 14

On Oct. 14, first platoon was finally being relieved of their duties on the mountain, but the enemy wasn’t ready to let them go. While the platoon sergeant was supervising the removal of equipment down the mountain, the insurgents sent ten suicide bombers under machine gun and sniper cover fire against the OP.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield
A 101st Airborne Division medic engages targets in the Shal Valley in 2010. Photo: US Army Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell

Conn took fire inside his firing position, but still further exposed himself by climbing out of it to check on other members of the platoon. After making a circuit to treat the wounded in their positions, he moved to the mortar pit and assisted in firing 60mm rounds against enemy positions while fully exposed to the continuing sniper fire. When the enemy came within range, he again threw fragmentation grenades into the advancing forces.

Combined with M4 fire from the platoon sergeant, this effort killed the suicide bombers before they could breach the OP. The enemy survivors soon began retreating into Pakistan.

In total during the Battle of Shal Mountain, 115 enemy fighters were confirmed killed and the U.S. lost two soldiers: the flight medic from the mountaintop and a wolfhound operator who was working near the middle of the mountain.

(h/t to Matt Millham of Stars and Stripes who wrote about this battle from the point of view of Staff Sgt. Anthony Fuentes, platoon sergeant for Spc. Conn. Staff Sgt. Fuentes also received the Silver Star for his leadership during the battle.)

NOW: 10 incredible Post-9/11 combat medics who risked their lives to save others

OR: 7 things you didn’t know about the First Battle of Fallujah

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President Trump proclaims Armed Forces Day

In a proclamation signed before he left on the first foreign trip, President Donald Trump proclaimed the third Saturday of May to be Armed Forces Day.


“For almost 70 years, our Nation has set aside one day to recognize the great debt we owe to the men and women who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard,” Trump said in a statement. “On Armed Forces Day, we salute the bravery of those who defend our Nation’s peace and security.  Their service defends for Americans the freedom that all people deserve.”

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(DOD Poster)

According to the Department of Defense website, the celebration of Armed Forces Day first began in 1950, following a proclamation on Aug. 31, 1949, by then-Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson. Johnson’s intention was to replace separate holidays for the Navy, Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force.

“I invite the Governors of the States and Territories and other areas subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to provide for the observance of Armed Forces Day within their jurisdiction each year in an appropriate manner designed to increase public understanding and appreciation of the Armed Forces of the United States.  I also invite veterans, civic, and other organizations to join in the observance of Armed Forces Day each year,” Trump said in the proclamation, which has been issued by his predecessors in virtually the same form, including George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield
West Point U.S. Military Academy cadets march in the 58th Presidential Inauguration Parade in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Trump’s proclamation did make special note of the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I, citing the 4.7 million Americans who served in that conflict. Trump also re-tweeted a Defense Department tweet featuring a video.

“Finally, I call upon all Americans to display the flag of the United States at their homes and businesses on Armed Forces Day, and I urge citizens to learn more about military service by attending and participating in the local observances of the day,” Trump’s proclamation concluded.

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

Germany had laughably bad stealth aircraft in World War I

During World War I, Germany set out to make the first stealth aircraft and successfully did so, creating multiple invisible planes in 1912 that later saw combat deployment in World War I.

Unfortunately for the pilots, though the planes were invisible from the ground, they were often the single-most visible objects in the sky — particularly so when engulfed in flames.


That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield

A German plane with see through wings and fuselage. These were found to be nearly invisible from the ground, but easy to spot when sun glanced off the reflective surfaces.

The problem is easy to understand. German engineers wanted the ultimate camouflage, and they went searching for a see-through material that could withstand the rigors of flight. They settled on a translucent cellon acetate, a cellulose product with qualities similar to movie film.

The canvas on early planes was swapped out with this clear material. The engine, pilot, and frame were all still visible, but the target was nearly invisible when viewed from the ground given that the planes were flying at 900 feet or higher. Even at lower altitudes, they were difficult to see and target.

From the sky, however, pilots ran into a very real problem.

The material was highly reflective of direct sunlight. So, when an enemy was approaching from a variety of angles, the sunlight would reflect off the wings and light up the plane like a beacon for anyone paying even minor attention to their surroundings.

Without radar, planes were already essentially invisible at night. So, stealth was supposed to revolutionize the daytime environment — see the issue here? The stealth technology was all but useless if the sun caused it to backfire completely.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield

A Fokker 2 plane equipped with invisible skin.

For their part, the Germans knew that they had a problematic technology on their hands, and they largely shelved the invention, returning to a canvas body for most of their planes.

Still, the cellon planes were deployed during World War I and their combat record was even worse than you might expect. That’s largely because it was applied to possibly the worst candidate for cellon imaginable: a massive bomber of the Riesenflugzeug family.

A bomber would likely be the most valuable plane to turn invisible, but cellon shrinks and expands based on humidity and temperature, things that often vary in flight. Because the bomber was massive, that shrinking and expanding greatly affected the way the bomber flew.

The problem was that the plane already ran hot; four large engines mounted on the fuselage filled it with heat. Add to this an intense amount of sunlight passing through the clear fuselage and the result was a plane that was nearly unpilotable.

Something worth mentioning, though it didn’t end up affecting the bomber, is that cellon is highly flammable. So, if anything had gone wrong, it would’ve been a Hindenburg-style conflagration.

That time a Canadian invented an e-tool that doubled as a shield

A German Riesenflugzeug bomber with transparent panels. Pilots flew from the third deck at the front and had to deal with the horrendous heat and the shifting control surfaces.

The plane took two flights during the war. During the first, the shifting cellon made the plane controls impossible to work. The pilot tried to land the plane but couldn’t tell just how far the plane extended beneath him. He crashed and the plane was badly damaged.

The second flight went much worse — the plane’s wings just fell off. One crew member was killed.

Cellon stealth was not the wave of the future they wanted it to be — not that it would’ve helped Germany much. By World War II, radar was the new rage, and cellon wouldn’t have helped much, even given perfect conditions.

But that would’ve been great. Convincing the Nazis to fly planes made of highly flammable materials that changed size and shape during flight and sometimes just lost their wings would’ve been the a joy for the Allies.

“Hey, Luftwaffe, congrats on the invisible planes. Please, send as many pilots in as many planes as you can.”

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5 ‘Game of Thrones’ battles and massacres based on real history

Warning: “Game of Thrones” spoilers ahead.


  • HBO’s “Game of Thrones” includes numerous historical allusions.
  • Some of the references are more obvious than others.
  • “A Song of Ice and Fire” author George R.R. Martin has frequently expressed his own interest in history.

As they say, truth is often stranger than fiction.

That’s something that “A Song of Ice and Fire” author George R.R. Martin — whose work was adapted into HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones — clearly understands.

Related: 7 reasons the Night’s Watch is basically the French Foreign Legion

In one interview with author Bernard Cornwell, Martin even said that “the historical novel and the epic fantasy are sisters under the skin.”

So it’s not surprising that his most famous work is chock full of historical allusions.

Here are just a few historical references included in “Game of Thrones”:

The fight between the Starks and the Lannisters should ring a bell for any medieval scholar

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HBO

The War of the Roses might not have a terribly intimidating name, but it was a bloody conflict that sent England spiraling into disunity and chaos during the latter part of the fifteenth century.

The war was primarily fought between the House of York and the House of Lancaster.

Sound familiar?

Like their fictional counterparts, the Lancaster faction won the war after much death and scheming.

However, ultimately, it was the House of Tudor that prevailed and won the throne. They adopted the Tudor rose as their emblem, a combination of the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster.

The Battle of the Bastards is a twist on a famous Carthaginian victory

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HBO

“The Battle of the Bastards,” which saw the noble-hearted Jon Snow face off against the wicked Ramsay Bolton, was one of the most raved-about episodes of season 6.

The numerous immersive, intense battle scenes kicked this episode into high gear for many viewers.

The whole thing also likely looked rather familiar to classical scholars.

That’s because the showrunners mirrored the whole clash on the Battle of Cannae, as Kristen Acuna wrote for Tech Insider.

That famous 216 CE battle is now regarded as one of the most impressive tactical victories of all time. After spending two years rampaging about the Italian peninsula, Carthaginian leader Hannibal Barca cemented his status as a military legend by surrounding and defeating his enemies with a much smaller force.

Ramsay’s forces used a similar pincer movement during the Battle of the Bastards. Jon was ultimately able to subvert the historical model and break free of Ramsay’s circle of death, with the help of reinforcements from the Eyrie.

In Hannibal’s case, the Roman legions were butchered, leaving up to 70,000 dead, including Roman consul Lucius Aemilius Paullus.

Paullus’ son-in-law Scipio Africanus would ultimately defeat Hannibal once and for all at Zama.

The Boltons share their habit of skinning people alive with an ancient regime

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HBO

Getting flayed alive is probably one of the worst ways to go out.

So it’s no surprise that skinning people was a favorite past-time of Ramsay Bolton — one of the worst characters to ever grace the small screen.

But this antagonist’s gruesome hobby didn’t simply come from the dark side of Martin’s imagination.

In fact, one ancient kingdom was famous for skinning its enemies.

According to the blog History Buff, the Assyrian King Ashurnasirpal II claimed to have “flayed as many nobles as had rebelled against me and draped their skins over the pile of corpses; some I spread out within the pile, some I erected on stakes upon the pile … I flayed many right through my land and draped their skins over the walls.”

Yikes.

Westeros’ colossal ice wall has a real-world counterpart

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HBO

Martin first thought of the Wall on a trip to Scotland.

“I stood on Hadrian’s Wall and tried to imagine what it would be like to be a Roman soldier sent here from Italy or Antioch,” Martin told the SF Site. “To stand here, to gaze off into the distance, not knowing what might emerge from the forest.”

Hadrian’s Wall was hardly an imposing ice wall. And it didn’t protect England from scary, winter zombies. Construction on it began in 122 CE, ostensibly to separate the Romans from the native Britons.

The blog “The History Behind Game of Thrones” explains that the Westerosi Wall and the initial treatment of the Wildlings mirrors “the Roman perception of the native Britons as the ‘Other’ — a distancing strategy employed to dehumanize, alienate, exclude and justify ill treatment of groups outside of one’s own.”

There have been several Red Wedding-style attacks throughout the centuries

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The Red Wedding traumatized fans, and will likely be remembered as the bloodiest, most harrowing party to ever grace television.

A strikingly similar attack took place in Ireland in 1574.

An Irish chieftain named Sir Brian mac Felim Ó Néill ruled over the kingdom of Clannabuidhe and had previously been knighted by the English Crown. When he lost the Queen’s favor, he began to fight against the English invaders. Eventually, however, he invited Walter Devereux, the Earl of Essex, to his castle to discuss peace terms over a Christmas feast, according to Wayne E. Lee’s “Barbarians and Brothers.”

At the Earl’s signal, Sir Brian, his wife, and the rest of his family were seized, while 200 of their followers were indiscriminately slaughtered.

Sir Brian Ó Néill and his family were all subsequently executed.

A similar situation occurred in Scotland, during the 1692 Massacre of Glencoe.

Captain Robert Campbell and 120 of his men were given hospitality at Clan MacDonalds’ castle. After two weeks, a message arrived ordering Campbell to attack, according to Britannica.

One winter’s night, the soldiers played cards with their victims and bid them pleasant dreams, as usual. Then they massacred all the MacDonald men they could find, including the chief.

Another Red Wedding-esque incident — the similarly-named Black Dinner — went down in Scotland in 1440. Advisers of the 10-year-old King James II grew concerned that Clan Douglas was growing too bold and powerful, according to the Week.

These advisers invited the 16-year-old Earl of Douglas and his younger brother to come over to Edinburgh Castle. The king and the Douglases had an enjoyable time. Nothing seemed amiss.

Then, at the end of the dinner, the severed head of a bull — a symbol of Clan Douglas — was tossed on the table. Like the “Rains of Castamere” at the Red Wedding, this was the signal. Much to the young king’s horror, his two friends were dragged outside, put through a mock trial, and decapitated.

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