Every great museum needs a wooden leg - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Every great museum needs a wooden leg

The Illinois State Military Museum is dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of military artifacts associated with Illinois. The museum is located in Springfield. Its mission is to conserve the long heritage of the Illinois National Guard. The IL NG unofficially got its start back in 1718. Back then, Illinois was still under French rule. But residents of the state weren’t too happy about it. So they banded together, and in typical American fashion, decided to make some changes. It was small at the start but by 1723, the Illinois National Guard included several militia companies. They’ve been drilling ever since. That makes the Illinois National Guard almost 300 years old!

Every great museum should have a wooden leg

The Illinois National Guard has been a significant contributor to every major conflict with US involvement. Of the many noteworthy events that included the Illinois National Guard, a few stand out. For instance, during the Black Hawk War in 1832, Abraham Lincoln served as a Guardsman. Of course, he remains their most famous Guardsman to date. The Illinois State Military Museum showcases a target board shot at by Lincoln from all the way back then.

Another great example of Illinois National Guard history includes the 4th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment Soldiers during the Mexican-American War. At the Mexican Battle of Cerro Gordo in 1847, Infantry Soldiers captured Mexican General Santa Anna. General Santa Anna’s wooden leg is now kept at the Illinois State Military Museum as one of its most popular artifacts. 

Though he is known mostly as a celebrated poet and the biographer of Abraham Lincoln, Carl Sandburg also has some military history. His strong sense of patriotism led him to enlist as a Private in the Illinois National Guard during the Spanish-American War. Now, you can find his military experiences at the Illinois State Military Museum. His poems you’ll have to find somewhere else, though.

Always there when you need a hand…

display case at a military museum
A new display case down on the first floor of the Museum, this one dedicated to the arms and equipment of the Illinois National Guard in the Pacific Theater during World War Two. (Illinois State Military Museum, Facebook)

Throughout its history, the Illinois National Guard has provided a force ready to respond to incidents both state and national. More recently, the NG’s role has been to help out during non-conflicts, like the Great Flood of 1993, where more than 7,000 Soldiers and Airmen rose to the occasion as record flooding from five major rivers occurred across the state. And then, after 9/11, the Illinois National Guard played an important role in battling the GWOT. But their work is never done. In 2005, they assisted during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and then again in 2011 for Hurricane Irene. 

With the continuous involvement of the Illinois National Guard in state and US affairs, the Illinois State Military Museum is necessary to preserve and share this diverse and expansive Military history. And it’s not over yet. Today, the Illinois National Guard has about 10,000 Soldiers in its ranks. It is a part of the US Army and the US National Guard and includes the Illinois Air National Guard as well as the Illinois Army National Guard. In other words, they continue to be a pretty big deal.

Related: Here’s more proof that the Infantry is the Queen of Battle.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How we got a pilot’s-eye view of dogfights in the Korean War

If you’ve watched documentaries about the battles of World War II, the Korean War, or the Vietnam War, then chances are you’ve seen gun-camera footage. Whether it’s air-to-air or air-to-ground action, these attention-grabbing videos give us an idea of the intensity of combat aviation — but how do we get them?


In this day and age, we’re lucky to have plenty of digital tools to easily capture footage, download it to a hard drive, and upload it to YouTube or some other cloud storage service. Back in the day, however, all they had was film — and this film was often very useful. It gave intelligence officers some idea of what the pilots actually did. After all, it wasn’t unusual for a fired-up pilot to inflate their kill counts upon return.

But it wasn’t always easy to get that film.

Every great museum needs a wooden leg

This gun-camera footage from a Navy F9F Panther shows a MiG-15 in its last few seconds of life.

(US Navy)

The process was a lengthy one. The film was first taken to a central processing laboratory. To save space, the film was placed in a number of magazines and then placed into one large roll. Loading that roll had to be done in total darkness. Why? In order to view film, it must first be developed and if the film is exposed to light prematurely, it’s ruined.

The entire process included rinsing to fully process the negatives, editing the processed negatives (which was done without computers, by the way), adding timestamps, and more. All in all, there were ten steps, including a test screening.

Every great museum needs a wooden leg

This is the final product of a long process done by specialists who did hard work.

(Jeff Quitney / YouTube)

You can see how some Air Force specialists did this job during the Korean War in the video below. As an added bonus, after they give you a run-down of all the developmental steps, you get to see a MiG-15 in the sights of a F-86 Sabre’s gun-camera. The folks who made it possible for you to see that footage never faced enemy fire, but they certainly worked almost as hard as the Sabre’s pilot did!

Check out the video below to see how we get that intense footage.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMBGbrLBjE4

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY HISTORY

Being assigned to a bomber crew in WWII was basically a death sentence

During the peak of WWII, being a member of a heavy bomber crew meant you were incredibly brave, and you put your country over yourself — it was that dangerous.


Many considered the occupation to be a death sentence. Nearly 71 percent of the bomber’s crew were either killed or labeled as missing in action, which accounts for approximately 100,000 service members.

Related: These Nazi bunkers were one of the most secure outposts of WWII

One of Germany’s primary defenses against allied bombers was their massive array of anti-aircraft guns. The German ground forces commonly fired at the passing bombers even if they didn’t have a clear line of sight due to overcast conditions.

Typically, the bombers had to fly right through the multiple volleys of gunfire, but it was the “waist-gunners” who absorbed the majority of the shrapnel, as they were positioned near an open window in the rear of the plane.

 

Every great museum needs a wooden leg

Damage to the “waist-gunner” area of the bomber accounted 21.6 percent of all the hits the plane took.

The image below shows what areas the heavy bomber was most likely to be hit by the enemies’ air-defense systems according to World War Wings’ video.

Every great museum needs a wooden leg
There didn’t appear to be a single safe place to hide while on a WWII bomber. (Source: World War Wings/Screenshot)

Also Read: These were the real-life Wonder Women who fought in the world’s bitterest wars

Check out World War Wings‘ video below to see all the statistics for yourself.

(YouTube, World War Wings)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Bill Guarnere and Babe Heffron are immortalized in Band of Brothers

Staff Sgt. William “Wild Bill” Guarnere and Pfc. Edward “Babe” Heffron’s stories were immortalized on screen by HBO’s miniseries Band of Brothers. The 2001 TV show follows the exploits of the famed Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division which both men served in during WWII. Despite growing up just a few blocks from each other in South Philadelphia, Guarnere and Heffron did not meet until WWII and Easy Company brought them together in Europe. Their meeting is depicted in Band of Brothers’ third episode, Carentan.

Following their meeting, Guarnere and Heffron became close friends. They fought together in Holland during Operation Market Garden and in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge. Guarnere lost his right leg during the latter battle while trying to drag another friend, Staff Sgt. Joe Toye, to safety after he lost his own right leg. Both Guarnere and Heffron survived the war and left the Army in 1945.

Afterwards, Guarnere and Heffron returned to their hometown of South Philly. Despite the loss of his leg, Guarnere worked odd jobs until he secured full disability from the Army. He became an active member of numerous veterans organizations and presided over many of Easy Company’s reunions. Moreover, he was best man at Heffron’s wedding in 1954 and was godfather to Heffron’s daughter. Heffron worked for Publicker Industries and later as a clerk and cargo checker on the Philly waterfront. Both men gave interviews and provided guidance on the making of Band of Brothers. Heffron even has a cameo in the fourth episode, Replacements, as a Dutch man waving a small flag as the troopers enter Eindhoven. Together, they later wrote a book about their experiences with Easy Company in Europe. Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends: Two WWII Paratroopers from the Original Band of Brothers Tell Their Story was published in 2007.

Every great museum needs a wooden leg
Heffron (center-left) and Guarnere (center-right) on the set of Band of Brothers with the actors that depicted them (HBO)

The two men remained close friends until Heffron’s death on December 1, 2013. A bronze statue called “Babe” was erected in his honor in 2015. The statue stands in front of Herron Playground at the corner of 2nd and Reed in South Philly. A portion of Heffron’s and his wife’s ashes are encased in a bronze heart inside of the statue. Guarnere passed away just a few months after Heffron on March 8, 2014. In 2019, the “Babe” statue was joined by “Wild Bill”, a second bronze statue that depicts Guarnere. The two friends and brothers in arms are reunited and immortalized in bronze in their hometown.

The statues, and Band of Brothers itself, pay tribute to the brave men that they depict and remind people today of their sacrifices. “Generations of Philadelphians will now be able to visit these statues dedicated to war heroes and close friends who bravely served their country,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. “They’ll be able to remember and honor Wild Bill and Babe as well as the many active duty and veteran soldiers who have risked their lives to keep all of us safe.”

Band of Brothers characters honored as statues
“Wild Bill” (left) and “Babe” (right) with flags and wreathes for Veterans Day (Miguel Ortiz)
popular

The insane way the first cosmonaut got back to Earth

The very first man to go to space was a Soviet cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, who rose to the top of his class thanks to his stunning memory, quick reactions, and poise during emergencies. That poise would come in handy since his spacecraft couldn’t survive re-entry, used compromised design components, and ultimately took the astronaut through an 8g spin cycle on his way back to Earth.


Vostok 1

The first manned space mission was launched with Vostok 1, and Yuri Gagarin at the helm. Gagarin had trained for years to be the first human to leave the atmosphere and had gotten the mission because his peers in cosmonaut training had voted that he was the best choice.

But it was a dangerous honor. After all, only animals had entered space before, and the U.S. and Soviet Union had less than stellar records of getting mammals back alive.

And the plan for getting Gagarin back wasn’t one to inspire confidence. First, while Gagarin had been selected partially based on his reflexes, he was locked out of the controls. And it wasn’t certain the spacecraft could slow itself down during re-entry. Instead, it relied on Gagarin ejecting at almost 4.5 miles above the Earth, right after he dealt with all the tumult of hitting the atmosphere.

As a bonus, there was a chance that the controls would simply fail in space, so Gagarin flew with 10 days worth of food in case he had to wait until his orbit decayed naturally.

Every great museum needs a wooden leg
Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space and first man to orbit this beautiful blue orb. (NASA archives)

 

The actual launch on April 12, 1961, went well. The rocket made it into space, the launch vehicle broke away, and Gagarin rode through one orbit of the Earth. So far, so good. But then, the service module failed to separate from the spacecraft.

When the two-module spacecraft hit the atmosphere, the modules tumbled around each other and began to burn up.

“I was in a cloud of fire rushing toward Earth,” he later said.

After about 10 minutes, the cable burned up and Gagarin’s spacecraft re-oriented itself slowly. Freshly drained from a trip around the Earth and an 8g flaming tumble through the atmosphere, Gagarin had to pull himself together and get to work quickly or else he could die on impact like some animals in prior tests.

Every great museum needs a wooden leg
Yuri Gagarin’s space capsule sits in a museum. (SiefkinDR, CC BY-SA 3.0)

 

Because, again, the capsule had little protection for the cosmonaut, and he couldn’t be certain he would survive the capsule’s impact with the Earth. So he had to activate his ejection seat almost 4.5 miles up. Gagarin and his capsule traveled separately from there. Gagarin landed near a farm and walked up, in full orange spacesuit and helmet, to the farmers for help.

He was quickly named a Hero of the Soviet Union and put on a high shelf where he couldn’t be broken. He was able to lobby for a potential return to space though, but a tragic training accident ended his life while he was still preparing for the mission.

On March 27, 1968, he was piloting a MiG-15, entered a steep dive, and crashed into a forest. An investigation in 2010 concluded that a vent was left partially open. This vent was supposed to be closed as the plane entered high-altitude flight so the pilots would have enough air in the cockpit. The investigator supposed that Gagarin and his co-pilot entered a steep dive to get back to a safe altitude to close the vent, but passed out and could never pull out of it.

(As a fun side note, Gagarin asked the bus to stop for him to piss while he was on the way to Vostok 1. Cosmonauts today remember him by taking a leak on their way to the launchpad.)

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 oft-forgotten helicopters of the Korean War

The helicopter is seemingly tied forever with the Vietnam War, so it’s easy to forget that it actually got its start in World War II, hit its stride in Korea, and that Vietnam was just an expansion on those earlier successes. But while helicopters are often forgotten in the context of Korea (except for you MASH fans), there were six different models flying around the frozen peninsula.


Every great museum needs a wooden leg

(San Diego Air and Space Museum)

H-13 Sioux

The H-13 Sioux was the first helicopter deployed to Korea with the 2nd Helicopter Detachment in November 1950 where it served in utility, reconnaissance, and transportation missions. But just a few months later in January 1951, it made history as the primary air ambulance for American forces in the war, transporting 18,000 of America’s 23,000 casualties in the war.

Every great museum needs a wooden leg

(U.S. Army)

OH-23 Raven

The H-23 Raven helicopter also conducted medical evacuation missions after it arrived in Korea in early 1951. These would become more famous for their observation role, serving as artillery scouts in Korea. But they pressed on after the war’s end and helped map out landing zones for UH-1s in Vietnam, though they were quickly replaced by more Hueys and Cobras in that war.

Sikorsky HO3S-1 Rescue, 1951

www.youtube.com

H-5/HO3S-1

The U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force were heavily invested in Sikorsky’s S-51 helicopter, dubbed the H-5 by the Air Force and the HO3S-1 by the Marine Corps and Navy, when the war broke out. The Air Force and Marines quickly sent their helicopters into combat where they provided aerial platforms for commanders and conducted frequent rescues. They also served as observers for naval artillery and scooped up pilots who had fallen in the sea.

Every great museum needs a wooden leg

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Robert E. Kiser)

H-19 Chickasaw/HRS-2

The H-19 Chickasaw was used by Marine Corps and Army units to airlift supplies and troops into combat as well as to shift casualties out. These were large, dual-rotor helicopters similar to today’s Chinook. While not as strong as its modern counterpart, the Chickasaw could carry up to six litter patients and a nurse when equipped as an air ambulance, or eight fully equipped soldiers when acting as a transport.

Model 47

The Model 47 was the civilian predecessor to the H-13 and was essentially identical. The Navy used the Model 47 primarily in training new helicopter pilots but also in utility and medical evacuation roles, very similar to the more common H-13 Sioux in the war.

Every great museum needs a wooden leg

(James Emery, CC BY 2.0)

HUP-1/H-25 Mule

The HUP-1 began its life as a Navy bird when it was designed in 1945 to satisfy a requirement for carrier search and rescue. The initial HUP-1 design gave way to the HUP-2 which also served in anti-submarine, passenger transport, and cargo roles. The Air Force helped the Army buy the helicopter in 1951 as a cargo carrier and air ambulance designated the H-25 Mule, and it served extensively in Korea in these roles.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how to safely land NASA’s bomber with an engine out

When soaring through the skies, thousands of feet above the ground, the last thing a pilot wants to deal with a faulty engine. Those in single-engine jets are typically left with one option: Getting out of the plane. For most military planes, this means it’s time to grab the “loud handle” and trigger the ejection seat.

But if you’re in a multi-engine plane, you have a chance to bring the plane back safely. The key word here is chance.


How big or small that chance is depends greatly on circumstance. What type of plane is it? How did the engine go out? Is there any other damage to the plane? How well-trained is the pilot?

Every great museum needs a wooden leg

B-57 Canberra bombers were tricky enough to fly — when both engines worked.

(USAF)

This last question is crucial. Flying a plane back to base with an engine out is no simple task. The thrust propelling a plane is going to be very different — and if you don’t adjust, you’ll lose control.

One plane for which that recovery is especially tricky is the B-57, three of which are still in service with NASA today. The plane, when fully functional, is very touchy — as evidenced by its high accident rate. This plane has two engines, so if you lose one, you lose half your thrust. What remains is uneven. So, pilots had to be specially trained for such an event — but conducting that training in the plane could make for some very costly lessons.

Every great museum needs a wooden leg

NASA has three B-57s in its inventory — including this one, with the tail number 928.

(NASA)

Check out the video below from 1955 to see how pilots were trained to conduct a single-engine landing. The instructions might be over 50 years old, but some lessons are timeless.

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

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Navy almost blew up the President of the United States

If you mess up just one glorious time in the U.S. military, your friends and peers will never let you forget it. It’s always been this way, even in World War II. From November 1943 until she was lost in 1945, the destroyer USS William D. Porter was greeted by home ports and other U.S. Navy ships with: “Don’t shoot, we’re Republicans!” That’s what happens when you almost assassinate the President.


Every great museum needs a wooden leg

Yes, that President.

In 1943, the USS Iowa was ferrying President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull, along with the top brass of the entire United States military in the middle of the biggest, most dangerous war ever. It was a very special, important mission. They were on their way to meet their Allied counterparts in Cairo and Tehran, including British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin.

The whole thing was almost derailed by one torpedo fired at the Iowa, by a destroyer in the Iowa’s own convoy, the William D. Porter. And it was a fast-running, powerful 500-pound torpedo.

Every great museum needs a wooden leg

“Whoops.”

The Porter was a hard-luck ship that hadn’t even seen combat yet. As she left Norfolk, she scraped the side of her sister ship, almost tearing her apart. While on convoy duty crossing the Atlantic, one of her depth charges slipped out of its hold and detonated, sending the convoy into a tizzy. Later, a large wave washed everything on the destroyer’s deck into the ocean, including a sailor that was never found. Once things calmed down a bit, the crews settled in for some target practice as the President watched on.

The Iowa launched target balloons, which the ships fired at in turn, including the Porter. Next, the skipper of the Porter ordered torpedo practice with Iowa as the target. But when the simulated order to fire a torpedo accidentally launched an armed torpedo, the bridge understandably flipped out.

Every great museum needs a wooden leg

Yes, that USS Iowa.

Under strict radio silence to avoid attracting German u-boats, the crew of the Porter began to furiously signal Iowa. Unfortunately, in their haste, they mentioned nothing about a torpedo, instead telling the battleship that the destroyer was backing up at full speed. Eventually, they radioed the Iowa anyway. After a brief disagreement about radio procedures, the huge battleship moved out of the way of the oncoming torpedo, which exploded in the wake of the battleship, with President Roosevelt aware of the torpedo and watching it come.

The guns of the battleship turned on the William D. Porter. The ship was ordered to make its way to Bermuda, its entire ship’s company under arrest. It was surrounded by U.S. Marines when it arrived in Bermuda. The crew was dismissed to landward assignments, and its skipper was sentenced to 14 years in prison – a sentence President Roosevelt commuted to no punishment because he considered it an averted accident.

Every great museum needs a wooden leg

The “WIllie Dee” sinks in the Pacific, June 1945.

The destroyer itself would go on fighting the war while continuing its hard luck, accidentally shooting down American planes and strafing her sister ship with gunfire. In June 1945, a Japanese kamikaze pilot who missed his initial target sank into the sea next to the Porter. It exploded directly underneath the ship, however, and sent her to the bottom.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This cockpit video shows the moment two Navy Tomcats shot down Libyan MiGs

One of the more constant sources of action for the United States Navy in the 1980s was the Gulf of Sidra.


On three occasions, “freedom of navigation” exercises turned into violent encounters, an operational risk that all such exercises have. The 1989 incident where two F-14 Tomcats from VF-32, based on board the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) is very notable – especially since the radio communications and some of the camera footage was released at the time.

 

Every great museum needs a wooden leg
U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Todd Frantom via Wikimedia Commons

 

In 1981, two Su-22 Fitters had fired on a pair of Tomcats. The F-14s turned around and blasted the Fitters out of the sky. Five years later, the Navy saw several combat engagements with Libyan navy assets and surface-to-air missile sites.

 

Every great museum needs a wooden leg

 

In the 1989 incident, the Tomcats made five turns to try to avoid combat, according to TheAviationist.com. The Floggers insisted, and ultimately, the Tomcat crews didn’t wait for hostile fire.

Like Han Solo at the Mos Eisley cantina, they shot first.

 

Every great museum needs a wooden leg
An air-to-air right side view of a Soviet MiG-23 Flogger-G aircraft with an AA-7 Apex air-to-air missile attached to the outer wing pylon and an AA-8 Aphid air-to-air missile on the inner wing pylon. (From Soviet Military Power 1985)

So, here is the full video of the incident – from the time contact was acquired to when the two Floggers went down.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A single map shows how crazy successful the OSS was in France

The Office of Strategic Services, the World War II-era agency that preceded the CIA and many special operations units, deployed teams into France for months starting just before D-Day. A map slide produced after the war showed just how insanely successful the 423 men assigned to the mission in France were.


Every great museum needs a wooden leg

(National Archives and Record Administration)

We’ve previously written about the “Jedburgh” teams, commandos from the U.S., Britain, France, and other countries who deployed into France to counter the Nazis. This mission officially kicked off June 5 as the teams jumped in just hours before the larger D-Day invasion.

These teams contained only two to four personnel each, but they partnered with local resistance forces and protected key infrastructure needed by the invading forces while also harassing or destroying German forces attempting to reinforce the defenses.

But the Jedburghs weren’t the only Allied commandos on the ground. The OSS deployed 21 Operational Groups into France as well as two into Norway. These teams were supposed to contain four officers and 30 enlisted troops, though shortages of trained personnel led to many teams deploying at about half strength.

These original OGs operated as guerrilla bands, destroying German infrastructure and conducting ambushes and hit and run against Nazi formations. They deployed with their own medical support and were well trained in infantry tactics, guerrilla operations, demolition, airborne operations, and more.

These two forces, the OGs and the Jedburgh Teams, were the primary OSS muscle, providing 355 of the OSS’s 423 men in France. As the map above shows, they deployed across France and inflicted almost 1,000 casualties against German forces and destroyed dozens of vehicles and bridges.

And the OGs were tightly partnered with the French Maquis, a partisan group that resisted the Nazis. The Maquis and OGs captured over 10,000 prisoners.

Not bad for a force with less than 500 members.

It’s easy to see why the post-war government re-built the OSS capabilities. Even though the OSS was broken up, the modern military’s special operations units, the CIA, and other teams now carry on the missions and legacy of the OSS, including the OGs and Jedburgh teams.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Censorship in the time of war: How the DoD controlled information

The War Office has the unique ability to censor letters, media reports and controls the flow of information from forward-deployed units to the general public. While most military members know this inherently, it might surprise you to understand how censorship got its legs in America and what it looks like today.

With all likelihood, there was probably some censorship happening during the Civil War, but because so many service personnel were illiterate, it’s hard to know exact numbers. But there had to be some censorship since often letters crossed into enemy territory. But the real start to military censorship started during WWI and the Espionage Act of 1917.


This act allowed the government to fine citizens for interference with recruiting troops or the refusal to perform military duties. The charge came with a fine of $10,000 and 20 years in prison. Within six months of the act being signed, there were over 1,000 people imprisoned.

The Sedition Act of 1918 meant that it became a crime to criticize the government, the Constitution, the flag, or the uniform of men in military service. This applied to both speeches and writing. Under the two laws, thousands of people were imprisoned for acts of nonviolent protest against the war. Additionally, at least 75 newspapers lost mailing privileges and were under governmental pressure to change their outward-facing editorial attitudes.

President Wilson went so far as to create a Committee on Public Information. This committee created a “voluntary censorship code” with newspaper journalists. The committee released a sanitized version of the news to over 6,000 newspapers every single day.

By WWII, censors were on the lookout for anything a soldier might say that would be of value to the enemy or anything that would contradict the official Committee on Public Information reports. The formal establishment of the Office of Censorship in 1941 gave e formal power to censor all communication between the US and foreign countries and prevented news organizations from publishing information that might inadvertently aid the enemy.

By 1942, the Office of War Information took over the flow of information into and out of the government to pass on “approved” versions of news events to news organizations. The OWI prevented any pictures of graphic photos from being released. It also severely limited the letters that it allowed to get through from forward-deployed service members to their families. Letters sent in foreign languages were intercepted, and since most censors didn’t understand what was written, the letter simply wasn’t delivered.

The Vietnam conflict saw the introduction of “5 O’Clock Follies” where press and military officials would gather to receive information about battles ahead of time. Then, the press would wait to report on them until after the battle started. Service member’s letters were heavily censored during this time as well.

During the Gulf War, censorship was not only blatantly accepted by all media outlets, but it was also expected. News reports were submitted to a security review before being released, and a press pool was established to allow one reported to accompany soldiers to combat areas. Letters from service members continued to be intercepted, and information relating to operational security was removed.

Our current conflicts in the War on Terror are still heavily censored, both in what’s allowed to be known ahead of time (like re-deployment dates and precise locations) and in the access the press has to battles. Most often, journalists are no longer allowed to embed in units, and the government has purchased the exclusive rights for commercial satellite imagery of Afghanistan.

Now more than ever, OPSEC is important, since we all have smart devices that we carry with us. Imagery is shared in our modern world in ways it has never been in the past, making it even more important to keep up situational awareness and not give up secrets. For military members and this community, it’s not as much about free speech as it is protecting and defending the ones we love.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The story of the slave who survived the Alamo

The attack on the Alamo in 1836 was not a 13-day siege and slaughter as often portrayed in film and television. Don’t get me wrong – the defenders of the mission-turned-fortress were killed en masse as Mexican troops stormed the structure. It’s just that not everyone inside the Alamo died that day.

Every great museum needs a wooden leg
Maybe standing in the open wearing the brightest clothes isn’t the best idea.

That’s how we came to know of Joe — just Joe, any other names he had are lost to history now. Joe was the slave of William B. Travis, the commander of the Alamo during Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s siege of the Texian fort. But no one knows exactly how Joe got there. No matter how he ended up there, he was one of many slaves and free blacks who fought or died at the Alamo.

Subscribe:
Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | Spotify

Joe was a stalwart defender alongside Travis and other Texians. When the din of the fighting died down and the Mexicans firmly controlled the fort, Joe was shot and bayoneted, only to be saved by a Mexican field officer. Because Joe could speak Spanish, he was able to be interrogated afterward.


All that is known about Joe after the Alamo is that he was questioned by Santa Anna and then later questioned by the Texas Cabinet. A little more than a year later,
Joe escaped to Mexico on two stolen horses.

Every great museum needs a wooden leg
One supposed photo of Joe, the slave and survivor of the Alamo.

That’s where attorney-turned-author Lewis Cook picked up the story. His first book, called
Joe’s Alamo: Unsung, is a fiction-based-on-history account of what came next, after the Alamo, and after Joe escaped.

Cook was waiting to go to medical school when he discovered Joe’s story and was compelled to write about the Alamo. Cook discovered the Alamo was more than a bunch of white, male landowners fighting for Texas. The fort was full of women, minorities of many color, and followers of many religions. So, he set out to tell the story of the Alamo, a story that, he believes, belongs to all of us through the diversity of its defenders.

In his book, Cook tells a different story from what is commonly told in textbooks, film, and TV shows. It includes recently discovered facts about William Travis, Susana Dickinson, Davy Crockett, and Joe himself.

Resources Mentioned

Sponsor

Audible: For you, the listeners of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out some of the books and authors featured on Mandatory Fun. To download your free audiobook today go to audibletrial.com/MandatoryFun.

About Mandatory Fun

Mandatory Fun is hosted by:

Share your thoughts about this episode on Twitter at: @MandoFun and on our Facebook group.

popular

One of America’s legendary small arms was designed by a convict

One of the most decorated soldiers in American history had his big day on Jan. 26, 1945. For three hours, he fought off dozens of advancing Nazi troops, coming at him from three sides. He did it with a field phone, an M2 Browning .50-cal, and his trusty M1 Carbine. General MacArthur called the M1 carbine, “One of the strongest contribution factors in our victory in the Pacific.”

That carbine was a weapon designed just for Army paratroopers in World War II. It had its shortcomings, but its reliability would ensure it would see action in three American wars — and was even a preferred weapon of the enemy. But not many people know the steadfast weapon was designed by a self-taught gunsmith, one-time moonshiner, and convicted felon.


Every great museum needs a wooden leg

David Williams started making moonshine in North Carolina’s backcountry in 1919. The only problem was the Cumberland County native was good at it — really good. Soon, word spread about the quality of the young man’s whiskey. With the rise of Prohibition in 1920, his elevated status soon became unwanted attention. The very next year, his still was raided by local law enforcement, and a shootout ensued. Williams shot and killed a deputy sheriff.

He was captured, convicted of second-degree murder, and sentenced to 30 years in state prison.

Every great museum needs a wooden leg
Audie Murphy with an M1 carbine in ‘To Hell And Back,’ the film about his Medal of Honor experience in World War II. (Universal International Pictures)

The man who would later earn the nickname “carbine” spent a lot of time in both the prison blacksmith shop, as well as solitary confinement. An inventive tinkerer with no formal training, he spent his time in the box thinking of new ways to improve existing machines — including firearms. He began to make spare parts from scrap metal and wood, which, in turn, earned him more time in the shop. The more time he spent in the shop, the more good he did for himself and society.

It turns out the uneducated tinkerer was exceptionally adept with machine parts. He invented the floating chamber, a mechanism that allowed a larger caliber rifle to fire smaller .22 ammo. While other prisoners were known for building homemade knives, Williams was able to construct rifles from scraps.

Every great museum needs a wooden leg
David Marshall “Carbine” Williams with his contribution to World War II. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

He earned an early release in 1929 and returned to his farm, where he constructed a large workshop and began to refine his inventions. Eventually, he was employed by the Winchester Repeating Firearms Company. Just before World War II broke out for the United States, he was able to develop a carbine version of the M1 Garand Rifle.

A carbine is essentially a shorter version of an existing rifle. It’s often lighter in weight and uses a shorter barrel but doesn’t sacrifice much in the way of consistency or accuracy. The M1 carbine, however, was not just a carbine version of the M1 Garand. The two firearms used different ammunition, and the only features they shared were the buttplate and screw. But there was a need for lighter weapons among paratroopers and support crew.

Every great museum needs a wooden leg
M1 Carbines were present at the first Iwo Jima flag raising. (USMC photo by Staff Sergeant Louis R. Lowery)

 

Williams self-designed and built a short-stroke gas piston while in prison and incorporated it into his design for a lighter-weight infantry rifle. In trials, “Carbine” WIlliams’ design proved much more effective and consistent than other gun manufacturers, especially in sandy conditions — an environment that would prove very important to the Marine Corps.

By the end of World War II, the U.S. Military produced more than six million M1 Carbine rifles to use against the Nazis and the Japanese, making it America’s most-produced small arm of the war, edging out the iconic M1 Garand by more than a million units.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information