The barely successful inventor who pioneered repeating rifles - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The barely successful inventor who pioneered repeating rifles

Quick! Name the inventor who has had the most impact on the military. Are you thinking of John M. Browning who invented all sorts of weapons including the M2 .50-caliber machine gun? Maybe Oliver Winchester, Benjamin Tyler Henry, or Horace Smith, the creators of Smith & Wesson?

Well, all of those guys owe their weapon success, in part, to the inventiveness of one man that’s largely forgotten by history.


The barely successful inventor who pioneered repeating rifles
Walter Hunt

Walter Hunt and his impressive forehead created a lot of important inventions, including an early repeating rifle that would help propel the arms industry forward.

Walter Hunt created all sorts of life-changing things, but was constantly selling his inventions for a fraction of their worth in order to pay off debts.

One of these inventions was an early repeating rifle that would lead to the Henry Repeating Rifle, a weapon that was decisive in some Civil War battles. He was also the man behind the safety pin, an attachment for icebreaker ships, and an improved fountain pen, in addition to lots of other things that our audience doesn’t care about.

Hunt’s design for repeating rifles was patented in 1849 as the “Volitional Repeater.” His design incorporated earlier patents he filed, like a specific ammunition cartridge, and breakthroughs made by others to create a rifle capable of firing approximately 12 rounds in quick succession without reloading.

The barely successful inventor who pioneered repeating rifles
Walter Hunt’s 1849 repeating rifle patent calls for ball ammunition to be stored in a tubular magazine. A spring feeds the ammunition into the proper position so it can be breech-loaded by the operator quickly.
(Patent filed 1849 by Walter Hunt)

 

So, basically, it was a rifle with cartridge ammunition that fed from a magazine into the breech for firing. Make the magazine removable and add a gas-operated piston and pistol grip and you have the basic idea of the M16.

But, like the early M16s, Hunt’s design had reliability issues, and he didn’t have the money or the inclination to go through a series of prototypes and redesigns. So, he sold the patent and design to investor George Arrowsmith who got the weapon into production and asked three men to improve the design. Benjamin Tyler Henry, Horace Smith, and Daniel B. Wesson made improvements on the design to create the Henry Repeating Rifle.

The barely successful inventor who pioneered repeating rifles
The Henry Repeating Rifle carried up to 16 rounds and was a direct descendant of Hunt’s Volitional Repeating Rifle.
(Hmaag, CC BY-SA 3.0)

 

It was one of these Henry Repeating Rifles, direct descendants of Hunt’s design, that President Abraham Lincoln fired on the White House grounds at the request of the manufacturer. The company hoped to get Lincoln to intervene on their behalf with the Ordnance Department in order to get the Union Army to buy much more of them.

The Henry Repeating Rifle and similar designs were unpopular with many generals but mid-level officers who embraced them saw the potential early. One of the first wide-spread deployments of repeating rifles came in 1863 when Union Col. John T. Wilder got a loan from his own bank to outfit his entire mounted infantry brigade with the Spencer Repeating Rifle, similar in design to the Henry.

The barely successful inventor who pioneered repeating rifles
General Burnside marches his men through the Cumberland Gap. In mountainous areas, the terrain limits the numbers of troops who can fight each other, making repeating rifles even more advantageous.
(Harper’s Weekly)

 

The plan was to ride to the battle on horses, then dismount and put the new repeating rifles into effect. Wilder’s brigade was sent to secure Hoover’s Gap in Tennessee ahead of a Union attack on Manchester. The Confederates anticipated the maneuver and were working to reinforce the gap before the Union could arrive in force on June 24, 1863.

The Northerners were able to scatter the Confederates deep into the gap and made it six miles ahead of their planned limit of advance. The infantrymen were so far forward, that the corps commander repeatedly ordered them to withdraw because he was sure they would be overwhelmed.

But with their repeating rifles, the single Union infantry brigade and its one artillery battery held its ground against a counterattack by four Confederate infantry brigades and four artillery batteries.

The barely successful inventor who pioneered repeating rifles
​At the Battle of Franklin, some of the Union soldiers had repeating rifles, mostly Spencer and Henry models, that allowed them to overwhelm Confederate troops.
(Library of Congress, originally by Kurz and Allison)

 

When the corps finally arrived, its commander credited the repeating rifles with saving a thousand lives and three days of fighting.

Later battles, like the 1864 Battle of Franklin, saw similar results as Union soldiers carrying repeating rifles were able to vastly out fire their Southern opponents. At Franklin, the defending Union troops carrying 16-shot Henry Repeating Rifles could average 10 rounds per minute against the two or three of Confederate attackers. The Union suffered less than 200 soldiers killed while it inflicted over 1,700 losses on the enemy.

And the man who helped lead the repeating rifle revolution, Walter Hunt? Well, he had died four years earlier. He had achieved economic security, at least, before he died, but he never achieved the fame or fortune of the other men who contributed to the changing face of warfare.

But hey, at least he also didn’t have to see the Civil War.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War

While the Korean War Battles of Old Baldy, Triangle Hill, and Geumseong may not be the first battles that come to mind when we think of the Korean Conflict, for Colombia, they were certainly important. Like their Brazilian neighbors in World War II, the Colombians saw the importance of stemming the advance of an aggressor as essential to the world’s collective security. Three Colombian frigates along with more than 5,000 troops saw action alongside their U.N. allies there.


The barely successful inventor who pioneered repeating rifles

A Colombian veteran returns home from the Korean War.

While the country’s then-President, Laureano Gomez, was also looking for economic support from the West, the Colombians were also eager to remove the pro-German brush that had painted them during the Second World War. By 1951, for the first time in 127 years, Colombia was fully engaged in the fighting on the Korean Peninsula, attached to the U.S. 7th and 24th Infantry Divisions.

Over the course of the rest of the war, Colombia would send battalion after battalion over to fight, numbering more than a thousand men each. They were eager to prove Colombia’s bravery to the rest of the world, like the Turkish and Ethiopians before them. They were unlike any Colombian soldiers who came before them, but when returning home, they found a cold indifferent world.

The barely successful inventor who pioneered repeating rifles

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford meets a Colombian Korean War veteran at the Korean War Memorial, Headquarters of the Military Forces of Colombia.

Their service went largely unnoticed when they returned home. Colombians rejected many of the ideals the Korean War veterans held as they fought to earn their respect in the halls of the U.N.. They suffered the way many veterans the world over suffer after their wars end. While abroad and fighting, they found themselves honored and beloved by veterans from every nation they fought. When they came home, they found it was hard to win over their own nation.

They received no benefits, no pension. Many wounded veterans would come home and one day die without so much as a thank you from the nation for which they were willing to give their lives.

The barely successful inventor who pioneered repeating rifles

Colombian Army veterans.

Eventually, the Colombian government would relent and offer a pension to Korean War veterans who could prove they were indigent. By then, many of those fighting men were well into their 60s and 70s. Some of those veterans were never recovered and remain in Korea to this day. The unit also suffered 213 dead and 567 wounded. They were the last force to arrive but the 9th largest to join in the effort to keep the South free. Still, the men who fought there don’t hold regrets about going.

“It was a really extraordinary experience,” said General Álvaro Valencia Tovar. “I never regretted going, despite the hardships suffered during war, the bitter winter we lived through there…resisting subzero temperatures, but that was all part of a chapter in my life that I’ve always regarded with great sympathy and with pleasant memories.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Ever wonder what the first day at West Point is like for a new cadet? Watch this.

Every July, more than 1,200 cadet candidates arrive at West Point, the US military academy in West Point, New York. Established in 1802, it’s around 50 miles north of New York City. The location of the academy has significance in US history. Say what you want about West Pointers (or military academies in general) but getting into West Point is a pretty significant feat!

Located on the western point of the Hudson River right where it bends, West Point has historical significance in America’s quest for independence from the British. During the War of Independence, the British had to attack coming down the Hudson River. From West Point, they could see them coming. 

Reception day, also known as R-Day, is always on a Monday and marks the first of each student’s four-year journey to graduation. In that journey, Cadets will follow through four programs: Character, Academic, Physical and Military.

west point
Clip from video footage of a West Point graduation ceremony.

Their civilian days are officially over right from the start 

The first day at West Point involves a transformation from civilian status through a series of activities. At the end of the day, the Military Academy requires them to take an oath to serve in the US Army. Upon arrival, cadet candidates and their families begin the day with an orientation. However, when that’s over, they have just 60 seconds to bid their families farewell. After that, they will have extremely limited contact with the outside world for six weeks. 

That obligatory West Point haircut is all the rage 

Walking out the door of Eisenhower Hall, students officially become “new cadets” and receive their physical training uniforms and a bag. That bag holds everything they are permitted to carry during their first six weeks. Immediately after, new cadets must head to the barbershop. Male cadets have to pretty much shave their heads, though females do not

After that, new cadets get their assignments at companies that teach them the basics of taking orders and how to properly march. Upperclassmen help to lead the new cadets, operating as a learning environment for both. New cadets learn the basics of leadership skills while upperclassmen practice them. R-Day ends with the Oath Ceremony, where everything the new cadets have learned is reiterated. 

Nothing’s truly free

Attending West Point is free, but it’s not easy to get in. Aside from being a US citizen, students must also be in good physical condition, pass a specific medical exam and show a history of high academic achievement. Also, that free tuition comes with a different kind of debt: service. This includes five years of active duty in the Army and three years as Reserves. All who complete the initial six weeks of basic training are then formally accepted into the corps of cadets. 

Related: Navy intelligence once launched an investigation to find Bill the Goat

MIGHTY HISTORY

‘You have to follow your heart.’ A WWII War Bride’s story of tragedy and love

An estimated 300,000 “war brides,” as they were known, left home to make the intrepid voyage to the United States after falling in love with American soldiers who were stationed abroad during World War II. There were so many that the United States passed a series of War Brides Acts in 1945 and 1946. This legislation provided them with an immigration pathway that didn’t previously exist under the Immigration Act of 1924, which imposed quotas on immigrants based on their nation of origin and strategically excluded or limited immigration from certain parts of the world, particularly Asia.

Equipped with little but a feeling and a sense of promise, war brides left everything that was familiar behind to forge a new identity in the United States. Many spoke little to no English upon their arrival in the country, and they were introduced to post-war American culture through specially designed curricula and communities. To this day, organizations for war brides in the United States provide networks for military spouses and their children, helping them keep their heritage alive and share their experiences of their adopted home.

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II on September 2, 2020, We Are The Mighty is proud to collaborate with Babbel, the new way to learn a foreign language. Babbel conducted interviews with surviving war brides as much of the world endured lockdown. Many of these women are now in their 80s and 90s, and their oral histories celebrate the challenges and successes of adapting to a new culture and language, as well as reflect on the leap of faith they all took to travel across the world to an unknown country. Spoiler alert: there are few regrets.

War Brides is a 5 part series.

Huguette Coghlan

My maiden name is Huguette Roberte Fauveau, and I am now 95 years old. I was born in Courbevoie, a suburb of Paris, and grew up in a nearby suburb called Chatou. I moved to America with my husband in 1946, and I still live there now.

I had a happy childhood before the war. My parents eloped when they were about 20, and they had me and my younger brother, Serge. My dad worked in a factory as a tool and dyes maker. They did not have a lot of money in the 1930s. During the war, I remember bombs falling very close to my home. So close that my dad, my brother and I all lost our hearing. It eventually returned, but as I have gotten older, I have lost my hearing again.

We were blessed that we did not get hurt during the German occupation. My grandparents had a little farm, so food was not scarce. We always had food to eat, but bread was something we did not have enough of. At one point, the Germans took over the factory where my father worked. While we remained unhurt, I heard and saw terrible things.

I met my husband when I was on vacation with my grandparents. I was walking to a dance with my friend, Jacqueline. We had missed our ride, so we had to walk over a mile in our high heels. While we were walking, a large Jeep stopped next to us and asked if we wanted a ride.

Naturally, we said no. When we eventually arrived at the venue, our feet were a little bruised, but this did not stop us from dancing. I noticed that two soldiers came in, and after a while, one of them approached me. I knew it was one of the men from the jeep. He told me I had nice legs, and we talked for a long time after that. He told me he was part of the military police and was tasked with supervising the dance. His name was Rodger Murray Rusher and he was 20, like me. He asked me if I would go on a date with him the next day, so I told him where I lived and said yes, but I never thought he’d find my house. He did.

Photo of one of the war brides and her husband

My parents and my brother, Serge Lucien, liked Rodger straight away. My parents, and above all my brother, were extremely sad when I told them I wanted to move to America. But they loved and trusted Rod. His mother had written a letter to my mother, so they had faith that he and his family would take care of me.

I married Rod in Chatou on the 23rd of September, 1945, in the Sainte-Thérèse Church.

I had studied English for four years in school, so I could read and write English. I was pretty good at speaking it, but I spoke with a strong French accent. When I got to America, I discovered that some people had a hard time understanding me. Many still do! I became keen to learn English. I remember I read a lot, did lots of crossword puzzles, and always had my nose in a dictionary. It didn’t take me long to become fluent.

Rod and I first arrived in New York on the 19th of May, 1946. I spent my 21st birthday in New York. After that, we traveled to where Rodger’s family was from — a place called Roundup, Montana. My extended family made me feel very welcome when I arrived, and they hosted a party to introduce me to all their friends from around the town. They all wanted to hear about France, and all were very nice and welcoming. Up until then, I’d thought my English was good, but this is when I discovered that I had a hard time understanding them, and vice versa.

My in-laws had a four-bedroom log ranch. They did not have electricity, and their water came from a well. The bathroom consisted of two holes in a little outhouse. It was a very pretty ranch, but it was a shock for me. I came from a very modern house in a big city. But when you are young, you adjust easily to changes.

I have returned to France many times over the years. The first time was not long after Rod died. He wanted to be a pilot, and he was learning to fly under the GI Bill. When I was still pregnant with our second child, Rod was killed in a plane accident with his brother in 1948. A year or so after that, I returned to France. I stayed for six months, and then made the very difficult decision to return to America. It was hard to leave my parents and brother again, but by then I knew that I wanted my children to be American. I didn’t have any formal lessons to learn how to be an American, but I soon grew to love America very much.

In Roundup, I missed the symphony and the opera that I used to attend at home. But when I moved to a bigger city in Montana, Bozeman, I could start to enjoy them again. I spoke French with my children at home. My first two children were born in Roundup. I remember once overhearing some other children make fun of Gerald and Gregory for speaking French, so that’s when I thought, “No more French. They are American, they live here, and I want them to be American!” That was a mistake, but I didn’t know it then. It was difficult as a widow, and things were very different back then.

one of the original war brides

Three years after Rodger died, I remarried to a man named Terry James Coghlan. We had a girl, who we named Jacqueline. She speaks a little French, is very keen to learn, and is taking lessons now! I would tell people who were considering moving to another country for love to not be afraid, and to follow your heart.

Part I: Alice Lawson

Part II: Nina Edillo

Part III: Emilia Zecchino

MIGHTY HISTORY

Did you know a Soviet physicist is behind all of America’s stealth?

Pyotr Ufimtsev was a scientist associated with a number of prestigious universities and labs in Moscow. Listen to a few of the institutions he was at, and it becomes pretty clear what his primary interests were. He worked at the Central Research Radio Engineering Institute, the Institute of Fundamental Technical Problems, the Moscow Aviation Institute, the Institute of Radio Engineering and Electronics of Academy of Sciences, and more.


The barely successful inventor who pioneered repeating rifles
The Northrop B-2 Spirit.
(U.S. Air Force)

Notice the combination there? Aviation, radio engineering, and technical problems? That’s because he was very interested in how radio waves reflected off of objects; how radar actually worked at the most detailed and precise levels. He didn’t know it, but his work would put him at the forefront of a new American industry: stealth engineering.

Ufimtsev wrote a number of important papers as he studied exactly how radio waves bounced off of two-dimensional and three-dimensional objects. One of the most interesting things he found was that it wasn’t just the size of an object that determined how it appeared on radar; shape was actually more important.

And certain shapes were unlikely to reflect much energy back to the radar, meaning you could make a large object appear very small if you just gave it the right shape.

Much of Ufimtsev’s work was quietly translated into English where a number of American scientists read it. A 1962 paper translated as Method of Edge Waves in the Physical Theory of Diffraction was of particular interest. Many U.S. scientists simply saw the paper and incorporated it into their own research, or they rebuffed it and went about their day. But there was one team of engineers who saw the paper and saw it as potentially groundbreaking.

Lockheed engineers working in the “Skunk Works” division, the same engineers who made America’s first jet fighter during World War II, saw the chance to create something entirely new and novel. What if they could create an entire plane with the shapes and materials that sent little energy back to a radar?

Such a plane could be large, like the size of a bomber or fighter, but would show up on radar as a little bit of electromagnetic noise. It would be invisible as long as no one knew to look for it, and it would still be challenging to detect even after its existence was disclosed.

The barely successful inventor who pioneered repeating rifles
(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

Best of all, the growing number of homing missiles that American pilots would face would become essentially useless. Homing missiles needed a strong radar signal to get within range of an enemy target before switching to a seeker built into the missile. This process would almost certainly not work against a stealth aircraft, making the pilots much safer.

There were plenty of possible uses for such a plane, but Lockheed started by building a ground-attack plane, though they further camouflaged the program by labeling it a fighter, the F-117 Nighthawk dubbed the “Stealth Fighter.” The same lessons were later used in the B-2 bomber and are now present—in new forms—the F-22 and F-35. And some of Ufimtsev’s work will undoubtedly be recognizable in the B-21 Raider.

Other branches have gotten in on the stealth made possible by Ufimtsev, like the Navy with its Sea Shadow project that created stealthy boats.

Ufimtsev has gotten recognition from the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation, and even the U.S. for his work. He has been named to prestigious positions at universities like UCLA in California. He is 90 years old. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 facts every American should know about Dorie Miller, the Black sailor whose heroics changed a nation

On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, Doris “Dorie” Miller was serving aboard the USS West Virginia as a Navy mess attendant 2nd class when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

As his battleship was sinking, the powerfully built 22-year-old sharecropper’s son from Waco, Texas, helped move his dying captain to better cover before manning a .50-caliber machine gun and shooting at the attacking Japanese planes until he had no more ammunition. Miller was one of the last men to leave his sinking ship, and after unloading on the enemy, he turned his attention to pulling injured sailors out of the harbor’s burning, oily water.


Miller’s legendary actions, for which the sailor received the Navy Cross, were immortalized in the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora! and in Michael Bay’s 2001 film Pearl Harbor. But those depictions only provide surface details of Miller’s extraordinary service and its legacy in changing the course of US history.

Here are seven facts every American should know about this American icon.

The barely successful inventor who pioneered repeating rifles

Family members of World War II hero Doris “Dorie” Miller react after the unveiling of the future Ford-class aircraft carrier USS Doris Miller (CVN 81) at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration event on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alexander C. Kubitza/US Navy, courtesy of DVIDS.

He’s the first enlisted sailor or Black American to ever have an aircraft carrier named after him.

The Navy made history Jan. 20, 2019, when it announced at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration event on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam that it would name a new Ford-class aircraft carrier, CVN-81, after Miller.

Supercarriers are typically named for US presidents, and the USS Doris Miller, which is still under construction, is the first to be named for an enlisted sailor or Black American. Navy officials said it will be the most powerful and lethal warship ever built.

“Dorie Miller stood for everything that is good about our nation,” said former acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly during the ceremony last year. “His story deserves to be remembered and repeated wherever our people continue to stand the watch today. He’s not just the story of one sailor. It is the story of our Navy, of our nation and our ongoing struggle to form — in the words of our Constitution — a more perfect union.”

The barely successful inventor who pioneered repeating rifles

Emrys Bledsoe, bottom, great-great-grandnephew of World War II hero Doris “Dorie” Miller, attempts to cut a cake next to acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly, third from left, Mrs. Robyn Modly, left, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, right, and other Miller relatives at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alexander C. Kubitza/US Navy, courtesy of DVIDS.

The carrier will be the second Navy vessel to honor Miller.

In 1973, the Navy commissioned the destroyer escort Miller, which was reclassified as a frigate two years later, according to The Navy Times. During the ship’s christening ceremony, Texas Rep. Barbara Jordan predicted that the “Dorie Millers of the future will be captains as well as cooks.”

According to KPBS San Diego, the Navy now has 10 Black admirals serving in its ranks.

As a Black sailor in 1941, Miller wasn’t even supposed to fire a gun.

As NPR reported Tuesday, “When he reached for that weapon, he was taking on two enemies: the Japanese flyers and the pervasive discrimination in his own country.”

“One of the ways in which the Navy discriminated against African Americans was that they limited them to certain types of jobs, or what we call ‘ratings’ in the Navy,” historian Regina Akers from the Naval History and Heritage Command told NPR. “So, for African Americans, many were messmen or stewards. Dorie Miller was a messman, which meant that he basically took care of an officer, laid out his clothes, shined his shoes and served meals.”

The barely successful inventor who pioneered repeating rifles

Miller speaks during a war bond tour stop at the Naval Training Station in Great Lakes, Illinois, on Jan. 7, 1943. Photo courtesy of the US Navy/National Archives.

Miller’s legend would have been lost if not for the Black press.

Members of the Black press knew that getting Miller proper recognition could undermine the stereotype that Black Americans weren’t any good in combat. But when journalists from The Pittsburgh Courier — one of the leading Black newspapers of the time — looked into Miller’s story, the Navy initially wouldn’t identify him, saying there were too many messmen in its ranks to find him.

Before his death in 2003, former Courier reporter Frank Bolden said in an interview with the Freedom Forum, “The publisher of the paper said, ‘Keep after it.’ We spent ,000 working to find out who Dorie Miller was. And we made Dorie Miller a hero.”

Miller’s actions initially earned him nothing more than a letter of commendation, but coverage by the Black press captured public attention, and eventually, US Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Chester Nimitz upgraded Miller’s commendation to the Navy Cross, then the third-highest honor for heroism.

Akers, the historian, told NPR, “In just like the flip of a switch, [Miller] becomes a celebrity. He becomes one of the first heroes, period, of the war, but certainly one of the first African American heroes of the war. He was on recruitment posters. His image was everywhere.”

The barely successful inventor who pioneered repeating rifles

Miller receives the Navy Cross from Adm. Chester Nimitz, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, during a ceremony aboard the USS Enterprise on May 27, 1942. Photo courtesy of the US Navy/National Archives.

Miller’s story changed the Navy and military forever, paving the way for desegregation in the service.

Even before Miller was awarded the Navy Cross, his story quickly effected reforms. The Navy opened up jobs such as gunner’s mate, radioman, and radar operator to Black sailors and eventually started commissioning Black officers.

“Things came together at Pearl Harbor for Doris Miller and for the civil rights movement, probably to maximum effect,” Baylor University history professor Michael Parrish told NPR.

Miller’s story inspired Black artists to produce works that spread his legend far and wide and inspired generations of activists who were determined to build a more just society. In 1943, Langston Hughes, the Black American poet best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance, wrote this poem about the trailblazing sailor:

When Dorie Miller took gun in hand —
Jim Crow started his last stand.
Our battle yet is far from won
But when it is, Jim Crow’ll be done.
We gonna bury that son-of-a-gun!

Parrish, who co-authored Doris Miller, Pearl Harbor, and the Birth of the Civil Rights Movement, said President Harry S. Truman’s executive order to desegregate the military in 1948 can also be traced to Miller’s heroics at Pearl Harbor.

“World War II was really the turning point in that long struggle,” Parrish told NPR.

The barely successful inventor who pioneered repeating rifles

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson speaks during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The congresswoman has been working to honor Miller with the Medal of Honor since she first came to Congress in 1993. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alexander C. Kubitza/US Navy, courtesy of DVIDS.

Some Congressional leaders believe Miller’s Navy Cross should be upgraded to a Medal of Honor.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, who represents Texas’ 30th Congressional District, said in a 2010 press release that she has been working to honor Miller with the Medal of Honor since she first came to Congress in 1993.

“For more than 50 years, members of Congress have been working to give Petty Officer Doris Miller a Congressional Medal of Honor,” Johnson said. “Eighteen years after I first came to the House, we are still working on it. In my judgment, Dorie Miller saved our country from invasion, and as long as I live, I will do what I can to honor this great American hero.”

Miller was later killed in action in World War II and never lived to see the lasting effects of his heroics.

After Pearl Harbor, Miller went on serving his nation in World War II, and in 1943, he was one of hundreds of sailors killed when their ship was torpedoed and sank in the Pacific. While Miller’s body was never found, his legacy lives on, and his name has graced a postage stamp, schools, roads, and community centers all over the country.

And the service that once wouldn’t even release Miller’s name to the public now honors him alongside US presidents.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch the actual footage of George Bush’s WWII sea rescue

During World War II, George H.W. Bush served in the U.S. Navy. A pilot assigned to a torpedo squadron in the Pacific Theater, Bush flew the TBM Avenger, a torpedo bomber capable of taking off from aircraft carriers that would famously see combat during the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942.

Bush enlisted in the Navy’s flight training program fresh out of high school, becoming one of the Navy’s youngest aviators. He first saw action in May 1944 and would go on to fly 58 combat missions. Then, on Sept. 2, 1944, he was hit by anti-aircraft fire during an attack run on the Japanese-occupied island of Chichi Jima.

“Suddenly there was a jolt,” Bush wrote later, “as if a massive fist had crunched into the belly of the plane. Smoke poured into the cockpit, and I could see flames rippling across the crease of the wing, edging toward the fuel tanks.”

His two crewmembers were killed in the attack, leaving the young pilot to complete his bombing run against a radio facility and bail out alone over the Pacific into jellyfish-infested waters. During the egress, he struck his head, which bled profusely as he swam to a life raft and hoped for rescue.

He was one of the lucky ones. Many aviators struck down during that battle where captured and executed and, according to Bradley James’ bestselling novel Flyboys: A True Story of Courage, their livers even eaten by their captors.

After four hours, the USS Finback, a lifeguard submarine, found him. Now you can watch the video from the moment when the Finback’s crew pulled from the water the man who would go on to become the Director of Central Intelligence and the 41st president of the United States, serving from 1989 to 1993. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions during the mission.

President George H.W. Bush died on Nov. 30, 2018, at the age of 94 years old.

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY HISTORY

This long-forgotten unit was the direct predecessor to Delta Force

The US Army’s highly secretive counterterrorist unit, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment Delta, is without a doubt among the best counterterrorism units in the world. But it wasn’t the first.


While Delta is extremely well known, if only by its name, it wasn’t actually the first American counterterrorist force in existence. That honor goes to a different unit — now long lost to history — known as “Blue Light.”

Colonel Charlie Beckwith, a former Green Beret and the brains behind 1st SFOD-D, discussed the parallel history of Blue Light in his co-written book, “Delta Force.” Beckwith, after serving an exchange tour with the British Special Air Service, returned to the US with an idea for a dedicated counterterrorist unit, similar to the SAS.

With terrorism on the rise throughout the 1970s, it became imperative for the US military to create a force that would deal with terror threats with precision and extreme effectiveness.

The barely successful inventor who pioneered repeating rifles
U.S. Army photo

The firebrand colonel would go on to outline his concept to the Pentagon, particularly Army generals and fellow colonels with enough sway to allocate funding for such a unit. Beckwith encountered resistance — especially from “old guard” officers who disagreed with allowing Delta to exist on its own with its own funding.

Rather, they felt that Delta needed to remain within an already established pecking order in the asymmetric warfare community — the US Army’s Special Forces.

Despite its official title, Delta Force had absolutely nothing to do with Army Special Forces Operational Detachments, also known as “A-Teams.” The title was just another vaguely-misleading cover for the unit’s real purpose.

Delta, instead, would have a direct line through the Department of Defense to the president’s office, circumventing Special Forces altogether. Further incensing the brass was the fact that Delta would be given free rein to recruit whoever interested them, including experienced Green Berets from the groups.

The barely successful inventor who pioneered repeating rifles
Graduates of one of Delta Force’s Operator Training Courses in 1978. Blue Light would be disestablished that same year (Photo US Army)

 

Inner-Army politicking quickly led to Special Forces brass deciding it would create a counterterrorist unit of its own, ostensibly as an interim solution while Delta was getting up to speed, but with the inward hopes of it being a more permanent fixture.

The new unit — Blue Light — was staffed with commandos brought in directly from 5th Special Forces Group’s 2nd Battalion into a subordinate unit. There, they would be trained in an array of skills necessary for counterterrorist mission and be readied for real-world operations. Colonel Bob “Black Gloves” Mountel would be responsible for helming the new unit in its infancy.

Blue Light would only be equivalent to a company-sized element of troops, but would still draw its funding from Special Forces, and would push its members through further airborne and dive training, weapons courses and more.

It was assumed that because Green Berets were already highly-trained for asymmetric warfare, they would be ready to fight far quicker than Delta.

 

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Members of 5th SFG with ARVN troops in Vietnam (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

 

In the meanwhile, Beckwith and his cadre got to work designing and training the founding members of Delta Force, still very aware of the potential for Blue Light to completely take over their mission and tank 1st SFOD-D before it could even get off the ground.

Blue Light was beefed up with the presence of veteran operatives with significant combat experience under their belts, including Joseph Cincotti, a Vietnam-era Green Beret who would later go on to head up the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, and who was responsible for creating the curriculum all Special Forces candidates undergo today.

In their book, “Special Forces: A Guided Tour of US Army Special Forces,” authors Tom Clancy and John Gresham claim that Blue Light was somewhat handicapped from the start. While Delta was designed to operate in every conceivable environment, using a multitude of mission-relevant skills, Blue Light was, in reality, only prepared for a few contingencies.

 

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Members of 10th Special Forces Group training alongside Lithuanian counterparts (Photo US Army)

 

Little by little, Delta Force took shape at Fort Bragg, NC, and by the end of the 1970s, Delta was ready for action. Bragg was also the home of Blue Light, and the rivalry between the two counterterrorist units was palpable. Former operator Eric Haney discusses the animosity between Blue Light and the 1st SFOD-D in his book, “Inside Delta Force.”

When Delta was declared fully operational, Blue Light faded into the shadows, eventually being disbanded in 1978. Its former members were either transferred to other units within the Army’s various Special Forces groups, or decided to retire altogether.

Beckwith, not willing to let an opportunity pass, extended invites to Blue Light commandos to try out for Delta Force, and at least four of the former counterterrorist unit’s operatives successfully passed selection and the arduous Operator Training Course to become Delta Force operators.

Former Blue Light officers would later play a part in planning Operation Eagle Claw, the failed mission to rescue American hostages in Iran in 1980.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A French resistance fighter escaped execution with the most impossible prison break

Throughout World War II, the Nazi occupiers of France housed Jews and captured Resistance fighters in the supposedly escape-proof Fort Montluc prison, a nineteenth century fortress in Lyon.


But there was one escape.

Only one.

Leading that escape was Andre Devigny, a former French army lieutenant whose escape made him a legend in the Resistance.

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André Devigny, a real-world Houdini.

Devigny was one of the leaders of the Réseau Gilbert, an intelligence network that helped refugees escape occupied France, gathered intelligence for the Allies, and sabotaged German installations and material as the opportunity arose. He was betrayed by a German infiltrator and arrested Apr. 17, 1943, taken to Lyons, and turned over to Klaus Barbie, chief of the Gestapo there.

Known as the Butcher of Lyons, Barbie is believed to have personally tortured men, women, and children. Some estimates hold him directly responsible for the deaths of up to 14,000 people.

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German SS officer and Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie (1913 – 1991) in army NCO uniform, 1944.

Devigny was tortured for two weeks, including use of the baignoire, a World War II form of waterboarding, before being imprisoned in handcuffs in the 10-square-foot cell 107 at Fort Montluc. He was allowed into the courtyard for exercise one hour a day. On Aug. 20, he was again brought before Barbie, who told him he would be executed on Aug. 28.

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By this time, Devigny had learned to remove his handcuffs with a safety pin. He had also been able to remove three wooden slats at the bottom of his cell door using a soup spoon he ground down to a point on the cell’s concrete floor. He got to the point where he could remove or replace the three slats in less than two minutes.

When his death sentence was announced, he knew the time to act had come.

Related: Two POWs made a daring escape from prison just to relieve the boredom

Returning to his cell from meeting with Barbie, however, Devigny discovered he had been given a roommate. Perhaps he was a spy sent to watch him or perhaps he was what he said he was, an 18-year-old deserter from the Vichy-created French militia. In either case, he would have to be included in the escape.

On Aug. 24, a moonless night, the two men removed the cell’s wood slats, slipped out of the cell, and climbed up a heavy, metal rod that operated a roof transom, exiting on to the prison’s flat roof.  Devigny threw a parcel containing a second grappling hook and rope over the parapet, hooked a grappling hook he was carrying — all items he had been able to make in cell 107 — and climbed down the rope to a courtyard. The 18-year-old followed.

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Montluc Prison.

Once in the courtyard, the two men could hear a sentry approaching and stepped back into the shadows. As the sentry passed, Devigny grabbed the man around the throat from behind forcing the German to the ground where he used the sentry’s own bayonet to kill him. Devigny and the 18-year-old then crossed to the prison’s inner wall and, using the second grappling hook and rope, climbed up and over the wall on to a covered gallery atop the prison infirmary.  From there, they scaled the building’s sloping roof and were able to see the outside wall and the brightly-lit fifteen-foot roadway between the walls.

The roadway was being patrolled by a sentry on a bicycle.  At 3 a.m., after timing the guard’s rounds several times, Devigny tied an end of his rope to the infirmary chimney, threw the grappling hook out and over the outside wall, and launched himself hand over hand with the 18-year-old following.

The two men made it, jumped down from the outside wall, and were free.

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An aerial view of the prison area.

Devigny and his former cellmate then separated, and Devigny eluded German search parties and dogs by spending five hours hiding in the Rhone River and along its muddy banks. He was finally able to work himself to the home of a doctor friend in the city where he was given clothes and papers and guided to Switzerland.

Devigny returned to the war and was eventually awarded the Cross of the Liberation by then-French President Charles de Gaulle.

The Resistance liberated Fort Montluc in August 1944, almost exactly one year after Devigny’s escape.

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 things you didn’t know about Memorial Day

Although we commemorate Memorial Day each year, the holiday’s origins are rarely discussed. Many countries, especially those that were involved in World War II, have their own iteration of the monument to the soldiers who dedicated their lives to their country’s cause. From its earliest version as Decoration Day, Memorial Day has been a part of an important, reflective moment in the United States. Trace the history of the holiday from its earliest incarnation to the major occasion it is today with these little-known Memorial Day facts.


1. Memorial Day began as a day honoring Union soldiers killed during the Civil War.

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Aftermath of the Civil War

After the end of the Civil War, General John A. Logan became the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, a group of Union veterans. Logan issued a General Order declaring May 30 as Memorial Day for fallen Union soldiers. For the first years of celebration, Memorial Day and Decoration Day were used interchangeably to refer to the day.

2. Some Southern states still have a separate day of remembrance for Confederate soldiers.

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Presidents of Ladies Memorial Association

Not long after the Grand Army of the Republic established Memorial Day, Confederate groups organized to create their own commemorative holiday. Although a number of women’s groups, primarily the Ladies Memorial Association, had started to organize day outings to tidy graves and leave flowers, a larger movement began in 1868. By 1890, there was a specific focus on commemorating the Confederacy as well as the soldiers lost. Today, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina continue to celebrate a separate day for the fallen soldiers of the Confederacy.

3. The original date of ‘Decoration Day’ was May 30, chosen because it was not associated with any particular battle.

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1870 Decoration Day parade in St. Paul, Minnesota

General Logan chose the date of the original Memorial Day with great care. May 30 was chosen precisely because no major battle occurred on that day. Afraid that choosing a date associated with a major battle like Gettysburg would be perceived as casting soldiers in that battle as more important than other comrades, May 30 was a neutral date that would honor all soldiers equally.

4. The tradition of red poppies honoring fallen soldiers comes from a Canadian poem written during WWI.

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Although the wearing of red poppies to honor fallen soldiers is more popular in the United Kingdom and throughout the former British empire, poppies are also associated with Memorial Day in the United States. This tradition was started after Moina Michael, a young poet, was inspired by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields”. The opening lines read, “In Flanders field the poppies blow/Between the crosses, row on row”. The imagery moved Moina, and she decided to wear a red poppy as a symbol of her continued remembrance of those who fought in World War I.

5. The Vietnam War was responsible for Memorial Day becoming a national holiday.

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A wounded solider being carried away during the Vietnam War in 1968

Memorial Day was celebrated regularly across the United States from the mid-1800s on—while it nearly ceased in the early 20th century, the world wars made its commemoration important once more. Yet Memorial Day was not federally recognized until the height of the Vietnam War. In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved a number of holidays to a Monday rather than their original day, including Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Veterans Day. In 1971, the Act took effect, making each holiday federally recognized and giving workers additional three-day weekend—in part thanks to the lobbying efforts of the travel industry.

6. Rolling Thunder, a nonprofit that brings attention to prisoners of war and those who remain missing in action, holds a rally every Memorial Day.

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The annual ride by Rolling Thunder as it crosses the Memorial Bridge in Washington D.C.

In 1987, a group of veterans visited the Vietnam Memorial in D.C. While there, they realized just how pervasive the issue of missing Vietnam soldiers was. The status of over 1,000 soldiers remains unknown to this day. In the ’80s, as many as 2,700 soldiers’ fates were unknown. The men decided to organize a motorcycle rally the day before Memorial Day, hoping to create enough noise—both literal and figurative—that political groups would be forced to pay attention. Since the outset of their rally, an additional 1,100 unknown soldiers have been identified or discovered.

7. Although many towns claim to have been the birthplace of Memorial Day, Waterloo, New York is officially recognized as the first to commemorate the day.

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Waterloo Downtown Historic District

General Logan may have made the first call for a national Memorial Day, but, as discussed earlier, it was far from the only day of remembrance. As early as 1866, people throughout the North and South gathered to memorialize fallen soldiers. Waterloo, New York was one of many towns to have a city-wide commemoration of those lost in the war. And while over two dozen towns and cities claim to be the first to have celebrated this day of remembrance, in 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared Waterloo, New York the official birthplace of Memorial Day—in part because it was the only town to have consistently memorialized the day since its inception.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The most hardcore resistance fighter of WWII might surprise you

Born in Wellington, New Zealand on August 30, 1912, Captain Nancy Wake, Resistance leader and Special Operations Executive agent, wasn’t joking when she talked about her lack of fear. Wake was one of New Zealand’s most highly decorated soldiers with 12 decorations from the United States, the UK, France, the British Commonwealth, Australia, and New Zealand. Her many awards included France’s Legion D’Honneur and Croix de Guerre; Britain’s George Medal; and the U.S. Medal of Freedom.

In the process, Wake became one of the Gestapo’s most wanted enemies. They nicknamed her the White Mouse, put a five million franc price on her head, and still they couldn’t find her.


But she could–and did–find them, usually with lethal effect. A fellow resister later described her as “the most feminine woman I know until the fighting starts. Then she is like five men.”

Wake was ready to dedicate her life to fighting against the Nazis even before World War II began. A visit to Berlin and Vienna in 1935 allowed her to witness Nazi persecution and anti-Semitism first-hand. She resolved that, if ever the opportunity arose, she would do all she could to fight it. Later that same year, she married French industrialist Henri Fiocca, who would join the Resistance with her in 1940. In the meantime, the couple set up home in Paris.

The fall of France was the beginning of her remarkable career, the chance to honor her pledge to fight Nazism by any means open to her. Between 1940 and 1943, Wake and Fiocca helped organize escape routes for Allied servicemen and Jewish refugees trying to flee the German occupation. They were remarkably successful, a success that began attracting increasing suspicion from the Gestapo.

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Nancy Wake

Until 1943, it went as well as could be expected. But things were about to take a tragic turn. Wake and Fiocca knew full well they were under suspicion and that the dreaded Gestapo would show no mercy if they were caught. That year, Wake became the Gestapo’s most wanted person–and the five million franc price was placed on her head.

Wake, who fled across the Pyrenees into neutral Spain and then England, wasn’t caught. Fiocca, who stayed in France to continue his Resistance work there, was. It wasn’t until after the liberation of France that Wake discovered what had happened to her beloved husband. Henri Fiocca had been tortured to death by the Gestapo, refusing to the last breath to give up his wife’s location.

In England, Wake immediately volunteered for SOE’s French Section run by Maurice Buckmaster and Vera Atkins. Buckmaster and Atkins immediately saw her potential and her willingness to undertake the most hazardous missions. In March 1944, Wake parachuted into France’s Auvergne region to help organize resistance fighters. Her main role was to arrange reliable communications between the local resisters and SOE headquarters in London as part of the preparations for D-Day. She was also tasked with arranging the arrival of more agents and airdrops delivering vital supplies, weapons, and ammunition. Without the airdrops, the resistance would simply have ground to a halt.

Wake set to work with typical gusto, eventually coordinating the activities of roughly 7,500 resisters in the Auvergne. She was also rigid about doing her share of the fighting. She ordered the killing of a French collaborator and even killed a SS soldier with her bare hands. As Wake later described it, “They’d taught this Judo-chop stuff with the flat of the hand at SOE and I practiced away at it. But this was the only time I ever used it–whack–and it killed him all right…”

Other exploits included joining an assault on the local Gestapo headquarters at Montluçon during which 38 German soldiers and Gestapo officers were killed. But one exploit in particular stuck in her mind. During a Gestapo raid her radio operator had destroyed the vital codes used for messages between France and London. Without the codes the radio link was severed. To re-establish communications, Wake travelled some 500 kilometers (over 300 miles) in 71 hours by bicycle, going through several enemy checkpoints and roadblocks to return with the vital codes.

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Rachel Blampied as Wake in Nancy Wake: The White Mouse
(The Gibson Group photo)

With new codes the vital radio link was saved just in time for the Normandy landings. Wake and her 7,500 resisters fought using any weapons and methods available to them. In the process they did damage out of all proportion to their numbers. At one point the Germans sent 22,000 troops to destroy the White Mouse and her Maquisards. Wake’s response was characteristically devastating, her troops inflicting some 1,400 casualties while losing only 100 resisters, a 14:1 casualty rate.

With the war’s end, Wake found life somewhat dull. She moved to Australia, spending a few years in politics. Although she remarried in 1957, Wake still referred to her first husband, Henri Fiocca, as the love of her life. In 1985, Wake wrote her memoir The White Mouse, titled after her wartime nickname. When husband John Forward died in 1997 she sold her medals to live on the proceeds and returned to London in 2001. She spent the remainder of her life in England, moving into the Royal Star and Garter Home for Disabled Ex-Servicemen and Women in 2003.

Captain Nancy Wake died in August 2011 at the age of 98. At her request, her ashes were scattered in 2013 in her beloved France, in the village of Verneix. Verneix is near Montluçon, the site of her assault on the Gestapo headquarters beside the Resistance. To this day, Nancy Wake is remembered as one of the SOE’s most remarkable agents.

Articles

This is how olives could bring peace to the Middle East

Israel.

Palestine.

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It’s the soldier at back right that really gets us. (Go90 Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)


The ongoing conflict between the citizens of these two nations has become, in our time, the textbook case of intractability in human coexistence, an example of the kind of horizonless mistrust that pits neighbor against neighbor in enmity over a mutually claimed homeland.

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Say what you will, this kid has got balls. (Go90 Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

…in general, there is no meeting between them. It’s not something normal between Israeli and Palestinian people. There is a fear, there is a stereotype…both sides lost their humanity in the other side’s eyes. —Mohammed Judah, NEF Staff

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Extremism for any cause make us strangers to our own humanity. (Go90 Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

How does one begin to help unbind this locked, loaded, boundary-straining situation? What universal balm exists to cool the friction between these factions?

Could it, perhaps, be food?

There is an organization — the Near East Foundation — that thinks so. And what’s more, given the industrial preoccupation of this region of the world (read: petrolium), this organization is prepared to make its theory even more audacious. NEF thinks the answer could be found in oil: olive oil.

Meet Olive Oil Without Borders. At the epicenter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the West Bank, this USAID-funded project seeks to bring olive farmers from both sides together. Mutual economic benefit is the primary goal. NEF consultants teach best practices in cultivation, harvest, and olive oil production without regard for politics and for the good of the region as a whole.

And by coming together around a mutual interest, and perhaps sharing the fruits of their labors, Israelis and Palestinians may, slowly, gently, come to trust in each other’s humanity.

In Part 1 of its two part finale, Meals Ready To Eat journeys to the Middle East to witness the struggle between divisive conflict and unifying food culture.

Watch as Dannehl extends many olive branches, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Meals Ready To Eat:

Army food will make you feel the feels

This whiskey is a WWII victory, distilled

This is what happens when you run your kitchen like a platoon

This is what it means to be American in Guam

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together

Articles

Medal of Honor recipient and former POW dies at 85

Air Force Col. Leo K. Thorsness, an F-105 pilot awarded the Medal of Honor for multiple feats of bravery in an aerial engagement who was later shot down and held as a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton for six years, died May 2 at the age of 85.


His death was announced by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, which did not disclose the cause of death.

Thorsness was deployed to Vietnam as a Wild Weasel, an aircrew that deliberately baited enemy missile and radar sites with their own jets. Once the site gave itself away by tracking the American plane or firing on it, the Weasels or accompanying aircraft would bomb the site.

Thorsness was leading a flight of four F-105s on April 19, 1967, when the dangerous mission went sideways. Thorsness and his electronic warfare operator had taken out two sites when another member of the flight was hit by an enemy missile.

The two-man crew was able to eject, but the pair was descending into hostile territory. Thorsness flew circles so that he could pinpoint where they landed to facilitate a rescue, but spotted an enemy MiG as he maneuvered.

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Then-Maj. Leo K. Thorsness, at left, poses with his electronic warfare operator, Capt. Harold Johnson, next to their F-105 Fighter-Bomber. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Rescue crews were en route and Thorsness quickly attacked and killed the first MiG before flying to the tanker for fuel. Immediately after he refueled, he heard that the helicopter crews attempting the rescue were being threatened by a flight of four MiGs, and Thorsness flew through enemy anti-aircraft fire to reach the fight.

Thorsness and his EWO were on their own when they initiated the attack against the four MiGs. Thorsness quickly downed one and engaged the other three in aerial combat for 50 minutes, outnumbered and low on ammo but flying fiercely enough to drive them off.

Once again low on fuel, Thorsness headed back to the tanker but learned that another plane was lower than his. He gave up his fueling spot to allow the other to dock and so ran out of gas, forcing him to glide his aircraft back to friendly lines.

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Then-Maj. Leo K. Thorsness, second from left, stands with other Wild Weasels. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Only 11 days later, Thorsness and his EWO were shot down during a mission and became prisoners of the Hanoi Hilton. Thorsness was kept for years with another famous POW, Arizona Senator John McCain, a Navy pilot at the time.

Thorsness spent six years in the prison, three of them under nearly constant and brutal torture before international pressure relieved the conditions somewhat. His Medal of Honor was approved during that time, but it wasn’t announced until after his 1973 release for fear that the North Vietnamese would torture him worse if they knew about the medal.

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