The only good mines are one that are cleared — or better yet, never used in the first place. Today mines are generally seen as relics of bygone eras, deadly weapons that remain dangerous long after the war is fought. Forgotten minefields all over the world kill civilians by the score – more than 8,600 in 2016 alone. Many of those killed by mines are children.
Many who join armed forces around the world do so with the idea that they can keep their children and families – along with the children and families of their fellow countrymen – safe from the imminent dangers of impending war. When faced with an existential threat, countries will go to horrifying lengths to defend themselves. Apparently, using children to clear mines isn’t off-limits.
Such was the case in the early 1980s, the nascent years of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran fought a brutal war against Iraq since 1980, when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein smelled blood in the disorganized post-Revolution Iran and attempted to seize its access to the Persian Gulf by force.
The Iran-Iraq War was particularly brutal, even as far as warfare in the Middle East is concerned. The war was defined by eight years of stalemates and failed offensives, indiscriminate ballistic missile attacks — often using chemical weapons — and insane asymmetrical warfare.
Insane symmetrical warfare is a very clean term for the tactics Iran used to level the playing field of the Western-backed, technologically superior Iraqis. Iran recently purged its professional military of those loyal to the deposed Shah and was by no means ready to fight a war with a series of Revolutionary militias. The Ayatollah Khomeini was no military commander. He saw a success in war in terms of casualties inflicted on the enemy versus the number his forces took, a World War I-era approach to warfare.
To Khomeini, as long as the math worked and his fighters were sufficiently motivated by religious fanaticism and revolutionary spirit, he could push all the way to Baghdad. So he enlisted large numbers of civilians with little or no military training to execute his plans. This entrenched incompetence included the field command leadership who most often sent men to die in droves using human wave attacks, another World War I relic. The horror doesn’t stop there.
The New York Times’ Terence Smith, writing about Iran in 1984, described the use of child soldiers by Iran to clear minefields. Young boys, aged 12-17 years, wore red headbands with the words ‘Sar Allah’ in Farsi (Warriors of God) and small metal keys that the Ayatollah declared were their tickets to Paradise if they were martyred in their mission. Many were sent into battle against Iraqi tanks without any protection and bound by ropes to prevent desertion.
They were the first wave, making the way for Iranian tanks by clearing barbed wire and minefields with their bodies.
These children weren’t the only human wave attackers, but they certainly were the most notable – and effective. In the same interview, Smith notes the Iranian commanders are unapologetic. Iraq has many tanks and a lot of support. Iran has very few. What Iran had is exactly what the Ayatollah predicted, a large population filled with religious fervor.
The total number of casualties inflicted on Iran and Iraq throughout the war isn’t clearly known, but what is known is a number ranging anywhere between 500,000 to one million killed and wounded in the eight-year slugfest.
The “Bermuda Triangle” is a geographical area between Miami, Florida, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the tiny island nation of Bermuda. Nearly everyone who goes to the Bahamas can tell you that it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll die a horrible death.
From 1946 to 1991, there have been over 100 disappearances. These are some of the military disappearances that have been lost in the Bermuda Triangle.
1. U.S.S. Cyclops – March 4th, 1918
One of the U.S. Navy’s largest fuel ships at the time made an unscheduled stop in Barbados on its voyage to Baltimore. The ship was carrying 100 tons of manganese ore above what it could typically handle. All reports before leaving port said that it was not a concern.
The new path took the Cyclops straight through the Bermuda Triangle. No distress signal was sent. Nobody aboard answered radio calls.
This is one of the most deadly incidents in U.S. Navy history outside of combat, as all 306 sailors aboard were declared deceased by then-Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt.
2. and 3. USS Proteus and USS Nereus – November 23rd and December 10th 1941
Two of the three Sister ships to the U.S.S. Cyclops, The Proteus and Nereus, both carried a cargo of bauxite and both left St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands along the same exact path. Bauxite was used to create the aluminum for Allied aircraft.
Original theories focused on a surprise attack by German U-Boats, but the Germans never took credit for the sinking, nor were they in the area.
According to research by Rear Adm. George van Deurs, the acidic coal cargo would seriously erode the longitudinal support beams, thereby making them more likely to break under stress. The fourth sister ship to all three of the Cyclops, Proteus, and Nereus was the USS Jupiter. It was recommissioned as the USS Langley and became the Navy’s first aircraft carrier.
3. Flight 19 – December 5th, 1945
The most well known and documented disappearance was that of Flight 19. Five TBM Avenger Torpedo Bombers left Ft. Lauderdale on a routine training exercise. A distress call received from one of the pilots said: “We can’t find west. Everything is wrong. We can’t be sure of any direction. Everything looks strange, even the ocean.”
Later, pilot Charles Taylor sent another transmission: “We can’t make out anything. We think we may be 225 miles northwest of base. It looks like we are entering white water. We’re completely lost.”
After a PBM Mariner Flying Boat was lost on this rescue mission, the U.S. Navy’s official statement was “We are not even able to make a good guess as to what happened.”
4. MV Southern Districts – 5 December 1954
The former U.S. Navy Landing Ship was acquired by the Philadelphia and Norfolk Steamship Co. and converted into a cargo carrier. During its service, the LST took part in the invasion of Normandy.
Its final voyage was from Port Sulphur, Louisiana, to Bucksport, Maine, carrying a cargo of sulfur. It lost contact as it passed through the Bermuda Triangle. No one ever heard from the Southern Districts again until four years later, when a single life preserver washed on the Florida shores.
5. Flying Box Car out of Homestead AFB, FL – June 5th, 1965
The Fairchild C-119G and her original five crew left Homestead AFB at 7:49 PM with four more mechanics to aid another C-199G stranded on Grand Turk Island. The last radio transmission was received just off Crooked Island, 177 miles from it’s destination.
A month later on July 18, debris washed up on the beach of Gold Rock Cay just off the shore of Acklins Island (near where the crew gave its last transmission).
The most plausible theory of the mysterious disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle points to confirmation bias. If someone goes missing in the Bermuda Triangle, it’s immediately drawn into the same category as everything else lost in the area. The Coast Guard has stated that “there is no evidence that disappearances happen more frequently in the Bermuda Triangle than in any other part of the ocean.”
Of course, it’s more fun to speculate that one of the most traveled waterways near America may be haunted, may have alien abductions, or hold the Bimini’s secret Atlantean Empire.
The sea is a terrifying place. When sailors and airmen go missing, it’s a heartbreaking tragedy. Pointing to an easily debunkable theory cheapens the lose of good men and women.
The United States Navy has a history of honoring women – one that goes way back to 1776, when a row galley was named for Martha Washington (George’s wife). Currently, seven Navy ships named for women are in active service with the United States Navy, and an eighth is on the way. Here’s a rundown on these ships:
The destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70) has a five-inch gun, two Mk 41 Vertical Launch System with a total of 90 cells for BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-66, RIM-161, and RIM-174 Standard missiles, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets. She also has eight RGM-84 Harpoons in two Mk 141 launchers, two Mk 15 Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS), four .50 caliber machine guns, and two triple mounts for Mk 32 torpedo tubes.
In January, 2008, the Hopper was one of several U.S. Navy warships that had close encounters with Iranian speedboats.
2. USS Roosevelt (DDG 80)
This Arleigh Burke-class destroyer is named in honor of both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt. Eleanor Roosevelt was First Lady for 12 years, then served as a diplomat and spokesperson for the United Nations.
The destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) has a five-inch gun, two Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) with a total of 96 cells for BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-66, RIM-161, and RIM-174 Standards, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets, two Mk 15 Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS), four .50 caliber machine guns, two triple mounts for Mk 32 torpedo tubes, and the ability to carry two MH-60R helicopters.
According to a 2006 US Navy release, the Roosevelt and the Dutch Frigate De Zeven Provincien took part in an attempted rescue of a South Korean fishing vessel captured by pirates. In 2014, the DOD reported the destroyer took part in delivering a rogue oil tanker to Libyan authorities.
3. USNS Sacagawea (T AKE 2)
This Lewis and Clark class replenishment ship was named for Sacagawea, the Native American woman who guided the expedition lead by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark across the Louisiana Purchase. A previous USS Sacagawea (YT 326) was a harbor tug that served from 1925 to 1945.
The 41,000-ton replenishment ship USNS Sacagawea carries ammo, food, and other supplies to keep the United States Navy (and allies) fighting. The ship also can transfer some fuel to other vessels. She can carry two MH-60 helicopters to help transfer cargo and have as many as six .50-caliber machine guns.
In 2013, the Sacagawea took part in Freedom Banner 2013 as part of the Maritime Prepositioning Force.
4. USNS Amelia Earhart (T AKE 6)
The first woman to make a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, Amelia Earhart was one of the few women who earned a Distinguished Flying Cross. Earhart disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 under unknown circumstances. DANFS notes that a Liberty Ship was previously named for the famous aviator.
The 41,000-ton replenishment ship USNS Amelia Earhart carries ammo, food, and other supplies to keep the United States Navy (and allies) fighting. The ship also can transfer some fuel to other vessels. She can carry two MH-60 helicopters to help transfer cargo and have as many as six .50-caliber machine guns.
DANFS notes that on Nov. 20, 2014, the Amelia Earhart collided with USNS Walter S. Diehl (T AO 193).
5. USNS Mary Sears (T AGS 65)
Mary Sears was the first Oceanographer of the Navy during World War II. According to the website for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, her research on thermoclines saved many American submariners’ lives by enabling our subs to hide from enemy forces.
Fittingly, the U.S. Navy named the Pathfinder-class oceanographic research vessel USNS Mary Sears in her honor. The 5,000-ton vessel has a top speed of 16 knots, and carries a number of sensors for her mission. In 2007, the Mary Sears helped locate the “black boxes” from a missing airliner.
6. USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10)
Former Arizona Democrat Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — whose husband is astronaut and Navy Capt. Mark Kelly — served for five years before resigning her seat in the aftermath of an assassination attempt.
The Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords has a 57mm gun, four .50-caliber machine guns, and a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile. The vessel can carry two MH-60 helicopters and MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicles.
The ship just entered service in December, 2016, and had a cameo in Larry Bond’s 2016 novel, Red Phoenix Burning, where it was rammed by a Chinese frigate, suffering moderate damage.
7. USNS Sally Ride (T AGOR 28)
Sally Ride was the first American woman in space, flying on two Space Shuttle missions (missing a third after the Challenger exploded during launch), who died after a battle with pancreatic cancer in 2012.
A sister ship, the USNS Neil Armstrong (T AGOR 27), named for the first person to walk on the moon, is operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts.
8. USS Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG 123)
Lenah Higbee was the first woman to receive the Navy Cross – being recognized for her service as Superintendant of the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps in World War I. She was recognized with a Gearing-class destroyer in 1945, according to DANFS, that saw action in the last months of World War II.
The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee will have a 5-inch gun, two Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) with a total on 96 cells for BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-66, RIM-161, and RIM-174 Standards, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets, two Mk 15 Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS), four .50 caliber machine guns, two triple mounts for Mk 32 torpedo tubes, and the ability to carry two MH-60R helicopters when she enters service. MarineLog.com reported in January that construction of the destroyer had started.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with what happened during the American Revolution. But the heroics, triumphs, and defeats of the first American citizens have inspired artists for centuries. Here are 13 illustrations of the war that are often left out of the history books and popular culture:
(John Trumbull, Yale University Art Gallery)
(Alonzo Chappel via Good Free Photos)
(A.H. Ritchie via National Archives and Records Administration)
(M.A. Wageman via National Archives and Records Administration)
(Alonzo Chappel via National Archives and Records Administration)
(E.L. Henry via National Archives and Records Administration)
(James Peale via National Archives and Records Administration)
(Augustus G. Heaton via National Archives and Records Administration)
(Alonzo Chappel via National Archives and Records Administration)
(Ezra Winter via National Archives and Records Administration)
(A.I. Keller via National Archives and Records Administration)
(Alonzo Chappel via National Archives and Records Administration)
(Turgis via National Archives and Records Administration)
The United States and France do not always see eye-to-eye on military matters. In 1966, French President Charles de Gaulle pulled France from NATO during the height of the Cold War to preserve French independence. (Nicolas Sarkozy rejoined the alliance in 2009.) France tested nuclear devices well into the 1990s, decades after most of the other nuclear powers signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963. Most recently, France begged off on joining the U.S.-U.K. “Coalition of the Willing” to oust Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
And because of the world wars of the 20th Century, the French military tends to be seen with disdain. The French didn’t fare so well in World War I, as the Germans’ drive through Belgium resulted in much of the fighting being done on French soil. The inability to repel the German forces made the French seem weak. Truthfully, it was a multinational force who failed to expel the invaders, so it’s not entirely France’s fault. And then of course, the quick capitulation and subsequent collaboration of France to the Nazis in World War II gave them the reputation they have today.
The truth is the French armed forces are much more aggressive and capable than these few events would have you believe. Aside from the French Foreign Legion, who are noteworthy in their own right, France projects military power all over Europe, Africa, and Asia, and they’re really good at it. They just have a bad rep. It was the French, led by Charles Martel who kept the Muslims from conquering Western Europe at the Battle of Poitiers in 732. Since then, the French have had their wins and losses, just like anyone else.
In WWII, Free French forces had the élan to fight their own countrymen who had sided with the collaborationist Vichy government. Free French troops worked in concert with the British and Americans throughout the war. Those who could not escape the fall of France in 1940 fought on as partisans for four years under the Nazi occupation, assisting with U.S. and British intelligence operations, assassinations, sabotage, and were essential to planning the D-Day invasions. The operators of the French Résistance are symbolic of underground resistance movements to this day.
Vive la résistance!
After World War II, the French experienced a number of setbacks in its former colonies, most notably in French Indochina (aka Vietnam – and we in the U.S. know that war wasn’t as easily winnable as it might have seemed at the time), and in Algiers, where the independence movement led to a series of bloody, brutal attacks and counter attacks between French forces and the Algerian rebels. Since then, France has been resolute in its ideals and willing and able to back up those ideals with military force.
In response to the Nov. 2015 attacks on Paris from ISIS (Daesh), France immediately launched at least 30 air strikes against the de facto ISIS capital of Raqqa alone. French audacity led the way for the U.S. to hit ISIS oil facilities in Iraq and Syria, a main source of the terror group’s operating funds. The nuclear-powered French carrier Charles de Gaulle is currently en route to the Mediterranean to support anti-ISIS operations.
The Charles de Gaulle led an expedition of the one-fourth of the French Navy that supported operations in Afghanistan. The French launched 140 air strikes to support operations on the ground during the 2001 invasion as well as lending its recon aircraft to support U.S. special operations forces and then conventional forces in Operation Anaconda. French ground forces have been in Afghanistan since 2010, and 88 troops died there.
France is especially active in its former African colonies. During the 2004 Ivorian Civil War, the French sent 2,500 troops to keep the peace and prevent the sides from slaughtering each other. When French and Western civilians were rescued by French military helicopters as mobs of Ivorians raided Westerner’s homes. When Ivorian government forces, ostensibly under the guise of attacking rebel positions, hit a French base in Bouaké, killing nine and injuring 31, the French retaliated by an overland march on Yamoussoukro airport, taking out much of the Ivorian Air Force on the ground, and then capturing the country’s main airport in Abidjan.
The French returned to Ivory Coast in 2011 to finish off president Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to concede his election loss . The French ousted Gbagbo and arrested him, then subdued mercenaries hired by the former president.
That same year, French forces intervened in Libya to recon the country and take out artillery and armor bound for dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s effort to fill the streets of Benghazi with “rivers of blood.” France also assisted with the imposition of NATO “no-fly zones,” giving Libyan rebels the air support needed to even the odds of the war against Qaddafi’s regime.
In 2012, an Islamist group in Mali called Ansar Dine backed Tuareg tribes and secular militia in declaring independence in the Northern area of the former colony of France. They quickly captured three of the country’s largest cities and imposed strict Sharia law. The power vacuum attracted insurgents and jihadists from other Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The Malian government fell in a coup led by Malian troops unhappy with the government’s handling of the crisis.
Once a civilian interim government was re-established in the capital of Bamako, Islamist militants began to push toward the country’s center, and the French sent in the marines. French airstrikes stopped the Islamist advance and French troops helped the Malians recapture the vital city of Konna. By the time the French and Malians reached Timbuktu, Islamist resistance faded to nil. The entire operation took six months.
Today, France leads a 3,000-strong counterterrorism force in Africa, spanning Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Chad. They are the sole Western, NATO country in Operation Barkhane, fighting Islamist presence in West Africa, fighting ISIS and al-Qaeda-linked militants throughout the region.
It has been 32 years ever since Chris Cocks first published his acclaimed book narrating his experiences with the elite Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI). Now, five editions later, he is reprinting his masterpiece.
But it’s not just a reprint. Cocks has gone in and re-wrote the book to make it even better.
“Over the last three decades, the book has undergone around five editions with various publishers, some good, some not so good,” said Cocks “I decided, therefore, to re-write the book and take out a lot of fluff and waffle, and then self-publish.”
The Rhodesian Bush War (1964-1980) was a small but intense Cold War conflict. The Rhodesian government was faced by a Communist insurgency that had shrewdly sold itself in the international community as a liberation front aiming to end White-rule in the Southern African country.
Formed in 1961, the Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI) was an airborne all-white unit focused on direct action operations. (Most units in the Rhodesian military were mixed, usually Black soldiers led by White officers; the RLI and the Rhodesian Special Air Service (SAS) were some of the few all-White outfits.) Three years later, in 1964, the unit was retitled to 3 Commando, The Rhodesian Light Infantry, to better reflect its Special Operations role.
The unit was broken down to four Commandos of 100 men each and a headquarters company. The majority of the RLI troopers were Rhodesian regulars or reserves. There was, however, a significant foreign presence (Americans, French, Germans, British, Australians, New Zealanders).
“As a 20-year-old lance-corporal, I found myself in command of a troop (a platoon),” he recalls. “As a junior NCO, I never lost a man in combat, but I think that was luck. But I’m still proud of that.”
The airborne capabilities of the unit paired with its lethality made the RLI the bane of the communist insurgents. It is estimated that as part of Fire Force missions, which were introduced in 1974, the RLI killed 12,000 insurgents. At some point during the Bush War, the operational tempo was so high, that RLI troopers were conducting three combat jumps a day. Rapid deployment of troops was key to the Fire Force concept. Jumps, thus, were made at 300-500 feet without reserve parachutes. Indeed, they were flying so low that as the last jumper of the stick exited the aircraft, the first hit the ground. To this day, an RLI trooper holds the world record for most operational jumps with an astounding 73.
Chris Cocks’ book provides an original account of the Rhodesian Bush War. Several pictures breathe life into the men and their feats. The illustrations on the Fire Force are elucidating. Perhaps what sets Cocks’ book apart from similar narratives is its dual nature: a lover of narrative history will gain as much as a student of military history. (I’ve personally used Cocks’ book as a primary source for a paper that was published in the West Point’s military history journal.)
The cover of the latest edition.
Dr. Paul L. Moorcraft, a British journalist and academic who has written extensively on the Rhodesian Bush War, said that “Cocks’s work is one of the very few books which adequately describes the horrors of war in Africa … Fire Force is the best book on the Rhodesian War that I have read… it is a remarkable account that bears comparison with other classics on war … a tour de force.”
Cocks first wrote the book in the mid-1980s. He sought to understand why so many had died (over 50,000 dead on both sides) and why Zimbabwe had fallen to Communism. “Essentially, we lost not only the war, but our country,” said Cocks. “For what? I needed to record that, somehow. To be honest, I just started writing, with no particular end point in mind. It all came tumbling out.”
This is a book worth reading. You can purchase it on Amazon.
Oregon Sen. Edward Dickinson Baker was a veteran of the Mexican-American War, friend of President Abraham Lincoln, and respected legislator when he appeared before the Senate in full military uniform and delivered an impassioned speech on the Union cause to his colleagues.
Baker’s “Call to Arms” became famous and included the impassioned line:
We will rally the people, the loyal people, of the whole country. They will pour forth their treasure, their money, their men, without stint, without measure!
This was the second time that Baker had addressed the American legislature in uniform. Before shipping off to the Mexican-American War, Baker was a representative from Illinois and had addressed the House of Representatives in full dress.
Unfortunately for Baker, his Civil War adventure did not go as well as his trip to Mexico.
On Oct. 20, 1861, he and his brigade camped along the Potomac River. Another unit was sent at night to scout enemy positions on the other side and reported that they had spotted a Confederate camp that was completely unguarded.
A force was raised to attack the camp but it discovered that the “rows of tents” spotted by the scouts had actually seen a row of short trees that they confused for tents in the dark. Confederate sentries spotted the Union troops and quickly set up a skirmish line.
Baker was sent to figure out what was going on and take command of the Union forces in the battle. He and his men began moving across the river but there were precious few boats to ferry troops.
Active duty service by congress members was banned by the War Department in World War II. Modern legislators are forbidden from serving on active duty by the Incompatability Clause of the Constitution which prevents members of Congress from holding office in another branch of government.
Despite a limited number of submarines and other surveillance assets, naval forces in World War II had to find a way to spot enemy obstructions and defenses at fortified islands and beaches.
Into the gap stepped the frogmen and recon swimmers, brave sailors and Marines who swam into enemy waters and surveyed defenses with just snorkels and fins, often with enemy fire raining around them.
On D-Day, these brave men played a critical role ensuring that landing craft could make it to shore and take part in one of the most daring, important assaults of World War II. Hear what it was like to be in the waters at Normandy on that fateful day from the frogmen who were actually there in the interview below:
But the heroics of Naval Combat Demolition Units didn’t stop at D-Day; they played key roles in many defining operations of World War II:
Navy and Marine Corps personnel landing at Tarawa had to do so with limited intelligence and with nearly all obstacles in place at the start of the battle.
(U.S. Marine Corps painting Sergeant Tom Lovell)
Beach landings around the world, but especially the frequent landings in the Pacific during World War II, require good intelligence. Enemy mines and underwater obstacles can cripple a landing force when it’s most vulnerable. To ensure the landing works, attackers have to either avoid or clear such obstacles before the landings are affected.
The Navy learned this lesson the hard way when forces landing at Tarawa just hours after their arrival were forced to fight past a reef, beach obstacles and mines, and machine gun positions that had all been underestimated because no one got eyes directly on them before the fight. The invaders had relied on aerial imagery that couldn’t expose all the hazards.
But when the Navy is short on stealthy assets, like submarines, someone else has to get up close and personal and see where the obstructions are.
“Frogmen,” recon swimmers whose efforts would lead to today’s Navy SEALs, filled this role by jumping out of small boats while wearing just shorts, snorkels, swim masks, and fins. From there, they had to swim along enemy beaches and make mental notes of anywhere they saw natural or man-made obstacles that could hinder a landing.
A Navy frogman in relatively advanced gear for the time. Many frogmen during World War II, especially in the Pacific, made do with just snorkels, masks, and fins.
(National Archives and Records Administration)
If the obstacles were thick and foreboding enough, they had to destroy them, swimming up to mines and other countermeasures and dismantling them in place or blowing them up. Most frogmen served in units named for this task, the “Underwater Demolition Teams,” or UDTs.
Worse, if there was any question of the shore composition, the frogmen were tasked with swimming up to the beach itself, gathering sand, and swimming back with their samples.
Marines landing at Iwo Jima benefited from the swimmers who ensured the approaches were clear of obstacles and checked whether the volcanic sand would allow for the free movement of tracked vehicles.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
While Iwo Jima was revealed to be largely bare of obstacles, the swimmers had to collect the volcanic ash of the beach as Japanese defenders in pillboxes were laying down a thick blanket of fire on the swimmers and their fire support ships. The hail of bullets was so thick that the ships frequently had to leave the line to put out fires and repair damage.
The swimmers had no such safe space. When they landed at Utah and Omaha beaches on D-Day, the Utah team suffered 17 casualties and the Omaha team lost 91 killed and wounded. 37 men died on the two beaches to reduce the threat to the follow-on attackers.
Members of a Naval Combat Demolition Unit hit the beach during training.
They had to sneak up to obstacles and place dozens of pounds of explosives on them to prepare them for destruction, sometimes while close enough to German patrols and sentries to hear them speaking to each other.
The frogmen avoided mortar and small-arms fire by ducking underwater as they swam into the beach. One diver’s account simply stated, “Bullets drifted down like falling leaves.” Amazingly, all but one of the divers returned safely.
Their sacrifices, while great, saved lives. The naval report on Iwo Jima below details some of the frogmen’s work. Skip to 4:15 if you’re only interested in the swimmers.
It was a classic naval deception move. In 1914, just after the outbreak of WWI, the German navy cruiser Cap Trafalgar hid its figure and flew under a false flag, pretending to be the British armed merchant HMS Carmania. The goal was to lay in wait for other British ships, lure them in close, then fly the German flag and wreak havoc.
It worked, she was soon face-to-face with… the actual HMS Carmania.
Admittedly, it would have been a great tactic if they pulled it off.
Cap Trafalgar and Carmania were both converted ocean liners with orders to raid enemy shipping. Carmania’s skipper knew the Cap Trafalgar was operating in the area, though he may not have known the German ship was disguised as his own. What can be certain is that once he encountered the fake Carmania, a ferocious naval battle ensued.
Ships’ guns in The Great War had a lot more range than in previous conflicts, especially those in the age of sail. These converted liners could have fought from a distance, and in fact the battle began with the two ships four miles apart. These two ocean liners were vicious.
But as each tried to gain the advantage on the other, they ended up much closer than they had to. Cap Trafalgar realized it fared much better at closer ranges as Carmania took more and more damage.
The German captain moved to close the gap.
Blasting into each other’s hull from distances more akin to cannon from the age of sail, Carmania and Cap Trafalgar went to work. Carmania took 79 shots, causing 304 holes, nine dead, and 26 wounded. Cap Trafalgar fared much worse, even though she took fewer hits. Hit by 73 shots and having 380 holes, the ship began to list to the starboard (right) and sank ten minutes after the captain gave the order to abandon ship.
The German cruiser lost 16 sailors, including her captain, and more than 270 were captured by the Royal Navy for the duration of the war.
Carmania lost use of her guns and, with her bow in flames, had to be escorted into a nearby Brazilian island by the HMS Cornawl.
We all know Santa’s making a list, checking it twice… probably with some help from the NSA. Meanwhile, North American Aerospace Defense Command is also making a list and checking it twice to ensure their considerable assets are ready to help ensure that Santa accomplishes his mission safely.
This long-running tradition started by accident during the height of the Cold War. But it’s stuck around, even in the post-9/11 era. According to a 2008 Air Force release, the accident occurred in 1955, when NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defense command, or CONAD, got a call from a kid. A newspaper had misprinted a phone number to allow kids to track jolly old St. Nick. Instead of the local Sears store, they got the operations hotline for CONAD.
Colonel Harry Shoup was the director of operations on that Christmas Eve. Tracking Santa had not been something he’d prepared for or had been briefed to do. But when each kid called, he provided them Santa’s position, saving Christmas for the kids by assuring them that Santa was safe and on the job. The next year, CONAD did it again, and did so the year after that. When NORAD took over for CONAD in 1958, they assumed that Christmas Eve duty – and tradition – as well. In 2015, a DOD release noted that over 1500 volunteers helped carry out the mission.
The official web site, www.NORADSanta.org, includes videos, games, music, and a gift shop. There is also a Facebook page for that in this era of social media. And yes, there are apps for tracking Santa on Windows phones, Android phones, and iPhones. NORAD says that starting at 2:01 AM Eastern Standard Time on Dec. 24, they will have video of Santa making preparations for his mission. At 6 AM EST that day, live phone operators will be available at 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. And check out this video of the history of how NORAD got started.
The real-world exploits of this U.S. Marshal sound like the stuff of legend, up there with Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Except most of what you’ll hear about Bass Reeves is real. He escaped slavery in Texas by beating up his owner’s son. Then he lived among the natives in the Indian Territory of what is today Oklahoma. He memorized arrest warrants and always brought in the right criminal.
Bass Reeves was exactly what the Wild West needed.
While he could neither read nor write, Reeves knew the Indian Territory. He escaped there after beating up his master’s son in a dispute over a card game. The need to survive led him to the tribes of the Cherokee, Seminoles, and Creek Indians, whom he befriended and lived with until the end of the Civil War made him a free man. While he was illiterate, his mind was like a steel trap, and his heart was as brave as they come. When U.S. Marshal James Fagan was tasked with cleaning up the Indian Territory of its felons and outlaws, his first hire was Bass Reeves.
Reeves was now the first black lawman west of the Mississippi River and was perfectly suited for duty in the Indian Territory, speaking their language and knowing the terrain. For 32 years, Reeves would bring in the most dangerous of criminals without ever being wounded in action, despite having his hat and belt shot off on separate occasions.
Reeves and his Native American partner might have inspired “The Lone Ranger.”
At the end of his long, illustrious career, Reeves claimed to have arrested more than 3,000 felons and shot at least 14 outlaws dead during shootouts – he even had to arrest his own son for murder. Even though he claimed he’d never been hit by an outlaw’s bullet, there were times where they got the drop on the lawman. His favorite trick, one he used many times, was a letter ruse. When his quarry got the better of him, he would ask his captors to read him a letter from his wife before they shot him. Once the outlaws took the letter, Reeves used the distraction to draw his weapon and disarm or take down the bad guys.
His exploits were soon famous, and he earned the nickname “The Invincible Marshal” for all the times he’d escaped the jaws of death. Only at age 71 did death come for Bass Reeves – not in the form of an outlaw’s bullet, but rather kidney disease, in 1910.
As exciting as the sudden appearance of thousands of hatchets at the front was, it’s not clear that they were actually used violently. The mounted infantrymen carried them into battle, but the weapons’ main contribution to the war effort seems to have been logistical.
It’s unlikely that the unit would have found much use for the hatchets in combat. Each man could fire seven shots between reloads, making it unlikely that enemy forces could march into range of the hatchets. And the men rarely rode their horses during the actual fighting. Instead, they would ride quickly to the battlefield, dismount, and send the horses to the rear.
In that way, the mounted infantrymen really were the predecessors to mechanized infantry and air assault infantry rather than cousins to the cavalry.
And if they had been cavalry, they probably would have been saddled with those common sabers instead of their awesome, namesake hatchets.
Army Capt. James E. Miller, one of the first aviators in the U.S. military and the first U.S. aviation casualty in World War I, has been named recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross nearly 100 years after his heroic actions over France in 1918.
On the 242nd birthday of the Army, during a twilight tattoo ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia, Acting Secretary of the Army Robert M. Speer presented the Distinguished Flying Cross to Miller’s great-grandson, Byron Derringer.
“We’re very proud today to have some of the descendants from James Miller’s family here and able to represent him and a lineage of what he achieved on those battlefields as the first individual who gave his life in that war in aviation,” Speer said.
The presentation of the cross to a World War I soldier is significant, given that the theme for this year’s Army birthday is, “Over There! A Celebration of the World War I Soldier.”
America Enters World War I
The United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. On Dec. 7, 1917, the U.S. declared war on Austria-Hungary, Germany’s ally.
“This is the 100th anniversary of [America’s entry into] World War I,” Speer said. “And it’s the 242nd birthday of our Army. But 100 years ago, there were significant changes in terms of the character of war. You had at that time, for the first time, the Army going off to war in foreign lands with our allies, fighting side-by-side with our allies, and representing the United States — which placed the United States into a significant leadership role in the world.”
Speer said several aspects of warfare changed during World War I, including the development of armor units and precision artillery. One of the most significant developments, however, was that the U.S. military had “aviation for the first time as part of the U.S. Army Air Corps,” he said.
“We have a privilege today to be able to recognize not only the heraldry of our total 242 years but also that point and time, where we recognize, late, a Distinguished Flying Cross for an American hero,” Speer said.
As part of a twilight tattoo event at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., held on honor of the Army’s 242nd birthday, Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer, left, and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, right, present a posthumous Distinguished Flying Cross for Army Capt. James E. Miller to Miller’s great-grandson, Byron Derringer, center, June 14, 2017.
Early 20th Century Aviation Warfare
As a soldier in World War I, Miller was one of the first to make use of new aviation technology. The captain took command of the 95th Pursuit Squadron on Feb. 10, 1918 — just 10 months after the United States declared war on Germany. The men in the squadron were the first American-trained pilots to fight in the war.
On March 9 of that year, Miller, Maj. M. F. Harmon and Maj. Davenport Johnson began the first combat patrol ever for the U.S. Army Air Services. They flew 180-horsepower, French-built SPAD XIII aircraft. The aircraft, a biplane, is named for its developer, the Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés.
Harmon’s plane experienced trouble early in the sortie, and so he was unable to continue on the patrol. But Miller and Johnson pressed on together and crossed into enemy territory. There, they fought off two German aircraft, but soon met more. It was then that Johnson’s aircraft experienced trouble with the machine guns.
Miller Fights On
According to the DFC citation, Johnson was forced to leave Miller to continue the fight against German aviators on his own.
“Miller continued to attack the two German biplanes, fearlessly exposing himself to the enemy, until his own aircraft was severely damaged and downed behind the German lines, where he succumbed to his injuries,” the citation reads. “Miller’s actions are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the United States Army Air Services and the American Expeditionary Forces.”
Afterward, Derringer said of both the recognition and the twilight tattoo that accompanied the recognition, “it’s spectacular, I know that the family, everybody, is just honored to be here.”