Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm

In 1991, the United States and its coalition allies scored a decisive victory over Iraq, pushing the invading army out of Kuwait after a 40-day air war and 100-hour ground assault. The coalition was almost universally recognized, only Jordan, Algeria, Sudan, Yemen, and Tunisia opposed to action. Also in support was Iran, enemy to both Iraq and the United States. But deep within the most fanatical ranks of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, a plot was hatched to hit U.S. troops.


During the buildup to Desert Storm in the waning days of 1990, the United States was sending thousands of troops, vehicles, ships, and aircraft into the region. They were building a force that could rival Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army, prevent it from moving further than Kuwait (namely, from invading neighboring Saudi Arabia), and have enough troops to push it out of Kuwait.

What a tempting target such a buildup would be to any foe. That’s exactly what a faction of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards thought. The United States wouldn’t even expect an attack from Iran. It would have been easy.

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm
But not “Re-Enlisting on the Backs of Your Fallen Enemy” Easy.

The whole purpose of the Revolutionary Guards is to deter foreign threats to the Islamic Republic, whether those threats come from outside Iran or are fomented within its borders. They are a sort of internal security service mixed with a paramilitary organization that can operate both in and outside their home country. They are the Islamic Republic’s most fervent defenders, believers in Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s vision of a nation founded on the principles of Shia Islam.

In practice, their ideological zeal has given IRGC units the green light to do whatever it takes to keep Iran and its Islamic government safe from those who would dismantle it. This includes violence, terrorism, and even all-out war alongside Iranian allies. It was the IRGC that helped Iran fight technologically superior Iraq to a draw in the Iran-Iraq War. That war also led to the emergence of the IRGC as a major military and political force in Iran. So, when the United States launched Desert Shield, the IRGC took notice.

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm
It was kinda hard to miss.

As the tens of thousands of U.S.-led coalition troops massed in Saudi Arabia, units of a rebellious faction of the Revolutionary Guards, led by the Ayatollah Khomeini’s son, Ahmad, attempted to launch missile attacks from Iran on the troops deploying to Saudi Arabia. The goal, according to a 2008 paper by IRGC expert Ali Alfoneh in Middle East Quarterly, was to start a war between the United States and Iran on the eve of Desert Storm.

Loyalist Guardsmen and regular Iranian Army units under the command of then-IRGC Chief Mohsen Rezai got wind of the plan. It was to be launched from Khorramshahr, an Iranian city on the Iraqi border near Kuwait. Khorramshahr was the site of a particularly bloody battle of the Iran-Iraq War, a fight hard won by Iranian forces. It was also the site of an IRGC-controlled missile battery – which was quickly captured by the loyalist Iranian regime forces.

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm
“Khorramshahr” is also the name of one of Iran’s newest long-range ballistic missiles.

Ayatollah Khomeini died in 1989, but his legacy protected his mutinous son. Ahmad Khomeini, considered his father’s right hand man, was relieved of his Revolutionary Guards command and was sent to live in isolation until his death in 1995. The 49-year-old cleric died of a mysterious heart disease while still living an isolated life.

The United States went on to victory over Iran’s former adversary, humiliating Saddam Hussein and forcing the Iraqi regime to accept harsh economic sanctions and military limitations until the U.S. came back to topple it in 2003. Iran’s patience paid off with the recent instability in Iraq allowing the Islamic Republic to project power across the Middle East.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the origin of the 21-gun salute

If you ever attend a military funeral or memorial ceremony, you may notice a group of men and women proudly holding rifles. Then, at a specific time, they aim their weapons up to the sky and fire, usually causing a slight stir in the crowd, even though everyone was expecting it to happen.

Don’t worry — those rounds are just blanks.

This practice is quite common throughout the world and, as with many traditions, it has a practical origin. Back when ships carried cannons, it was universally understood that immediately after firing, these weapons were rendered ineffective for a period of time — after all, reloading took a while. So, in order to demonstrate peaceful intent, ships would turn their cannons to the sky and discharge, telling those ashore that a ship’s weapons weren’t live.

Nobody knows why ships were designed, at one point, to carry precisely seven cannon. Some theorize that it’s related to the seven phases of the moon, others think it has to do with the biblical week, and some say it’s simply because seven is a lucky freakin’ number.


Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, embarked on Indianapolis, receives a 21-gun salute from Coast Guard Cutter Mojave, during the presidential fleet, 1934.

The cannon in shore batteries (with ample stores of dry, usable gunpowder) would fire three shots in return for every single shot they heard coming from the sea. For all you math geniuses out there, that equals 21 cannon shots. Upon hearing the return fire, ships at sea knew that the harbor was friendly — and the 21-gun salute was born.

It isn’t always 21, though. During a funeral ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, the POTUS, former presidents, and presidents elect receive the traditional 21-gun salute. Other high-ranking officials, however, like the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and military officers in command over multiple branches, receive a 19-gun salute.

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm
Members of the honor guard’s rifle team fire off a salute to remember twelve veterans during a burial at sea ceremony held aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (Photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Christine Singh)

Although hearing the 21-gun salute typically means you’re mourning the loss of a fellow patriot, know that this is a practice rooted in peace and history. With this salute, the fallen join those who gave us traditions so long ago.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The childish origins of the word ‘infantry’

In the days of antiquity, being in the cavalry was a privilege specifically reserved for those who ranked higher in the social order than the common people. Those who were too young, too inexperienced, or too poor to have a horse, usually ended up in a type of combat unit specifically named for them: the infantry.


From the early days of warfare on up through the Middle Ages and beyond, war was a socially stratified activity, just like anything else. The leaders of a country needed able-bodied men to fight the wars, and they needed those men to already have the skills and experience necessary to fight wars. The problem is that most of those men definitely did not have the skills and experience necessary to fight wars. If a country didn’t have a standing professional army and used mostly the rabble picked from its towns and cities, chances are good, it was filled with infantry.

The word “infantry” is just as its root word suggests. Derived from the latin word infans, the word literally means infancy. Later versions of the word became common usage in French, Old Italian, and Spanish, meaning “foot soldiers too low in rank to be cavalry.

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm

The last thing you see when you’re too poor to own a horse and no one thought to bring pointy sticks.

As if walking to the war and being the first to die from the other side’s cavalry charges wasn’t bad enough, your own cavalry referred to you as babies or children. Another possible Latin origin of the phrase would also describe infantry just as well. The word infantia means “unable to speak” or perhaps more colloquially, “not able to have an opinion.” The latter word might describe any infantry throughout history. As a conscript, you were forced into the service of a lord for his lands and allies, not given a choice in the matter.

In the modern terminology for infantry, this is probably just as true, except you volunteered to not have an opinion. At least now, you get healthcare and not cholera.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch the rare footage from the Battle for Stalingrad

Known as one of the bloodiest campaigns of all of World War II, nearly one million people lost their lives during the Battle for Stalingrad.


The battle was a colossal matchup between European dictators Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Throughout the campaign, thousands of bombs were dropped, killing innumerous innocent civilians and leaving nothing but ruins and a massive maze of defensive positions for the Soviets.

Related: 5 of the most badass snipers of all time

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm
Wehrmacht soldiers getting the order to advance within the ruins of Stalingrad.

As the Germans moved forward, they came within meters of their Russian enemy and, in some cases, combat devolved into hand-to-hand combat. Meanwhile, talented snipers set themselves up in burned-out buildings and would egress out immediately after taking a single shot — discovery in such close quarters was otherwise inevitable.

Although the Germans took heavy casualties during their push into the city’s high ground, their losses couldn’t compare to the enormous dent they made in Russian personnel.

It would take nearly four weeks of intense and grueling combat for the Germans to reach the Mamayev Hill.

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm
A view from the top of Mamayev Kurgan, Stalingrad.

As the Germans continued to push forward, the Russian frontline began to rapidly collapse. Members of the Red Army began retreating from their positions en masse, some even forfeiting their weapons to nearby troops.

Many Russian troops felt the battle was unwinnable. Their iron-fisted dictator, however, refused to back down. Today, many military strategists feel that if Stalin had ordered a retreat and had given his men time to regroup, they could have successfully reestablished defenses sooner.

Although it appeared Stalingrad would soon fall, Hitler’s infantry was spreading a little too thin.

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm
A German soldier sets up a firing position during the Battle of Stalingrad.

Then, the Russian’s introduced their well-engineered T-34 tank, which struck fear in the Germans. The armored vehicle was a sturdy as Stalin’s confidence. As time went on, what once felt like an easy victory for the Germans become a titanic beating.

Although the Russians were regaining ground, they continued to suffer heavy casualties throughout. For Hitler, losing a city named after his nemesis was unacceptable.

After five months of carnage, the Battle of Stalingrad finally came to a halt. It officially ended on Feb. 2, 1943, with a Soviet victory.

Also Read: This is how Stalingrad’s most epic sniper duel ended

Check out the Smithsonian Channel’s video below to watch remarkable and intense footage from the battle.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCpaNjfs2LI
MIGHTY HISTORY

Friendship in Death: The Nimitz Plot at Golden Gate National Cemetery

Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the World War II Commander of the Pacific Fleet, delivered remarks at Golden Gate National Cemetery on the 10th Anniversary of V-J Day, August 14, 1955. The remains of many men who died under his command had been repatriated and rested before him. Nimitz took the loss of life made by his decisions personally and carried the burden with him throughout his life. He spoke directly to his fallen men on this occasion and promised them that the survivors of the war would honor their memory by maintaining military strength to deter future calamity.

Over the next decade, Admiral Nimitz decided that, in death, he wanted to join his men at Golden Gate with a standard military funeral and regulation headstone. He took steps to assure that the shipmates closest to him during World War II could join him as well.


Admiral Nimitz was a humble and no-frills type of man; still, his funerary and burial decisions surprised some. He was the third of four admirals promoted to the rank of Fleet Admiral of the United States Navy during WWII. All were entitled to a state funeral and three accepted.

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm

Fleet Admiral Nimitz’s family standing outside of Golden Gate National Cemetery’s chapel, February 24, 1966. Mrs. Nimitz is seated in front of her son and daughters. (U.S. Navy Photo 1115073, NARA II, College Park, Md.)

When the Kennedy administration approached Nimitz—the last of the surviving Fleet Admirals—about planning his own state funeral and burial in Arlington, Nimitz balked. He told his wife Catherine that “He did not love Washington, he loved it out here, and all of his men from the Pacific were out here.”

Instead, Nimitz had only one special request: that the five stars of his Fleet Admiral insignia be placed in the space reserved for an emblem of belief on his headstone. His biographer, E.B. Potter, speculated that Nimitz, a religious man outside of denominations, made the decision to show that “He had done his best in life.”

There were spaces for six graves in Nimitz’s designated burial plot at Golden Gate. When asked if he had preference for who went into the other four graves, Nimitz said, “I’d like to have Spruance and Lockwood.”

Admirals Raymond Spruance and Charles Lockwood were two of Nimitz’s closest friends during the war and after. Their competency as warfighters and leaders contributed greatly to victory in the Pacific. Spruance delivered key victories, such as Midway, the Philippine Sea, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Lockwood commanded the successful U.S. submarine operations in the Pacific.

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm

Admiral Chester Nimitz (CINCPAC) gives a dinner party in Hawaii for First Lady Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt on September 22, 1943. (L-R): Rear Admiral Charles Lockwood, Mrs. Roosevelt, Admiral Nimitz, Vice Admiral Raymond Spruance. (NH 58521, Naval History and Heritage Command, WNYD)

As a bonus, another close friend and architect of all major Pacific amphibious landings, Admiral Richmond Kelley Turner already occupied a grave very close to the Nimitz plot. When Nimitz posed the idea to Spruance, he “took to the thing like a duck to water,” as Mrs. Nimitz recalled. Lockwood agreed with the plan as well.

A friend in death

Nimitz died February 20, 1966, with his wife Catherine at his side. He was laid to rest on the cold and blustery afternoon of February 24 (his 81st birthday). Admiral Spruance, recovering from the flu, respectfully stood at attention in his uniform throughout. Mrs. Nimitz found some humor in the day when an uninvited sailor who had served in the Pacific Fleet arrived at the grave dressed in his best cowboy boots and hat. He refused to leave because “This was his commander, [and] he was going to be there come hell or high water.”

While this circumstance would likely have annoyed many, this type of admiration from those who served under him embodied the leadership style of Nimitz. Two nineteen-gun salutes, a 70-plane flyover, and the playing of “Taps” concluded the service.

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm

Funeral of Fleet Admiral Nimitz. Procession about to begin journey from the chapel to the gravesite at Golden Gate National Cemetery, February 24, 1966. (U.S. Navy Photo 1115072-B, NARA II, College Park, Md.)

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.


MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how North Korea thinks the Korean War started

The Korean War began on June 25, 1950, when North Korea suddenly and unexpectedly invaded South Korea. Their first stop was the 24th Infantry Division stationed at Taejon. Since the U.S. and South Korean armies were already exhausted from trying to stop the North Korean People’s Army every step of the way from the border, Taejon didn’t stand much of a chance. 

But to hear the North Koreans tell the story of Taejon, you’d think the Americans started the war and that Taejon was “liberated” when the KPA captured the city after a week of fighting. That’s what Singaporean tourist Aram Pan learned on a visit to North Korea’s Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum. 

Pan uploaded a video of his visit to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War museum in May of 2020. There, he saw a massive panoramic diorama of the Battle of Taejon from the North Korean point of view. The tour was led by a North Korean tour guide wearing the uniform of the Korean People’s Army.

“The U.S. imperialists provoked the Korean War on June 25, 1950,” said the guide. “Our soldiers liberated Seoul, the enemy’s capital on June the 28th, 1950, only three days after the outbreak of the Korean War.” 

What the tour guide said is mostly accurate. The war did start on June 25th and North Korea did capture Seoul on the 28th of June. 

“After losing Seoul, the enemy went to Taejon city as their second capital,” she continues, “and they were going to block the advance of our soldiers in the Taejon area.”  

This is also mostly correct. The North Koreans did advance on Taejon after taking Seoul, and the Americans did stand a Taejon in an attempt to block the North Koreans from advancing further south. But there’s nothing different about that battle plan. Most defending armies in a war are going to try to block the advances of an invader. 

crew of an m24 during korean war
Crew of an M24 tank along the Naktong River front. On the ground is Pfc. Rudolph Dotts, Egg Harbor City, N.J. gunner (center); Pvt. Maynard Linaweaver, Lundsburg, Kansas, cannoneer; and on top is Pfc. Hugh Goodwin, Decature, Miss., tank commander. All are members of the 24th Reconnaissance, 24th Division. (Army, KOREAN WAR)

The guide then shows off the massive panoramic display that was created in 1974. The exhibit shows what it would have looked like if you had been standing on a southwestern hill two kilometers away from Taejon during the June 14-21, 1950 battle there. 

It also depicts what the North Koreans are taught about the Korean War. The guide says that President Kim Il-Sung personally oversaw the Battle of Taejon from Seoul. It’s highly unlikely Kim was so close to the fighting at the time. It was important to him to unify the Korean Peninsula under his regime, but Taejon was just another city to take from the Americans. 

Kim Il-Sung and his son Kim Jong-Il probably enjoyed hearing this when they visited the exhibit’s opening in 1974, but it’s factually inaccurate. 

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm
A Russian made T34/85 tank knocked out in Taejon, Korea, on 20 July stands at testimony to the heroic action of Major General William F. Dean, Commanding Officer,24th Infantry Division. (Korean War Signal Corps Collection)

“This battle was very famous because at this battle, the enemy’s technical superiority was defeated by our tactical superiority under the wise command of President Kim Il-Sung,” the guide continues. 

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm
Victorious War Museum Entrance (Uri Tours, Wikipedia)

The panoramic exhibit is 50 feet high, 433 feet long, and 137 feet in diameter but it gives a 25 mile view of the battlefield. The Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum also features a number of captured or destroyed aircraft, tanks, and other vehicles from the United Nations and United States – of which it claims to have destroyed more than 10,000.  

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons to plant your Victory Garden

America didn’t just call on the troops to wage war, she called upon all her people to fight food shortage and a depression with gardens — “Victory gardens” — to be specific. In the early 1940s, when food rationing came into place, everyday Americans were turning up their yards to produce not just enough food for their families, but for their neighbors as well.

It’s safe to say a worldwide pandemic has given us cause to unearth the history of Victory Gardens and take the matter of a potential food shortage into our own, capable hands.

Here’s a thing or two you need to know about how to raise your shovels as your grandparents or great grandparents did long ago.


Canned food was limited 

Canned food was rationed both to preserve tin for military use but also to decrease the strain on food transportation. Reducing “food miles” with sustainable urban agriculture was exactly how families and friends stayed supplied with fresh produce. Put down the can of lima beans you’re never going to eat and pick up some seeds instead.

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm

The know-how

Victory gardens were pushed at a national level, and informational pamphlets (pre-internet) were distributed. Community committees were organized to both assist newcomers and inform neighbors of what was being grown and where. Luckily for us, there’s a whole internet full of information, and local agricultural extensions to call, ensuring social distancing is still met.

So easy a child could do it 

Children participated in gardening both out of necessity and to ensure all that good food knowledge didn’t go to waste. Need something for your kids to do? Let them tend to your budding garden at home; it’s a delicious form of education.

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm

It doesn’t take a farm

The average American lawn has more than enough space to grow everything your family needs and more. Learning what plants like to cohabitate in the soil will maximize your growing potential.

Never forget 

How to rely on ourselves has been a skill lost to the “lazy” days of supermarkets stocked to the brim with internationally-grown produce. It may have taken a pandemic, but re-educating America on how to fend for themselves needs to be a skillset we value once again. We need to pass down precious knowledge of food and to become aware once again of the immense value food has in our lives.

Great things have happened throughout history during times of struggle. Every single one of us has the opportunity to make this world better, stronger and more resilient than ever before.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Vietnam draft actually worked

Winning the lottery has likely never crossed your mind to be anything short of a celebration of newfound riches. Yet, for American men born before 1958, finding your number selected at random on television didn’t generally translate to wealth.

Ever wondered how the Vietnam draft actually worked? We’re combing through the history pages to find out just how birthdates and the Selective Service System mattered throughout the 20th century.


Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm

Your grandfather, father and I

Coming of age doesn’t come close to holding the same meaning as it did for the nearly 72 million “baby boomers” born into the Vietnam era draft. Requirements for registration varied over the decades, ranging from eligible age ranges beginning at 21 and eventually lowering to age 18.

Uncle Sam had called upon its fighting-age citizens as far back as anyone alive could recall, as both World Wars and the Korean War utilized draftees. The Selective Service Act of 1917 reframed the process, outlawing clauses like purchasing and expanding upon deferments. Military service was something that, voluntary or not, living generations had in common.

Low was high and high was low

When the lottery took effect, men were assigned a number between 1 and 366. (365 days per year plus one to account for leap year birthdays.) In 1969, a September 14birthday was assigned a number 001. Group 001 birthdays would be the first group to be called upon. May 5 birthdays were assigned number 364 or would have been the 364group to be required to report. Even if called upon, screenings for physical limitations, felony convictions or other legal grounds resulted in candidate rejection.

This method was determined to be a “more fair and equitable process” of selecting eligible candidates for service. Local draft boards, who determined eligibility and filled previous quotas for induction, had been criticized for selecting poor or minority classes over-educated or affluent candidates.

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm

Grade “A” American prime candidates

In addition to a selection group, eligible males were also assigned a rating. These classifications were used between 1948 and 1976 and are available to view on the Selective Service System’s website.

1-A- eligible for military service.

1A-O- Conscientious Objector. Several letter assignments are utilized for various circumstances a conscientious objector may fall under.

4-G- Sole surviving son in a family where parent or sibling died as a result of capture or holds POW-MIA status.

3-A- Hardship deferment. Hardship would cause undue hardship upon the family.

Requests for reclassification, deferments, and postponements for educational purposes or hardships required candidates to fill out and submit a form to the Selective Service.

Dodging or just “getting out of dodge”

Options for refusing service during Vietnam varied. Frequently called “draft dodgers” referred to those who not just objected, but literally dodged induction. Not showing up, fleeing to Canada, going AWOL while in service or acts such as burning draft cards were all cards played to avoid Vietnam.

Failing to report held consequences ranging from fines, ineligibility of certain benefits, to imprisonment. In what has widely been viewed as a controversial decision, President Jimmy Carter pardoned hundreds of thousands of “draft dodgers” eliminating the statuses like “deserter” from countless files.

Researching the history of “the draft” in American history dates back to that of the Civil War. While spanning back generations and several wars, the Vietnam era draft is still viewed as the most controversial and widely discussed period in its history.

In case you’re wondering, The Selective Service System’s website still exists, as men are still required to register even today.

Articles

Watch how the Marines held out against the brutal siege of Khe Sanh

During the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese were trying to find ways to force the United States out, as they had the French. In December 1967 they figured the Marine base at Khe Sanh would be the perfect place to replicate Dien Bien Phu, their decisive victory against the French in 1954.


Well, the French didn’t have the air power of the United States Air Force and United States Marine Corps. Nor did they have cargo planes like the C-130 Hercules and the C-123 Provider.

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm
First-generation C-130As performing an airdrop (Photo US Air Force)

This was one of two big game-changers in the years since Dien Bien Phu. The cargo planes France had back then were C-119 Flying Boxcars – which could haul almost 14 tons of cargo. The French had as few as nine planes in that theater.

The American C-123s could carry 12 tons, but the C-130s could carry over 22 tons – and the Americans had a lot more airlift assets. This meant a lot of supplies got to the Marines – 12,430 from just the Air Force, and another 4,661 tons via Marine helicopters.

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm
Photo: Wikimedia

One other big difference: The B-52 Stratofortress. Yes, BUFFs were at Khe Sanh, compared to second-hand A-26 Invaders. A B-52 could drop 51 M117 750-pound bombs on a target. The A-26 could carry 6,000 pounds of bombs – or up to 12 500-pound bombs.

That did not include the support from other planes like the F-4 Phantom and A-4 Skyhawk.

Over 20,000 sorties were flown in defense of Khe Sanh – 2,500 of which were flown by B-52s. When all was said and done, the North Vietnamese lost 15,000 personnel trying to take Khe Sanh – making the siege a costly error. The base was eventually relieved, and a lot of abandoned gear was captured.

The video below from the DOD provides an excellent outline of just how American air power caused the siege of Khe Sanh to fail.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQjdNK6lhdM
Articles

7 times Allied troops stole Nazi vehicles

Look, the Nazis had some cool toys during World War II.


They were far ahead of the other combatants in jet-powered flight, had amazing tanks, and created awesome examples of prop aircraft. So the Allies may have lifted a few of their better vehicles in an effort to see how best to destroy them and, in many cases, how to rip off the technology to use for American equipment.

Here are seven times Allied troops stole Nazi vehicles and technology:

1. British engineers hunt a Tiger tank

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm
A German Tiger in Sicily, 1943. (U.S. Army photo)

During the North African campaign in World War II, a small group of engineers, some of them with little combat experience, were sent on a dangerous mission, to capture one of the feared Tiger tanks in combat. The four men were on the mission under the direct orders of Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Hunting went badly at first. The crew arrived in North Africa in February 1943. Heavy combat in Tunisia caused a lot of Tiger tanks to be wounded, but most were destroyed by British troops or withdrawing Germans before they could be captured. But the big day came on April 21 when the men spotted a Tiger with a jammed turret.

They raced their Churchill Tank around the back of the Tiger and attacked the crew, killing them with machine guns, and captured the Tiger. Churchill and British King George visited the tank in Africa before it was shipped back to England for further study.

2. An American POW escapes Germany in a stolen Nazi plane

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm
Robert Hoover, one of America’s greatest test and fighter pilots, is in the bottom row, second from right. (Photo: U.S Air Force)

Bob Hoover was one of the most legendary show and fighter pilots in history, flying hundreds of airframes over his career. But his most impressive flight was probably the one he was never scheduled to make, an escape from Nazi lines in his captors’ plane.

Hoover was a decorated ace with 59 missions under his belt when he was shot down and captured. He escaped the prison after staging a fight and managed to get some food and a gun from a friendly German farm wife. He used the pistol to steal some bicycles and made his way to a nearly abandoned airfield where he and a friend stole the legendary Focke-Wulfe 190 fighter plane and flew it back to England.

3. British commandos stole a Nazi radar station

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm
(Photo: Royal Air Force Squadron Leader A.E. Hill)

So, yeah, a radar station isn’t a vehicle. But still, British paratroopers went on a daring cross-channel raid to steal radar technology from Germans in occupied France.

Operation Biting, as it was known, was successful and the paratroopers escorted a British radar technician to the German installation, attacked it while the tech removed the most vital components, and then withdrew on foot with two German technicians as prisoner. They left France via boat.

4. Operation LUSTY allowed the U.S. to steal dozens of planes

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm
German Me-163B Komet. (U.S. Air Force photo)

In 1944, the Allied governments were jockeying for the best post-war prizes and intelligence grabs even as the war was still being fought. Army Air Corps Col. Harold Watson and “Watson’s Whizzers” were a group of pilots and engineers tasked with collecting the most Luftwaffe technology possible in Operation LUSTY (LUftwaffe Secret TechnologY).

They stole engineering documents, blueprints, and – most importantly – planes. They would advance right behind friendly troops into German air bases or sometimes even move forward into areas thought to have no defenders. As the likely Allied sectors of occupation took shape, they even went into the areas that would be occupied by British, French, or Russian troops and stole German planes from there to the American sector.

5. The Brits take the world’s first jet-powered bomber from Norway

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm
The Arado 234 was the world’s first operational jet-powered bomber. The sole surviving aircraft of its type now resides at the Smithsonian Museum. (Photo: Michael Yew CC BY 2.0)

After Germany fell in May 1945, Allied forces poured into formerly occupied areas and scooped up everything they could find. The world’s first operational jet-powered bomber, the Arado 234. The plane had previously been used by the Germans to take reconnaissance photos of heavily defended areas like the Normandy beaches in the months after D-Day.

The British shared the Arado 234 with America and the captured jet is the only surviving plane of its type. It currently resides at the Smithsonian Museum.

6. American troops capture a German train and the tank chained to it

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm
Infantrymen of the 3rd Armored Division advance under artillery fire in Pont-Le-Ban, Belgium on Jan. 15, 1945. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army)

When the 3rd Armored Division reached Soissons in August 1944, it was hot on the heels of retreating German forces. The American crews raced forward to cut off their foes, and some of the tank crews spotted a German train attempting to flee east with a large amount of supplies and a tank.

The Americans tried to take out the tank with 37mm anti-tank fire, but it was ineffective. Instead, they kept steady small arms fire on everyone attempting to get into the tank as the Shermans wiped out the infantry company on the train. The Americans were able to capture the train and the tank. Oddly enough, some of the trains much-needed space was taken up with lingerie and lipstick, likely gifts for German girlfriends.

7. The Royal Air Force has a Focke-Wulf 190 practically handed to them

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm
A captured Fw 190A. (Photo: National Museum of the U.S. Air Force)

The Focke-Wulf 190 fighter plane was arguably the best fighter plane of the war. It would outmaneuver most Allied planes and had a ton of power. The Royal Air Force, the service that faced the 190 most in the early days, wanted to steal one to figure out how to better defeat it.

A series of plans – some of them a little crazy – were proposed, but they became unnecessary when a Luftwaffe pilot accidentally landed one at an RAF base and a local officer was able to capture it with a pistol. The German pilot had become disoriented during a dogfight and, low on fuel, had put down at what he thought was a German base in occupied France.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 of the largest humanitarian missions in US military history

The U.S. has made a name for itself launching humanitarian missions around the world when disaster strikes. The operations save thousands of lives, relieve suffering, and burnish America’s reputation.


Here are six of the largest relief operations the U.S. has launched outside of its borders:

1. Japan

 

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm
U.S. sailors and Marines aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan load humanitarian assistance supplies to support Operation Tomodachi. (Photo: U.S. Navy Seaman Nicholas A. Groesch)

In Operation Tamadachi, Marines rushed into the Sendai Airport and cleared broken vehicles and tons of debris from from runways to reopen the airport. The Navy sent in the USS Ronald Reagan and 21 other ships to help ferry supplies from international donors and relief agencies and to search the ocean for survivors swept into the sea.

Navy aircraft also moved Japanese personnel when necessary.

Unique to Operation Tamadachi was a nuclear component as the reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant were heavily damaged. The U.S. assisted with coordinating and conducting aerial monitoring while Japanese forces evacuated the surrounding areas and worked to stabilize the facility.

The relief effort helped save thousands of lives, but the country still lost more than 20,000 people to the three earthquakes and follow-on tsunami in 2011.

2. Pakistan

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm
Local men assist U.S. Marines in offloading hundreds of bags of flour aboard a KC-130J Super Hercules aircraft at Gilgit Air Base, Pakistan, Sept. 8, 2010. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Andy M. Kin)

 

Massive floods in Pakistan in 2010 drove people from their homes, wiped out fields, and increased the spread of diseases. The U.S. and other nations responded with a massive relief effort that helped ferry needed supplies. The U.S delivered its first 5 million tons of supplies in just over a month of relief and delivered 20 million tons before the end of operations.

Thirty military helicopters were pressed into the effort alongside a fleet of C-130s and C-17s. The C-17 is the U.S. military’s second-largest plane and can carry 90,000 pounds per lift.

3. Haiti

 

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm
(Photo: U.S. Navy Daniel Barker)

 

The USS Carl Vinson sailed to Haiti in January 2010 after a massive earthquake killed 230,000 people and devastated the local infrastructure. Air Force special operators controlled a huge amount of air traffic while the Navy assisted with logistics and Marines helped shore up buildings and clear debris.

The Navy employed over 30 ships to provide help and the USNS Comfort provided medical care, fresh water, and needed shelter. The Army later deployed paratroopers to help prevent outbreaks of disease and to continue rebuilding key infrastructure and homes.

4. Indonesia

 

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm
Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st class Bart A. Bauer)

 

In 2009, Indonesia was once again rocked by earthquakes. This time, a special operations group was already present in the country when the earthquakes hit and it provided coordination for follow-on forces. Emergency supplies quickly flowed into the country.

The U.S. deployed a Humanitarian Assistance Rapid Response Team for the first time. It’s a rapidly deployable hospital, but the medical operation arrived too late to treat many trauma victims. Still, the hospital treated 1,945 people and the operation delivered 640,000 pounds of supplies during 12 days of operations.

5. Indonesia

 

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Scott Reed)

 

When an earthquake in the Indian Ocean sent a massive tsunami into 14 countries in late 2004, the Republic of Indonesia was the worst hit. Over 280,000 people were killed but the USS Abraham Lincoln ferried food, water, and medical supplies to the worst hit areas.

Over the entire region, 30 Navy ships served emergency needs and the USNS Mercy, a 1,000-bed hospital ship, provided critical medical care to 200,000 survivors.

6. Germany

 

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

 

The largest humanitarian assistance operation in history was actually launched to overcome a man-made shortage, not recover from a natural disaster. The Soviet blockade of West Berlin caused a massive food shortage in the Western-government occupied sectors of the city.

So the U.S. and Britain launched the Berlin Airlift, an 11-month operation that moved over 2 million tons of supplies and $224 million past the blockade. The Soviet Union eventually gave in and lifted the blockade.

MIGHTY HISTORY

World War II veteran recalls time as German prisoner of war

On Sept. 21, 2018, the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System hosted our annual POW/MIA Recognition Day program. Three former prisoners of war (POW) attended including World War II Veteran Fred Brooks.

Here is his story.


From Bartlesville to the Battle of the Bulge

Born on April 2, 1926, Fred Brooks turned 18 in 1944. Nearly nine months later, the native of Bartlesville, Okla. was sent to the front lines on Christmas Day during the Battle of the Bulge.

On January 10, 1945, Brooks and five other solders in the 4th Infantry Division were conducting a night patrol and entered a German village.

“We went into this little village at night to check it out, and there wasn’t anyone in that village when we entered it,” said Brooks. “When daylight came, the Germans were everywhere. They killed one and wounded two.”

Surrounded, the remaining soldiers were forced to surrender, and were transported to Stalag IV-B Prison Camp in Mühlberg, Germany.

Brooks said the Germans fed the POWs once a day, which was typically a small cup of vegetable soup.

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm

World War II Veteran Fred Brooks.

“That’s all they had to give you,” he said. “The Germans had nothing to feed their own troops, let alone us.”

He said the Germans never harmed him, but he did have to endure the brutal winter conditions.

“My feet were frozen terribly bad,” he said. “I didn’t have one drop of medication. There was an elderly English man in the camp where I was at and he helped me tremendously to clean the wounds as best we could. It was a rough winter.”

On April 23, 1945, the Russians liberated Stalag IV-B and approximately 30,000 POWs.

“The Russians entered our camp during the night,” said Brooks. “The next day, I think there was three German guards left and the Russians hung them high in the trees. We were very happy to see (the Russians). They fed us.”

Approximately 3,000 POWs died at Stalag IV-B, mostly from tuberculosis and typhus.

World War II Veteran and former POW Fred Brooks has received his health care from the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System for approximately 30 years.

Iranian fanatics tried to spark a war with the US during Desert Storm

Coming home

Brooks was reunited with the American Army and sent to the coast of France to wait for a transport ship home. While waiting, he met another soldier from Bartlesville, and the two made a pact not to tell their families they were coming home.

“When we got to the little bus station in Bartlesville, his wife was waiting on him,” he said with a laugh. “He had broken our vow not to call.”

From the bus station, Brooks walked a mile to his parent’s home.

“I got my parents up at 2 o’clock in the morning,” he said. “It was unreal. My parents were just out of it to see me walking in the door. It really surprised them. They were very happy.”

After the war, Brooks worked in construction and retired at the age of 75. He still lives in Bartlesville.

Looking back on the war and his internment in a German POW Camp, Brooks credits divine intervention for his survival.

“God was with me.”

Featured image: U.S. POWs, 1944.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Army lost a super heavy tank prototype for 27 years

As the Allies advanced on all fronts in World War II, the United States needed a new weapon. It had to be able to protect Allied troops while being powerful enough to break through the German defenses at the Siegfried line and land on the Japanese mainland. 

The Army built two prototypes of a super-heavy, super armored tank for just that purpose in 1945 – and then lost one of them almost as quickly. 

T28 Super Heavy Tank, Patton Museum, Fort Knox, Kentucky
T28 Super Heavy Tank, Patton Museum, Fort Knox, Kentucky (Mark Holloway, Wikimedia Commons)

Toward the end of 1944, American war planners knew the war was coming to a close. They were looking at how they would be able to smash through the vaunted defenses of the Siegfried Line that blocked their path into greater Germany. 

Nazi Germany’s Siegfried Line was a 300-mile line string of fortifications along the German border that was filled with bunkers, “dragon’s teeth” tank traps, pillboxes for machine guns and anything else that might slow or stop an enemy advance. 

Meanwhile, they were also preparing for the final invasion of the Japanese mainland. The year 1945 would bring them to the doorstep of mainland Japan, after the fall of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Japanese resistance had been extremely strong almost everywhere the Americans fought them. 

For both these reasons, the United States decided it needed an equalizer. It decided that this equalizer would come in the form of a massive tank, the T28 Super Heavy Tank

The T28 Tank on October 3, 1946 (US Army Signal Corps)

Concepts for super heavy tanks were nothing new. Germany, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom were already developing their own versions of massive tanks for the war. The American version came in at 95 tons, with 12-inch armor plating, and a massive, fixed 105mm turret as a main gun. This behemoth was powered by a Ford V8 engine that could only move at a top speed of eight miles per hour. 

Originally planning to build five, the full order had to be cancelled as the war had ended by the time the first working prototype was completed in the Fall of 1945. Still with two in the arsenal, the Army decided it would test the ones it had. 

The tests did not go as well as the Army had hoped. The first T28 was scrapped after an engine fire heavily damaged the tank during its first trials at the Yuma Proving Grounds. The second T28 fared much better but the program was scrapped anyway. Army planners had already created two newer, more versatile tanks without making it super heavy.

Then, everyone, including the Army, forgot about the T28. Literally. As tank concepts continued to evolve and more and better tank programs were rolled out in the 27 years following World War II, the Korean War, and even the Vietnam War, the T28 sat abandoned in a field. 

By the time someone discovered the massive World War II-era super heavy tank in a Fort Belvoir field in 1974, it was covered in brush and bushes had grown up around the tank. No one really knows if it had been there the entire time or where it could have been if it wasn’t there the entire time. 

It was soon moved to the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor at Fort Knox in Kentucky, as the remaining T28 prototype had really just become a museum piece in the intervening years. The Vietnam War was over, the Army was in its second generation of main battle tanks with the M60 Patton tank, and Japan and West Germany were now American allies. 

The T28 was moved from the Patton Museum at Fort Knox to Fort Benning in Georgia in 2010. 

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