How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII

Few people have lived a life as hardcore and fulfilling as that of Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow. He attended college and became the first member of his tribe to obtain a master’s degree. While working on his doctorate, he taught at the Chemawa Indian School. Then, World War II broke out and everything changed. Before he knew it, he was a full-fledged war chief.


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Medicine Crow started working at a naval shipyard in Washington before enlisting in the Army in 1943. He became an infantry scout assigned to the 103rd Infantry Division and was almost immediately sent to Europe. In keeping with Crow traditions, he went into battle donning red war paint under his uniform and a sacred eagle feather under his helmet- a chief in character just as much as battle prowess.

 

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
He embodied the warrior spirit.

(PBS: The War)

Also in line with tradition, he set out to complete the four required tasks in becoming the “War Chief of the Crow Indians,” a title reserved for only the most hardened warriors who have proved their worth with death-defying feats of combat. The requirements were as follows:

  1. Lead a successful war party on a raid.
  2. Capture an enemy weapon.
  3. Touch an enemy without killing them.
  4. Steal an enemy’s horse.

The first task was nearly inevitable for any competent platoon leader or sergeant, but Pvt. Medicine Crow didn’t have such a rank. After fighting hard on the western border of France, Medicine Crow proved himself fearless among his peers. He finally got an opportunity when his CO told him to stealthily clear out a German bunker with seven men and some TNT. He was told by his CO,

“If anyone can do this, it’s probably you.”

His CO was right. Not only did they cross German machine-gun and artillery fire, they got into the bunker and blew a hole right through the Siegfried Line without losing a single man. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions — and he completed the first of his four tasks. Rumor has it that after Medicine Crow destroyed the defenses, he jumped through the breach and was the first American GI to step foot into Nazi Germany.

 

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
Medicine Crow’s success meant that it was much easier for the rest of the American troops to enter Germany though his breach.

(National Archive)

As the 103rd made its way into Germany, it wasn’t uncommon for forward scouts to get separated and flanked by the enemy. One night, Medicine Crow was alone when a Nazi soldier got the jump on him and charged headlong into combat. He charged right back, leading to a helmet-to-helmet collision that quickly devolved into a fist fight.

Medicine Crow beat the Nazi bloody and had his hands around the Nazi’s near-lifeless neck. The Nazi chose “momma” as his almost last words. Medicine Crow didn’t kill him. Instead, he took the German as a POW and confiscated his rifle, completing the next two tasks on his list.

The last task, to steal an enemy horse, seemed implausible on a battlefield dominated by tanks. Chief Medicine Crow got his chance, however, in early 1945 when his recon team found a camp for senior German staff officers. With them were nearly 50 thoroughbred race horses.

 

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
German troops relied on horses on the Eastern front, but they were very rare on the Western Front…

(National Archives)

Medicine Crow snuck into the camp in the dead of morning with nothing but some rope and his 1911. He tied the rope into a makeshift bridle and took the best horse of the group. He let out a mighty Crow war cry to herd the rest out of the corral, which woke the Germans. He had successfully gotten away with 50 horses and sang a traditional Crow war song as he returned to his men.

Joe Medicine Crow returned to his tribe after the war ended as a war hero and assumed the mantle of war chief. He was knighted in the French Legion of Honor, finished his doctorate along with three honorary PhDs, wrote almost a dozen books on military and Crow history, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 for his military service and work done to improve the lives of his people. Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow passed on April 3rd, 2016 at the age of 102 and was given full military honors.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
Chief Joe Medicine Crow may have passed, but legends never truly die.

(U.S. Department of the Interior)

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These are the events that led to the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’

The “Miracle at Dunkirk,” when 338,000 troops were evacuated in Operation Dynamo where optimistic estimates topped out at 45,000 might be rescued, was a turning point for the allies, allowing them to salvage troops that would fight in North Africa, at D-Day, and beyond.


In 7 steps, here’s how the British Expeditionary Force was trapped on the beaches of France and then rescued in Operation Dynamo.

1. The Brits arrive on the continent

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
British troops from the 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards, march through Cherbourg, France, in late 1939. (Photo: Imperial War Museums)

The seeds of Dunkirk were laid on Sep. 3, 1939, when the British Expeditionary Force was sent to France following Germany’s invasion of Poland and amidst the obvious German military buildup of the late 1930s. Eight first and second-line infantry divisions as well as a number of support troops had arrived by May 1940, spending most of their time training and preparing defenses.

The military maneuvers and buildup between the two sides were dubbed the “Phoney War.” Belgium, the Netherlands, and other countries across Europe prepared for the likelihood of a German invasion.

2. The Germans invade

On May 10, 1940, the “Phoney War” came to a violent end as the Germans invaded the Netherlands and Belgium. The Germans quickly took ground and captured bridgeheads on the River Meuse, allowing them to invade France through the Ardennes Forest.

3. Allied countries collapse

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
Fort Eben-Emael in Belgium was thought to be one of the strongest forts in the world in 1940. German paratroopers exploited weaknesses to capture it in hours. (Photo: Public Domain)

The German blitzkrieg advanced faster and harder than most Allied leaders could believe, and countries quickly collapsed. One of the world’s greatest forts was captured in Belgium in only hours. The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and others surrendered within weeks.

4. The French and British withdraw towards the beaches

As army after army and country after country surrendered to the German war machine, those still fighting were forced to withdraw further and further east and north. They were pushed against the beaches of France. Panzer forces attacked and captured the French deep-water ports at Boulogne and Calais on May 25 and 26, limiting the potential evacuation options.

5. The Panzers stop

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
German panzers invade western Belgium in May 1940. (Photo: German Federal Archives)

The 48-hour timeline was agreed upon because it was the longest that forces could reliably hold out against German armor. But the German tanks had mysteriously stopped their push towards Dunkirk itself on May 23 by order of Gen. Ewald von Kleist. The next day, a full “stop order” was given by Hitler.

The Allies responded by quickly shoring up their defenses as best they could. What was a loose line of troops on May 23, likely to be brushed aside quickly, became a much more formidable line of dug in but exhausted forces.

6. The evacuation begins

On May 26, Operation Dynamo was launched with the goal of evacuating 45,000 troops within 48 hours before the beaches fell. British defenders helping to hold Calais sent their own evacuation ships to Dover to help evacuate those troops at Dunkirk. Calais fell that evening; all British and French forces there were killed or captured.

7. The evacuation runs for 10 days

The pace of the evacuation started slow on May 26 with 8,000 men removed, but increased in efficiency quickly result in more men getting off.

Within the first few days, Royal Navy officers working the “Mole,” a pier-like breakwater that protected the harbor from ocean currents, turned it into an improvised dock that evacuated 1,000 troops an hour at its peak. Additional men embarked from improvised piers and the beaches themselves.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII

One of the most shocking events in the evacuations began on May 27 when the Royal Navy requisitioned small vessels for use in the evacuations. Most of the ships were manned by the Royal Navy, but some ship owners insisted that they would pilot their craft to assist in the evacuation.

The crews of the “Little Ships of Dunkirk” grew on May 29 when the BBC broadcasted an appeal “for men with experience of motorboats and coastal navigation.”

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
The British Army evacuation from Dunkirk (Source: Public Domain)

The fleets of navy and civilian vessels crossed back and forth across the English Channel, rescuing about 338,000 troops, mostly British and French, by June 4 when Operation Dynamo ended.

Learn more about the events of May and June 1940 in the video below:

YouTube, World of Tanks North America

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4 unusual military units

From a faith-based U.S. Army unit to an entire “ghost” army, take a look at the four most unusual military units of all time.


How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
An inflatable tank, styled after the M4 Sherman (Wikimedia Commons)

 

The Ghost Army

Inspired by a trick that the British pulled in North Africa, the summer of 1944 found soldiers of the U.S. Army undertaking a very unusual task – building a phantom army. To achieve this goal, the Army gathered artists, designers and sound effects experts to encourage confusion behind enemy lines. The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops is better known as the Ghost Army because it used inflatable rubber tanks and jeeps, along with sound effects and subterfuge to deceive Germans during WWII.

The 23rd took part in more than 20 missions, many of which used illusion and artistry that rivals any Hollywood set. Painters and illustrators worked collaboratively to design uniforms and create dummy vehicles. Sound engineers helped by broadcasting phony radio traffic and mimicked the sounds of an army on the move. There were even actors hired to spread misinformation that would hopefully get picked up by Nazi spies.

The Germans fell for it, and the ruse worked. With the Ghost Army in place, Germany had no clear idea of the US forces’ actual size. The Ghost Army was so convincing that they were even plugged a hole in General Patton’s lines for several days without being discovered. It wasn’t until 1996 that the Ghost Army’s contribution became public knowledge, and by then, many of its members had gone on to illustrious careers in art and design.

The Monuments Men

This particular unit was tasked with attempting to preserve Europe’s cultural heritage during WWII. The Monuments, Fine Arts and Archies unit included handpicked art historians, museum curators and academics who skirted the front lines of combat to prevent historically essential buildings and art from being destroyed.

Members from the unit created special maps for the Allies to ensure that culturally significant structures weren’t inadvertently destroyed as the Allies pushed deeper into Europe. To do this, the unit drew plans that showed aircraft pilots where to avoid on bombing runs. While the war was in full swing, the Monuments Men even set about restoring landmarks that were already damaged.

As the war wound down, the unit shifted its focus from preservation to rescue. It tracked down and recovered sculptures and paintings looted by the Nazis. As the Nazi regime crumbled, Monuments Men found thousands of pieces of art stolen from Jewish families and museums. Most of these pieces of art were placed deep in salt mines and castles to avoid detection. The Monuments Men did their part in finding the pieces, and then after the war, the artwork was returned to its original owners.

The Mormon Battalion

Composed entirely of Latter Day Saints service members, the Mormon Battalion has the unique and unusual honor of being the only faith-based battalion in all of U.S. Army history. When negotiations between Brigham Young’s church leaders and the US military reached an impasse, it was suggested that a battalion be formed made up of all Mormons. The Mormons hoped their unit might pave the way for their planned exodus to the American West by providing training, equipment and pay. But President Polk saw it as a way to make allies of the Latter Day Saints.

The 500-person battalion never saw any combat, but it became one of the most well-traveled units in all of American history. The service members marked the start of their service by making a grueling might from Iowa through indigenous lands all the way to Santa Fe. From there, they marched on through the untamed lands of Arizona and then to southern California. Once in SoCal, the battalion performed garrison duty in both San Diego and Los Angeles.

Just two years after being formed, the battalion was retired in July 1847. Most of its members headed back north to the Utah Territory to join the rest of their religious pioneers.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
King Frederick William I (Wikimedia Commons)

 

The Potsdam Giants

Everyone always wants to have the biggest army, but for King Frederick William I of Prussia, the idea of having the strongest soldiers in the world was an obsession. At the start of the 18th Century, the monarch tried to gather the tallest troops he could find in all of Europe and create an elite regiment called the “Potsdam Giants.” Records indicate that several of the service members were over seven feet tall.

To entice this elite unit, King Willian spent a fortune hiring tall soldiers from other militaries in the world. He even instructed his own covert agents to conscript unusually tall civilians into the unit. At one point, William tried to encourage his tallest soldiers to marry tall women. The unit eventually disbanded, but not before William managed to spend a significant amount of money.

From a ghost army to a unit dedicated to preserving history, these four units prove that there’s a lot more to being part of a military than just standing in formation.

 

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This Army wife’s wedding dress is made of the parachute that saved her husband

During World War II, Maj. Claude Hensinger had to bail from his B-29 bomber. When he jumped out of his plane, he was packing a parachute that turned out to suit a number of purposes for a wayward pilot, not the least of all ensuring he came to Earth with a thud instead of a splat. It also turned out to be a blanket, a pillow, and a wedding ring.


How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
Just making that jump is no small feat. (U.S. Army)

Hensinger and his crew had just successfully made a bombing run over Yowata, Japan but on the way back to base, one of their engines caught fire. Instead of heading home, everyone had to bail out over China. In 1944, survival was anything but guaranteed in that part of the world. Much of China was still occupied by the Japanese, who were always on the lookout for down Allied aviators.

As if roving Japanese troops wasn’t enough, the nights were cold, dark, and long on the ground there. He didn’t know if he was even in occupied territory. Hensinger was also injured from landing on a pile of sharp rocks and was bleeding. He kept a hold on his parachute, even after landing. It was a good thing, too. The chute kept him warm and kept his bleeding to a minimum.

Eventually, he made it to safety and then the comfort of the United States.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
Hensinger and his wife, married after the war.

 

When the war ended, he returned to his native Pennsylvania, where he reconnected with a friend from his childhood — a girl named Ruth. The two began dating and in 1947, Hensinger wanted to propose to his lifelong friend. When he got down on one knee, he proposed to her without a ring. Instead, he held his lucky parachute in his hands. He told Ruth how it saved his life and that he wanted her to fashion a wedding dress from the dirty, blood-stained nylon.

Of course she said yes. To both questions. As she pondered how to make the paratrooper’s dream gown, she began to worry about how she could ever turn the nylon into a real wedding dress. One day, walking by a store, the inspiration came to her. She passed a frock that was itself inspired by one worn on Scarlett O’Hara in the 1939 film Gone With the Wind. She patterned the dress to match that while designing a veil and bodice to boot.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
Vivian Leigh wearing the dress that inspired Ruth Hensinger’s parachute dress in “Gone With The Wind.” (MGM/ Loew’s)

 

While another local seamstress sewed the veil and bodice, Ruth sewed the skirt, using the parachute strings to lace the skirt higher in the back than in the front. Keeping with tradition, Hensinger didn’t get to see his wife’s parachute dress until she walked down the aisle. He was a happy man, according to Ruth.

The couple was married for 49 years before Hensinger died in 1996. In the years between, two other generations of women were married in Ruth Hensinger’s parachute dress. The dress is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history

On August 22, 1914, France launched 15 ill-fated assaults against German lines from France to Belgium, resulting in battles which, combined, cost 27,000 French lives and an unknown number of German deaths in a single day of fighting. On that day, there were more fatalities than the British experienced in the first day of the Battle of the Somme and more than the U.S. suffered in the Battle of Antietam in the Civil War.


How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

 

The Battle of the Frontiers, as it would come to be known, began in August, 1914, but historians disagree about the exact date on which it started in earnest. Basically, the French forces mobilized in early August to arrest Germany’s quick progress westward, setting off a series of smaller clashes as the armies maneuvered for position.

By August 22, France’s armies were in position and the command wanted to push forward, always advancing. A general assault was ordered, and French forces pressed against their German counterparts in fifteen distinct locations. French forces attempted to use old-war tactics in a new, industrialized state of war, and it didn’t go better for France than for anyone else in World War I.

French troops tried to force wedges between German armies that had machine guns in defensive positions, tried to conduct bayonet charges against enemies behind cover, and kept sending wave after wave of troops when the first few attacks didn’t work.

Possibly the fiercest of the fighting came at Rossignole when the French 3rd Colonial Infantry Division ran into the entire German 6th Army Corps. The French forces fought bravely with officers leading from the front, but outnumbered and in dire straits, the division was whittled down to virtually nothing.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
(Imperial War Museum)

 

Of the division’s three generals, two were killed and one was injured and captured. The commanding general, thought to have gone mad during the battle, simply waded into the worst of the fighting until he was shot dead. Some of the division’s units lost all but a handful of their officers, and the more conservative estimates for French soldiers killed at Rossignole say up to 7,000 perished. Some estimates are 50 percent higher.

But while Rossignole was fierce, Charleroi to the north was nearly as contested and featured much larger groups of men, resulting in even more casualties. France’s 15 divisions at the Charleroi were reinforced by three from Britain, and higher headquarters thought it was a sufficient force to pit against a suspected 18 German divisions.

But the French commander on the ground thought the Germans had twice as many men or more. He protested his orders, but was sent forward anyway on August 21. The French force and their British allies attacked a German force of 38 divisions which held key bridges and other features that the French needed to take to be successful.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
(Wellcome Collection, CC BY 4.0)

 

Because of the French belief at the time that it was always better to be on offense, they sent division after division into the meat grinder. Thousands more Frenchmen, as well as large numbers of British and German troops, were lost in the bitter fighting.

By the time the sun set on August 22, approximately 27,000 French troops had died along with tens of thousands more British and German troops, making it more costly fighting than the first day of the Battle of the Somme, where Britain lost almost 20,000 soldiers. And, like the Somme, the full battle would rage for weeks more.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII

In all, the Battles of the Frontiers resulted in over half a million casualties in a single month of fighting. The painful lessons learned would all too slowly cause both sides to rethink their tactics and strategy, but years of trench fighting and pointless cavalry charges and bayonet assaults against machine guns would be needed before truly modern tactics were adopted across the board.

Unfortunately for those who sacrificed their lives for France in that bloody month, the large collection of smaller battles are mostly forgotten when held up next to gargantuan fights, like the Battle of the Somme, where over a million men were killed, wounded, and captured in just under five months of fighting.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
One of the bloodiest battles in history. (French National Library, Public Domain)

 

Of course, there are some ancient battles where larger numbers of troops were reported killed in a day or a few days of fighting, but the numbers are not always considered reliable. One day of battle, which may have been even larger and more deadly than August 22, 1914, was the day in 216 B.C. when Carthage and Rome fought the Battle of Cannae. There, Hannibal managed to encircle a much larger Roman force and kill nearly all of its troops.

Carthage reportedly lost as many as 6,000 men while the Romans, if the reports are accurate, lost over 50,000, who were either killed or committed suicide on the battlefield.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Marines just took a look at this Civil War battlefield to learn military lessons for the future

Atop a pristine hill, about 60 gunnery sergeants made life-or-death decisions Sept. 19 morning as modern Marines considered how the Battle of Brandy Station unfolded on June 9, 1863.


The class from the Marine Corps University at Quantico attended a staff ride to Fleetwood Hill, St. James Church, and the Graffiti House as part of its Professional Military Education training.

“We could go to any patch of grass to have a conversation,” said Phil Gibbons, a task analyst for enlisted PME. “But this is really the best place to do it.”

The site, Gibbons explained, provides a near-untouched battlefield, unspoiled by modern development. That, he said, makes it easy to envision troop movements and see the places where key actions occurred.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
Map of the Battle of Brandy Station. Map by Hal Jespersen, www.posix.com/CW

“The modern inconveniences on some battlefields, Manassas, Chancellorsville, are just not there at Brandy Station,” Gibbons said. “There are no modern buildings or monuments obstructing your view. There are no 7-11s in the middle of the field.”

The battle, which involved 18,456 mounted troops and was the largest cavalry clash in North America, also remains largely unknown by today’s students of military history, which also makes it a great teaching tool, said the instructor.

“Many of these Marines are in their 20s and 30s, and today’s generation doesn’t know as much about history as we did growing up,” said Gibbons. “You could take them to Gettysburg, but everyone knows what happened there and how it turned out.”

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
Brandy Station Battlefield Historic District, Culpeper County. Photo courtesy of Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

Master Sergeant Gerson Ruiz, a native of Arkansas who has been teaching the staff rides for about three years, agrees that the Brandy Station Battlefield tops the region’s list of battlefields as a case study.

“We try to give them limited information at first,” Ruiz said. “Just what the commanders knew at the time. The ground is the same. So, what would they do? Then, we tell them what really happened.”

One such moment came at about 4:30 a.m. when 22-year-old Confederate Maj. Cabell Flournoy sensed movement in the dense fog down at Beverly Ford, and roused about 150 men of the 6th Virginia, many who rode without coats or saddles into a melee with the 8th New York.

Flournoy’s forces eventually fell back with about 30 casualties, but the confrontation at the Rappahannock River allowed time for word of the advancing Union forces to reach Gen. Jeb Stuart on Fleetwood Hill.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
Fleetwood Hill. Photo by Craig Swain of Marker Hunter blog.

“His quick reaction, getting everyone up and in the saddle and down to the picket line to hold up the federal advance saved everyone’s bacon,” said Gibbons. “There are some great lessons down here. That one changed the whole tide of the battle.”

Historians consider the skirmish a draw, with about 1,090 casualties combined.

“It’s crazy how it was back then,” said Brian Johnson, a gunnery sergeant from North Carolina. “But at the same time, we’re looking at the same concepts though. I guess you could say the weapons are upgraded.”

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
Graffiti House, a field hospital during the Civil War. Wikimedia Commons photo by user Cecouchman.

At the Graffiti House, the gunnery sergeants learned more about the history of Brandy Station and the house that served as both a field hospital for the South and a headquarters for the North. Soldiers, both Blue and Gray, left signatures and drawings on the walls of the two-story structure.

Gibbons expressed his appreciation to the staff of the Graffiti House for accommodating the large groups several times each year.

“They’ve never said no to us,” Gibbons said. “What they do here is just fantastic. It doesn’t matter what day we’re coming, they’ll have someone here to lead us on tours.”

The Marine Corps University was founded in 1989; however the military school claims a much longer history, beginning in 1891 with 29 company grade officers attending the School of Application, according to the its website.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The KGB tailed this Frenchman for 8 years, but was he a spy?

Fifty-five years ago, on Sept. 11, 1963, a plane took off from Kyiv for Vienna. On board was Julien Galeotti, a French citizen accused of espionage and expelled from the Soviet Union.

Recently released documents from the KGB archive in Kyiv have revealed details of Galeotti’s story and brought to light the remarkable photographs he took during his travels in the Soviet Union. For eight years, KGB agents followed the man they called “The Moustache.”

But was he a spy?


Galeotti made his first trip to the Soviet Union as a tourist in 1955, with stops in Moscow and Leningrad, which is now St. Petersburg. From the beginning, he attracted the attention of the KGB.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII

Julien Galeotti.


According to reports filed on him, KGB agents believed the snap-happy Galeotti was trying to make secret “compromising photos” in the Soviet Union aimed at “discrediting and mocking intentionally created ugly images and insignificant aspects” of Soviet life.

In one photograph taken in front of the newly constructed main building of Moscow State University, the KGB alleged Galeotti had set up “clearly posed French citizens depicting unemployed people.”

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII

Soviet citizens relaxing on a Moscow bench or French tourists posing as the unemployed?

The next year, Galeotti was back, this time taking a cruise from the southern French port of Nice on to the Black Sea, with stops in Odesa, Sevastopol, and Yalta in Ukraine, as well as Sochi in Russia and Batumi in Georgia. He made similar cruises in 1957, 1959, 1961, and 1963.

Over the years, he took photographs of Soviet citizens standing in lines for basic goods. He photographed a beggar in an Odesa market and military vessels in port.

“At 14:00, he went into the courtyard of Lenin Street, No. 59, and took a photograph of a trash container,” a KGB report from August 12, 1957, said about Galeotti’s time in Odesa. “Then, walking along Provoznaya Street, he photographed poorly dressed citizens.”

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII

Residents of Odesa at a public transport stop in 1963.

Soviet agents followed him the entire time, watching him both on board the cruise ship and ashore. According to their reports, Galeotti tried to become friendly with the crews of the ships, showed an interest in Soviet ports and whether military ships were present, and organized anti-Soviet shows and skits aboard the cruise ships.

On his final trip to the Soviet Union in 1963, Galeotti was back in Sevastopol, the Crimean Peninsula port city that was home to the Black Sea Fleet. The KGB arranged to have civilian militia (druzhinniki) headed by KGB agents stationed at sensitive viewing points overlooking Soviet military vessels in anticipation that Galeotti would want to take photos there.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII

Galeotti’s photo of the Soviet tank rolling down an Odesa street in 1963.

An operational group was set up with the intention of detaining him. The pretext for arresting him was based on the “statements of Soviet citizens,” including a letter from the captain of the cruise ship.

When agents arrested Galeotti in Sevastopol on Aug. 22, 1963, they didn’t find any film on him. He’d managed to pass his rolls to another French citizen who, according to the intelligence reports, hid them in the seat of his Soviet tourist agency bus. That French citizen spent the rest of the cruise aboard ship without disembarking in the Soviet Union again, and the KGB eventually recovered the rolls of film from the bus.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII

A market in Odesa in 1963.

Galeotti spent nearly three weeks in custody, first in the Crimean capital, Simferopol, and then in Kyiv, where he was taken for further questioning.

At first, Galeotti denied being a French agent. He said all of his photographs were taken out of personal interest. But eventually he confessed that he had worked with the French secret services, but only during his last trip to the Soviet Union when he’d been asked to photograph military objects in Sevastopol. Later in the interrogation, he admitted that he’d carried out such assignments from his first trip to the Soviet Union.

He said that when he returned to France after each trip, he sent the film to the photo studio of his father, a former French intelligence agent.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII

A KGB surveillance photo of Galeotti in Odesa in 1963.

Galeotti “repented of his actions, saying that he had made a terrible mistake that he would never repeat,” the KGB reported following his interrogation.

According to the file, Moscow decided merely to expel Galeotti because, at the time, two KGB operatives had gone missing in France. It was decided “to exploit the situation as part of a more comprehensive plan.” KGB agents continued to follow and photograph The Moustache until the very moment that his plane left the ground.

Upon returning to France, Galeotti told journalists: “I can’t go back to the Soviet Union anymore. But then again, I don’t want to.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This wooden jet fighter showed just how desperate Germany was

By early 1944, the Germany and the Luftwaffe were in a bad state. Allied bombing had a devastating effect on oil supplies and the new P-51 Mustang was killing German pilots faster than they could be trained. Though Germany was developing the twin-engined Me 262 jet fighter to combat the allied bombers, Hitler’s constant interference and the strain on resources delayed the program. Luftwaffe Supreme Commander Reichmarschall Hermann Göring and Armaments Minister Albert Speer proposed the alternative solution of a single-engined jet fighter that was cheap and easy to produce and could be flown with very little training. Their idea was approved and a contract was issued for the Volksjäger, or “People’s Fighter”.

The Volksjäger requirements called for a single engine to reduce cost and construction complexity. Its airframe would be made primarily of wood and non-strategic metals since Germany’s reserve of war materials was dwindling. Moreover, the design had to be simple and able to be constructed by semi and non-skilled labor, including slave labor. The contract also required that the plane be easy to fly with very little experience, though this was more a sign of Germany’s desperation. “[The] unrealistic notion that this plane should be a ‘people’s fighter,’ in which the Hitler Youth, after a short training regimen with clipped-wing two-seater gliders like the DFS Stummel-Habicht, could fly for the defense of Germany, displayed the unbalanced fanaticism of those days,” recalled the plane’s designer, Dr. Ernst Heinkel, after the war.

Heinkel’s design, the He 162 Spatz (Sparrow), was selected on September 25, 1944. Incredibly, the first prototype flew less than 90 days later on December 6. Though the first flight was successful, it was noted that some of the glue holding the wooden frame together started to fail. The second test flight on December 10 saw a similar glue failure that caused the aileron to separate from the wing and resulted in a crash that killed the pilot. Still, Germany was desperate and testing pressed on without addressing the glue issue.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
The Hinterbrühl facility was captured in April 1945 (German Federal Archives)

Though the He 162 was supposed to be flown by Hitler Youth, the aircraft turned out to be too complex and required a more experienced pilot at the controls. A small number of training gliders were built and delivered to a Hitler Youth squadron at Sagan. However, the unit was in the process of forming when the war ended and did not undergo any training.

Despite the need for trained pilots, production of the He 162 began at Salzburg and the underground facilities at Hinterbrühl and Mittelwerk. The first operational unit received the He 162 in February 1945. Despite heavy allied bombing of German industry and air bases, I./JG 1 (First Fighter Wing) began training on the new jet in March and saw their first action with it the next month.

On April 19, the He 162 scored its first kill when Feldwebel Günther Kirchner shot down an RAF fighter. While on approach to land, the vulnerable jet fighter was shot down by another RAF fighter. Both the plane and pilot were lost. Though more victories were scored in April, I./JG 1 lost 13 He 162s and 10 pilots. However, only two were actually shot down. The other planes were lost due to mechanical failure, structural failure, or running out of fuel.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
A captured He 162 in France and later brought to the U.S. (U.S. National Archives)

On May 5, the squadron was grounded following the surrender of German forces in the Netherlands, Northwest Germany, and Denmark. Unlike other German squadrons with experimental aircraft, I./JG 1 did not destroy their planes. Rather, they turned them over to the British on May 6 who distributed them among the other allied nations for evaluation.

After the war, allied research found that the He 162 was actually a capable and well-designed fighter. Its inherent problems were the result of its rushed production. If the Germans had the time and resources for proper testing and evaluation, the plane could have been a serious threat to allied air superiority.

Today, many examples of the He 162 survive in museums including the RAF Museum in London and the Smithsonian Institute’s Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
The He 162 at the National Air and Space Museum (Smithsonian Institute)
MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how War Brides enrich the American experience

My mother’s friend Akemi was beautiful. Gentle, with a lightness in her presence and the way she moved. She had a quiet home and taught me how to use chopsticks. She was Okinawan and married a soldier that my father served with.

Lydia lived two doors down from my family. She was German and had married an American soldier, too. I assume that if you didn’t know her she would come off as gruff and difficult but I loved her as if she were a blood relative. She smoked cigarettes and yelled at the huge Rottweiler whose head bounced off the underside of her dining room table.

Anna married my team sergeant when he was an upstart infantryman stationed in Panama. She spoke Spanish around us and I could usually understand the scolding that she gave to her husband and kids. She put up with our young, dumb soldier antics and let us drink too many beers in her living room while we watched the pay-per-view fight where Tyson bit Holyfield‘s ear off.

These women are just a small fraction of the hundreds of thousands – perhaps millions – of women, and increasingly men, who have married America’s uniformed representatives stationed around the world; brave women who relinquished their cultures, families and pasts in order to embark on new adventures as part of the US military family. Their stories continue today but there are fewer of them, with younger sailors, airmen and Marines marrying spouses originally from Europe and Asia, but we must assume at a much lower rate.

Why assume? Because no one keeps records – not the Defense or State departments – that might tack down how many foreign born people have married American service members over the past century, though we can assume it to be a significant number. In the 1980s, in one New York City neighborhood alone, there were more than 100 British-born war brides who gathered in fellowship as a group known as the Flushing Crumpets. However impossible it may be to put hard numbers on the population of foreign-born military spouses over the years, there can be no dispute that there are fewer international spouses marrying men and women who wear America’s military uniforms than during the height of the Cold War.

Fayetteville, North Carolina, is my adopted hometown. It lies just outside of Fort Bragg – the Army’s most populated installation and was long one of the main debarkation points for newly arrived, foreign-born military spouses. The United States is a nation of immigrants, but there is something extra-special about Fort Bragg, and the dozens of communities across the nation that sidle up next to the posts and bases. Or at least there has been for most of the post World War II era. Fort Bragg in particular is the home base for the Army’s airborne and special operations forces, which draws soldiers back to the post from the corners of the planet like a tractor beam, and with them spouses from a rainbow of nations – Vietnam, Germany, Korea, Panama and Thailand.

Even with its diverse military population of more than 50,000 soldiers, sailors, Airmen and Marines, Fort Bragg isn’t dealing with a rush of foreign spouses in need of help navigating a transition to American military spousehood. According to Stacy Williams, the post’s Multicultural Readiness Programs coordinator, even before the restrictions mandated by COVID-19, the post had no more than 2-3 foreign spouses attend bi-monthly International Spouse Orientation courses, and only one person was currently scheduled to attend the course that resumed from its COVID-mandated pause in January 2021.

Why does this matter? Maybe it doesn’t but I think who our service members choose as spouses tells us quite a bit about how the US government arrays its military influence around the globe.

General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made minor headlines Dec. 3, 2020, after suggesting that he would rather not have the U.S. military permanently station large numbers of service members and families in partner nations in Europe and Asia. But he also balked at having large numbers of units on rotational deployments as has increasingly been DoD policy in places like Poland and the Baltic nations, to counter Russian aggression, and the Pacific Rim in Guam and Australia.

Peacetime, strategic deployments of the US military, whether permanent stationing or rotational assignments, are more the experiences of a Cold War military and with the international upheaval of the post-Berlin Wall collapse, and increasingly less of a reflection of current American foreign policy. Milley’s comments, then, are less hints of a new American deployment strategy than they are a recommitment of the past two decades of geopolitical gamesmanship.

Economists use leading and lagging indicators as a kind of weathervane to gauge the health and direction of an economic system. One of these lagging indicators of how US military policy has affected international diplomacy might come from the changing nature of the international make up of the communities that surround military installations Stateside. The demographic shifts around US posts and bases over the past three decades might tell us as much about where America has decided to spend its diplomatic capital as well as how many soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are stationed for three years in places like Okinawa and Ramstein.

The American government, up until the post-World War II era, had exhibited an incredible bit of self-restraint in terms of expansionism. Other than short stints to claim territory during the Spanish American war, American administrations were generally loathe to commit the American military outside of its borders. President Woodrow Wilson famously dragged his feet during World War I and made every effort to keep America out of the conflict in Europe. The bitter taste of the First World War in Congress’ mouth led to the enactment of neutrality acts, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt found ways to work around before America’s involvement  in World War II was assured by the attack at Pearl Harbor. After the Axis Powers were defeated, though, America’s isolationist past was exactly that – a thing of the past.

At the height of the Cold War in the middle of the 20th Century, there were more than 400,000 Americans in uniform stationed across Europe, from Greenland to the tip of Italy, which has drawn down to about 75,000 as of early 2020. In the Pacific Theater, there are still nearly 78,000 service members, mainly split between South Korea and Japan. In the decades following the end of World War II and the signing of the Armistice that ended the Korean War, more than 70,000 service members were station in South Korea alone, where soldiers and Airmen were, like their compatriots in Germany, England and Italy, often free to spend their free time in local communities, often in the company of local young women.

Engagements, and eventually marriage, between service members in post-World War II Europe and Asia had become enough of a concern for the military, and the American government as a whole, that the US Congress passed the American War Brides Act in late 1945 that allowed for the immigration to the United States of more than 100,000 military-connected newly-weds and fiancés outside of the strict immigration quotas emplaned after the war. 

But with the retrenchment of American foreign policy, the ability for service members to have direct, often very direct, contact with foreigners while deployed has been curtailed. The challenge to validating military marriages as a lagging indicator of US foreign policy, though, is that no one keeps records on how many German and Korean and Japanese and Italian brides have left their homes on the uniformed arms of soldiers, sailors and Airmen over the years. 

For nearly all of the 20th Century, the US military assumed a dominant position along the rim of the South China Sea in the Philippines with thousands of American stationed at Clark  Naval Base Subic Bay and then Clark Air Base near the Philippine capital of Manila. Following the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991, the US Air Force made a hasty retreat and the Navy followed suit by sailing from Subic Bay in 1992 when an agreement for stationing US Naval forces fell through. With China making inroads in the South Pacific, the US government made a recent play to return the Navy to Subic Bay, which was nixed by Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte in July 2020.

In 1999, American forces similarly withdrew from a nearly century-long mission in Panama to serve as a regional presence and to guard over the Panama Canal. When President Jimmy Carter signed the 1977 agreement to relinquish control of the canal to the Panamanian government, he also severed a pipeline that saw Panamanian brides join their American husbands, who were part of a 10,000-strong American military force in Central America, from stationing at Fort Clayton to new homes at places like Fort Hood, Fort Lewis and Washington, DC. 

The reduction in permanent stationing of the US military across the globe, combined with a lessening of American political and economic dominance, has diluted the international make up of many military communities here in the States. There are parallels to the ways that service members were deployed to South East Asia during the Vietnam War and how soldiers and Marines have been dispatched to the post-9/11 Middle East and Southwest Asia. Almost anyone in Vietnam and Iraq could be considered a threat. Shorter tours with little to no interaction with the communities that they patrolled and monitored meant that young American men and women have had almost no chance to woo potential romantic partners. Low-intensity conflict zones with daily guerrilla attacks aren’t typical hookup hotbeds for young Americans dressed head to toe in their finest Kevlar body armor. 

And I don’t think that we have even considered the vast cultural differences that removed invading American forces from the dating pools in Kandahar and Anbar and Mogadishu and what that means for the cultural makeup of military-connected communities. Since the Departments of Defense and State don’t keep specific records on who service members marry, it becomes a challenge to know how many may have married natives of Iraq, Afghanistan and the other countries following American warriors back from combat deployments. But anecdotes show that there are probably just a handful, including an Army Civil Affairs officer who was felled in combat shortly after settling his Iraqi wife in her new hometown near Fort Bragg, NC.

The vast cultural differences that exist between Americans and the residents of the communities in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa that those Americans have occupied in the past two decades can’t account for the majority of the reduction in foreign-born spouses immigrating to the States. Economics, and America’s status as a dominant force on the world stage, may have just as big a role to play.

Elke Steele, a German who married an American soldier stationed near Stuttgart in 1990, now works for a match-making website that helps to connect Germans living near Wiesbaden with Americans and other non-German residents. She agrees that there are fewer fraulines marrying soldiers and Airmen, but suggests that it’s more than just a matter of fewer Americans being stationed in Europe.

Steele says that German women have “their own careers, a good lifestyle (with) free universal health care” and that they don’t want to leave their families and friends behind for the promise of a new life in America. Complicating matters, she says, are restrictions based on the threat of terrorism that keep GIs confined to their installations and the simple fact that “the dollar isn’t worth anything anymore.”

The promise of a better life in the States for German women isn’t so promising, Steele feels. But perhaps it is for women from Eastern Europe and Russia, women whom Steele feels are prized by young American men for being “more feminine and still believing that the woman stays at home raising the kids, while the man is the breadwinner of the family.”

Steele’s ground level appreciation for the shift in romantic partnering between American service members and foreign nationals holds true for Dr. Morton Ender, a sociology professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Ender notes that “German, Italian and British women don’t marry up anymore when they marry a soldier – unless they bag an officer” and that military officers generally take partners who are college educated, which shrinks the pool of potential war brides immigrants even further. Ender’s analysis of demographic data also suggests that currently many soldiers are already married or in serious, long-term relationships before they deploy.

America is asking its warriors to soldier in ways that they haven’t been asked to in the past – more one-year and shorter deployment, more unaccompanied deployments and missions to countries and cultures that are not welcoming of American soldiers  on an individual and romantic level. And while the Biden administration has promised more robust foreign policy positions and a greater willingness to engage in diplomacy with partners and adversaries alike, there is no hint that that the US military will engage in a wholesale redeployment of its forces to Europe and Asia to counter the continuing belligerence from Russia and China. 

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 didn’t end the great powers competition for influence and resources, but it did crumble the need for the US government to maintain mini-Americas across the globe that served as way stations for young women, and increasingly young men, to immigrate to the States as a soldier’s spouse. As a nation of immigrants, it seems unlikely that the rich jumble of culture and language that collects on military installations and just outside the gates will completely wither away, but the high water mark of the Cold War’s long-term deployment is well faded and with it, the sounds and smells of the cultures of America’s 20th Century war brides.

Maybe it doesn’t matter if we have foreign-born spouses who add richness and texture to our military communities and beyond. But it makes me lament there are kids growing up today who might never have their own Akemis, Lydias and Annas who will help them to know the world is much more than strip malls and carbon-copy chain restaurants, and that our immigrants – many who come to the States on the arm of an American in dress uniform – are the people who continue to feed life into the American experience.

Articles

What would happen if the Battle of Little Bighorn was fought today

The fall of Custer and five of the companies under his command at the Battle of Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876, known by the Sioux Nation as the Battle of Greasy Grass, was as much a failure of reconnaissance and intelligence as of strategy and tactics, and a modern battle between the 7th Cavalry and the Sioux Nation would play out differently.


First and foremost, modern military formations have better intelligence gathering assets. While Gen. George A. Custer labored under the false impression that Sitting Bull, the Lakota leader, had only 800 warriors with him, it’s more likely that he had well over 1,000 and possibly as many as 2,500.

When Custer first spotted the signs of the camp on June 25, he wanted to spend time scouting and resting his men before attacking but thought his presence had been detected by Sioux forces and would soon be reported. So, he ordered hasty preparations for an attack.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
The Battle of Little Bighorn. (Lithograph: Library of Congress by Charles Marion Russell)

But modern drones and listening devices would have let him know that the fighters who spotted his men were actually leaving the encampment and not reporting to Sitting Bull. Once Custer knew that and was able to spend time gathering intelligence, he would have learned of the size of the enemy force and at least hesitated to attack with his 647 men without getting reinforcements.

His force was just part of one of three columns of U.S. government forces in the area.

But if he did press the attack anyway, that battle would be most similar to a clash between uneven forces of cavalry and mounted infantry. While Custer’s men would likely have enjoyed a technological advantage, the four-to-one numerical advantage of the Lakota, Dakota, Sioux, and Northern Cheyenne forces would have been too much to overcome.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
Photo: U.S. Navy Journalist 2nd Class John J. Pistone

While Custer tried in 1876 to break through to the civilian parts of the camp to force the enemy to either fire in the direction of their loved ones or surrender, a modern Custer would likely try to draw out the enemy forces instead.

To help overcome his shortage of manpower, Custer would likely do this with a careful attack, trying to minimize civilian casualties while inflicting maximum damage on enemy vehicles.

Custer’s best chance would likely have been to send anti-armor missile teams into cover and concealment near the Sioux while one or two mechanized infantry companies deployed their Strykers just below the peak on nearby ridge lines.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
Photo: U.S. Army Pfc. Victor Ayala

Then, at a prearranged signal, the Strykers would roar over the ridge and fire TOW missiles at the Sioux vehicles. To keep the technological gap between the U.S. and Sioux forces, we’ll say the Sioux predominantly have Bradleys and HMMWVs.

As the Sioux, who were mostly sleeping or resting at the start of the battle, rushed to their vehicles and started moving them to the battlefield, the hidden anti-armor teams could start hitting the vehicles as they passed through chokepoints in the camp and the terrain around it, penning up vehicles.

The mortars embedded in the infantry companies could then start laying it on thick, slamming rounds into the top armor of enemy vehicles and hitting treads and tires with shrapnel to get mobility kills.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
Paratroopers fire a mortar system during a call-for-fire exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., March 3, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Anthony Hewitt)

But Custer’s force of almost 650 troops would find it nearly impossible to keep over 2,000 enemies penned in for long, and the Sioux vehicles would make it into the open sooner or later. Once they did, their superiority in numbers would quickly turn the tide.

Custer could claim a victory at this point, satisfy himself with the large losses already inflicted and conduct an orderly withdrawal while radioing other U.S. government forces to be ready to attack the Sioux forces if they dispersed across the area.

If the Sioux followed him as a large group, he would be able to draw them to a larger government force and wipe them out.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
The Bradley main armament is the M242 25mm (Bushmaster) Chain Gun. The standard rate of fire is 200 rounds per minute, and has a range of 2,000 meters, making it capable of defeating the majority of armored forces including some main battle tanks. (Photo: Department of Defense)

If, instead, he pressed his luck, and continued to fight near the Little Bighorn River, it’s likely that the final result would once again be a victory for the Sioux. Once the government anti-tank Strykers and anti-armor teams had expended their missiles, attempts to take the Bradleys out with the Stryker guns would take much longer.

Sitting Bull would be able to get a force assembled, likely by staging it behind one of the hills that dominate the area, and then launch it from behind cover and into the American flank.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
An M2A2 Bradley in action during a mission in Iraq. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Once the American lines were properly disrupted, more and more Sioux vehicles would be able to escape from the camp and launch additional attacks against the beleaguered 7th Cavalry.

While the Sioux would have suffered much heavier losses than in the actual 1876 battle, the end result of a standing battle between the 7th Cavalry and the Sioux nation would always be subject to the huge numbers disparity on the ground.

MIGHTY HISTORY

76 years after WWII battle of Tarawa, the fallen are still returning home

The 18,000 Marines and sailors who landed on the island of Betio in the Tarawa atoll in the Pacific Ocean early on Nov. 20, 1943, waded into what one combat correspondent called “the toughest battle in Marine Corps history.”

After 76 hours of fighting, the battle for Betio was over on November 23. More than 1,000 Marines and sailors were killed and nearly 2,300 wounded. Four Marines received the Medal of Honor for their actions — three posthumously.

Of roughly 4,800 Japanese troops defending the island, about 97% were killed. All but 17 of the 146 prisoners captured were Korean laborers.


“Betio would be more habitable if the Marines could leave for a few days and send a million buzzards in,” Robert Sherrod, a correspondent for Time, wrote after the fighting.

The victory at Tarawa “knocked down the front door to the Japanese defenses in the Central Pacific,” Adm. Chester Nimitz, commander in chief of the Pacific fleet, said afterward.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII

Four Marines carry a wounded Marine along the cluttered beach to a dressing station for treatment after fighting on Tarawa eased.

(US Marine Corps Photo)

Hundreds were left unidentified and unaccounted for

Because of environmental conditions, remains were quickly buried in trenches or individual graves on Betio, which is about a half-square-mile in size and, at the time of the battle, only about 10 feet above sea level at its highest point.

Navy construction sailors also removed some grave markers as they hurriedly built runways and other infrastructure to help push farther across the Pacific toward Japan.

The US Army Graves Registration Service came after the war to exhume remains and return them to the US, but its teams could not find more than 500 servicemen, and in 1949, the Army Quartermaster General’s Office declared those remains “unrecoverable,” telling families that those troops were buried at sea or in Hawaii as “unknowns.”

Over the past 16 years, however, Betio, now part of Kiribati, has yielded some of the largest recoveries of remains of US service members.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII

(Public domain)

That work has been led by History Flight, a Virginia-based nonprofit and Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency partner that’s dedicated to finding and recovering missing US service members.

“History Flight was started in 2003, and we’ve been researching the case history of Tarawa since 2003, but we started working out there 2008,” Katherine Rasdorf, a researcher at History Flight, told Business Insider on Thursday. “We had to do all the research and analysis first before we went out there.”

The first individual was found in 2012. That was followed by a lost cemetery in 2015 and two more large burial sites in 2017 and 2019, Rasdorf said.

In 2015, History Flight found 35 sets of remains at one site, including those of US Marine 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman, Jr., who received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the battle.

In July 2017, the organization turned over 24 sets of remains to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency for identification.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII

Osteologists with History Flight excavate a grave site from the battle of Tarawa at Republic of Kiribati, July 15, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melanye Martinez)

This summer, the graves of what were thought to be more than 30 Marines and sailors killed during the last day of fighting were found on Betio.

Those are the largest recoveries of missing US service personnel since the Korean War.

Using remote sensing, cartography, aerial photography, and archaeology, History Flight has recovered the remains of 309 service members from Tarawa, where the organization maintains an office and a year-round presence, Mark Noah, president of History Flight, told a House Committee on Oversight and Reform in a hearing on November 19.

Seventy-nine of those discoveries were made during the 2019 fiscal year, Noah said, adding that History Flight’s recoveries are 20% of the DoD’s annual identifications.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII

Archaeologists with History Flight excavate a grave site from the battle of Tarawa, in the Republic of Kiribati, July 15, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo Sgt. Melanye Martinez)

“Many of them were underneath buildings, underneath roads, and houses,” Noah told lawmakers of remains on Betio, noting that they are often discarded, covered up, and accidentally disinterred — the first two Marines his organization recovered on Tarawa in April 2010 were displayed on a battlefield tour guide’s front porch.

Today, 429 servicemen killed at Betio remain unaccounted for, Rear Adm. Jon Kreitz, deputy director of the DPAA, said when at least 22 servicemen returned to the US in July.

Hero’s welcome for those returned home

Those discoveries have allowed the sailors and Marines who died at Tarawa to finally return home.

Joseph Livermore, a 21-year-old Marine private when he was killed by a Japanese bayonet on November 22, 1943, was given a hero’s welcome in his hometown of Bakersfield, California, where his remains were buried on November 15.

A thousand people lined the streets for Livermore’s return, Noah said.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII

Service members with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency fold flags on transfer cases on a C-17 Globemaster, in Tarawa, Kiribati, Sept. 27, 2019.

Pvt. Channing Whitaker, an 18-year-old from Iowa killed in a Japanese banzai attack on the second day of the battle, was buried with full military honors in Des Moines on November 22. His remains returned to the US in July.

Other Marines killed at Tarawa who were recovered after the battle have also been identified in recent months.

In History Flight’s experience, more than 50% of those recovered had living brothers, sisters, and children at their funerals, Noah told lawmakers this week.

“The recovery of America’s missing servicemen is a vital endeavor for their families and for our country. What we are accomplishing in recovering the missing is putting a little bit of America back into America,” Noah said.

An island nation ‘facing annihilation’

While hundreds of servicemen likely remain on Betio, environmental conditions there may soon make finding them even harder.

Kiribati, one of the most isolated countries in the world, is also one of many Pacific Island nations likely to be unlivable in a few decades due to the effects of climate change.

More than half of Kiribati’s nearly 120,000 residents live on South Tarawa, just east of Betio. Rising sea levels are a particular threat to densely populated country. Exceptionally high tides and sea-water incursions threaten the fresh water under the atolls.

Many of the graves located by History Flight are below the water table, meaning workers had to pump water from the sites each day to excavate.

“When it’s rainy season, it’s very difficult to do archeology, because the locations fill with water and we have to come up with drainage solutions that are not impacting the highly populated areas and … reroute [the water] to places where it’s not infringing on their clean drinking water,” Rasdorf said.

On the whole, History Flight’s day-to-day work has not been greatly affected by changing environmental conditions, Rasdorf said, but others in Kiribati have called for drastic action in response to the threat of climate change.

Anote Tong, Kiribati’s president from 2003 to 2016, bought nearly 8 square miles of land to potentially relocate to in Fiji, about 1,200 miles away from Kiribati, for nearly million in 2014.

His purchase was decried by some as a boondoggle and alarmist, and his successor took office in 2016 planning to shift priorities and making no plans for people to leave. But Tong continues to sound the alarm.

“The Republic of Kiribati,” Tong said in an op-ed he coauthored last year, “is facing annihilation.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s a look at the bomber NASA flew over Afghanistan

The National Aeronautical and Space Administration has done very well with their small force of WB-57 Canberra reconnaissance planes. These planes have flown for nearly 60 years and they continue to serve today. With such a long, storied history, it’s easy to forget why the B-57 came to be in the first place. Let’s stroll down memory lane.

Originally, the B-57 Canberra was designed to be a light bomber that used high performance to avoid interception. The British started development of this plane in the latter years of World War II. While the American-produced versions did see some use as bombers during the Vietnam War, the Canberra truly hit its stride as a high-altitude reconnaissance asset for the Air Force.


How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII

The RB-57D Canberra variant was designed specifically for high-altitude recon missions.

(USAF)

The RB-57A was the first adaptation of the Canberra designed specifically for reconnaissance work, but the RB-57D was the first such plane intended to do so at high altitudes. Three versions of this recon jet were developed: One was for photo-reconnaissance, using advanced (for the time) camera, a second for electronic warfare, and a third that packed a powerful radar for mapping the ground.

The RB-57F, a much later version, which was created from re-manufacturing older Canberras. These souped-up planes featured more powerful engines and longer wings. They were able to operate at higher altitudes and were used for weather reconnaissance and to collect samples from nuclear tests.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII

This RB-57 started its life in the Air Force, and now flies with NASA as plane number 926.

(DOD)

Today, NASA still operates three B-57 Canberras. Whiles Canberras have now retired, a few are still flying in civilian hands, undertaking mapping missions.

Watch to video below to learn how the RB-57D was introduced to the United States.

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

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Marine division never set foot in the United States

When American military units are established or disestablished, it’s usually done on American soil. There are exceptions, but, for the most part, it is done in the United States. But one Marine division has the distinction of never setting foot in the United States for the duration its service.


During World War II, the Marine Corps underwent a massive expansion. The 1st Marine Division was established in February of 1941. Eventually, the Marines grew to six infantry divisions (today, there are four – three active and one reserve). Five were formed in the United States, but the 6th Marine Division was formed on the Pacific island where Marine legends, like John Basilone, made their mark on history – Guadalcanal – on September 7, 1944, a little over two years after the invasion of that island.

 

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
Marines from the 6th Marine Division on a patrol during the Battle of Okinawa. (USMC photo)

The division trained until it was sent to help take the island of Okinawa from Japan. The Japanese troops on that island didn’t give up easily. The battle spanned almost three months, leaving 12,520 Americans dead, including Lieutenant General Simon Buckner. Over 110,000 Japanese troops and at least 40,000 civilians were killed during the fighting.

During the fight for Okinawa, five Marines and one sailor with the 6th Marine Division were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions. The entire division was recognized with the Presidential Unit Citation. After Okinawa, the division was pulled back to Guam in order to prepare for the invasion of Japan — on an American territory, but not in the United States. Soon thereafter, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and forced Japan’s surrender. The division was instead sent to Tsingtao, China, where it was disestablished in 1946.

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII
With the captured capital of Naha in the background, Marine Maj. Gen. Lemuel Shepherd, commanding general of the 6th Marine Division, relaxes on an Okinawan ridge long enough to consult a map of the terrain. (Marine Corps)

 

Today, the 6th Marine Division remains inactive. To learn more about what their courageous actions on Okinawa, watch the video below.

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