'Vinegar' Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice

Army Maj. Gen. “Vinegar” Joe Stilwell was at the top of the list for high commands as America entered World War I. A 1904 West Point graduate with lots of intelligence experience in World War I and extensive time in the Pacific, he was expected to take on some of the most important commands and win.


And initially, it looked like that would happen, but two of the biggest commands of the war slipped through his fingers. He was assigned to lead the invasion of North Africa when America was ready to deploy forces across the Atlantic, but was recalled to take another mission. He was later assigned to lead the invasion of Japan…until the atomic bombs made it unnecessary.

 

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice
General Chiang Kai-shek, Madam Chiang Kai-shek, and Lt. Gen. Joseph Stilwell celebrate the day after the Doolittle Raid strikes Tokyo. (Photo: U.S. Department of Defense Capt. Fred L. Eldridge)

Instead, Stilwell spent most of the war in what was an important backwater, the Chinese-Burma-India Theater. Stilwell was in the middle of preparing Operation Gymnast, the landings of North Africa which would later be conducted as Operation Torch, when he learned that he was on the short list to command U.S. forces in CBI.

Stilwell didn’t want the job. He hoped to invade North Africa. From there, he would have a decent shot at commanding the European theater or at least all troops taking the fight to Italy.

This was a reasonable expectation. Operation Gymnast became Operation Torch and was passed to then-Brig. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower’s success in North Africa led to an appointment as Supreme Allied Commander Europe. A few years later, he used his status as a war hero to run for president.

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice
Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Stilwell eats C-rations as a Christmas meal in 1943 while not-at-all wishing that he had commanded the invasion of North Africa instead of that punk kid Dwight Eisenhower. (Photo: U.S. Army)

 

Stilwell, meanwhile, was sent to the CBI theater where he was charged three major jobs. He was to command all U.S. forces in the theater, lead the Lend-Lease program in China, and serve as the chief of staff for Chiang Kai-shek, the Supreme Allied Commander for the China theater.

He was facing a tough job, but Stilwell dove into it. He assumed control of an integrated force in Burma in 1942 and prepared an offensive against the Japanese.

 

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice
American forces assigned to GALAHAD rest in Burma during a movement in World War II. GALAHAD would be better known by history as Merrill’s Marauders. (Photo: U.S. Army)

 

But it was too late for that. Before Stilwell could lay the groundwork, a new Japanese thrust overcame Chinese forces and sent them reeling back. The rest of the Allied forces in the area, mostly Americans under Stilwell, were forced to follow. This caused the loss of Burma and a severing of important logistical corridors.

The overall retreat was so disorderly that important railways were shut down thanks to crashes and traffic jams. Stilwell had to lead a group from his headquarters on vehicles and then on foot after the air corridors were closed. The vehicles eventually had to be abandoned because of the bad roads, and so Stilwell and a select group walked through the jungle out of Burma.

The group has started with 80 members and emerged from the jungle with 114, having picked up 34 strays and suffered no losses — possibly the only large group to do so.

 

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice
Kachin Rangers stand in formation. (Photo: U.S. Army)

 

For the next two years, Stilwell had to rely on a small group of Americans leading guerrilla operations in Burma to keep the Japanese off kilter. Army Col. Carl F. Eifler led a small group of U.S. soldiers who recruited the local Kachin people into an insurgency against the Japanese. The force was credited with killing 5,428 Japanese troops and recovering 574 isolated Allied troops, mostly downed aircrews.

But Stilwell didn’t want to disrupt the Japanese in Burma, he wanted it back. In 1944, he was able to lead a force that retook the region. One of the most famous units in the effort was Merrill’s Marauders, led by Maj. Gen. Frank Merrill. Merrill was one of the survivors that left Burma with Stilwell. Merrill had survived the evacuation despite suffering a heart attack.

 

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice
Merrill’s Marauders move through the China-Burma-India Theater on the Ledo Road. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

Stilwell was finally removed from CBI in 1944, mainly due to staff and national politics. He was sent to the Ryukyu Islands where he took over the 10th Army on Okinawa. It was in this position that he was tapped to lead the invasion of Japan, Operation Downfall.

Luckily for him and his men, though not for his career and legacy, the invasion was made unnecessary by the Japanese surrendering to MacArthur in 1945.

Articles

What it was like in the room when Germany finally surrendered to end WWII in Europe

In the early morning hours of May 7, 1945, the remnants of Nazi Germany’s military leadership signed an unconditional surrender to Allied forces.


When the news broke the next day, soldiers and civilians around the world heralded Victory in Europe Day — the Soviet Union would mark Victory Day on May 9 — exuberant about the end of nearly six years of war that had destroyed much of Europe.

When German and Allied military officials gathered again in Berlin near midnight on May 8 to sign surrender documents, the atmosphere in the room was laden with emotional and political weight.

The Germans, characteristically severe, went through the proceedings in a mix of resignation and resentment, while the Soviets, Americans, and other Allies were relieved at the war’s conclusion.

All of them were uncertain what would come next.

Historian Antony Beevor’s sweeping history of the final months on the eastern front, “The Fall of Berlin 1945,” captured the mood in the room as victors and vanquished gathered to bring their conflict to an end:

“Just before midnight the representatives of the allies entered the hall ‘in a two-storey building of the former canteen of the German military engineering college in Karlshorst.’ General Bogdanov, the commander of the 2nd Guards Tank Army, and another Soviet general sat down by mistake on seats reserved for the German delegation.”
“A staff officer whispered in their ears and ‘they jumped up, literally as if stung by a snake’ and went to sit at another table. Western pressmen and newreel cameramen apparently ‘behaved like madmen’. In their desperation for good positions, they were shoving generals aside and tried to push in behind the top table under the flags of the four allies.”

The German delegation then entered the room — its members looking both “resigned” and “imperious.”

Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, commander of the Nazi armed forces during the final days of the war, “sat very straight in his chair, with clenched fists,” Beevor wrote. “Just behind him, a tall German staff officer standing to attention ‘was crying without a single muscle of his face moving.'”

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice

Gen. Georgy Zhukov, a senior Soviet commander during the war’s final days, stood to invite the Germans “to sign the act of capitulation.” Keitel, impatient, gestured for the documents to be brought to him. “Tell them to come here to sign,” Zhukov said.

Keitel walked over to sign, “ostentatiously” removing his gloves to do so, unaware that the representative for the chief of Stalin’s secret police, the NKVD, was lingering just over his shoulder.

“‘The German delegation may leave the hall,'” Zhukov said once the signing was complete, Beevor wrote, adding:

“The three men stood up. Keitel, ‘his jowls hanging heavily like a bulldog’s’, raised his marshal’s baton in salute, then turned on his heel. As the door closed behind them, it was almost as if everybody would in the room exhaled in unison. The tension relaxed instantaneously. Zhukov was smiling, so was [British Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur] Tedder. Everybody began to talk animatedly and shake hands. Soviet officers embraced each other with bear hugs.”
“The party which followed went on until almost dawn, with songs and dances. Marshal Zhukov himself danced the Russkaya to loud cheers from his generals. From inside, they could clearly hear gunfire all over the city as officers and soldiers blasted their remaining ammunition into the night sky in celebration. The war was over.”

The chaos of the war had ceased, but for Soviets and Germans other hardships were to come.

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice
An aerial (oblique) photograph taken from a De Havilland Mosquito of the RAF Film and Photographic Unit showing badly damaged buildings in the area between Friedrich Hain and Lichtenberg, Berlin. | Royal Air Force

Zhukov, long a confidant of Stalin, earned glory for his command during the war, but he would soon find himself on the outs with the mercurial Soviet leader.

Keitel would face war-crimes charges, including crimes against humanity. He was convicted and hanged in October 1946. Like other Nazi leaders who were hanged, Keitel’s body didn’t drop with enough force to break his neck. He dangled at the end of the hangman’s rope for 24 minutes before dying.

Germans, many of them under the yoke of the Soviet Union, would struggle to rebuild both physically from the war and emotionally from their encounter with Allies forces — Soviet soldiers in particular. Berlin, buffered by two weeks of intense urban fighting, was shattered.

The Soviet Union’s drive for political vengeance and economic advantage lead it to hobble or strip much of East Germany’s infrastructure and resources.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Most stressful hand receipt ever: The ‘Little Boy’ nuke

Remember that first time you had to sign for more than $10,000 in gear? Or, hell, even that first real clothing hand receipt when you saw that the military was handing you what they saw as a couple thousand dollars worth of uniforms and equipment, and they could hold you accountable for every stitch of it?

Now imagine signing a hand receipt for a nuclear bomb, the only one of its type in existence in the world at the time.


‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice

The Little Boy bomb is prepped on Tinian island for insertion into the Enola Gay’s bomb bay.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

America had learned in 1939 of German efforts to weaponize the power of nuclear energy from just years before. Experiments in 1935 and 1938 had proven that uranium, when bombarded with neutrons, underwent the process of fission. Scientists had argued about whether a sustained nuclear reaction could be created and, if so, if it could be used for the industry or war.

It may sound odd today, but there was plenty of reason to suspect that nuclear fission was useless for military designs. No one had yet proven that fission could be sustained. But the Roosevelt Administration, understanding the existential threat that fascism and the Third Reich posed to the rest of the world, decided it couldn’t wait and see if German efforts came to fruition.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Advisory Committee on uranium and quickly funded research into nuclear chain reactions.

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice

The USS Shaw explodes in Pearl Harbor during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

The group would go through two name changes and multiple reorganizations as the scientific research progressed. While America was bombed at Pearl Harbor and entered the war, America’s scientists kept churning away at the problem of how to enrich uranium and create “the bomb.”

But in that same month, Germany shelved its own plans to create a nuclear bomb, opting instead to dedicate its best scientists and most of its research funds into rocket and jet research. Germany had been at the forefront of research, but would now essentially cease progress.

America, unaware that none of its rivals were still developing the bomb, pressed ahead, dedicating vast resources to gathering, enriching, and testing uranium and plutonium. This would eventually result in material dedicated to one uranium device and a number of plutonium ones.

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice

The Trinity explosion was the first human-controlled nuclear explosion in history.

(U.S. Department of Energy)

The first nuclear explosion took place on July 16, 1945, in the deserts of New Mexico. The Trinity test used a plutonium implosion to trigger the blast. The Trinity “Gadget” was tested because America was having better luck gathering and preparing plutonium for use, but wasn’t sure the design would actually work.

It did, releasing as much energy as 21,000 tons of TNT from only 14 pounds of plutonium.

But at the same time, the nuclear elements of the Little Boy device were already headed across the Pacific on the USS Indianapolis. Of course, this being the military, there was a form for shipping dangerous materials, and the form specifically tells users to avoid remarks that would make the document classified.

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice

An Army form shows the transfer of materials for components of the Little Boy bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

This resulted in a “Receipt of Material” form describing “Projectile unit containing…kilograms of enriched tuballey at an average concentration of ….” Hopefully, if the form ever had fallen into Japanese hands, they would’ve been smart enough to suspect something was amiss when famous physicist and member of the Secretary of War’s staff Dr. Norman F. Ramsey was signing over a single bomb to Army Brig. Gen. Thomas Farrell.

Not the way most bombs units are transferred to the Pacific, we’d wager.

The materials were transported to Tinian Island where they were used to assemble the “Little Boy” bomb which, at the time, was the only uranium bomb that had ever existed. Capt. William Parsons, the Enola Gay’s weaponeer and commander, signed for the bomb and was in charge of verifying that it was returned to the base or expended in combat.

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice

An atomic cloud rises over Hiroshima after the Little Boy bomb was dropped.

(509th Operations Group)

On Aug. 6, 1945, the Enola Gay dropped the bomb at approximately 8:15 on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. Parsons, seemingly consulting his watch while it was still set to time on Tinian Island, wrote: “I certify that the above material was expended to the city of Hiroshima, Japan at 0915 6 Aug.”

It’s one of the most mundane ways possible of annotating the destruction of a city, but it satisfied the requirements of the form. Over the ensuing years, Farrell got notable members of the mission and the Manhattan project to sign the form, creating the most-stacked piece of nuclear memorabilia likely in existence.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Russia has pledged to go ahead with a massive WWII memorial parade despite its growing coronavirus outbreak

Despite steadily mounting infections from the coronavirus in Russia, President Vladimir Putin has so far refused to cancel a massive parade celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Soviet triumph Nazi Germany.

The annual Victory Day parade on May 9 typically includes tens of thousands of troops, military equipment, and hundreds of thousands of spectators.


The event came under fire last week after social media footage showed thousands of re-enactors rehearsing for the event, despite a government ban on gatherings of more than 50 people.

One video, found by Rob Lee, an open source military researcher who focuses on former Soviet militaries, shows re-enactors at a military base in Alabino, outside of Moscow.

Video purportedly of Russian troops at the Victory Day Parade rehearsals in Alabino who aren’t quite meeting the 1.5 meter social distancing requirement instituted by local officials. https://vk.com/milinfolive?w=wall-123538639_1404052 …pic.twitter.com/JIQLTPFUMQ

twitter.com

Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny circulated the video, and other politicians criticized organizers for letting them go ahead.

The government announced it would halt rehearsals, but still planned to hold the main event on May 9, according to the Guardian.

The 2020 parade had been scheduled to be especially large, given its importance marking the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazism, which cost tens of millions of Soviet lives.

Putin had planned to include not only the cream of Russia’s modern military but thousands of WWII-style re-enactors armed with historically accurate gear.

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice

To prepare for the event, Russia spent years accumulating working models of the famous Soviet T-34 tank, sourcing them from as far afield as Laos and Albania.

Russia’s coronavirus outbreak, currently at 6,000 recorded cases but growing fast, may yet end hopes of the parade going ahead.

Russian government officials have attacked news organizations that report on the increasing number of cases in Russia, as well as anyone who suggests the event should be canceled.

static.kremlin.ru

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “May 9th is a sacred date for millions upon millions in Russia and [ex-Soviet] countries. The Victory Day parade is scheduled (sanitary measures taken) and will march on Red Square,” according to the Guardian.

Alternative plans being considered for the parade, according to multiple Russian media outlets, include conducting the parade for TV cameras without a live audience, or postponing it until other historically significant anniversaries in September or November.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Australia fought a war against emus… and lost

Emus are the second largest birds in the world, right behind their cousin, the ostrich. Unable to fly but able to run at 30 miles per hour, these big creatures are considerably useless and extremely dorky. But appearances can often belie great (inadvertent) military prowess, as is proven by that time the Australian army lost a “war” to a massive herd of emus in 1932.


Western Australia, still undergoing a settlement period, found itself in an economic mess tied to an abysmal agricultural situation. Farmers, already beleaguered by falling wheat prices, were further affected by a horde of 20,000 emus converging on their lands. These emus began eating crops and seeds, destroying planted land, and causing a general ruckus.

Something had to be done, and it had to be done fast. To that end, in late 1932, Australian Defense Minister Sir George Pearce dispatched three soldiers and a pair of machine guns with the hopes of curbing the emu population, so that the settlers wouldn’t starve.

An officer of the Royal Australian Artillery, Major G. Meredith, was granted command of the operation and ordered to terminate any emu on sight with extreme prejudice. Additionally, he was to return with the skins of 100 emus so that farmers could make hats out of them — an obviously enviable mission for any military officer aspiring to higher ranks.

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice
An emu-ravaged farm field in Western Australia (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Placed in charge of two soldiers, Sergeant S. McMurray and Trooper J. O’Halloran, Meredith was to lead this elite emu-slaying strike team into the lands surrounding the town of Campion, set up his guns, and unleash unholy hell on the unsuspecting, dimwitted birds.

McMurray and O’Halloran carried one Lewis gun apiece — a First World War-era machine gun able to spit out between 500 to 600 rounds per minute. The team carried with them around 10,000 rounds of ammunition to feed their guns, and marched into town with a plan of merely walking up to the birds and spraying fire randomly until their pan magazines ran dry.

Oddly enough, the emus somehow outsmarted the trio.

On Nov. 2, Meredith and company happened upon a herd of approximately 50 emus just outside of Campion. Sighting them with their emu-blasters, McMurray and O’Halloran started shooting, aiming for larger groups of the flightless birds. However, the emus split up into smaller groups and used their speed to their advantage, quickly running out of the Lewis guns’ effective ranges.

When the smoke cleared, only 12 emus lay dead, the rest had successfully escaped. Undeterred, Meredith and his team carried on with their mission. On Nov. 4, another opportunity appeared near a dam. Deciding to use textbook tactics instead of random gunfire, Meredith and crew set up an ambush.

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice
Australian infantry training with Lewis guns (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

After spotting a herd of over 1000 emus heading in their general direction, McMurray and O’Halloran readied a gun and waited patiently. This time, they would hold their fire until the emus got closer, giving them more of an opportunity to drop their targets before they ran off.

Soon, they opened fire… and their guns jammed. The birds fled and the trio only accounted for around 12 confirmed kills. Meredith began noticing a peculiar smartness about the way the emus evacuated the kill box, saying that, “each mob has its leader… who keeps watch while his fellows busy themselves with the wheat.”

According to Meredith, as soon as the “leader” emus noticed something suspicious, they would alert the rest of the herd, which would then scramble off to safety. Weirdly, these leader emus always stayed behind until all the other birds reached safety, then ran away themselves.

Instead of giving into frustration, Meredith decided to go mobile to try and keep up with the emus as they ran off. Borrowing a truck, he mounted a Lewis gun in the rear and had his two subordinates drive and fire when chasing after their feathered prey.

And still, they proved to be no match for the emus.

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice
A settler holds up a dead emu, killed during one of the Australian military’s anti-emu expeditions (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The truck could neither keep up with the fast birds nor could the gunner aim and fire a round decently — the ride was far too bumpy for that. By Nov. 8, the team had expended over 2,500 rounds with the majority of the emu population surviving the conflict.

Sir George Pearce, now sarcastically dubbed the Minister of the Emu War, pulled the team from the field, signaling an unofficial victory for the emus. A stunned Meredith later commented, “if we had a military division with the bullet-carrying capacity of these birds, it would face any army in the world … They can face machine guns with the invulnerability of tanks.”

Meredith would be sent back into emu combat soon afterward, as he was the only officer who actually had any experience in fighting these weird creatures. By mid-December, Meredith had earned the title, “Slayer of Emus,” having accounted for 986 kills. However, he was recalled once more. Repeated requests for military intervention from farmers in later years were shot down by the Australian government.

There were just too many emus.

Today, emus still roam the Australian Outback, though they’re far less of a problem to Aussie farmers today than they were to their predecessors back in the 1930s. This remains the only recorded instance in military history where birds unwittingly won a military engagement.

Interestingly enough, no military force has tried to mess with these dorky warrior-birds (or any other flightless bird) since.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This ‘shotgun’ is the most awesome firearm ever made

At the onset of the industrial revolution, people were looking at ways to mass-produce and commercialize nearly everything. But what about something as manual as duck hunting? Was there any way to mass-hunt ducks with some sort of firearm capable of knocking, say, 50 to 100 ducks out of the air all at once? Yes, in fact, there was. It was called the punt gun.


Back in the first decade of the 19th century, there existed a monster of a shotgun. Each of these guns was custom made for the ambitious hunter that wanted one, but in all cases, the barrels were somewhere between ten and thirteen feet in length. Most were muzzle-loaded while others had false breaches to load the over one pound of ammunition.

The overly-large shotgun weighed over 100 lbs. While many of the existing photos are of hunters jokingly posing like they’re using as a conventional shotgun, realistically, the recoil would’ve likely ripped someone’s arm off.

Instead, the gun was fastened to a punt — a flat-bottomed rowboat. The firer would position the boat towards a large flock of waterfowl and fire. The massive amount shot deployed with a single firing would most certainly take out enough birds to supply the hunter for an entire day. In order to properly mount the gun, the boats themselves needed to be specially-reinforced to account for the immense, destructive force.

 

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice
Not unlike the A-10 Warthog and its GAU-8 Avenger. (Photo by Sydney Harold Smith)

 

But these guns have nothing on the granddaddy of all punt guns – Irish Tom, the world’s largest. Created in Great Britain in the 1930s by W.W. Greener and the Whitworth Factory of Manchester, this gun weighed over 300 lbs, had a 14′ 1″ barrel, and fired 3lbs 2oz of buckshot. The original owner, Stanley Duncan, claimed his best shot downed 100 ducks.

Just a handful of market hunters equipped with punt guns was enough to nearly drive ducks to extinction, ultimately leading to the gun being outlawed. Original and modern remakes can be scarcely found by collectors.

In the UK, punt guns are also used ceremoniously. Ever since Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, 21 punt guns have been fired during every coronation and jubilee in Cowbit Wash, Lincolnshire.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how Julius Caesar started a civil war

The title of Caesar and everything that it represents stems from the actions of a heroic man who had an undying thirst for advancement. That man, Julius Caesar, had a brilliant, tactical militant mind that he joined with the political shrewdness of Senator Pompey and the economic patronage of Crassus to form the First Triumvirate of Rome.

Together, through bribes, intimidation, and ruthless pragmatism, they brought about change that resonated throughout all of Rome — until a betrayal famously turned the Senate against Caesar. So, what does one do when betrayed by his allies? What stance does one take when the very people who brought you to power now want to see you die for treason? What can you do in the face of reckless envy?

Well, if you have an army, you declare war.


The Battle of Pharsalus (48 B.C.E.)
youtu.be

In the aftermath of the Gallic Wars (58 B.C. to 50 B.C.), Caesar was set to return to Rome, astride the high of triumph. However, jealous senators (including the once-loyal Pompey) demanded that he answer for the crime of levying an army without senatorial approval. It was a charge of treason — and the perfect excuse for the aristocracy in the capital to dispose of the greatest threat to their power: Julius Ceasar.

Caesar details the campaign to defend the Empire’s borders against the barbarian hordes of Gaul (modern day France and Belgium) in his book Commentarii de Bello Gallico. Though the book is far from the most credible account of the war (Caesar is known for inflated battle statistics in his favor), what’s undeniable is that a victory is a victory. Caesar’s conquest over the barbarians remedied his massive debt problems and elevated his status among the people.

Victory aside, Caesar was ordered to return to Rome unaccompanied by his army and stand trial before the senate. He uttered, “alea iacta est” (‘the die is cast’) and crossed the Rubicon River with the 13th Legion (Legio XIII) in an act of defiance and informal declaration of war against his accusers.

Senator Pompey and the others fled Rome when they heard that Caesar would not go down without a fight. Rome was officially in a civil war.

Senator Pompey fled across the Adriatic Sea and commanded his allies in Greece to raise troops to help him defend the Republic. Caesar, dedicated to seizing the initiative whenever he could, ordered his men to march to southern Italy in an attempt to cut off Pompey’s army from a rendezvous with eastern allies. Unfortunately, the 13th Legion did not make it in time to stop them and the stage was set for The Battle of Pharsalus (48 B.C.E.).

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice

Did senators ever tell the truth?

Caesar’s victory here sent the Roman Republic into the throes of death — and gave rise to the Roman Empire.

Caesar appointed himself dictator with Mark Antony as his right-hand man (his master of cavalry) and continued his campaign. Just 11 days after establishing his dictatorship, he secured Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus as an ally and his emperorship was beyond reproach.

The great conspiracy against Julius Caesar – Kathryn Tempest
youtu.be

 

Several decisive victories in Greece and the Italian mainland later, Caesar had turned what was once seen as an illegitimate military rulership into an unquestionable empire. Long live the Emperor of Rome, hero of the common man.

Caesar’s renown and unchecked power eventually led to his assassination. Beware the ides of March.

Articles

Meet the World War I legend ‘Black Swallow of Death’

While Eddie Rickenbacker has a claim to fame as the top American ace of World War I, there were plenty of other Americans who fought valiantly with Allies from the air.


One of them, Eugene Bullard, has the distinction of being the first African-American military pilot.

According to Air and Space Power Journal, Bullard was born in Columbus, Georgia, on Oct 9, 1894. At 8 years old, he left Georgia after his father narrowly escaped a lynching, and made his way to Norfolk where he worked a series of odd jobs before he stowed away on a ship bound for Scotland.

He worked more odd jobs across Scotland and England, including as a longshoreman and on a fish wagon, until he discovered talents for boxing and performing. That talent eventually landed him in Paris just as World War I started.

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice
Eugene Jacques Bullard. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Bullard spent two years with an infantry unit and was wounded during the Battle of Verdun. He then transferred to the French Flying Corps. During his time in the infantry, he was nicknamed “The Black Swallow of Death.” Bullard would score two kills in just over two months of combat flying. After the U.S. ignored his application to be a pilot for the American military despite his combat experience, he was transferred to non-combat duties by the French until his discharge in 1919.

Bullard would settle down in France, but come to his adopted country’s defense again in World War II, first serving as a spy, then seeing ground combat near Orleans. After he was wounded, he was medically evacuated, along with his daughters to the United States. He eventually went to work as an elevator operator in New York City.

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice
Eugene Bullard. (DOD photo)

In 1954, France invited Bullard and two other men to re-light the Eternal Flame at the Arc de Triomphe. In 1959, he was named a Knight of the Legion of Honor, and was interviewed on the Today Show. The next year, Charles de Gaulle publicly declared Bullard a hero of France.

Bullard died on Oct. 12, 1961, after an illness caused by the wounds he had received. He was 67 years old. In 1994, 100 years after he was born, the U.S. Air Force granted him a commission as a Lieutenant.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

From brutal trench warfare in World War I to fighting the Nazis and challenging Soviet Russia during the Berlin Airlift, Army Reserve forces have faced the perils of combat for more than 100 years.

The Army Reserve started as a medical force designed to fortify the Army’s shortfall of combat doctors. In 1902, Secretary of War Elihu Root proposed the creation of a volunteer reserve to augment the regular Army and National Guard in wartime, and on April 23, 1908, the Medical Reserve Corps, with 160 medical professionals, was launched, with one simple mission: keep Soldiers alive.


Today, that force has grown to more than 205,000 citizen soldiers spanning a wide range of specialties. That includes 11,000 civilians and 2,075 units residing and operating in every state, 5 U.S. territories, and 30 countries.

Reservists, who say that deployment rates have skyrocketed since 9-11, give much credit to their employers and family members.

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret)

“We don’t serve in a vacuum. We can’t do what we do without the support of our employers. With the increased op tempo there has been increased time away from home and our employers,” Col. Richard Bailey, Commander, 804thMedical Brigade, told Military.com in an interview.

As the Army Reserve honors its 110th anniversary, let’s take a closer look at the some of its highlights over the past century. Here’s to citizen soldiers!

5 defining moments from a century of war

1. World War I

About 90 reserve forces mobilized in World War I to fight the Germans across the European continent. One-third of them were medical doctors. Treating wounds during World War I was no small task, as injuries ranged from bayonet injuries to gunshots resulting from deadly trench warfare.

2. Fighting the Nazis: World War II (1941-1945)

During World War II (1941-1945), the Army mobilized 26 Army Reserve infantry divisions. Approximately a quarter of all Army officers who served were Army Reserve Soldiers, including over 100,000 Reserve Officers’ Training Corps graduates. More than 200,000 Army Reserve Soldiers served in the war.

3. Challenging Soviet Russia: Cold War and the Berlin Airlift

The Army Reserve was mobilized twice during the Cold War; over 68,500 Army Reserve Soldiers mobilized for the Berlin Crisis (1961-1962), during which time the Soviets insisted that Western forces withdraw from Berlin. As forces on both sides escalated, conflict was imminent, but ultimately avoided, as U.S. Soldiers followed President Kennedy’s words: “We seek peace, but we shall not surrender.”

4. Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1990-1991)

The invasion of Kuwait by Iraq led to a call-up of approximately 84,000 Army Reserve Soldiers to provide combat support and combat service support in the Persian Gulf theater and site support to American forces around the globe.

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Monte Swift)

5. Global War on Terrorism (2001-Present)

Since 9/11, approximately 218,000 Army Reserve Soldiers have been activated in the Global War on Terrorism. Today, approximately 200,000 Army Reserve Soldiers serve through the Army’s five- year, rotational force generation model.

While deployed to Iraq, Bailey ran a combat hospital and treated life-threatening injuries nearly every day.

“We had two rockets come in and explode on the compound and the base had many incursions on the perimeters. A lot of things happen outside the wire but on a daily basis it would come to our doorstep. We saw gunshots on a daily basis,” Bailey said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

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That time two countries’ Special Forces squared off in combat

The idea of having a force designed for a special purpose dates far back into history and has been used in many wars. However, it is rare, if ever, that these forces meet in combat. Their targets are usually those too difficult to tackle by conventional forces. Or they’re used to exploit weaknesses in conventional forces. In a unique confluence of events though, British SAS and Royal Marine Commandos faced off against Argentine Special Forces during the Falklands War of 1982.


The fighting (neither side actually declared war) started on Apr. 2, 1982, when Argentina invaded the Falkland, South Georgia, and South Sandwich Islands. Argentina took this bold move due to a longer simmering dispute over the sovereignty of the islands.

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice
British Soldiers in the Falkland Islands War.

The British response was swift and soon a naval task force was steaming towards the Falklands.

They landed in force on May 21, 1982, to retake the islands. The operation, codenamed Operation Corporate, was spearheaded by 3 Commando Brigade with paratroopers from 2 Para and 3 Para attached.

The elite 3 Commando Brigade consisted of 40, 42, and 45 Commando, the equivalent of three infantry battalions, along with Royal Marine artillery and engineer support. The British Special Forces contingent consisted of the 22nd Special Air Service Regiment as well as cadre from the Mountain and Arctic Warfare school.

Argentina had little in the way of Special Forces – just two companies: 601st National Genderarmie Special Forces Company and the 602nd Commando Company.

The first meeting of Special Operators from both sides occurred on the night of May 29 as both sides sought to stake claim to Mount Kent.

A patrol from 16 Air Troop, D Squadron, 22nd SAS encountered about 40 Argentine Commandos from the Third Assault Section of the 602nd. In a sharp clash, the British finally gained the upper hand and, despite being outnumbered, and drove off the Argentines at the expense of two wounded.

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice
22 SAS in the Falklands.

The next day, the 2nd Assault Section, 602nd Commandos, stumbled into Argentina’s 17 Boat Troop’s encampment while attempting to seize Bluff Cove Peak. The surprised Argentine Commandos were quickly overwhelmed. Soon after the battle started, they radioed for help, stating simply: “We are in trouble.” Less than an hour later they sent a second message, “There are English all around us, you better hurry up.” Two Argentine Commandos were killed before the section was able to withdraw.

On May 31, Argentina’s 1st Assault Section had been patrolling the area all day and decided to seek shelter in Top Malo House, an abandoned sheep herder’s house, as temperatures dropped to below freezing. Unbeknownst to the Argentines, they were spotted by an SAS observation post who called up Royal Marines from the Mountain and Arctic Warfare school to attack the house.

Nineteen Royal Marines, led by Capt. Rod Boswell, embarked by helicopter to the area and moved into position to assault the house. Boswell broke his group up into two sections. A fire support section took up positions on nearby high ground while a 12-man assault section prepared to attack the house.

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice
Argentinian commandos in the Falkland Islands.

The Argentine commandos, hearing the helicopters, made preparations to leave the house. But the British attack came before they could vacate the area. Boswell’s fire support section hit the house with two 66mm LAW rockets as the assault section stormed forward. When they came under fire from the trapped Argentines, the British assault section unleashed two of their own rockets.

This barrage of rockets killed Argentine Commando Lt. Espinosa who was covering the withdrawal from the second-floor window of the house. A second Argentine commando, Sgt. Mateo Sbert, was shot dead by the British while also attempting to cover the retreat of his comrades.

The LAW rockets set the house on fire and the smoke from the blaze ironically provided effective concealment for the men of the Argentines as the moved to a stream bed 200 meters away and set up a defense.

One Argentine, Lt. Horatio Losito, attempted to charge the British to drive them off. He was hit multiple times but continued fighting until he lost consciousness from blood loss.Eventually, the remaining members of the patrol, many of whom were wounded, ran out of ammunition and were forced to surrender. The British suffered two wounded in the attack.

The Argentine and British Commandos continued to clash as the war progressed.

On June 5, Argentina’s 3rd Assault Section, 602nd Commandos attacked the British 10 Troop, 42 Commando on Mount Wall. After a sharp fight the British were forced to withdraw. The next day the 601st got in the action and drove off two patrols of British paratroopers, capturing much of their equipment as they discarded it as they escaped.

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice
An Argentine commando takes Royal Marines prisoner in the Falkland Islands.

The last engagement between the two sides Special Forces occurred on June 10.

A patrol from the British 19 Mountain Troop, D Squadron, 22nd SAS was ambushed by elements of the 601st Commando Company. The four man group split up and as the commander, Capt. Gavin Hamilton, and his signaler, Cpl. Charlie Fonseca, provided covering fire, the other two men escaped. In their attempt to cover the retreat, Capt. Hamilton was killed and Fonseca was captured.

The war ended just four days later after the Battle of Two Sisters. British Royal Marines of 45 Commando stormed the peaks and drove off the remnants of the Argentine forces, including men from 602nd Commando.

In the end, the Argentine and British Special Forces went toe-to-toe on numerous occasions and the result was often very close and hotly contested.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How losing Vietnam was actually a victory for 5 other countries

On Jan. 27, 1973, President Richard Nixon signed the Paris Peace Accords, formally ending U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. On Apr. 30, 1975, the country of South Vietnam formally came to an end as North Vietnamese tanks rolled across bases and airfields and into the southern capital of Saigon.

While many look back and see the war as a waste of money, manpower, and materiel given the outcome, there are more than 475 million people who would disagree.


‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice

The foundation of that figure of 475 million is the current population of Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. It doesn’t mention the relatives of those populations who are no longer alive and didn’t live under the constant threat of global Communism because of the line in the sand drawn by American forces in Vietnam.

World War II-era Navy veteran, Georgetown University professor, and former member of the National Security Council under four presidential administrations, William Lloyd Stearman, wrote about the accomplishments of the United States in the Vietnam War in a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece. In it, he argues that the Vietnam War was not only winnable, the North Vietnamese were constantly surprised that the Americans didn’t cut off the Ho Chi Minh Trail by invading Laos – a move the NVA thought was inevitable – and thus, win the war for the South.

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice

The U.S. didn’t want to widen the war, but if the NVA was already in Laos. It was already wider.

While the 96-year-old Stearman spends much of the article rehashing the causes for the outcome of the Vietnam War, the important aspects he adds to the discussion are what the United States and her allies actually achieved through their involvement there, rather than dwelling on what we lost. He argues that without the intervention of the U.S. in Vietnam, the West would have been forced into harder choices in more difficult areas as Communist insurgencies rocked other countries in the region. Quoting Singapore’s visionary leader Lee Kuan Yew, who wrote about this subject in his memoirs:

In 1965, when the U.S. military moved massively into South Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines faced internal threats from armed insurgencies and the communist underground was still active in Singapore. Indonesia [was] in the throes of a failed communist coup. America’s action enabled noncommunist Southeast Asia to put their own houses in order. By 1975, they were in better shape to stand up to the communists. Had there been no U.S. intervention, the will of these countries to resist them would have melted and Southeast Asia would most likely gone communist.”
‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice

Lee Kuan Yew is famous for taking Singapore “from third world to first world” in a single generation.

The U.S. troop buildup in South Vietnam in 1965 spurred Britain to reinforce Malaysia. That same year, Indonesian forces were inspired by anti-Communist action and troop build-ups in the region and successfully fought off a Chinese-led Communist insurgency there. If the insurgency in Indonesia were successful, it would have spread to the Philippines and forced the U.S. to come to the Philippines to fight the Communists, rather than in North Vietnam.

That situation, Stearman argues, would have been far worse and far more costly than the fighting in Vietnam.

Articles

New declassified Russian documents change the history of the Cuban Missile Crisis

For 13 days in 1962, the world stood on the brink of nuclear destruction. How close humanity came to a nuclear holocaust has been well-documented in the past, but a new book from Serhii Plokhy, a professor of Ukrainian history at Harvard University, details a lot things the CIA missed about the Russian nuclear force on Cuba at the time.

In “Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis,” Plokhy uses newly declassified documents from Russia and Ukraine (a member of the Soviet Union at the time), to show the world a list of things previously unknown about the crisis. 

Plokhy’s book (Available on Amazon)

After U-2 spy planes uncovered the presence of nuclear-armed missile sites on the island of Cuba on Oct. 22 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union entered a nearly two-week standoff. As diplomats and leaders wrangled to cut a deal that would end the crisis, the U.S. military went on high alert, reaching DEFCON 2 in some areas.

DEFCON 2 was the second highest state of readiness for the United States armed forces during the Cold War, one level below a full-scale nuclear exchange. The forces put on DEFCON 2 were ready to go to war with the Soviet Union within six hours. It was the highest level of readiness ever reached by the U.S. during the Cold War. 

When the CIA finally got wind of the nuclear missiles on Cuba, they were in place and ready to launch, capable of hitting targets deep inside the continental United States. They were also able to strike Washington – and the U.S. intelligence community had no idea. 

It was only through dumb luck they noticed at all. An analyst looking at the flyover photos saw soccer fields constructed on the island. Cubans didn’t play soccer, by and large, because they preferred baseball as a sporting pastime. Russians, however, loved soccer. And upon taking a closer look, they discovered the Soviet missile sites. 

What the intel agencies missed, according to the new book, was the presence of Luna short-range nuclear missiles on the island. Moreover, there weren’t just 4,000 troops from the USSR in Cuba, there were 40,000 – a much larger number than previously known. 

If the U.S. invaded Cuba, the Soviets and the Cubans were prepared to retaliate with everything available in the arsenal on the island and elsewhere. It was a strategy favored by many in the administration of President John F. Kennedy. Had Kennedy authorized the invasion, it’s estimated that 70 million Americans would have died during the exchange. 

The Soviet troops stationed on the island were living in fear of the same exchange, the new book reveals. They believed an invasion and nuclear war was imminent, especially after another U-2 spy plane was shot down over Cuba on Oct. 27, 1962. 

Technicians load a type A-2 camera set into a U-2’s equipment bay, or “Q-bay.” (U.S. Air Force)

There were numerous close calls during the crisis, but in every instance cooler heads prevailed. A Russian submarine nearly launched a nuclear torpedo at the blockading squadron. Two F-102 fighters armed with nuclear-tipped missiles avoided two Soviet MiG-17s in the search for the downed U-2, and another nuclear submarine nearly launched a nuclear torpedo when Americans fired off a flare into the night sky.

Kennedy himself wavered between pinpoint airstrikes and a carpet bombing campaign to neutralize the threat. In the end, at the behest of the former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Tommy Thompson, Kennedy opted to “quarantine” the island, instituting an effective blockade (without calling it a blockade, which would have been an act of war). 

While cutting off Cuba from receiving more men and material, he talked to Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev and brokered a deal that would remove the Soviet troops in exchange for a promise from the U.S. not to invade Cuba. It was later revealed that Kennedy removed nuclear weapons from Turkey in the deal. 

At the end of the 13 Days, everyone left the deal with something they wanted. Kennedy and Khruschev both removed existential threats to their countries and nuclear war was averted. For Kennedy, the deal boosted his popularity at home. For Khurschev, it was a political disaster. The removal of missiles from Turkey remained a secret, so to the public and the Soviet Communist Party, it looked like Khrushchev balked. He was out of power two years later. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the legacy of Sputnik 1, the world’s first satellite launched into orbit

Just 60 years ago, there were no man-made objects above the planet Earth. Now, there are nearly 500,000 objects circling over Earth in various orbits. These include debris, inactive, and active satellites.


The tiny Sputnik, which means “satellite” or “fellow traveler” in Russian, was the first man-made satellite to be launched into Earth’s orbit on Oct. 4, 1957, and it changed the course of human history.

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice
This handout October 1957 NASA image shows a technician putting the finishing touches on Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite. Photo from NASA.

The 58cm diameter, 83.6kg metallic orb, with four antennae that transmitted radio pulses, that was launched by the Soviet Union heralded the space race between the USSR and the US – ushering in an era of scientific advances, not only in military, but also in communications and navigation technologies.

There are approximately 1,500 active satellites currently orbiting the Earth. Modern society is heavily dependent on satellite technology, which is used for television and radio broadcasting, telephone calls, GPS navigation, mapping, weather forecasting, and other functions.

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice
A map of currently tracked satellite objects. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Class of satellite orbit

Class Altitude Orbital period Common usage
Low Earth Orbit 80km – 1,700km 2 hrs Communications, Earth observation, development (International Space Station, Hubble Space Telescope)
Medium Earth Orbit 1,700km – 35,700km 2 – 24 hrs Navigation (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo)
Geosynchronous Orbit 35,700km 24 hrs Broadcast, Weather
Elliptical Orbit Variable Variable Communications (Sirius Satellite Radio)

‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell lost the best WWII assignments twice
The Hubble Space Telescope in orbit. Photo from NASA.

The US share of satellites

US government and private entities own over 40 percent of all satellites currently in orbit. Most operational satellites currently in orbit are for used for communications, Earth observation, technology development, navigation, and space science.

They have lifetimes ranging from months to 30-plus years after launch.

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