Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

The 14,000 Canadians and 200 tanks that landed at Juno Beach on June 6, 1944 fought bitterly to breach Fortress Europe and begin the long march to Berlin. Almost a year later Canada and the rest of the Allied powers celebrated the fall of Nazi Germany.


Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day
Crewmembers and officers who served on the Bomb pose with it on Jun. 8, 1945 in the Netherlands. Photo: Library Archives of Canada

Only one Canadian tank from those 200 fought every day of the invasion across Western Europe. “Bomb,” a Sherman, travelled 4,000 miles and fired 6,000 rounds while fighting the Nazis. From Juno Beach, Bomb was sent northeast to the Netherlands through Belgium before cutting east towards Berlin.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day
A tank from the Bomb’s regiment, possibly the Bomb itself, hunts snipers in Falaise, France in 1944. Photo: Canadian National Archives

Soon after Bomb crossed into Germany near Emden, Bomb was sent to Kleve on the German side of the border with the Netherlands. In the early morning of Feb. 26, 1945 Bomb escorted a column of infantry in armored vehicles forward. German artillery opened up and pinned the column down in thick mud.

The Germans put up a smoke screen and continued their attack. But the Bomb led a counterattack that relieved the pressure. Surrounded by German anti-tank teams and under heavy mortar, artillery, and machine gun fire, Bomb and another Canadian tank held their ground for 20 minutes until infantry was able to reinforce them, stopping the Germans from destroying the Canadian column.

Neill was later awarded the Military Cross for the battle.

As the war wound to a close, the Bomb found itself in continuously heavy combat. On the last day of the European war, the Bomb was under the command of Lt. Ernest Mingo. He and his men faced off against a German officer who kept sending soldiers to try and Allied Forces.

“The land between us was covered with dead German soldiers,” he said, according to a Sunday Daily News article. “He must have known the war was over, but he just kept sending them out, I guess trying to kill Canadians.”

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day
Photo: Wikipedia/Skaarup.HA CC 4.0

Despite being the only Canadian tank to serve every day of the war in Europe, the Bomb was nearly melted down as scrap in Belgium after the war. It was rescued and went on display in 1947. In 2011 the tank underwent restoration. It is currently at the Sherbrooke Hussars Armoury in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

Articles

Nuclear trains may be coming back

Tensions between the U.S. and Russia are dangerously high. Both sides are complaining that the other has ignored military norms in international airspace and at sea, both have accused the other of violating treaties designed to prevent large-scale war, and both are developing systems to counter the other’s strength.


But, while Russia works on new tanks and bombers and the U.S. tries to get its second fifth-generation fighter fully operational, each side is also looking to a nearly forgotten technology from the Cold War, nuclear-armed trains.

The idea is to construct a train that looks normal to satellite feeds, aerial surveillance and, if possible, observers on the ground, but carries one or more intercontinental ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day
Concept art of the Soviet Union’s first nuclear-armed train, the RS-23 Molodets. (Image: Defenseimagery.mil)

These trains would remain in a fortified depot during normal operations. During periods of nuclear brinksmanship, though, they would be dispersed across the country to provide a credible counterstrike if the enemy fires their nukes first.

The trains, if properly camouflaged, would be nearly impossible to target and could launch their payloads within minutes.

Russia got the missile cars to work first and fielded an operational version in 1991. In the early 1990s, America built prototype rail cars for the Peacekeeper Rail Garrison missile system and tested them, but then the Soviet Union collapsed and the project was cancelled.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day
One of Russia’s first nuclear-armed trains on display in the Saint Petersburg railway museum. Photo: CC BY-SA 2.5 Panther

Now, Russia has leaked that it is designing and fielding a new version of the trains. The Barguzin missile trains, named for a fierce wind that comes off of Russia’s Lake Baikal, will carry six RS-24 Yars missiles each. Yars missiles can carry up to six independently-targetable warheads with 100-300 kilotons of explosive power each.

The missile cars and fuel tanks are to be disguised as refrigeration cars and will be indistinguishable from regular trains if the weapons live up to the hype. Each will be able to deploy with its own security force and missile personnel for up to 28 days without resupply.

America has been flirting with restarting its nuclear trains, but it doesn’t seem likely. The Air Force awarded study contracts in 2013 to look at the feasibility of a “nuclear subway” system where missile launching trains would have dedicated tracks underground.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day
Concept art for the U.S. Peacekeeper Rail Garrison missile system. Image: San Diego Air Space Museum

But, budget problems that were biting at the Pentagon then have continued to hound it, and mobile launchers are expensive. Plus, most Americans don’t like the idea of nuclear trains running under their feet any more than they like the idea of nuclear trucks driving through their local streets.

The feasibility of Russia’s plans is also suspect. After all, the Russian Defense Ministry is running into worse budget problems than the Pentagon. It’s ability to fund a nuclear-armed train while oil prices are low and its economy is in shambles is questionable at best.

Right now, America’s main counter to Russian nuclear trains, and any other intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, appears to be its missile shields in Europe which could intercept many outbound nuclear missiles.

China has also flirted with nuclear trains. In 2013, Chinese media – whether accidentally or on purpose – leaked footage of a train modified to hold DF-31 and DF-31A missiles which can carry a single 1-megaton nuclear warhead. There were some questions at the times about whether or not the system was truly operational.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How these Greeks built Nazi armored cars from scratch

If you can’t own or buy it, you make it. And that’s exactly what Zacharias Ourgantzidis from Thessaloniki, Greece did. He decided to build a replica of the Panzerspähwagen Sd.Kfz. 222, a light four-wheel drive armored car, used by the German armored forces during World War II. The production ran from 1937 until 1943 and a total of ca. 990 were produced.


At the beginning of the war, the Sonderkraftfahrzeug 222 was armed with a 2 cm KwK 30 L/55 autocannon and a 7.92 mm MG 13 machine gun. Later, both of the guns were upgraded to a 2 cm KwK 38 and MG34. It had a crew of 3 and saw action on the Eastern Front, North Africa and Europe. Even China purchased a lot in 1937.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day
German tanks pass a knocked-out German Sdkfz 222 armoured car.

Less than a handful of authentic Sdkfz 222 survived and reside in private collections and museums around the world. So, Zacharias Ourgantzidis, decided to recreate an original scale replica of the Sdkfz 222. Costing approximately 10.000 euro.

“My vehicle is a replica and I built it step by step, based on all available documentation”, said Mr. Ourgantzidis to WW2Wrecks. Adding, “I already own 2 Willy’s jeeps, 3 motorcycles, a BSA, a BMW and a Mustang, as well as a variety of other period vehicles and I wanted to add an armored vehicle in my collection.”

“I researched for almost a year and the actual implementation of the plan, from the drawing board to reality lasted 19 months, at a cost of approximately 10,000 euro.”, Mr. Ourgantzidis explained.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day
The SdKfz 222 in a private collection.

The chassis is based on a modified ISUZU Trooper SUV, the engine is a 2600cc and all other parts are custom made, based on the specifications and measurements of the original vehicle. There are several original parts used too, mostly coming from Russia and Germany, such as the lights, gun muzzle and other elements which add a period touch to the vehicle.

“I painted the SdKfz 222 with RAL7021, since color used by the Wehrmacht during Operation Marita, the campaign to conquer Greece in 1941, as my vehicle is participating in reenactment events, parades and World War II shows.”, said Mr. Ourgantzidis.

You can enjoy the photographic journey of this painstaking step by step 19-month production to build this Sdkfz 222 replica:

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

MIGHTY HISTORY

Reflections of an African-American female in the Army

In basic training Annette Tucker Osborne was told ‘you are not different.’ It’s a code she’s lived by, on and off the base, ever since.

I will never forget the moment when I was told I wouldn’t do much in my life.

I was in high school in the Bronx, where I grew up, and one of my grades had dipped to a C. I was called into a counselor’s office. She was on the phone with my parents.

“With these grades,” I remember her saying, “she’ll only be a secretary.”

Before that moment, I had wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to do something good and help people. Maybe it was the color of my skin, maybe it was the expectations of women back then. Whatever it was, after that moment, I knew that I would have to fight harder to get what I wanted.


I went to nursing school right after high school. And though I had never considered a career in the armed forces, serving people has always been a part of what I do — it’s part of the job, being a nurse. You care for people. You do no harm.

So when, at 30 years old, I was recruited to be a nurse for the Army, I didn’t think much of it. It was another opportunity to serve. The recruiter came to the hospital I was working at and, along with my friend, we were sworn in — right in front of our patients.

From there, we were sent off to basic training at Fort Devens in Massachusetts. From the moment we arrived to the moment we left, we were all told the same thing: You are not different. As a woman, it was actually refreshing to hear, because it was the opposite of degrading. If a man had to run this long, so did you. If a man had to do this work, so did you. We were equals in that camp.

But that’s not to say that prejudice doesn’t exist in the military, despite how diverse it is.

In 2012, when I was deployed to Kuwait, I was brought into a base camp as chief nurse to help oversee soldier health. When I met the officer — a white man from Alabama — he looked at me, then looked down at my résumé. He couldn’t put the two together. He seemed unable to equate a black woman with the well-polished and extremely qualified person on paper.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day
After retiring from the military, Annette Tucker Osborne became the Brooklyn, New York, chapter president of the National Association of Black Military Women.

“Sir,” I told him. “What you see on that résumé is me. I’ve worked hard for what’s on my résumé.”

After working together for quite a long time, he eventually came to trust me. After all, he kind of needed to, if he wanted to know what was going on medically with our soldiers.

And then, out in the desert, there were some young service members who don’t want to salute you. I’d stop a few every now and then, asking if they could see my rank as an Army colonel.

After I retired from the service, I was approached by the National Association of Black Military Women, a national organization dedicated to providing support and visibility for women just like me.

As the president of the Brooklyn chapter, which has only been around for a year, I’ve already seen tremendous success in our effort to get the word out to other women that they are not alone. There is a place for them in the military, as well as afterward. We aim to make the point to young women of color, just like it was made to me back in basic, that you are not different. You are just as strong. Continue to persevere and know your goals.

Take it from me: No one can tell you what you can and can’t be in your future.

This article originally appeared on NationSwell. Follow @NationSwellon Twitter.

Articles

The proud World War II history of Navy ship DD-214

The Army has a saying, “Ain’t no use in looking down, ain’t no discharge on the ground.” But for some old sailors, looking down would have revealed a DD-214, just not the kind of DD-214 that are discharge papers.


Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day
(Meme via Sh-t my LPO says)

That’s because the USS Tracy — a destroyer and minesweeper — was commissioned as the DD-214, the Navy’s 208th destroyer (DD-200 through DD-205 were canceled).

The Tracy was laid down in 1919 and commissioned in 1920 before serving on cruises around the world prior to World War II. It was at Pearl Harbor undergoing a massive overhaul when the Japanese attacked in 1941.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day
The USS Tracy in Bordeaux, France, sometime prior to 1936. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The Tracy’s gun batteries, boilers, ammunition, and most of her crew had been removed during the overhaul but that didn’t stop the skeleton crew on the ship from taking action that December morning.

The duty watch kept a log of all their actions, including dispatching fire and damage control crews to other ships and setting up machine guns with borrowed ammunition to fire on Japanese planes attacking the nearby USS Cummings and USS Pennsylvania. The Tracy suffered one man killed and two lost during the battle.

The crew of the Tracy got it back in fighting shape quickly and the ship took part in minelaying activities in March 1942. A few months later, the Tracy joined Task Force 62 for the assault on Guadalcanal.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day
The USS Tracy sometime before 1936. (Photo: Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum)

As part of the fighting around Guadalcanal, Tracy led the minelaying mission that doomed the Japanese destroyer Makigumo just a year after it was launched.

The Tracy then supported the American-Australian offensive at Bougainville Island before heading back north to take part in the Okinawa invasion, rescuing survivors of a ship hit by a suicide boat attack.

The war ended a short time later and Tracy emerged from the conflict nearly unscathed with seven battle stars.

While it’s great to imagine an entire generation of sailors that had to serve on the DD-214 while dreaming of their DD-214 papers, no old seamen were that unlucky. The DD-214 discharge form wasn’t introduced until 1950, four years after the Tracy was decommissioned and sold for scrap.

The primary source of USS Tracy history for this article comes from the Naval History and Heritage Command article on the ship.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how air crews learned to navigate in World War II

These days, when a plane sets off to drop bombs on a target, all the pilot needs to do is punch the coordinates into their Global Positioning System and follow the steering cues on the heads-up display — pretty straightforward. In fact, GPS has become so enmeshed in the military that the Air Force ran some training on how to fight without it.

But back in World War II, such technology didn’t exist. They used only the classic navigational tools: a map, a compass, and some intuition.


Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

Today’s navigators have GPS and a host of other technologies that make getting from Point A to Point B easy.

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.)

So, how did they figure out their position using just a map and a compass in the cramped quarters of an airplane? The answer is old-fashioned hard work and diligent training.

Back then, navigators undertook about 500 hours of ground instruction. Assuming they had ten hours of classes per day, five days a week, that amounts to ten weeks spent on the ground. Then, they did another another 100 hours of training in the air. At the end, they needed to be able to plot a route with a course error no greater than 11 degrees, being no more than one minute off per hour of flight time. They also had to get within fifteen miles of an objective during a night flight.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

This 1946 photo shows the level of technology available to World War II air crews. Much of it was done with maps, a compass, radar (if the plane was really advanced), and a fair bit of guesswork.

(USAF)

During World War II, some new navigation technology, like radio beacons, helped navigators bring their planes home. Over 50,000 personnel were trained to navigate aircraft to the precision requirements mentioned above.

Check out the video blow to see some of what would-be navigators were taught about maps and compasses.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQrGbz1dczY

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY HISTORY

This black Samurai from Africa fought to unify feudal Japan

Oda Nobunaga was a powerful feudal lord in late 16th-century Japan. For almost 200 years, Japan had seen near-constant warfare between daimyo, lords like Oda. Although the emperor was nominally in charge of the Japanese people, his real power was ceded to the Shogun, a general who administered the government. The ongoing wars between lords were often over succession. Three subsequent warlords, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu, were the ones who finally unified Japan.

Fighting alongside Oda was Yasuke, a man from Mozambique who had proven himself worthy of the title “Samurai.”


Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

Yasuke came to Japan in 1579 with an Italian missionary. Though it can’t be confirmed, historians believe Yasuke was from Mozambique, as many of the first Africans to arrive in the Pacific island nation were from Mozambique. The young Mozambican’s black appearance was definitely noticeable in the Japanese capital. He was presented to the Daimyo Oda Nobunaga, who forced the man to strip and clean himself, not believing his skin was naturally black. When he finally accepted this, he eventually adopted Yasuke into his own service, impressed with the African’s strength and physique.

Oda provided Yasuke with money, a residence and his own katana. The now-former missionary was given the post of the Daimyo’s weapon bearer and soon found himself in battle.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

The Battle of Tenmokuzan pitted Oda and Tokugawa Ieyasu against their longtime rival Takeda Katsuyori. Katsuyori burned his own castle and tried to escape into the surrounding hills but ended up committing ritual suicide before Oda and Tokugawa could capture him. The Tokugawa leadership describes Yasuke as standing more than six feet tall and having skin as black as charcoal.

But Oda’s luck would soon run out, and the noble Oda Nobunaga was forced to commit suicide by rival Samurai and lord Akechi Mitsuhide at a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. Yasuke was present for Oda’s seppuku and joined his successor Oda Nobutada’s army to avenge the elder Oda’s gruesome end. He was captured fighting Akechi forces at Nijo Castle but was not killed because he wasn’t Japanese.

Yasuke does not appear in historical records after his capture at Nijo Castle, perhaps being returned to the Jesuit order which originally took him to Japan.

Articles

This video shows rare footage from an actual Vietcong ambush

A former first lieutenant with the 221st Signal Company in Vietnam, Paul Berkowitz, created a website to help former unit members connect. And one day, he was surprised to receive an audio tape from former member Rick Ekstrand. It was the audio portion of film shot on Hill 724 in Vietnam where a pitched battle followed a highly successful Vietnam ambush in November 1967.


Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day
Paratroopers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team fighting on Hill 823 during the Battle of Dak To. (Photo: U.S. Army)

During the Battle of Dak To, U.S. troops maneuvered against a series of hills covered with thick jungle vegetation, including Hill 724. In this footage from Nov. 7, two American companies attempted to maneuver on the hill and were ambushed by a North Vietnamese Army Regiment.

Alpha Company, the lead regiment, was pinned down and the two companies were outnumbered 10 to 1. Rockets, mortars, artillery, and machine gun fire rained down on the men as the camera operator narrated and filmed. Check out the amazing footage below from the American Heroes Channel:

Articles

Italy’s knife-wielding special operators were WWI’s most devastating shock troops

Throughout history, Italy wasn’t known for its dominance or military strength, but these knife-wielding operators made crucial advances using only a small force.


The Arditi, meaning “the daring ones,” were a group of volunteers, chosen from the most courageous of men and considered to be Italy’s most elite soldiers during WWI. Getting their name from the Royal Italian Army in 1917, they were known for engaging the enemy with vicious hand to hand combat and swift tactical movement.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day
The Arditi.

The Arditi organization was much smaller than the regular infantry units, consisting of only five officers, 41 NCOs, and 150 men. Their unique strategy relied heavily on surprise, speed, and their sheath as they strategically advanced towards their opposition behind a curtain of allied artillery fire.

According to The Great War Youtube channel, once the bombardment ceased, the men would charge forward into enemy trenches, with only daggers in their teeth and grenades in their hands, with the goal of clearing and then holding their newly-earned positions until the relief of their fellow troops arrived, which could take up to a full day.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

Due to their outstanding production, they were paid almost three times what the regular Army received.

Then, a bonus system was employed for taking enemy prisoners — 10 lire for a Private, 20 for an NCO, and 50 for an officer. Not to mention there was compensation for capturing enemy weapons, ranging from anywhere between 5 to 500 lire depending on the weapon’s size and caliber.

The Arditi seized 3,600 prisoners, 63 machine guns and 26 pieces of artillery over their course of the war. The Arditi were making bank back in 1917 and deserved every cent — according to History Answers.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day
Arditi soldiers pushing advancing towards the enemies’ front lines. (Photo: The Great War Channel)

As their losses in personnel grew, new soldiers were assigned to Arditi units by recommendation only. Before they could officially join, they had to complete a specialized school that mimicked the dangers and conditions of the front lines.

The fatality rates among the recruits were extremely high due to the realistic training methods.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day
Aridity soldiers training to head for the front lines.

The Great War Channel reports that wasn’t until Battle of Vittorio Veneto Offensive in October of 1918 when the Arditi would make its largest impact on the war.  A dozen Arditi units combined, making two monstrous assault divisions. The brave men lead one another on a forceful charge on the Austro-Hungarian forces, resulting in a climatic victory.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day
The historic Arditi charge on Austro-Hungarian forces. (Photo: The Great War Channel)

Although the Arditi was disbanded in 1920, their bravery, patriotism, and impact on the Great War lives on in Italian military historical lore.

MIGHTY CULTURE

MIGHTY STORIES: Vietnam’s Blue Max Aerial Rocket Artillery Unit

Mighty Stories is a weekly WATM feature highlighting the stories of veterans, active duty and military families. This week’s feature is Art Jetter, Vietnam Veteran.

“I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. I was the oldest of six boys, no girls, in middle class America. My dad was a great man and my mom was a wonderful mother.

My dad was a B-17 pilot in World War II. He flew 35 missions out of England. He volunteered to fly in the Pacific, but thankfully the war ended as he finished his training. My mom’s two brothers were also pilots. My grandfather joined the Signal Corp in the Army and was also in pilot training during World War I. My dad didn’t really talk about the war.

He was the youngest of 9 kids. I read some letters he sent back to his family during World War II. Whatever the Army paid him, he sent home. Here’s a guy who did all his country ever asked him, and I don’t think he had time to be scared.

The 8th Army Air Corps had a reunion in Omaha about 25 years ago. His crew all came. They fought together, they came home together, and they stayed connected. They all came over to dinner at my parents that night and invited us kids to join them. My dad was pretty hard of hearing, so imagine a long dinner table with my dad at one end. One of the guys, Marty, was at the other end. And Marty said, ‘Now boys, I just want you all to know that the reason that we all are able to have dinner here tonight – the reason that we all came home alive – was because of your dad. I asked, ‘What did my father do,’ I mean these B17s flew in formation, ‘What did he do to provide protection?’ And Marty explained that my dad always flew toward the flack.

There was some room between the bombers, and the Germans would aim their anti-aircraft at a particular aircraft and when my dad would see the flack, he would turn toward it. The Germans would adjust, trying to guess where they should have shot, and they’d always guess wrong. My dad turned to me and said, ‘What did Marty just say?’ I said, ‘He said that in order to avoid getting shot you would fly toward the flack.’ And my dad said, ‘You know I used to do that.’ We all had a pretty good chuckle about it. He expected me to do the right thing. He was a very honorable, truthful, loyal guy.

I remember in 1965, our student body was all sitting in the auditorium for some kind of program. One of my favorite friends, Charlie Lee, was sitting next to me. His dad was a major in the Army. He turned to me and said, ‘My dad says we should join the Reserves.’ And I said, ‘Why would we do that?’ And he said that as soon as we turned 18 then we could join the Reserves, and we could pick our jobs instead of just getting sent to Vietnam as an infantry guy. I didn’t really even know what Vietnam was. Charlie joined the 173rd Transportation Company in the Reserves and as soon as he joined his whole unit was called up and sent over. He’d been trained as a lifeguard at a swimming pool at the Officers Club and got to Vietnam as a convoy commander. He remains to this day one of the most organized guys I’ve ever met in my life. Charlie stayed in the Reserves and was called to most of the battles after Vietnam. He achieved the rank of Command Sergeant Major before he retired.

I didn’t follow his instructions and I got drafted. I wanted to be an architect. I got accepted to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, but my grandpa was on the Board of Trustees at a small college in Iowa and he wanted me to go there. So, I went, but I shouldn’t have gone. I left and couldn’t get back into UNL. I was selling men’s and boy’s clothes at a retail store for id=”listicle-2645885448″ an hour. I went to Wentworth Military Academy for 12 months and soon after, I got a letter welcoming me to the United States Army.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

Photo courtesy of Art Jetter

I went to Fort Lewis for basic training. They put us all in a line and asked anyone who had been through ROTC to take a step forward. I did, and then they asked if anyone had gone to a military academy. Since I had, I took another step forward. And so, they made me the acting drill sergeant for one of the platoons. I thought, ‘holy crap.’ I was a little guy when I graduated from high school. I was almost 5’2 and 120 pounds. I think I could do about three pushups.

I worked hard and pretty soon I was maxing the PT test. At the end of basic, they put an article in the Omaha World Herald that I was the top in my class and they promoted me to E3. I went to my senior drill sergeant and told him I was the best guy he had. He replied that I shouldn’t be bragging. I said, ‘Make no mistake, I’m not bragging. I’m saying if I’m the best you have you’re in big trouble.’ He said, ‘You don’t think the training was adequate.’ I said, ‘I’ll be lucky to make it down the stairs of the airplane in Vietnam without getting shot.’ We talked about needing better training and a week later I found myself as a candidate in the Infantry Officer Candidate School (OCS).

After I applied for Ranger and Airborne school (which I didn’t get), they told me I had the aptitude to be a pilot. I thought it was pretty nifty with so many pilots in my family. I did my troop duty and then went to flight school in Texas. Then I spent four months at Fort Rucker learning to fly Hueys. I graduated from flight school as one of the top guys. I tell you that not to brag, but it was because I was more afraid of what could happen to me than anybody else, so I studied harder. It was more about being able to live than grades. I was picked to fly the Cobra, which was like going from a family minivan to a full-tilt Ferrari.

I knew I was going to Vietnam. I had a month off, so I went home. Every girl I knew took me to the airport on my way to Vietnam. The whole time I was in helicopter school I knew they weren’t training me to stay home. It’s an interesting thing about getting ready to go. You know in one regard, I was scared. Another, was, with all this training, I really wanted it to be put to use.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

Photo via Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association

I’m not a fan of war. But I’d put everything into training that I could – for my own survival and for the survival of everyone I’d be associated with. I requested to be in the 1st Air Calvary Division. When I got to Vietnam I went to the 1st Air Calvary reception station. The smart thing would have been to ask which is the unit where nobody got shot at, but I had heard people talking about the legendary Blue Max Aerial Rocket Artillery Unit, and I requested that. I wasn’t disappointed. Maybe a little overworked, but I was in a unit with exceptional human beings.

That experience and those guys stuck with me. Many of them are dear friends of mine. We only had 32 pilots in our unit. Just after I left, eight of them got killed. It was a weird way of thinking about those guys. And I think I had survivor’s guilt. Like I left too soon. By the time I was there about nine months, I had been the flight lead in most organized attacks. I told my commander, Major Larry McKay, I’m going to extend for six months. I felt like I belonged to this unit. Larry said great, company clerk said great, and the day after I was originally supposed to leave Vietnam – the day my year was up – the Department of the Army called up my commander and said, ‘Where is he? My commander said I was on a mission, that I’d extended for 6 months, and the Army said no. So, my commander sent out another Cobra to relieve me. He and I went to the 1st Calvary Division Headquarters and I was told I had to report to Fort Riley, Kansas. I left Vietnam and tried like crazy to go back. Those guys were that important to me.

Our mission was this: They parked us within 5 minutes’ flight time of our guys in the field. We sat with a radio operator who would have contact with the guys on the ground. If the radio operator yelled, ‘Fire Mission,’ we’d run to the aircraft and have to be off the ground in less than two minutes. As soon as we took off, the guy would give us a heading to follow and then he’d read the mission. If there was a Medevac, part of our mission was security. We’d provide security for the medevac helicopter to come in.

I flew 1,032 combat missions but there are a bunch that stand out, all for different reasons. When I first got there, I was a co-pilot. You strive to become an aircraft commander but when you start out you’re a co-pilot. It was an incursion in Cambodia. A command and control helicopter got shot down and landed on a road. Just an ocean of people came out of the treeline; enemy soldiers, running toward the Huey.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

Getting that would have been a prized treasure. Parts of war are treacherous, and parts are bizarre and humorous in a dark humor kind of way. We were shooting so many people. We weren’t very high off the ground and we were looking at them shooting at us. The devastation was just insane. And I just kept thinking, ‘What is wrong with these soldiers – they just keep coming. We’re taught to disperse.’

While all this shooting is going on, a two-and-a-half-ton truck is coming down the road. The truck stops and picks these guys up and they just keep going down the road to Vietnam. I think just the memory of all those enemy soldiers in the open … that will never go away.

I had a co-pilot, Ernest Rickenbacker, who had a famous last name because of his great uncle, Eddie, the World War I flying ace and Medal of Honor recipient. I went to my commander and told him that Ernest needed his own aircraft – he was unbelievable. And my commander did it. We called Ernest “Fast Eddie” because he became an aircraft commander so quickly. He won a Silver Star for rescuing his co-pilot. But let me tell you about that mission, first.

There was a Fire Support Base called Pace, right next to the Cambodian border where the Ho Chi Minh Trail came into Vietnam. For political reasons, the Army was supposed to evacuate this Fire Support Base. Left to its own devices, the Army never would have sacrificed it because of the strategic advantage. But, some guy wouldn’t go on patrol and he wrote his senator, so they shut it down for being “too dangerous.” Not the way you should fight a war, but anyway. We were supposed to take 12 helicopters to the Tay Ninh airport for a briefing and we’re being told about all this anti-aircraft all over the place and that nobody could get into Pace – it was too deadly.

We were working out how to get these guys evacuated. The plan was that the next day, a Huey with a smoke generator would fly around and mask trucks coming up to pick up the guys and get them out of there. I don’t tell this story very often, so I might miss parts of it. But the bunch of us that were walking back were supposed to brief the other pilots. But then the airport came under a rocket attack.

First thing we had to do was get our helicopters out. So, we did, and then we’re all supposed to land. As we’re coming in for final, the guys at Pace start yelling that they’re taking incoming. I said to my wingship, ‘Let’s take care of this.’ So, we went low-level up to the treetops until we got next to Pace. We popped up to about 1500 feet and we see 6 guys and a mortar tube on the other side of the border. The border right there was marked by a creek. Everything on the west side was Cambodia and the east was Vietnam.

We always had to call to get clearance to fire, so I called. I think the guy I had to call was an Air Force guy, and I requested flying over the border to Cambodia in order to save the men at Pace who were taking mortars. He denied my request. I said, ‘We’re in hot pursuit,’ and he said, ‘Nobody’s crossing. Out.’ Just like that, and that was the last I heard from him.

I pulled the nose of my helicopter up and launched about 6 rockets in the direction of the mortar tube. I shot across the border instead of crossing it. As luck would have it, the rockets fell right by the guys. I killed three and three hobbled off. We both dove at those three guys. My wingship, who was ahead of me, shot the other three guys. We took a hard left and and I called the guy back at Pace and told him something stupid like, ‘Send the Congressional Medal of Honor to Blue Max 1-2.’ And just as I’m saying this, I’m probably at 800 feet and there’s a loud kablamo and a big flame shoots out the left side of the nose of my helicopter. And my helicopter whips about 30 degrees to the left and then snaps back. I said to my wingship, Blue Max, 1-8, 1-2, we just got hit. And my wingship says Roger that 1-2, we just got hit.

My co-pilot in the front seat is pointing down and just yelling really loud. He’s not on the intercom; he’s just pointing and yelling. And I look down and I see this big orange garbage can coming toward me and I thought, ‘The hell is that.’ It looked like a Star Wars kind of thing. It took a lot slower than you’d think a bullet would go and it went right past us. I’m thinking, ‘That’s a 23-millimeter antiaircraft cannon round tracer.’

So, I was an infantry guy – What do you do in a near ambush? You assault. I flipped the cobra over and dove on the gun. None of my weapons would work.

I pushed the rocket launch button, nothing.

I pulled the trigger for the mini-gun, nothing.

I pushed the button for the 40-millimeter grenade launcher, nothing.

I called my wingship and said, ‘See where I’m going to hit the ground? Blow that up!’ I pulled up my nose and he hit where I was trying to and there was a huge secondary explosion from where we took out munitions. But then my cockpit filled with smoke.

I thought this was really bad because the helicopter is made of magnesium and would just burn up. So, I was flying really low – a few feet off the ground – because I thought that when the thing goes up like a match, I’ll set it down and skid down the road and open the canopy and we’ll just jump out. But as we’re coming on final, the smoke cleared out and I landed. It was the weirdest thing. The 23 millimeter came up through the nose of the helicopter. It went through the heavy steel cartridge ejection shoot for the mini gun and just shredded that, and then it went through this wire loom that controlled all the weapons systems, and it was a big heavy bundle of wires. Because it was a tracer, it started the insulation on fire and that somehow got sucked into the cockpit. And that’s all that happened.

But for my wingship commander, the 23 millimeter went through his engine compartment and took out the Environmental Control Unit and turned it into shrapnel and clipped a hydraulics line. You can fly a helicopter if you can’t shoot, but you can’t fly the Cobra without hydraulics.

All this is a lead up to what happened the next day to fast Eddie Rickenbacker.

The next morning, they told me they got my rockets fixed but they haven’t fixed my mini-gun or my 40-millimeter grenade launcher. My wingship can’t go. I shouldn’t go because I don’t have all my weapons.

Somebody needs to be back up so that’s me.

Rickenbacker’s job was to provide security for the smoke generating Huey to mask the extraction. Rickenbacker is flying about 400′. In Vietnam they would always tell us to fly below 50′ or above 1500′ because between 50′ and 1500′ a guy can shoot you down with a rifle. Rickenbacker’s helicopter gets hit about 15 times by a 51-caliber machine gun. His engine quits, his helicopter starts on fire and he crashes into the woods directly east of Fire Support Base Pace, across the road.

He crashes, and the helicopter is leaning a bit to the right, sitting there on fire. Rickenbacker gets out and runs away from the helicopter. He turns around and he looks back and Mac, his co-pilot is still in there and he’s on fire, thrashing about. He’s not getting out. Understand that you don’t want to be standing in front of one of these things when it’s on fire because it’s got all these rockets on it ready to launch.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

Photo courtesy of Art Jetter

Rickenbacker runs back over there, reaches into the fire, unbuckles Mac, picks him up bodily and yanks him out of the helicopter and puts him behind a dirt mound as the ammo starts to explode. So, all this is going on and the other 11 cobras that are there can only fly for about an hour and a half and then they’re out of fuel. I get the call that they’re out of fuel and that they’re heading back, and I have to go find Rickenbacker. I said, ‘What do you mean, find him?’

Well, there was a patrol that left the support base to rescue the crew, but what they found was Mac laying there with a compound fracture of his femur and he’d broken his pelvis and he was badly burned. He had Rickenbacker’s pistol – Eddie had this really fancy revolver with a pearl handle, like a cowboy that he had brought with him. Rickenbacker had given it to Jim and told him he would go to the base to get help and have them come back for him.

The patrol walks over and finds Mac and ask him where his pilot is. He points east. East is 80 miles to the ocean through jungle, which would be the absolute wrong thing to do. I’m flying in little circles and only my rockets work. The guy in the front seat and I are trying to see where the hell Rick is.

The guy on the radio says, ‘We think our ground surveillance radar found your guy in some elephant grass across the road.’ So, my plan was to land in the Fire Support Base and my co-pilot would get out and I’d hover over there to where the elephant grass was and hopefully I’d find Rickenbacker. I’m on final to the Fire Support Base and one of the guys who flies the air ambulance, the Medevac, who’s a dear friend of ours, calls and says, ‘I’ve been listening to all this on the radio, and I’m coming up to get Rick. You just provide me with security.’ And so that’s what happened.

We get Rick out and God Bless Him. He had yanked Mac right out of there. Fast Eddie Rickenbacker had a stellar military career after that.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

Photo courtesy of Art Jetter

Eddie was a Harley guy. He drove his motorcycle to Omaha and stayed a couple days with my wife and me. This was eight years ago maybe. He drove clear across the country and back and when he got home, he checked into the hospital for problems with cancer from Agent Orange. He probably shouldn’t have made the trip and he didn’t even say anything to me about his health problems. We had a good visit.

He was dead shortly after that.

We went to his ceremony at Arlington and my wife said, ‘I don’t care if you knew who was getting buried here or not, you’d be crying just standing here.’

It was very touching. Mac showed up and that was really touching to watch him say goodbye. I’m still in touch with him. He’s a great guy. You know he says that Rick gave him the rest of his life, which he did.

That day sticks out in my memory because I’ve been reminded of it so many times over the years, having seen Mac and Fast Eddie. Even in the Arlington National Cemetery website eulogy for Ernest Rickenbacker said that I had given him the name Fast Eddie. So, if I’m proud of one thing, it’s that his son, Scott, who was also a helicopter pilot, had told the writer that.

I don’t think you ever become immune to the missions. You don’t become jaded, you become more professional with how to handle missions. And you learn when to break the rules, because sometimes it’s the right thing to do.

Going from selling clothes for id=”listicle-2645885448″ an hour to flying around Vietnam in a million-and-a-half-dollar helicopter with all this elaborate training and going through all this craziness, I think I’m much better for it. I don’t know how I would have turned out otherwise, but it really helped me set my course and make good decisions. Between the training and the camaraderie with the guys in my unit and with my high school buddy Charlie Lee, it really prepared me for life. Not that life should be about killing, but the education experience, the leadership, well, it made me a better person.

Being around those guys was strengthening. A year ago, I was in Salado, Texas. I met up with my commander, Jerry, who was commander the first part of my tour, and my co-pilot and another aircraft commander. Jerry told us that we’d all been hand selected by our commanders. You know we had to wait 47 years to hear that but that was wonderful to hear. I don’t think he was making it up.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

Photo courtesy of Art Jetter

It was a very special unit. Wings, the History of Aviation even did a little 10-minute thing on my unit. I don’t see the guys too often. I’m 70 now. Some of them have died.

In 1993, the Army had a new Apache helicopter company. And the new commander’s name was Timothy Solms. And I know this because he called me and said, ‘The Army gave me a new Apache unit and because I’m the charter commander, I get to name it. I looked through Army history and of all the stood down helicopter units so that I could give the members of my unit a legacy. I picked your unit. We’re calling our guys ‘Blue Max’ in your honor and we’re going to have a black-tie dinner in Fayetteville, North Carolina and we’d like you to come out for it.’

He found about 15 of us, and we went out for this dinner. The guest speaker that night was General Bill Miller, and Larry McKay who was the commander the second half I was out there. McKay was just a wonderful guy. He had decided it had been too long since we had seen each other after that night, so he started hosting a dinner the night before Veterans Day every year in Washington DC. Then on Veterans Day, we’d have a sunrise service at the wall, and then go have breakfast with the 1st Calvary Division.

Larry died in 2014. I don’t see the guys as a group like when Larry was doing those dinners, but we stay in touch and my crew chief even flew in from Alaska to see us. In 1995, I took my wife and daughter to a Vietnam helicopter pilots’ reunion and she saw that about 8 of these guys had Blue Max t-shirts on. And so, my wife went up to one of them, a guy named Jet Jackson. She asked if he knew me, and he replied, ‘No ma’am, he was just a legend when I got there.’ I pulled him aside and said, ‘Where did that come from? What do I owe you for that?’ And he said, ‘Just remember what to say to my wife when you meet her.’

Blue Max was truly a special group of guys. I think about them often. I guess I always will.”

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

Photo via Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association

Art Jetter Jr Veterans History Project

www.youtube.com

Art Jetter Jr Veterans History Project

Art Jetter, Jr. on his experience as a US Army Cobra Helicopter Gunship pilot flying in Vietnam. This interview was done for the Veterans History Project of …
MIGHTY HISTORY

The guerrillas and gangs that fought on behalf of the Confederacy

In the U.S. Civil War, people on both sides of the conflict decided that their best contribution would come in the form of “irregular resistance,” rather than uniformed fighting, but Southerners joined the bands in larger numbers and provided a more material contribution to the war effort.

Here’s a quick primer on who these men were and how they fought.


Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

Confederate cavalrymen raid union livestock in the west in 1864. Guerrilla forces could often conduct missions like this, but had to be sure and melt away before Union forces caught them.

(A.R. Waud, Harper’s Weekly)

First, we have to define exactly who we’re talking about: the guerrillas and gangs who took up arms to uphold the Confederacy and its values, not the criminal gangs and bands of deserters who used weapons to fight off the law. While these groups overlapped at times, we’re going to ignore (for now) those who did not provide material support to the secession.

But that still leaves a large number of people and groups, some with famous names, like Mosby’s Rangers, McNeill’s Rangers, and William C. Quantrill.

Guerrilla operations varied state to state and battle to battle, but usually combined elements of screening, spying, and sabotage.

Remember, these were typically disorganized bands of men, often with even less formality than a state or local militia. They knew they had little chance in a knockdown fight with trained Union companies, so they didn’t fight that way. Instead, they would attack targets of opportunity and melt away.

This was useful for Confederate leaders at times. For instance, John McNeill and his rangers would sometimes screen Confederate troop movements. Basically, McNeill would position his force at the edge of where Confederate troops were marching or conducting river crossings, interrupting Union columns drawing close to the southerners and giving them a chance to form proper defensive lines.

But, they wouldn’t stay for the full fight. They’d melt away into the trees after a few shots, forcing the Union troops to either break up and give chase or re-form to face regular Confederate troops.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

John S. Mosby and his men were a terror for Union forces, but they generally fought well within the rules.

(Library of Congress)

But, even better, the guerrillas could move in areas where the Union held control and either nip at the federal underbelly or spy on them and report back. This was the mission where John Mosby and his men made their mark. They were known for hit-and-run fighting, inflicting casualties on Union forces and then riding away before the enemy could form up.

At times, they would steal supplies or even capture buildings and infrastructure for a short time, often disabling bridges and railways that were crucial to federal supply.

Mosby even once captured the general sent to hunt him down, reportedly waking the general in his bed with a slap on the back.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

In August, 1863, at Lawrence, Kansas, Quantrill’s Raiders attacked and destroyed the city because of its support of abolition policies and pro-Union sentiments.

(Harper’s Weekly)

So, why did the Confederacy see so many more guerrillas join their ranks than the Union? Well, the biggest reason was likely that most irregular forces fought locally, where their networks of friends and supporters could hide and supply them.

Union gangs fighting locally would’ve only happened when Confederate troops crossed the border north, something that was fairly rare during the war.

Also, the Union had a much larger training apparatus and the ability to equip more men, making it less necessary for their supporters to find unconventional ways of fighting. And the North didn’t have such a strong tradition of frontiersmanship, meaning that much of the population was less suited for roughing it deep in the woods and swamps.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

Guerrilla leader Capt. William C. Quantrill was reportedly a brutal murderer who sometimes targeted Confederate sympathizers.

(PBS)

Of course, there were exceptions to this. Some Northerners, especially those living in the west, were quite handy with horses and would’ve been fine as guerrilla fighters. Some even did fight as pro-Union guerrillas, mostly in border states, often clashing with Confederate guerrillas.

So, how did this all pan out for the South? Well, of course, they lost the war. And there’s an argument to be made that they lost partially because of the support of guerrilla forces rather than despite it.

While forces like Mosby’s and McNeill’s made measurable, concrete contributions to the war, most were little more than violent gangs. William C. Quantrill was reportedly an animal abuser in his youth, and was a bloody murderer as a guerrilla for the South.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

“A Rebel Guerrilla Raid In A Western Town” (1862)

(Thomas Nast)

He and his men committed massacres of Union troops but also of men and boys that they suspected of being Union sympathizers. They and other groups stole supplies from farms, tore down fences, and burned homesteads whenever they felt like doing so.

And they allegedly felt that way often. Combine the actions of these guerrillas and those of deserter bands and gangs of pro-Union southerners, and state governments often found that they needed armies at home just to instill law and order, limiting the forces they could send to the front. In some cases, formerly pro-secession Confederate citizens welcomed their nation’s surrender simply because they wanted a return to normalcy.

So, while the efforts of men like Jesse James and Jack Hinson stirred Confederate spirits, the actions of their contemporaries undermined the national effort and galvanized Union support for the war, arguably contributing to the South’s destruction.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This E-4’s grave is the most dangerous gravesite in the world

In January 1961, the U.S. Army suffered its only nuclear accident and the only fatal nuclear accident in the United States. The accident was caused by the manual removal of a control rod in a nuclear reactor in Idaho. The resulting explosion killed two Army specialists and a Navy Electrician’s Mate. One of the Army specialists, Richard McKinley, was so irradiated that his body had be interred in a lead-lined casket, covered in cement and placed in a metal vault before burial.

The special grave is now at Arlington National Cemetery where it is under special watch, unable to be moved without permission from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.


Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

That’s not really what we think of at Arlington National Cemetery.

The official cause of the explosion was ruled an accident, although some suspect it might have been a suicide due to the nature of the accident. In the nighttime hours of Jan. 3, 1961, three enlisted men working the reactor at an experimental Idaho-based Reactor Testing Station were killed when one of the nuclear core’s control rods were removed manually.

That is to say one of the men removed the uranium-235 control rod 50 centimeters – with his hands. Just 40 centimeters was enough to send the reactor to critical.

And it did send the reactor critical, immediately unleashing 20,000 MW in .01 seconds, causing the nuclear fuel to melt. The melted uranium began to interact with the water in the reactor and produced a violent explosion of steam that caused part of the core to rise three meters in the air.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day

In the late 1970s, it was even alleged that the incident was an intentional murder-suicide.

Army Specialist John Byrnes and Navy Electricians Mate Richard Legg were also killed in the incident, the first and only deadly nuclear incident on U.S. soil. They were buried in their hometowns. Specialist Richard McKinley would have to be buried elsewhere – somewhere his irradiated body could not harm anyone else.

When the specialist removed the control rod by hand, he had already absorbed enough radiation to kill him a few times over but the resulting steam explosion sent the rod flying through his body, contaminating it with long-life radioactive isotopes.

He was placed in a lead casket, covered in concrete and sealed in a metal container. His body now rests in Arlington National Cemetery. Along with delivery of the body came the orders from the Assistant Adjutant General of Arlington Cemetery:

“Victim of nuclear accident. Body is contaminated with long-life radio-active isotopes. Under no circumstances will the body be moved from this location without prior approval of the Atomic Energy Commission in consultation with this headquarters.”
Articles

New monument will honor Vietnam helicopter crews

A new monument at Arlington National Cemetery, near the U.S. capital, will honor American helicopter crews who flew during the Vietnam War.


The Military Times reports Congress has approved the monument, which will be near the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Just one Canadian tank made it to VE Day
(Photo from Wikimedia)

Spearheading the memorial campaign is retired Air Force Lt. Col. Bob Hesselbein, who flew AH-1 Cobra gunships in Vietnam. Hesselbein says Arlington has the greatest concentration of helicopter-crew casualties from the war.

Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin says the monument will create a “teachable moment” for people to understand the story of pilots and crew members. The U.S. relied heavily on helicopters to transport troops and provide support to ground forces near enemy soldiers in Vietnam.

The nonprofit Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association is paying for the monument.