Marion Bales was a high school senior the day a Marine Corps vehicle pulled up in front of his parents’ house. His mother immediately broke down in anguish, imagining the worst about his older brother, who was serving in Vietnam.
“He had been wounded in the shoulder and it was pretty serious,” Bales said. “They flew him straight out of Vietnam to the Naval hospital in Great Lakes, Illinois. After about two weeks we learned that he was going to be okay. However, it was a very traumatic experience for my mother, and really, for all of us.”
Two years later, in December 1969, Bales was a 20-year-old electronic and mechanical equipment installer when he received his notice to report for an armed forces physical examination. For the young men of Bales’ generation, the country’s last military draft meant one thing – more personnel for the war effort in Vietnam.
“Within a week, I was on my way to Fort Leonard Wood for basic training,” Bales said. “I don’t remember a lot about that experience other than the rifle range and that they worked us hard, running us all day and sometimes at night.”
Bales with Vietnamese family he fondly remembers as one he “adopted.”
Next stop, Danang
From there, Bales went through Advanced Infantry Training at Fort Ord, California, followed by dog handler training at Fort Benning, Georgia. His next stop was Danang, South Vietnam.
“I flew over to Vietnam and they had me complete a two-week course on short-range canine patrols in Danang.”
For most of his tour, Bales and his black Labrador “Orange” (pictured above) were on-call for specialized patrols that required them to walk “point” ahead of the unit. Alone and more exposed because of his position, Bales and Orange were always inserted into these areas by UH-1 “Huey” helicopters.
“The pilots never set down because the units I was called in to assist usually were still in a firefight,” Bales said. “I’d have to jump with Orange in my arms, along with all my gear, from heights that could be 20 feet or more.”
When asked how he could make such jumps without injury, Bales explained, “There usually was several feet of elephant grass or something else that offered some padding. Otherwise you learned how to roll once you hit the ground and then you kept on going.”
Bales (right) and fellow Vietnam War Veteran Rick Rice (center) assist a Veteran at Truman VA.
And because people want to know how a black lab got the name Orange, Bales explains: “Orange came from a litter where each puppy was given a name that started with the letter O. There were eight dogs in this litter. I did eventually meet Orange’s sister Opal, who also was a war dog.”
“Truman VA is the best hospital I’ve ever seen”
Bales eventually finished his tour in Vietnam and, once discharged, resumed work as an electronic and mechanical equipment installer. He married, had six children, and eventually settled in his wife’s hometown of Salisbury, Missouri.
“After I retired, I volunteered at our local food bank. One day, Cindy Stivers, a Marine Corps Veteran and the Women Veterans Coordinator at Truman VA, came in and we talked about VA health care. That’s when I began to really think about VA.
“I’ve been receiving my care there for some time now and I think VA is tremendous. In my opinion, Truman VA is the best hospital I’ve ever seen and I’ve worked in a lot of them over the years installing equipment.”
After interacting with other Veterans, Bales began volunteering at the hospital. As an escort and ambassador, he has been part of Truman VA’s Voluntary Service program for the past ten years.
“I served as a Veteran and now I serve Veterans,” Bales said. “I encourage anyone who is interested in giving back to Veterans to contact their local VA’s Voluntary Service.”
Five other members of the Bounty crew were rescued by other helicopters. The captain and one crew member died.
5. A pilot twice braved volatile ice to pull out stranded allies
Coast Guard Lt. John A . Pritchard was assigned to duties on the USCGC Northland in 1942 when the ship was operating near the Greenland Ice Cap.
On Nov. 23, he led a motorboat crew through the ice, under a shelf liable to collapse at any moment, onto the shore, and across a dangerous glacier in the middle of the night to rescue three Canadian airmen. He would posthumously receive the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his actions.
Later that same month, he flew onto the ice cap to rescue downed American airmen. On Nov. 28, he landed on the ice and then took off with two Army fliers, saving them both.
3. The coxswain who navigated an exploding ship to rescue survivors
When the USNS Potomac caught fire in 1961 while discharging aviation fuel, the sea quickly became a hellscape. Explosions on the ship repeatedly sent shrapnel across the surface of the water and burning fuel heated the surrounding air and filled it with noxious gasses.
Coast Guard Boatswain’s Mate First Class Howard R. Jones piloted a lifeboat under the stern of the Potomac and rescued five crew members. He delivered those to a nearby hospital and then returned to the still-burning vessel where he searched for other survivors, finding another missing crew member.
The reserves of fuel on the ship kept it burning for five days before it sank.
2. Three Coasties volunteer to rescue over 30 survivors in a horrendous storm
The Coast Guard often refers to the events of Feb. 18, 1952, as their “Finest Hours,” and a movie based on the events came out in 2016. Two 520-foot ships, the Fort Mercer and the Pendleton, broke apart in a massive nor’easter. The Pendleton broke first, but a short circuit stopped it from reporting the damage.
The Fort Mercer crew was rescued and the crews finally spotted the beleaguered Pendleton. A crew of four volunteers motored past the sandbars off Massachusetts and made it to the bow section of the Pendleton.
1. Two signalmen save Marines under fire at Guadalcanal
Chief Signalman Raymond Evans and Signalman First Class Douglas Munro were attached to the 1st Marine Division in 1942 when they were sent to Guadalcanal as part of the invasion. The two men were there on different missions, but both were asked to pilot boats to land Marines on another part of the island.
The initial landings were uneventful, but soon after the Coasties returned, they heard that the Marines were under heavy fire and were signaling for help. They both volunteered to return in Higgins boats, a few panels of slapped together plywood filled with gasoline and ammunition, and rescue the Marines.
Miraculously, the Coasties were able to suppress many of the Japanese guns as the Marine withdrew to the boats, but Munro was tragically hit in the head by a Japanese machine gun burst while helping a beached craft en route back to the beach.
He survived just long enough to famously ask, “Did the Marines get off?” before succumbing to his wounds.
The young pilot struggled against dust and wind that swirled 10,000 feet above valleys sandwiched between Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains. He had only a rudimentary pair of plain glass goggles to protect his face. Yet he was determined to find the trail of the rebel bandit Pancho Villa who had recently led a raid into New Mexico that killed eight U.S. Soldiers and 10 American civilians.
That young pilot, Capt. Benjamin Foulois, was in one of eight Curtis JN-3 “Jenny” biplanes participating in the search. The planes were powered with 90-horsepower engines that had a rough time just staying airborne, but they led a reconnaissance mission to kick off Gen. John J. Pershing’s punitive expedition into Mexico.
It was March 1916, little more than a decade after the Wright Brothers’ inaugural flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and only seven years after Foulois was taught to fly by Orville Wright himself, becoming the first military aviator. He later became a major general, and in 1931 was appointed Chief of the U.S. Army Air Corps.
That small unit of Jenny biplanes, in search of Villa and his Mexican marauders more than 100 years ago, were members of the 1st Aero Squadron, the first aviation unit to participate directly in a military action, flying 346 hours on 540 flights during Pershing’s expedition. The first mission covered more than 19,300 miles, and included aerial reconnaissance and photography as well as transporting mail and official dispatches.
The first Curtiss JNÐ2s of 1st Aero Squadron at the Signal Corps Aviation School, North Island, Cali. Sgt. Vernon L. Burge stands under the propeller. In the cockpit is Capt. Benjamin Foulois and second man from the right is Jacob Bollinger.
The squadron was formed March 5, 1913, giving it the distinction of being the oldest flying squadron still in existence.
The unit has alternated between reconnaissance and bombing missions and had its name tweaked 14 times since the provisional 1st Aero Squadron unfurled its colors in Texas City, Texas. Its Airmen have flown 47 different types of aircraft and served in more than 50 locations throughout the world.
In the year of the 1st Aero Squadron’s formation, Lt. Thomas D. Milling, instructor, and Lt. Fred Seydel, student, are at the controls of a Wright C., SC-16 Trainer on airfield in Texas City, Texas, May 1913. In front of the plane, 8 other soldiers in uniform and a civilian in white shirt and bow tie stand posed facing the camera.
Today, it’s the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, a part of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, California, with the responsibility of training high-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance RQ-4 Global Hawk and U-2S pilots and sensor operators.
The squadron has a reputation for being a pioneer in establishing ISR capability and establishing a legacy of supplying critical information to combatant commanders across the joint force.
“The legacy of the 1st Recon Squadron is a microcosm of the legacy of the Air Force,” said Richard Rodrigues, former 9th RW historian. “It was the organization that pioneered the first tactical deployment of U.S. military airpower, and it helped create some of our early leaders that had an impact on the Air Service and later the Air Corps.”
U.S. Air Force U-2S Dragon Lady Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Aircraft instructor pilots from the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron pose for a photo in front of a two seat U-2S Aug. 17, 2012 at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. Less people have piloted the U-2 than have earned Super Bowl rings.
A little over a year after its famous recon mission over Mexico, the squadron would enter World War I, traveling from New Mexico to New York, then by ship across the Atlantic to land in Le Havre, France and become the first American squadron to enter the war. The 1st Aero Squadron took on the role as an observation unit, initially flying the French Dorand AR 1 and 2 aircraft, a two-seater recon plane, and later the Salmson 2A2.
According to Rodrigues, the squadron was in constant action throughout the “Great War” supplying divisional commanders vital information as to where the front line elements actually were, where artillery barrages need to be laid down in advance of the infantry and for causing disruption to enemy forces behind lines. Later, as positions became stabilized, photographs were obtained behind enemy lines to learn the dispositions of enemy forces.
A Salmson 2A2 of the 1st Aero Squadron over France during WWI, 1918.
“The unit aided the stand of the Marines at Chateau-Thierry and prevented the German army from crossing the Marne River. The squadron also fought at Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne, all important campaigns for the allies,” said Rodrigues. Those campaign victories represent the four Maltese crosses found on the 9th RW’s unit emblem.
Rodrigues added that although reconnaissance and artillery surveillance were the primary duties of the 1st AS, squadron pilots flying French SPAD fighters scored 13 aerial victories, represented by 13 Maltese crosses on the 1st Recon Squadron’s emblem. A total of 16 officers lost their lives, with three more missing in action.
After the war, the mission and the name of the unit changed to the 1st Observation Squadron, with the unit relocating to Camp Mills, New York. Its base would change names to Mitchel Field, and observation aircraft would be updated to the Douglas O-2, Curtiss O-1 and O-39. The unit would keep its observation role until 1935. They even used Douglass O-35s to deliver the U.S. Mail.
The unit then made a huge overhaul, going from observation unit to bomber squadron: the 1st Bombardment Squadron. The observation planes were replaced with Martin B-10 and Douglas B-18 bombers and the Airmen began learning new tactics at large training sites in Maryland, Florida, California, Michigan, and Virginia.
At the outset of World War II in 1942, the 1st BS moved to the island of Trinidad to strengthen defenses around the Panama Canal and defend against German U-boat attacks in the Caribbean and Atlantic. In October 1942 the squadron set up a tactics and bombing school in Florida.
A 1st Bombardment Squadron Boeing B-29-50-BW Superfortress tail number 42-24791 nicknamed the “Big Time Operator.” After storage at Naval Air Station, China Lake, Cali, the nose of the bomber was acquired by the Air Force Museum and was grafted onto museum building at Beale AFB, Cali. in 1986.
In February 1945, the squadron began flying B-29s from Tinian Island in the Marianas chain as part of the 20th Air Force. The squadron completed 71 combat missions, including bombing raids over Iwo Jima in preparation for its invasion by U.S. Marines and night incendiary raids on the Japanese home islands, winning two Distinguished Unit citations. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, a round-robin of assignments throughout the Pacific kept the squadron fully employed.
While stationed in Guam in 1947, the newly created Department of the Air Force issued orders to deactivate the unit.
However, the Air Force rescinded those orders and instead moved the unit to Topeka, Kansas, where it joined Strategic Air Command and became the 1st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron. The squadron’s unbroken lineage remained intact.
With U.S. and the Soviet Union entering a global standoff known as the Cold War, the squadron returned to its bombing role, armed again with B-29s, including three nuclear-capable B-29MR bombers. It participated in several rotations between Travis AFB, California, and Guam during the Korean War. Then in 1953, it was transferred to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, where it flew the B-47 Stratojet bombers.
Crew members in front of a B-47E Stratojet of the 1st Bombardment Squadron, 9th Bombardment Wing at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho in 1956.
For the next 12 years, the squadron would play an important part in America’s nuclear deterrent force and began a series of deployments to England, Guam, Okinawa and Alaska. Then the squadron’s mission would dramatically change once again with the secret development of a new plane by Lockheed Aircraft Company.
The SR-71 “Blackbird” was announced by President Lyndon B. Johnson and joined the Air Force inventory in 1966. This new, advanced surveillance aircraft gave the Air Force an intelligence weapon that could fly three times the speed of sound, at altitudes higher than 80,000 feet. The SR-71’s versatility included simple battlefield surveillance, multiple-sensor high-performance interdiction reconnaissance, and strategic surveillance over large areas of the world. It used the most advanced observation equipment in the world, carrying sensors with a 45 degree viewing angle on each side that could survey 100,000 square miles in an hour. It would totally change the future for the Air Force’s oldest flying squadron.
The 1st SRS was now in its heyday, gathering photographic and electronic intelligence products over Southeast Asian nations during the Vietnam War. The unit moved to its current location at Beale AFB in June 1966, and the 1st SRS was on its way to conducting missions that supported national intelligence-gathering requirements.
Retired Lt. Col. Tony Bevacqua was one of those early SR-71 pilots at Beale AFB and said what he and other pilots did in the 1960s was no different from Orville Wright or the Global Hawk flights today.
“We made history then, and we continue to make history today,” Bevacqua said.
He and Maj. Jerry Crew were on their first mission over Hanoi, their third over North Vietnam, when a SA-2 missile fired on them, passing just ahead and below their aircraft. It was the first time an SR-71 had ever been fired upon. By the time Bevacqua retired in 1973, he had logged nearly 750 hours in the Blackbird.
An SR-71B Blackbird sits on the runway after sundown.
After the war, 1st SRS Airmen logged some spectacular accomplishments. Of these the most notable were the SR-71 speed runs from New York to London and from London to Los Angeles. On Sept. 14, 1974, Maj. James Sullivan, pilot and Maj. Noel Widdifield, RSO, flew their SR-71 from New York to London in 1 hour, 55 minutes, 42 seconds for an average speed of 1,817 mph.
The SR-71 crew of Capt. Harold Adams, pilot, and Maj. William Machorek, RSO, established a record for the London to Los Angeles route when they flew the 5,645 mile leg in 3 hours, 48 minutes on Sept. 13.
For budgetary reasons, the SR-71 was retired from the Air Force inventory in 1990. The Blackbird’s final journey was from California to Washington D.C. where it became part of the collection at the Smithsonian Institution. It was an SR-71 flown by the 1st SRS crew, which made the coast-to-coast trip in a record time of 68 minutes, 17 seconds—at a record speed of 2,242.48 mph.
Today, the squadron is the formal initial training unit for the U-2 Dragon Lady and RQ-4 Global Hawk.
The squadron recruits and trains all the U-2 pilots that fly high-altitude reconnaissance flights around the world. After initial interviews, orientation flights, and selection for the program, new pilots undergo approximately six months of extensive training, including 20 sorties in the U-2. The rigorous flying training programs produce 24 U-2S pilots, 48 RQ-4 pilots, and 36 RQ-4 sensor operators annually.
Upon graduation, crewmembers are not only mission-ready in the U-2, but also checked out in the T-38 companion trainer. They then transfer to the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron and prepare for a tour at one of the overseas detachments.
Airmen work on an RQ-4 Global Hawk after it returned to Beale Air Force Base, Calif., as part of a four-ship rotation out of the theater.
The 1st RS also trains mission planners. Mission planners have to know the wing’s mission, the aircraft and sensors capabilities, plus detailed information on target and threat assessment at specific locations. After planners complete training, they deploy to the overseas detachments and design flight tracks that allow pilots to gather the best data with the least personal risk.
According to former squadron commander Lt. Col. Stephen Rodriguez, the 1st RS’s mission isn’t that much different from the one over New Mexico 100 years ago.
“It’s interesting because the first mission with aircraft was to be the eyes for the troops on the ground,” said Rodriguez. “The old mission was an extension of the ground troops, but it’s evolved. We organize, train and equip our squadron members to be leaders in the ISR mission. We are the eyes and ears of the nation and our fighting forces, and we operate over a broad spectrum of conflict.”
The 1st RS aims to increase their level of experience with a new, innovative Aviation Fundamentals Training program funded through the Squadron Innovation Fund.
“We are having our RQ-4 student pilots receive additional training flying with the Beale Aero Club while they are going through the Formal Training Unit,” said Maj. Daniel, 13th Reconnaissance Squadron FTU flight commander. “It is a continuation of the training they receive in Initial Flight Training.”
The FTU partnered with the Beale Aero Club to ensure pilots receive more experience in the local airspace by taking to the cockpit and flying aircraft closer to those flown early in the previous century: Cessna 172s.
“We started it to give the new pilots more experience in the air,” said Daniel. “AFT is designed to essentially improve airmanship, communication and situational awareness. We just wanted to give them more experience for when they show up to their operational Global Hawk units.”
AFT has already shown promising signs, and if it continues to receive funding, it could become an integral part of Global Hawk pilot training.
“I think the more experience we can give a pilot flying in the air will pay dividends years down the road,” said Daniel. “They are going to be better pilots operationally flying the Global Hawk, which is a mission with huge implications. They will also be better pilots when they become instructors themselves.”
For nearly a century, the 1st RS, the Air Force’s oldest squadron, continues to play a vital role in America’s defense.
Crew members of the 1st Aero Squadron next to a Salmson 2A2 painted with the American flag squadron emblem during WWI in France in 1918.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
Making fun of the enemy is nothing new, especially for American troops. When U.S. troops like something, they’ll probably still come up with their own term for it. Even if they respect an enemy, they will still come up with a short, probably derogatory name for them. For American troops in the Civil War, many of which took the war very seriously (and rightly so), they would take any opportunity to denigrate the “Southern Way of Life.”
That started with the pop song “Dixie,” which became a de facto national anthem for the Confederates.
But even Abe Lincoln loved the song. Why? It was written in New York for use in traveling shows.
“Dixie” was actually written by an Ohioan, destined for use among blackface performers in traveling minstrel shows throughout the United States. These shows were wildly popular before, during, and after the Civil War everywhere in the United States, and were usually based on the premise of showing African-Americans as slow, dumb, and sometimes prolifically horny. It’s supposed to be sung by black people who are depicted as preferring life in the South, rather than as free men in the North.
“Dixie” is one of the most enduring relics of these shows, still retaining popularity today, although without the connection to the minstrel shows of the time. It’s safe to say almost every Confederate troop knew the words to “Dixie,” as the song depicts an idyllic view of what life in the American South was like in the 1850s, around the time the song was written, with lyrics like:
Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton Old times there are not forgotten Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land!
Union troops who were dead-set on killing Confederates, eventually came up with some new lyrics for the song. Like a group of murderous Weird Al fans, the Northerners wanted to poke fun at their deadly enemy in the best way they knew how – a diss track. The Union lyrics are harsh and the tune to the song just as catchy.
“Away down South in the land of traitors Rattlesnakes and alligators… … Where cotton’s king and men are chattels, Union boys will win the battles… Each Dixie boy must understand that he must mind his Uncle Sam…”
The Union version of “Dixie” rates somewhere between “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” on the list of All-Time Greatest Civil War Songs That Make You Want to March on Richmond.
American Gen. George Washington, the hero of the Revolution and the country’s first president, spent much of his early career wishing he was a British officer, working as an unpaid aide, and then traveling approximately 450 miles just to earn his “Lobsterback” coat.
Before he was a hero to the American people, he was a hero to Royal Governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddie. Dinwiddie was the lieutenant governor when he ordered Washington on one of his first major missions, a diplomatic undertaking to tell French forces in the Ohio Valley of Virginia to please, “GTFO. K, thanks. Byeeee!” on behalf of the governor.
The French, secure in their fort and coveting the rich farmland for themselves, invited Washington in for dinner and then told him that these fine cuts of meat were all he was ever going to get from the Valley. It’s unknown if they even let him take his leftovers with him in a simple brown bag.
Fort Necessity, where Washington was forced to surrender to a larger French force.
(Photo by Ikcerog)
The pamphlet went super viral and was a hit in the U.S. and Britain, where a number of distinguished men were known to drop monocles and women suffered the vapors when they read it. The French threat in the valleys had apparently been allowed to grow much too large, and something needed to be done about it.
Washington was sent back, this time at the head of a 160-man force. They snuck up on a French encampment in the night but were spotted in the half-light of dawn, May 28, 1754. Someone fired a shot and a battle quickly raged. Washington was successful in the initial engagement, but was forced to surrender to a larger body of French forces on July 3.
There were about to be Redcoats for days, man.
(Photo by Lee Wright)
Washington bounced back from this setback, even without the benefit of a montage, which had not yet been invented. The battles in the Virginia wilderness triggered a war between the French and British that raged across the world. For the colonies, this fight would center on alliances with the Native Americans and control of valuable territory.
And Washington, recently promoted, ambitious, and knowledgeable of the area, was perfectly positioned to aid a British victory. He applied for a commission in His Royal Majesty’s Army, ready to lead loyal subjects of the crown to their destined glory!
Colonel of Militia George Washington, just a few years before he became a general and showed all his Lobsterback detractors what was really up.
(Charles Willson Peale)
At the time, officers in the British Army were often placed above their colonial counterparts, regardless of rank. Rather than suffer the indignity of reporting to officers he outranked, he became an unpaid aide to the British commander, Maj. Gen. Edward Braddock.
Washington’s advice to Braddock was often timely, accurate, and ignored until the Battle of Monongahela. On the Monongahela River, Washington was suffering from dysentery but took command after Braddock was shot. While the British lost the battle, Washington’s actions were credited with saving hundreds of soldiers from capture and death, and he once again became a hero. Braddock, who later died of his wounds, even gifted Washington his commander’s sash, a red length of fabric signifying command.
Woodcut of Braddock’s death. He actually died a little after the battle, but never let the facts get in the way of a good woodcut, guys.
Washington, once again a hero and now wearing a pimp red sash, traveled to Boston to meet with Governor William Shirley, the new acting commander-in-chief now that Braddock was dead, to ask for a commission in the Royal Army. Shirley thanked Washington for his service but turned him down. He did decree that militia officers outranked royal officer of lower ranks, so that was something.
In 1991, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf knew that victory over Iraq was imminent. Operation Desert Storm lasted just 42 days. Once it ended, Schwarzkopf gave “The Mother of All News Conferences” across the street from his command headquarters in Saudi Arabia. The presser is lauded as being one of the most comprehensive and inviting news conferences ever given by a general of the US Army.
Gen. Schwarzkopf led the coalition forces during the Gulf War. But that wasn’t his first experience with combat. He was also a battalion commander during the Vietnam War. During Vietnam, Schwarzkopf earned three Silver Stars, two Purple Hearts, and the Legion of Merit. He also served as a commander during the Invasion of Grenada in 1983.
Operation Desert Storm
In 1988, Schwarzkopf assumed CENTCOM command. Initially, he was tasked with defending Saudi Arabia from Iraqi aggression. So, he set out to create and strengthen diplomatic relations with both countries. However, talks failed.
So Schwarzkopf quickly realized something else would need to be done to ensure peace in the region. He planned and led Operation Desert Storm. ODS was an aggressive air campaign that was followed by a grueling 100-hour ground operation. This tactic helped the coalition forces achieve victory over Iraq. Kuwait was liberated and Schwarzkopf decided that the best thing to do would be to explain to the world’s press how the battle was won. Units activated for ODS included the 101st Airborne, 82nd Airborne, along with the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division and the 3rd Armored Cavalry. These units were positioned behind the Saudi Arabian task force. Forces were deployed to the region on August 7.
As soon as it was clear Operation Desert Storm was a success, Gen. Schwarzkopf led a presser where he made good on his promise to provide information on how he constructed his mission plan and what the strategy was behind it. During the hour-long press conference, Schwarzkopf gave the following rundown of the mission.
Breaking it down battle by battle
By the middle of November, the decision to increase the number of ground troops was made, in part because of an increase in Iraqi forces to the area.
“We made a very deliberate decision to align all of those forces within the boundary looking north toward Kuwait,” Schwarzkopf briefed, “… so it looked like they were all against directly on the Iraqi positions.”
Adding to that was a very active and very known naval presence in the Gulf. Schwarzkopf said one of the reasons he made sure that the naval presence was so widely known was because it was obvious that the Iraqis were concerned about a water-based attack.
The hour-long brief given by Gen. Schwarzkopf is considered one of the most detailed and comprehensive military news conferences because of the depth and detail that he provided during the presser.
In his cadet picture from Bordentown Military Institute, a ten-year-old Schwarzkopf isn’t smiling. Apparently, he flat out refused and instead, frowned sternly.
“Some day when I become a general, I want people to know that I’m serious.”
For everyone attending the Mother of All Press Conferences, that message was received loud and clear.
When the Los Angeles Police Department responded to this particular domestic dispute during the 1992 LA riots, they likely didn’t need the backing of the United States Marine Corps – but they had it anyway. Upon approaching the house, one officer was hit by a shotgun blast of birdshot. He called back to the Marines to cover him. Unfortunately, what “cover” meant to the Marines and to the LAPD were two different things.
The officer just wanted the threat of M-16s pointed at the house to keep the shooter from shooting again. The Marines thought the 200 rounds they fired into the house would be enough. They were probably both right. But that’s not how the U.S. Army National Guard would have done it.
Before the Marines were called in, thousands of Guardsmen took to the streets of LA during the 1992 riots.
In the early 1990s, the streets of LA were a dangerous place. Even the LAPD officers who regularly walked their beats admitted to losing the streets to the tens of thousands of gang members who controlled much of the city’s south side. Los Angeles was soon a powder keg of racially and socially fueled frustration that exploded on April 29, 1992. Four LAPD officers were acquitted of using excessive force against Rodney King, a black motorist who was beaten by the officers after evading them on a California freeway.
Their acquittal sparked the 1992 LA Riots, a huge civil disturbance that covered 32-square-miles, from the Hollywood Hills to Long Beach. Eventually, the governor of California would call in more than 10,000 California National Guard troops and 2,000 active troops to quell the riots. That wasn’t enough. Then-Gov. Pete Wilson, a Marine Corps veteran, knew what he needed and asked President Bush to send in the Marines.
I bet they made record time driving from San Diego to LA on the I-5 Freeway. And they didn’t even have carpool lanes back then.
Within 36 hours, state and local agencies, along with thousands of California National Guardsmen had largely restored order. That’s when they were suddenly federalized and augmented with more active duty troops and the United States Marines from nearby Camp Pendleton. According to U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James Delk, this caused the morale among the soldiers of the California Guard to plummet, after all their work in restoring Los Angeles. Suddenly being told the Marines were coming in to finish the job didn’t look so good.
Local civilians, on the other hand, knew exactly who to thank. According to Gen. Delk, locals cheered at the appearance of the California National Guard in their neighborhoods. Shopkeepers and restaurants refused to take money from the Guardsmen often even delivering food and drinks to the staging areas.
So in the immediate aftermath of the rioting and violence, the media latched on to the idea that calling in the Marines was the solution to restoring law and order, despite the fact that the job was mostly done by the time the Marines arrived. The Guardsmen, for their part, continued to do their jobs despite the lack of national appreciation. By the time the Guard withdrew, the streets were much safer than they were before the riots began. The crime rate dropped by 70 percent and local citizens did not want the troops to leave. In fact, it was more than a month before the last National Guard soldier left Los Angeles.
The good news is that the federalization of the joint task force worked exactly as it was supposed to and no one wearing a uniform of the U.S. military was killed or seriously injured. Most importantly, no U.S. troops killed or wounded any innocent civilians.
It has been 25 years since the culmination of the so-called Russian constitutional crisis, when the country’s president, Boris Yeltsin, sought to dissolve the parliament and then ordered the military to crush opposition led by the vice president at the time, Aleksandr Rutskoi, and the chairman of parliament, Ruslan Khasbulatov.
I was working in Central Asia when the crisis broke out in September 1993, and heard bits and pieces from Radio Mayak every now and again from the Uzbek village I was working in at the time.
I traveled regularly to Moscow for my job — heading a Central Asian sociology project for the University of Manchester and the Soros International Fund for Cultural Initiative — to hand over material from our Central Asian colleagues, pick up their salaries, and restock my own household supplies for the next period of village life.
By chance, I arrived in the Russian capital on October 1. Friends there explained the rapidly changing situation. (I was more interested in the party that some friends told me was set for the Penta Hotel on Saturday night, October 2.)
I had my first look at the Russian parliament building, known as the White House, on the way to the Penta. It was surrounded by trucks, the Soviet-era tanker trucks that had big letters on the sides showing they carried moloko (milk) or voda (water), or something. There was also barbed wire around the building. Small groups of people were milling about on both sides of the barricade.
Sunday, October 3, was shopping day for me. There were always too many people at the Irish store on the Arbat on the weekend, but there was another Irish store on the Ring Road. There was a smaller selection but I was only looking for basic products, like toilet paper.
‘Some snap drill’
Just before I reached the store, a convoy of Russian military trucks full of soldiers drove by. They were moving rather fast. I didn’t think too much of it. I’d seen military convoys drive through cities before, especially in Moscow. “Some snap drill,” I thought.
I hadn’t been back at my accommodation long when the phone rang. It was an Italian friend, Ferrante. He was doing business in Russia and lived not far from the flat I stayed in when I was in Moscow. We knew each other from parties and had seen each other at the Penta on Saturday night.
Our conversation went something like this:
“Are you watching this?” he asked.
“Watching what? I just got back,” I replied, “What’s going on?”
“There’s shooting at Ostankino,” Ferrante said in reference to the TV tower. “It’s on CNN. Come over.”
Now I knew what the military trucks were doing. I hurried over to Ferrante’s place and sat down to watch.
“Here,” Ferrante said, handing me a shot of vodka.
We both downed the shot and watched, then downed another shot, and watched.
We were also listening to a local radio station, and Ferrante was getting calls from people around Moscow. It was clear Ostankino was not the only place where serious events were unfolding.
Ferrante poured us both another shot. We downed it and Ferrante started speaking.
“You know,” and he paused. It seemed like a long pause, then he said exactly what I was thinking: “I always wished I was here in 1991,” a reference to the events that brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union. “Something big is happening. Let’s go out and see.”
Ferrante called his Russian driver to come over and get us, and we headed to the parliament building just as the sun was setting.
And then it got weird
We had trouble reaching the area. Some streets were blocked off. Once, our car turned a corner and there was a group of around 50 men marching toward us carrying sticks and crowbars. “Go back,” Ferrante yelled, though the driver was already trying.
We parked by the Hotel Ukraina, across the Moscow River from the parliament building. The bridge across the river was barricaded on the side near the parliament building but pedestrians could pass easily enough. We walked around watching apparent supporters of Rutskoi and Khasbulatov turn over those tanker trucks, light fires, and rearrange the barbed wire.
There was lots of drinking everywhere.
The crowd was growing. Men in military uniforms had arrived carrying a Soviet flag, and they were trying to form a column of several hundred of the seemingly hard-drinking supporters of Rutskoi and Khasbulatov. It was clear things were about to get ugly.
We noticed and were already talking, in English, about departing. I lit a cigarette, and a Russian man who had obviously had a few shots of vodka himself approached me and asked for a light. After I lit his cigarette, he stared at us and said, “Well guys, are we going, or are we going to sit here taking a piss?”
“Sit here taking a piss,” I replied immediately. “Sorry, we’re foreigners and this isn’t our fight.”
That was enough for him, and he left.
So did we. Back across the river to the Metro, which, amazingly, was working. It was packed, but we were easily able to make it to Tverskoi Boulevard, where the pro-Yeltsin side was assembling. They were drinking, too, but there were places where the atmosphere was more party than political upheaval. I remember a truck lay overturned and there was a guy on top of it playing the accordion and singing with a voice like iconic balladeer Vladimir Vysotsky. A lot of people were just sitting around on the street, drinking and talking.
I got back to my apartment at about 3:00 a.m. “What would daylight bring?” I wondered.
The phone woke me up on Monday, October 4. It was Ferrante again.
“I just got back from the center. I was on the bridge when the tank fired at parliament,” he said quickly.
A lot to digest
It was a lot for me to digest, first thing out of bed. There was an assault on the parliament building, a lot of shooting, people killed…
As I sat at the table drinking tea, more calls came in from friends. Did I know what happened? Had I heard? What had I heard? They told me what they heard.
Several people called just to see where I was, since they knew I was in Moscow but I had not answered the phone all Sunday night.
I remember best the call from my friend Samuel. “Where were you last night?”
When I told him I had been out roaming around in both camps, he screamed, “Are you totally stupid? People are getting killed out there.”
The call ended with me promising I wouldn’t leave my apartment. And I would have kept that promise if I had not run out of sugar for my tea.
I figured the odds of finding someone selling sugar were probably not so good in such times, but I don’t like tea without sugar, so I headed out and got on the subway, which was still running, and went to the Arbat stop.
There was no traffic on the road. I tried walking to where the Irish store on the Arbat was located, but that side of the street was blocked off. On the other side of the street, there was a long line of people behind metal barriers, so I crossed to see. The crowd stretched all the way down the road in the direction of the Moscow River until the about the last 100 meters from the intersection where the Aeroflot globe was. The other side of the intersection was the road that sloped down to the parliament building.
There were several thousand people behind this barrier, and I made my way toward the intersection, where eventually I could see four armored vehicles parked in the center of the road.
I made it to where Dom Knigi (House of Books) used to be. Across the street was that massive block of stores that included, at the time, the Irish store, the Yupiter furniture and appliance store, the Aeroflot office, and dozens of other businesses. Some of the windows were shot out. On top of the building, in plain sight, were OMON, the elite Interior Ministry troops, in their black uniforms gazing down at the streets. There were a lot of police and OMON troops on the other side of the road, at street level also.
Snipers, tracer rounds
But behind the waist-high metal barricades on my side of the street it was a carnival atmosphere. People were talking about snipers where the intersection was, but no one seemed particularly concerned. At least until a sniper finally did take a shot at the armored vehicles.
One of the armored vehicles turned in the direction of a building on the cross street and unloaded. The tracer rounds could be seen flying toward it and dust was kicked up off the side of the building from the bullets.
The crowd roared like it was a sporting event. “Give it to them!” people yelled.
The shooting stopped, the crowd calmed, and then a thoroughly inebriated, shirtless young man jumped over the metal barrier and danced around with his arms outstretched.
Burned facade of the Russian White House after the storming.
Two OMON troops jumped over the barrier on the other side of street, ran to the drunken dancer, and beat him with their clubs, each grabbing one of the now-unconscious drunk’s ankles and dragging him over the curb to their side of the street.
Another shot at the armored vehicles, another volley of return fire, and more cheering from the spectators on my side of the street.
About that time, I was thinking this was too bizarre and decided to leave. But just as I was making my way back, a roar went up from the direction I was headed and the ground started rumbling. A column of armored vehicles, including many tanks, was making its way up the road toward the intersection.
People were calling to the soldiers: “Be careful!” and “There are snipers there.”
I took one last look at the intersection. Two of the armored vehicles were peppering a building with bullets.
The Metro train I took was on a line that briefly emerged from underground to cross a bridge, and everyone looked out the window at the White House, whose upper floors were on fire.
I got my sugar, went home, and had tea. I went to Ferrante’s place that evening to drink more vodka. There were many people there, some with spent shell casings they had gathered after the raid on the parliament building. Everyone had a story to tell.
I packed my bags the next day and by October 6 I was safely back in Central Asia.
The legal community is getting geared up for what might be the first trial involving criminal activity in space as a decorated Army officer and astronaut faces accusations of identity theft after she accessed a bank account belonging to her former spouse while on the International Space Station. If formal charges are filed, it would be the first prosecution of a space crime.
(Yeah, we were hoping that the first space crime would include theft of a rocket or mounting a laser on the Moon, too. But this is the world we live in.)
The World’s First Space Crime? IN SPACE! (Real Law Review)
First, a quick rundown of the facts: Lt. Col. Anne McClain acknowledges that she used the login credentials of her former spouse, fellow Army veteran Summer Worden, to access their shared finances from the ISS. Technically, that act could constitute identity theft, but McClain says her actions were a continuation of how the couple managed finances while married.
You may know McClain’s name from the planned all-female spacewalk in March 2019 that was canceled because there was only one spacesuit that would fit the two women scheduled for the spacewalk. Fellow astronaut Nick Hague took McClain’s place on the spacewalk, and Saturday Night Live did a fake interview with McClain the same week.
When it comes to the law that pertains to McClain in space, it does get a little murky. According to attorney Devin Stone, a practicing lawyer who runs the YouTube channel LegalEagle took a look at what laws could be brought to bear on McClain if it’s deemed that she committed a crime.
Article VI of that treaty says that governments are responsible for ensuring that all activities undertaken by their representatives or nationals conform to the rules of the treaty. The treaty also charges national bodies with creating the laws necessary for controlling their nationals’ conduct in space.
And Article VIII of the same treaty says that each state that is a party to the treaty will retain jurisdiction and control of any object that state launches into space as well as any personnel it sends into space.
And, as Stone points out in the video above, the ISS is controlled by another agreement signed in 1998 that further defines criminal jurisdiction aboard the ISS. Basically, Article 22 of that agreement states that any governments that are part of the ISS program retain criminal jurisdiction of their nationals while that national is aboard the ISS.
So, those articles together mean that McClain was subject to all applicable U.S. laws while in orbit. And presenting the digital credentials of another person in order to gain access to their financial information is identity theft.
If McClain did not remove any money and only presented one set of false identifying documents—if she just logged in with Worden’s username and password, but didn’t create a false signature or present other false credentials—then the maximum punishment for each false login would be five years imprisonment.
And even then, the law allows for judges to assign a lower sentence, especially if there are mitigating factors or if the defendant has no prior criminal history.
But there are still some potential hiccups in a potential prosecution of McClain. As Stone discusses in his video, a murder investigation in Antartica was derailed after competing investigations and jurisdictional claims prevented a proper inquiry into the crime. The rules governing space jurisdiction has a strong parallel in the treaties and laws governing conduct in Antartic research stations.
Hopefully, for McClain and the Army’s reputation, no charges are filed. But if charges are filed, someone gets to become the first space lawyer to argue a space crime in space court. (Okay, it would just be normal federal court, but still.)
Last week marked the anniversary of the birth of Mata Hari, and while she is undoubtedly one of the most famous female spies in history, there have been many, many more. These women worked tirelessly to help the French resistance and Allied forces. There’s no doubt that they played an integral part in the defeat of the Nazis in WWII. In honor of Mata Hari’s birthday, we decided to take a look at a few of the brave women who refused to stand idly by while the world was on fire.
Mata Hari (Wikimedia Commons)
After her mother’s death, Mata Hari, born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, married a military captain stationed in the Dutch East Indies. When their marriage fell apart in the early 1900s, Zelle moved to Paris.
Being familiar with Indian sensibilities, and capitalizing on Europe’s love for all things “oriental.” Margaretha Geertruida Zelle pegged herself as a Hindu dancer and artist, complete with veils and beaded brassieres. During this time, she also adopted her stage name “Mata Hari,” which translated from Indonesian means “eye of the day.”
At the dawn of WWI, Mata Hari became a spy for the Allies. Unfortunately, the Germans caught on quickly. They labeled her a German spy (although some claim that she may have been a double agent). Mata Hari was arrested by French authorities in Paris on February 13, 1917. Although Mata Hari maintained her innocence and loyalty to France, she was found guilty of espionage by a military tribunal and sentenced to death.
Mata Hari was executed (by firing squad) on October 15, 1917. Legend has it that she refused her blindfold and even blew a kiss to her executioners before she met her end. Mata Hari was 41.
Virginia Hall (Wikimedia Commons)
Virginia Hall was an American who dreamed of joining the United States Foreign Service. However, a freak hunting accident in which she shot her foot off, left her with a limp and a wooden leg (that she affectionately named Cuthbert) and barred her from being accepted.
Hall eventually found her way to being an ambulance driver in France but was forced to flee when France surrendered to Germany. When she arrived at the American embassy, Hall was asked to provide intelligence from her time in France. She was later recruited as the first operative for the Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.) and sent to Lyon, France.
During her time there, Hall helped smuggle information and people out of France, just as she helped and smuggle supplies and agents into France. Hall later joined the O.S.S. (the predecessor of the C.I.A), where her time was spent as a radio operator monitoring German communications and organizing drops of supplies for the war against the Germans.
In 1945, Virginia Hall was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for her efforts in France. It was the only one awarded to a civilian woman in WWII. Hall retired in 1966 at the age of 60. She and her husband moved to a farm in Maryland, where she lived until her death in 1982.
Christine Granville (Wikimedia Commons)
Krystyna Skarbek/Christine Granville
Born into Polish aristocracy, Krystyna Skarbek was determined to contribute to the war effort. However, her attempts to enlist were frequently stalled by the fact that she was a woman.
Skarbek made some headway when she devised a cunning plan to help sabotage Germany’s war efforts and their propaganda machine, a plan which she later presented to the British Secret Service. With the aid of her friends, Krystyna was to pose as a journalist based in Budapest and ski (yes, ski) over the Carpathian Mountains into Nazi-occupied Poland to deliver and spread anti-Nazi propaganda.
When Skarbek was finally recruited into the Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.), she was given a British passport and adopted her new alias as Christine Granville. As a key player in the resistance, Granville repeatedly evaded capture and smuggled information out of Poland to the Allies. Legend has it that she even bit her own tongue to a bloody mess to fake tuberculosis.
Married to a wealthy French industrialist, Nancy Wake witnessed the devastation caused by the Nazis first hand. Not one to sit idly by, Wake joined the French Resistance early in WWII.
Nancy Wake’s contributions include establishing communication between British intelligence and the French Resistance and ushering downed Allied servicemen (and potential POW’s) into England by way of Spain and the Pyrenees Mountains. Once the Gestapo caught on to Wake’s involvement, they dubbed her “The White Mouse.” Wake leapt to the top of their most-wanted list, and a price of 5 Million Francs was put on her head.
Nancy Wake eventually joined the SOE as well, where she continued her military career. And she was not to be trifled with. As one story goes, when an SS guard spotted Wake and her team, she killed him instantly with a judo-chop to the throat.
Nancy Wake became one of the most decorated servicewomen in WWII. Her honors included her appointment as a Knight of The Legion of Honor by France and the Medal of Freedom from The United States. Nancy Wake lived out the rest of her days in England; she died in 2011 at the age of 98.
Because, as hemlines grew shorter, the need to cover scandalous lady skin with something — anything — grew larger, but we won’t get into that now. Suffice it to say that American women were wearing silk stockings. Unfortunately, they didn’t stretch, they were delicate and ripped easily, and they often required an extra garment, like a garter belt, to hold them up.
Enter Harvard-trained scientist, Wallace H. Carothers, hired by E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company to conduct research on synthetic materials and polyblends. In 1939, Carothers invented Fiber 6-6, or what would become known as Nylon.
DuPont astutely recognized the economic value of Nylon as a silk replacement and concentrated on manufacturing nylon stockings. Within three hours of their experimental debut, 4,000 pairs of nylon stockings sold out. Later that year, they were displayed at the New York World’s Fair. The next year, 4 million pairs of brown nylons sold out within two days, making a total sales figure of million.
In 1941, the company sold million worth of nylon yarn — that’s nearly 0 million today. In just two years, DuPont earned 30% of the women’s hosiery market.
But all of that was about to change.
Used stockings were repurposed into war materials.
(Franklin D. Roosevelt Library)
Because stockings weren’t the only thing made of silk. Military parachutes and rope were also made from the Japanese import. After the Pearl Harbor attack, the United States went to war against Japan and, suddenly, the production of nylon was diverted for military use.
It was used to make glider tow ropes, aircraft fuel tanks, flak jackets, shoelaces, mosquito netting, hammocks, and, yes, parachutes.
Eventually, even the flag planted on the moon by Neil Armstrong would be made of nylon!
Buzz Aldrin salutes Old Glory ON THE MOON.
(Photo by Neil Mother F*cking Armstrong ON THE MOON, people.)
This is because nylon is a thermoplastic polymer that is strong, tough, and durable. It is more resistant to sunlight and weathering than organic fabrics are and, because it is synthetic, it’s resistant to molds, insects, and fungi. It’s also waterproof and quick to dry.
By utilizing it during World War II, we were better-equipped than our enemies and more able to weather difficult conditions.
Back home, women missed their stockings. At the time, they were made with a bold seam up the back. After experiencing nylon stockings, women didn’t want to go back to silk, so they did the next best thing: they shaved their legs, carefully applied a “liquid silk stocking” (otherwise known as paint), and lined the backs of their legs with a trompe l’oeil seam.
A bold, new revolution was happening: leg hair removal to replicate the appearance of stockings. After the war, the trend continued to spread, inflamed by the beauty industry’s marketing.
Beauty standards: poisoning women’s bodies since the invention of paint…
After 1942, the only stockings available were those sold before the war or bought on the black market. One entrepreneurial thief made 0,000 off stockings produced from a diverted nylon shipment.
Which is very messed up — everyone in America was coming together to support the war effort, including women!
After the war, nylon stockings made a resurgence. On one occasion, 40,000 people lined up for a mile to compete for 13,000 pairs of stockings. They remained standard in the industry, and still to this day “nylons” are synonymous with “pantyhose” or tights. In many fields, they are required for women — including the military. If a female wears a skirt, she must wear stockings or hose underneath.
Winston Churchill once said there was nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at and missed. Well, one crew of the SR-71 Blackbird has an authoritative take on Churchill’s famous saying.
On Aug, 26, 1981, in the midst of major exercises in North Korea that had people worried about a possible invasion, one of these Mach 3-capable spy planes was sent to track North Korea’s forces.
The United States wanted to get intelligence about missile sites in the very secretive country, and the Blackbird was often the aircraft of choice.
What made the Blackbird’s Aug. 26, 1981 mission unique though, was that this time, the regime of Kim Il-Sung took a shot at the speedy plane as it made a pass over the Demilitarized Zone, known as the DMZ. The mission profile often involved multiple passes.
Maury Rosenberg and Ed McKinn were making their third pass when they saw the rising plume of a missile. Rosenberg calmly turned his plane to the right, going away from North Korea, and he and McKinn watched the missile detonate.
Thanks to the SR-71’s high speed, the aircraft and the crew escaped the hit.
In response to the development of the the SR-71, the Soviet Union built the MiG-25 Foxbat to counter both the spy plane and the planned B-70 Valkyrie bomber. But even the Foxbat couldn’t stop the SR-71 from going where it wanted, when it wanted.
What did stop the SR-71? Budget cuts at the end of the Cold War.
But even then, there was a five-year period where the SR-71 made a comeback in the 1990s before the accountants did what no enemy could to: force the Blackbird out of the sky.
In our increasingly divided political world, it’s important to take the time to realize that no President of the United States takes office hoping to be remembered as the worst to ever hold the office. And even though one out of our 45 historical Presidents has to hold that position, I’m sorry to tell you that it’s not one of the Presidents who ever held the office in our lifetimes.
Part two of this series that highlights the most patriotic moments of every Presidency covers Presidents 12-22, from Zachary Taylor to Grover Cleveland. It also includes James Buchanan, which is interesting because Buchanan jokes have been hard to come up with since 1881.
Zachary Taylor had been serving the United States in the Army all the way back to the War of 1812. But by the time came for war with Mexico, Taylor was a general – and a good one. Beating the Mexicans paved his way to the White House.
What’s more patriotic than 30-plus years destroying America’s enemies? As President, Taylor didn’t serve long, but like Andrew Jackson, he asserted the authority of the federal government over the states at a time when it was most important. When Texas and New Mexico entered a border dispute, Taylor stepped in and settled the land boundary. When Texas refused to comply, Taylor threatened to lead an Army – himself – down to Texas, saying everyone there “taken in rebellion against the Union, would hang with less reluctance than hanging deserters and spies in Mexico.”
That’s a Commander-In-Chief.
Not terribly good with handling ongoing domestic trouble, Millard Fillmore was definitely not going to take shit from some other country.
Fillmore took office after Taylor died from an intestinal ailment involving fruit and iced milk. Fillmore, true to the duties of Vice-President took office to finish up Taylor’s term. It was lucky for France and Portugal that President Taylor was uninterested in foreign affairs, but President Fillmore certainly was.
When Fillmore found out that France, under Napoleon III, was meddling in the affairs of Hawaii, he issued them a stern warning – those were in the American sphere of influence. He also sought money owed to the U.S. from Portugal and sent Commodore Matthew Perry to Japan to open the island nation up for trade… American trade.
The second installment of this list will include many Presidents that are in the running for the title of “worst.” Franklin Pierce is perpetually nominated for the dubious honor. While the former general’s patriotism is beyond reproach, his skills in office definitely are not. To make matters worse, his tenure is also ranked as one of the least memorable.
What’s most patriotic about Pierce’s tenure is that Pierce ended up losing his party’s nomination for re-election and he accepted that outcome, stepping aside for the election of 1856. The peaceful transfer of power is a central tenet to American Democracy and Pierce more than upheld that tradition.
Called “Old Buck” in his later years.
Here it is: the actual worst president ever. As I’ve noted time and again, even James Buchanan didn’t enter office wanting to be the worst. He genuinely thought he was doing what was best for the United States. What he did, however, was absolutely not the best thing for the United States. Even though his tenure is overshadowed by his inaction on the eve of the Civil War, it wasn’t entirely without patriotic moments.
In 1855, the USS Water Witch was fired on by guns from a Paraguayan fort while surveying the Rio de la Plata basin. The attack killed the Water Witch’s helmsman. In response, Buchanan sent a U.S. Navy Squadron of 19 ships to Paraguay (which included the refurbished Water Witch). Paraguay apologized to the United States, paid an indemnity to the family of the Water Witch’s helmsman, and granted favorable trade status to the U.S. — all without firing a shot.
Finally, a President with a beard takes office.
The night is darkest just before dawn. When Lincoln took office, seven states already seceded from the Union. Lincoln tried many last-minute measures to hold the Union together, including writing a letter to each governor individually, reminding them that he wasn’t coming for them and that a Constitutional convention to make an amendment respecting the rights of the states was possible. It was all for naught.
When he determined the Civil War was coming whether he liked it or not, he was decisive. He quickly authorized the formation of the Union Army, helped create a Union strategy to blockade and attack the Confederacy, soothed the fears of border states that might have otherwise seceded, and paid close attention to foreign policy to keep foreign powers from supporting the Confederacy. He eventually found the right combination of Army leadership in Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman, who helped bring the South to its knees.
Lincoln’s deft political prowess and patience allowed him to free the slaves in the states that were in rebellion and then, after the Election of 1864, when the Congress was packed with fellow Republicans, freed the slaves everywhere in the United States.
“Man, Abraham Lincoln is a tough act to follow. How am I supposed to compete with that?” – Andrew Johnson
Johnson had none of Lincoln’s finer qualities – no wisdom, no popularity, no beard. Even though Johnson wanted a swift reconstruction after the Civil War as Lincoln did, he had none of the power Lincoln could muster through sheer force of will. As a matter of fact, Congress repeatedly overrode his vetos and the House of Representatives even impeached him. He barely avoided conviction. His entire term was spent in fights with Congress.
The one shining moment of American Union patriotism was in his dealings with former Confederate President Jefferson Davis. While many former Confederates were allowed to simply resume normal life after the war, Johnson put a bounty on the head of the Chief Confederate — to the tune of id=”listicle-2610056421″.6 million in today’s money.
Ulysses S. Grant
Grant would be the first to tell you that he wasn’t the best President, but he was dedicated to the rights and principles of the United States and its Constitution. From the moment he took office, he advocated for voting rights for every man (yes, just men), but specifically extended it to the newly-freed African-Americans and Native Americans. But a new terrorist group in the south was trying to disrupt that effort — the Ku Klux Klan.
Grant created the badass-sounding Department of Justice whose sole purpose (back then) was to enforce Reconstruction laws by any means necessary — along with Federal troops and U.S. Marshals. He actually appointed former Confederate officer Amos Ackerman as the first Attorney General. Ackerman indicted 3,000 Klansmen and convicted 600 offenders. He also forced thousands of other to flee Georgia, fearing for their freedom. That was just the first year. Grant had no problem sending U.S. troops to the south to enforce Federal laws.
Don’t let that cold stare fool you. Beneath it is actual ice.
Rutherford B. Hayes
Hayes was a wounded Civil War vet who rose to the highest office in a controversial deal that ended Reconstruction and cast doubt on Hayes’ legitimacy. All that aside, Hayes still expended every possible effort to welcome newly-freed former slaves and Native Americans into U.S. Citizenship.
Hayes’ most American moment came when he, General William T. Sherman, and their wives travel West on the Transcontinental Railroad, physically bringing the country closer together by becoming the first sitting president to travel west of the Rocky Mountains.
At this point, you pretty much have to be a Civil War veteran to get elected.
James A. Garfield
The 20th President was only President for a few months before he was shot in the back on a train. But in those months, Garfield devised a plan to increase the prestige (and pocketbook) of the United States through increased trade, a planned canal across Panama, and a new look for an expanded U.S. Navy that would protect American merchant vessels while challenging the supremacy of the British Fleet.
But he was shot in the back on a train.
No one ever grows Chester A. Arthur beards anymore. This needs to change.
Chester A. Arthur
Arthur was a longtime fan of political patronage, especially in the corrupt political system that existed in New York City during his age. Even though he came to power unelected, he still determined to change this. Inexplicably, one of the biggest beneficiaries of the civil service “spoils system,” in place since the age of Andrew Jackson, was the one to change it.
Under the new system, civil service in the United States became a meritocracy. Arthur forced resignations and even had the Justice Department try to convict the worst offenders of the corrupt spoils system. In its place, a civil service examination requirement was passed and Arthur created a special board of former rivals to ensure its enforcement and expansion.
It takes a big man to get elected when the other party is dominant. Advantage: Cleveland.
Grover Cleveland #1
Cleveland was a Democrat elected during a period of Republican domination of American politics. As a President, he understandably used the executive veto power more than anyone else until that time. But what he and the Congress could agree on, they also acted on: Defending America.
Even though the United States had no real external threats at the time of Grover Cleveland’s first term, the coastal defenses and U.S. Navy hadn’t really seen a major upgrade since the Civil War, more than 30 years prior. After all, land wars inside the United States against native tribes had been the focus. Cleveland upgraded the coastal defenses of 27 different sites. And while the Navy received a few good new, steel ships during Arthur’s administration, Cleveland ensured they were completed and ordered 16 more. The forts would last until the outbreak of World War II, while the new U.S. Navy ships would come in handy defeating Spain just a decade later.