This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever

In January 1991, a British Special Air Service (SAS) team was helicoptered into Iraq by Chinook helicopter. In just a few days, U.S. and coalition forces would launch Operation Desert Storm’s air war to devastate Saddam Hussein’s army as it occupied Kuwait. 

Eight men from the SAS detachment, code-named Bravo Two Zero, were to insert into Iraq and set up an observation post to monitor Iraq’s main supply route into Kuwait. The men of Bravo Two Zero proceeded on foot 1.2 miles from their landing zone.

Right away, things began to go wrong. To escape capture, torture and an uncertain fate, one of the British special operators would have to walk out of there toward Syria – 190 miles away.

The first thing that went wrong for the SAS was their communications. While their home base was receiving their transmissions, nothing was coming back from the British headquarters. The men pressed on.

But they never made it to the would-be observation post. On the way, the team was discovered by a shepherd and, believing they had been seen, the team ditched much of their gear and hightailed it out of the area. 

As they moved, they began to hear the telltale rumble of treads on the ground. Believing they were encountering an Iraqi tank, the SAS prepared for an ambush. Only it wasn’t a tank, it was an Iraqi construction bulldozer – and the driver was as shocked as the SAS was. 

When the driver left, the British knew the jig was up but the next time they encountered heavy vehicles, it was no construction crew. Iraqi armored vehicles had caught up to them and were in such close pursuit that the British soldiers had to fire at their pursuers to slow them down. 

Iraq troops soon joined the APCs in their pursuit of the British as they humped it back to their original entry point, hoping a helicopter would soon find them. But the helicopter never came. By Jan. 24th, 1991, the group was on its way to the emergency exfiltration route… north to Syria. 

Since the British were looking for the soldiers to be headed south toward Saudi Arabia, the SAS were never going to be seen by coalition aircraft unless it was by accident. Even after the group got split up during a dark night, they pressed onward and northward. 

Chris Ryan

Along the way, the men tried to hijack a vehicle but Iraqi Army checkpoints hampered their progress and the walk continued. Eventually, two of the men would die of exposure in the Iraqi desert. Another was shot and killed by Iraqi civilians. Five were captured, interrogated and tortured before being released to the International Red Cross. One of the men. Colin Armstrong, kept walking. 

He walked through Iraq until he reached the Syrian border, where Syria – then a coalition ally – took him into custody and released him to the United Kingdom. After his long trek through the dry desert, he had lost 36 pounds and suffered radiation poisoning after drinking contaminated water. He was awarded the Military Medal for his escape.

Armstrong would later chronicle his desert journey under the pen name Chris Ryan, along with a number of other books. The story of Bravo Two Zero was later made into a TV movie starring Sean Bean (who survives).

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch an interview with the last surviving witness to the Lincoln Assassination

Samuel J. Seymour was away from his home for the first time at just five years old. He was with his father on a business trip to Washington, D.C., a city filled to the brim with soldiers and other men with guns. He was nervous and scared at the sight of so many firearms. To put him at ease, his nurse decided to take him to a play, and President Lincoln himself would be there.

It was an event he would never forget, as he recounted it to a TV audience and celebrity contestants Bill Cullen, Jayne Meadows, Henry Morgan, and Lucille Ball some 90-plus years later.


“It wasn’t a pleasant thing,” Seymour told Meadows when describing his night at Ford’s Theater on a 1956 episode of I’ve Got A Secret. “I was scared to death.”

When Lincoln arrived, he smiled and greeted the crowd from a flag-draped booth in the balcony. The President’s smile and the mood of the theater relaxed the young boy. Until a shot rang out. Strangely, the five-year-old Seymour was very concerned about the man who appeared to have fallen from the balcony of the theater in the middle of the performance. He had no idea someone had been shot, let alone that it was President Lincoln.

“Pandemonium” then swept through the theater, Seymour recalled, as his nurse hurried the boy out of the theater. He heard calls of “Lincoln’s shot! The President is dead!”

This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever

Seymour died two months after his TV appearance.

The man, of course, was Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Booth waited until the play’s funniest line when the shot would be masked by the sound of laughter. Booth calmly walked into the President’s booth, barred the door, and fired a single shot into the President, who was laughing at the line. Union Army Maj. Henry Rathbone, who accompanied Lincoln that night with their wives, fought Booth for his single-shot derringer and was stabbed for his effort. His constant wrangling with Booth caused the assassin’s boot spur to get tangled in the flag as he jumped from the President’s box. This is why Booth landed awkwardly on his leg.

Many in the crowd were confused. Not everyone heard the shot, and many thought it was still part of the play. Little Samuel Seymour didn’t understand it either.

“I saw Lincoln slumped forward in his seat,” the old man said. “That night I was shot 50 times, at least, in my dreams – and I sometimes relive the horror of Lincoln’s assassination, dozing in my rocker as an old codger like me is bound to do.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

The military origins of the necktie

“Nothing sexier than a man in a fine cravat,” the beautiful and mysterious woman said flirtatiously.

“Except for a woman who appreciates a fine cravat,” Barney Stinson responded confidently.


“How about we just call it a tie?” The woman joked. The two laughed and the 17th episode of season 5 of How I Met Your Mother continued. But what is a cravat, why is it called that, and why is it the same thing as a tie? For that answer, we have to go back to the 17th century and a hired boost in military power.
This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever

The Croatian Cravat Regiment parades through Zagreb wearing their traditional uniform (Croatia Times)

The Thirty Years’ War was fought from 1618-1648 primarily in Central Europe. France entered the war in 1635 and, in order to augment his own forces, King Louis XIII hired Croatian mercenaries from the Croatian Military Frontier to fight for him. These mercenaries wore traditional knotted neckerchiefs which tied the tops of their jackets. Although they were designed to be purely functional, the ties had a decorative effect that piqued the interest of the ever fashion-conscious Parisians. In fact, the Croatian neckties caught the attention of the king who found them rather appealing. He liked the garment so much that he made the ties a mandatory accessory for royal gatherings. In honor of the Croats who introduced the ties, he named the garment “la cravate”—derived from the French word Croates meaning Croats.

Following the introduction of the tie and the death of King Louis XIII, the boy-king Louis XIV began to wear a lace cravat around 1646 at the age of seven. This set the fashion trend for French nobility who quickly donned lace cravats as well. These lace cravats, or jabots, were tied in place by cravat strings, arranged neatly with great time and effort, and tied in a bow. Soon, the trend spread across Europe like wildfire and both men and women were wearing fabric neck pieces as a sign of wealth and status.

In the 18th century, the cravat evolved to include the Steinkirk, a type of cravat designed to be worn in deliberate disarray. Yet again, this fashion trend evolved from the military as a result of the Nine Years’ War. According to Voltaire, the fashion trend originated at the Battle of Steenkerque where the French were attacked by surprise forcing the French gentlemen to hurriedly don their cravats and wear them in disarray throughout the fight.

This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever

Photo portrait of William Tecumseh Sherman c. 1864 (Matthew Brady—Public Domain)

The 18th century saw another evolution of neckwear with the introduction of stocks in 1715. Stock ties were worn as everyday apparel throughout the 18th and 19th century, but became a more formal garment in the later 19th century. They are still worn today by equestrians, especially in dressage where the ties are often mandatory and required to be white. The term originally applied to a leather collar, laced at the back, and worn by soldiers to promote holding their heads high in a military manner. Leather stocks also served a practical battlefield purpose; the layer of leather around the neck afforded some protection against saber or bayonet strikes. The leather stock saw continued use into the 19th century and gave the United States Marines their nickname of “Leathernecks”. The modern Marine dress uniform pays homage to leather stocks with its stiff standing collar. General William T. Sherman is also seen wearing a leather stock along with his necktie in many of his Civil War-era photographs.

The industrial revolution saw the demand for neckwear that was easier to put on, more comfortable, and could last an entire work day without needing to be readjusted. This demand was met with the traditional long necktie that we are familiar with today. Neckwear has come a long way from King Louis XIII’s adoption of the cravat and its evolution and constant influence by the military is a bit of sartorial history that we can still see today.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Navy diver lost his leg, but not his spirit

Carl Brashear was no stranger to adversity. A sharecropper’s son, he grew up on a farm in Kentucky and attended segregated schools his entire life. He enlisted in the Navy the same year that President Truman effectively ended segregation in the military by issuing Executive Order 9981. Brashear was told repeatedly that he couldn’t be a Navy diver: no black man ever had. His application was ignored and lost, over and over until 1954 when he made the cut. But those struggles paled in comparison to the mission that cost him his leg.


When Brashear enlisted, black sailors were only offered jobs like serving white officers meals or cleaning up. Brashear knew he was meant to do more. He wanted to be a Navy diver.

In addition to the physical attributes it takes to be a Diver, you also have to have a bit of smarts too. There is a science to diving and understanding it is a key prerequisite to becoming and advancing through the Diving hierarchy. Brashear had grown up in rural Kentucky and, because of the lack of education in segregated schools, had the equivalent of an 8th grade education. While he had become a salvage diver which was difficult in and of itself, in order to get to the next step, he had to pass a grueling science component.

It took him almost 9 years, but he was able to do so, and became a First-Class Diver in 1964. Braesher made history as the first African American to become a Navy diver.

Then the accident happened.

In January 1966, off the coast of Spain, two Air Force planes collided while attempting to link up to refuel. A B-52G Stratofortress Bomber collided with a KC-135A Stratotanker causing both planes to go down. All four of the refueler’s crew perished while three of the seven crew died on the bomber when their plane broke apart.

While the loss of life itself was devastating, the cargo of the bomber was cause of grave concern as well. Falling to the earth were four MK28 Hydrogen bombs.

Three of the bombs were found immediately in a Spanish fishing village. The fourth was believed to have fallen into the Mediterranean.

The Air Force asked the assistance of the United States Navy. After 80 days of searching, the bomb was finally located. It took over 20 ships, thousands of men and about 150 Navy Divers, one of whom was Carl Brashear.

Two months into the search, a tow cable snapped and sent a pipe into Brashear’s leg almost shearing it off. Brashear was medevaced to Germany and then Virginia. Despite all attempts to save his left leg below the knee, doctors could not stop the infections and necrosis that set in.

Brashear would have to lose his leg.

For most of us who served, this should have meant the end of his career and most certainly should have ended his time as a Navy Diver.

For Carl Brashear, that was not an option. His journey in the Navy had already been long and arduous, and he had his eyes set on something bigger. One of his personal beliefs was, “It’s not a sin to get knocked down; it’s a sin to stay down”.

This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever

It should have been the end of his career. For Brashear it was just another fight he was going to win. The Navy set about the process to medically retire him.

Brashear refused to show up for his med-board meeting and instead went about proving to the Navy that he could be returned to active duty. As reported by the L.A. Times, Brashear said, “Sometimes I would come back from a run, and my artificial leg would have a puddle of blood from my stump. In that year, if I would have gone to sick bay, they would have written me up. I didn’t go to sick bay. I’d go somewhere and hide and soak my leg in a bucket of hot water with salt in it — an old remedy.”

It took almost two years of determination, but in 1968, Brashear was able to be recertified as a Navy Diver.

Again, for most people this would have been a remarkable finale. For Brashear, there was one more major goal he wanted.

This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever

Master Diver.

Brashear pushed through the limitation of having a prosthetic leg and studied master the scientific criteria that was needed to get to the next level.

In two years, he did it. In 1970, he became the first African American to become a Master Diver in the United State Navy.

Brashear retired in 1979 as a Master Chief Petty Officer and Master Diver.

Through his career he told people, “I ain’t going to let nobody steal my dream”.

No one did.

This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever

usnhistory.navylive.dodlive.mil

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how you got away with drinking during prohibition

After a long shift, troops have the option to relax by kicking off their boots and cracking open a beer. However, this privilege wasn’t available to the veterans of World War I. On Dec. 18, 1919, a little over a year after The Great War, alcohol was an illegal substance in the United States. The veterans who fought in the most destructive war at that time were now denied the right to a cold brew. Imagine winning WWI, yet a civilian tells you you’re not allowed to drink. Fat chance.

The Eighteenth Amendment wasn’t perfect, which was perfect, because the loopholes allowed veterans to consume alcohol without directly violating the Constitution. The Lance Corporal underground of today can get away with some mischief, but they have nothing on the post-World War I veterans scoring some booze using a real underground.


This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever

“I’ll start my own country, with blackjack…”

They bought it before it was illegal

Troops returning from the European theater had a valuable head start to legally purchase as many bottles as they could before Prohibition came into effect. It was legal to drink alcohol that was purchased prior to the 18th Amendment, in the privacy of your own home. The loophole in the law was the ‘manufacture, sale, and transportation of intoxicating liquors,’ not consumption, which is an important distinction if you’re dodging an NJP.

Modern troops that are stationed in Okinawa understand the essential skill needed to stockpile booze in preparation for monsoon season. Proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance, every second counts.

This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever

Vino Sand Co.

They made their own wine

If you’ve never tried the Navy’s Well Wine, don’t.

Vineyards during prohibition ceased producing wine for distribution and instead sold bricks of dried grapes. These bricks could be mixed with water and left to ferment over the period of three weeks or more to create wine. Troops could purchase these bricks and accidentally let them ferment in a dark cupboard somewhere.

This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever

Blatz Products Company

They made their own beer too

Malt syrup was not an illegal substance, but it was the key ingredient to make beer at home. By adding water, yeast, and sugar to the syrup, a troop could buy one can and patiently wait for the fermented ingredients to produce 50 pints of beer.

This wasn’t legal, and raids were conducted on stockpiles of malt syrup, but if a troop wanted to get away with drinking beer, this was one they could get away with in their basement.

This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever

Auction Find

They would get a prescription for whiskey

A troop could legally purchase a pint of hard liquor every ten days at a drug store with a doctor’s prescription. It was during this time that Walgreens happily contributed to providing people with the medicine they so desperately needed in those trying times. Their aid in the legal sale of alcohol allowed them to flourish into 500 chain stores during the 1920s.

This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever

“Extra, Extra, read all about it. Terminal Lance Corporals become clergymen en masse!”

US Navy 100912-M-2275H-196 A command chaplain holds church services aboard USS Kearsarge

A troop could get it from their Chaplin or religious leader

The Yorkville Enquirer reported the ban on sacramental wine on Sept. 1, 1922 had been lifted.

Imported or Domestic Product now allowed for Sacramental Use. David I. ltlair, commissioner of internal revenue, has definitely removed the ban from sacramental wine, in a decision which repeals two former decisions placing restrictions on wine for ‘sacramental use, and amends the regulations governing its distribution.

Incredibly, troops mysteriously became devout attendees to services because:

If a bonded winery for the purposes of manufacturing ceremonial wines for general distribution, but not for his congregation only. A priest, rabbi or minister of the gospel also may be employed as a qualified winemaker to supervise the production of the needed wines.

Naturally, the number of religious leaders also rose by dubious amounts after 1922.

To Alcohol! The cause of… and solution to… all of life’s problems.

www.youtube.com

Alcohol has a special place in our military history, and we can take solace in the fact that our forefathers got equally sauced as we do today using legal — or questionable methods.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This moving company moved a captured U-boat across Lake Shore Drive

U-505 is a German Type IXC submarine that was built and served during WWII. On June 4, 1944, she was captured by U.S. Navy Task Group 22.3 in the Atlantic off the coast of the Western Sahara. She was towed to the U.S. Naval Operating Base in Bermuda where she was studied extensively. At the end of the war, U-505 went on a war bond tour of the east coast. After the war, the Navy had no use for a German submarine and planned to sink her as a practice target.

This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever
U-505 flying an American flag shortly after she was captured (U.S. Navy)

At the time, Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry was looking for a display submarine and heard about U-505. In 1954, the Navy agreed to donate the submarine to the museum. However, there was still the matter of getting the warship to the museum. Chicago residents managed to raise $250,000, just under $2.5 million in 2021 adjusted for inflation, to cover the transportation and installation costs.

U-505 was towed from the Portsmouth Navy Yard to the Great Lakes and made a stop in Detroit in July 1954. The final leg of the 3,000-mile journey, and the most challenging, was still to come. U-505 had to moved up the beach from Lake Michigan and across Lake Shore Drive to reach the museum just 900 feet away.

One of the busiest streets in America, Lake Shore Drive carried Chicago’s lifeblood of commerce and traffic. The city agreed to shut the street down for 12 hours from 7PM on September 2nd to 7AM the next day. The company contracted to take on this enormous task was the LaPlant-Adair Company.

U-505 sits on the Lake Michigan beach (Public Domain)

Based in Indianapolis, the LaPlant-Adair Company specialized in moving the immovable. From entire homes to a 250,000 gallon Ford plant water tower (still full of water), the company had the moving experience to take on U-505.

At 7PM sharp on September 2, 1954, Chicago police shut Lake Shore Drive. Simultaneously, U-505 crept off the Lake Michigan beach. A series of screw jacks, hand-turned by men, lifted the 920-ton U-boat just four feet, level with the street. The LaPlant-Adair Company’s president, Kenneth Adair, was there to personally supervise the move. He was joined by 10,000 spectators who came to see the submarine cross the street.

The captured U-boat attracted quite a lot of attention (Public Domain)

A system of tracks and rollers were continuously built, dismantled, and rebuilt to move U-505 just a few feet of the 300-foot-wide street at a time. Despite the herculean effort on display, the enormous crowd dwindled as the night dragged on. By the time U-505 made it safely across Lake Shore Drive just before 4AM, only 500 spectators remained. Still, the LaPlant-Adair Company accomplished their goal with time to spare.

Thanks to the LaPlant-Adair Company’s efficiency, U-505 proudly sits on display at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry today. Although the Navy stripped her interior, the museum has restored her exterior extremely close to original condition. She stands as a testament to the Germans who crewed her, the Americans who captured her, and the movers who helped her cross the road.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This plane was the Air Force ‘Cadillac of Medevac’

Making its debut in August of 1968, the C-9A was the U.S. Air Force’s first specially designed aeromedical evacuation aircraft. The C-9A answered the increased demand for effective aeromedical patient transport as U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War escalated. Until its retirement in 2003, the C-9A was the designated AE aircraft, making for safer and quicker transport of patients, and allowing the U.S. Air Force to provide quality care in the air.


Also read: Here’s how medical aid stations handle mass casualty situations

Nicknamed the “Cadillac of medevac” by those who flew it, the C-9A boasted twin jets and a capacity to carry up to 40 patients, making it essentially a flying hospital. The C-9A was fitted with hydraulic folding ramps to easily move litter patients on and off the aircraft. The ceiling had special holders that would secure IV bottles at the appropriate height during flight. Similar to a hospital, the C-9A had a separated area for patients requiring isolation or intensive care. Additionally, the aircraft had the necessary electrical system to support cardiac monitors, respirators, incubators, and infusion pumps.

This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever
The C-9A, which debuted in 1968, prepares for a mission at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. The Aircraft was the U.S. Air Force’s designated aeromedical evacuation aircraft that was capable of transporting more patients than previous aircraft. It was able to carry up to 40 patients, either litter or ambulatory, and was fitted with hydraulic folding ramps to easily move litter patients on and off the aircraft. (U.S. Air force photo)

The C-9A marked significant advancements in AE speed, able to cruise at 500 mph. The C-9A’s capabilities made it possible to complete much longer AE missions while providing better care and comfort for patients.

The C-9A also had an impressive patient capacity, able to carry either ambulatory patients or those litters. In 1971, the C-9A set a new record for the number of patients flown in one day, efficiently transporting 24 litter patients and 64 ambulatory patients.

Related: This is how medical evacuations have evolved over the last 145 years

The C-9A’s speed, capacity, and effectiveness in patient transport overseas played a critical role in patient evacuations from Vietnam. In April 1973, several C-9As participated in Operation Homecoming, which provided returning prisoners of war with individual medical attention and a controlled transition from captivity back to their families. C-9As helped bring 367 American prisoners of war home to the U.S.

Its reliability in effective and safe patient transport placed the C-9A as the primary aircraft supporting the aeromedical evacuation system at the 375th Aeromedical Airlift Wing at Scott Air Force Base. The C-9A soon was being used to help civilian organizations responding to large disasters and disease outbreaks. Most notably, in 1978 during the second largest outbreak of botulism in New Mexico, the C-9A’s capabilities proved to be critical in transporting infected patients from overrun hospitals to neighboring cities for treatment. This prevented the outbreak from becoming a bigger problem.

This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever
The C-9A.  (U.S. Air Force photo)

Over time, the C-9A’s capacity to safely transport patients with more serious conditions increased. In April of 1998, the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron from Ramstein Air Base, Germany safely and successfully delivered a baby on the C-9A during a routine medical evacuation flight while they were transporting pregnant women from Sardinia to Italy. Shortly after, the C-9A was used to transfer patients from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, to Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland before Hurricane Bonnie would hit the coast. It was necessary for the aircraft to accommodate the needs of each critical patient during transport, which included altitude restrictions, intravenous fluids, oxygen, and cardiac monitoring.

More: 5 American military doctors who changed medical history

On Aug. 18, 2003, the C-9A completed its last aeromedical evacuation flight in the U.S. where it transported one litter patient, and a few ambulatory patients returning home from Iraq. The C-9A flew to Fort Campbell, Ky. and Alexandria International Airport, La. before ending its last mission at Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas.

As the needs of both peacetime and wartime patient transport changed, so did the need for a designated aeromedical evacuation aircraft. The C-9A was phased out in 2003 and current aeromedical evacuation systems rely on alternative aircraft on an as-needed basis. Although it is no longer in use, the C-9A made a significant impact on the advancements and capabilities of the aeromedical evacuation system.

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This is why sailors wear neckerchiefs with their dress uniform

Any enlisted Navy sailor can tell you that their dress uniform wouldn’t be as famous today without one of its most iconic pieces — the historic neckerchief.


Reportedly, the neckerchief made its first appearance in the 16th century and was primarily worn as a sweat rag and to protect the sailor’s neck from rubbing raw against their stiff collared shirts.

In some cases, the 36-square-inch silk fabric could also be used as a battle dressing or tourniquet in a life saving situation.

The color black was picked to hide any dirt or residue that built up during wear.

This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever
The iconic Navy dress blue uniformed with a neckerchief being steamed before a uniform inspection.

In 1817, the Navy wanted each one of its sailors to tie their neckerchief the same way, so it introduce the square knot. The square knot was hand-picked because it was commonly used on ships to secure its cargo.

The knot was later added to the dress blue uniform to represent the hardworking Navy tradition, and it remains that way today.

How to tie a square knot:

This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever
Step-by-step instructions for the tradition square knot. (Source: Navy.mil)

During the inspection, each sailor is carefully examined by a senior at least twice a year. While under observation, the sailor must display a properly tied square knot which needs to hang at the bottom of the jumper’s V-neck opening, and the ends of the neckerchief must appear even as shown above.

Do you remember your first uniform inspection? Comment below.

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6 Navy bombers that flew for the Air Force

The Air Force and the Navy have their own little rivalry going.


Granted, United States Navy pilots are pretty good in many respects, and so are the planes, but the Air Force claims they’ve got air superiority. So when they need to buy a plane from the Navy, it’s… awkward — especially when it involves bombers, something that should be the purview of the Air Force.

Here are six of the most…notable acquisitions the Air Force ended up making from the Navy.

1. Douglas A-24 Banshee

While better known as the SBD Dauntless, the Army Air Force bought a number of these planes. Aviation historian Joe Baugher noted that some were intended to help defend the Philippines, but the outbreak of World War II saw them diverted to New Guinea. Others saw action in the Aleutians and Gilbert Islands.

This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever
A-24B Banshee, the Army Air Force’s version of the SBD Dauntless, at a base on Makin Island. (U.S. Air Force photo)

2. Curtiss A-25 Shrike/Helldiver

The Army Air Force got the SB2C — the notorious “Son of a [Bleep] Second Class” — during World War II. Joe Baugher noted that the Army Air Force never even bothered using them in combat, either exporting them to the Royal Australian Air Force or handing them over to the Marine Corps for use from land bases.

This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever
An A-25A Shrike in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

3. Douglas B-66 Destroyer

When the Air Force was looking for a replacement for the A-26/B-26 Invader as a tactical bomber, they settled on a version of the Navy’s A3D Skywarrior. However, the Air Force planned to use it very differently, and so a lot of changes were made, according to Joe Baugher.

The B-66 turned out to be an ideal electronic-warfare platform. One was famous under the call-sign “Bat 21,” leading to one of the most famous — and costly — search and rescue efforts in history.

This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever
An EB-66E Destroyer electronic-countermeasures plane. (U.S. Air Force photo)

4. Lockheed RB-69A Neptune

The Air Force was looking for some planes for electronic intelligence missions around the Soviet Union and China when they settled on taking seven P-2 Neptune maritime patrol planes from the Navy, and designating them as RB-69As.

Aviation historian Joe Baugher reveals that the exact origin and ultimate fate of these planes is a mystery, probably intentionally so, given the top-secret nature of intelligence-gathering flights over China and Russia.

This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever
One of seven RB-69A Neptune ELINT planes the Air Force acquired. (U.S. Air Force photo)

5. Douglas A-1 Skyraider

Joe Baugher reported that the Air Force found this classic warbird to be so suitable for the counter-insurgency mission in 1962, they took 150 A-1Es from Navy surplus. The planes were modified for dual controls.

In fact, the Air Force wanted the plane as early as 1949, but harsh inter-service rivalry (including controversy stemming from the “Revolt of the Admirals”) meant the Air Force had to wait to get this plane. It was a fixture on search-and-rescue missions during the Vietnam War.

This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever
An Air Force A-1E Skyraider loaded with a fuel-air explosive bomb. (U.S. Air Force photo)

6. Vought A-7 Corsair

This is probably one of the most successful purchases of a Navy bomber by the Air Force. As was the case with the Air Force basing the B-66 off the A3D, they made changes to the A-7.

Most notable was giving it the M61 Vulcan and a thousand rounds of ammo. Yes, the Air Force gave the A-7 the means to give bad guys the BRRRRRT! The A-7s saw action over Panama in 1989, and were even used to train F-117 pilots. The A-7D was retired in the early 1990s with the end of the Cold War.

This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever
Three U.S. Air Force A-7Ds in formation. Air Force Corsairs flew thousands of sorties with only four losses. (U.S. Air Force photo)

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How the Persian Immortals became masters of psychological warfare

War is just as much a psychological battle as it is physical. If you’re able to convince your enemy that they have no chance of surviving before the first drop of blood is spilled, you’ve already won. No warriors in history have embodied this concept better than the Anausa or, as they’re more commonly known, the Persian Immortals.

Even their very name, “Immortal,” is a part of the mind tricks they played on their enemies. In order to keep up the image of being unkillable, they wore matching uniforms and hastily recovered their dead or wounded, fueling the illusion that none fell in battle. But that barely even scratches the surface of the psychological warfare the Persians employed to conquer 44 percent of all humanity at the height of their power in 480 B.C.


This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever
As over-the-top as the rest of “300” was, this is an entirely accurate scene. The rest of the movie, though? Ehhh…(Warner Bros. Pictures)

As with many early civilizations, much of the history of Achaemenid Empire (to Empire for which the Immortals fought) has been lost to time. The history we do have comes from the Greek scholar, Herodotus. Though he opposed Persia, he kept detailed battle plans of the Immortals and those that faced them.

One such example happened to make its way into the 2006 film, “300.” A Spartan at Thermopylae scoffed at a Persian envoy who said their arrows could “black out the sky” by replying, “then we’ll fight in the shade.” That wasn’t just a boast — that actually happened.

The Immortals were well aware that their arrows were inferior to Spartan steel. So, instead of making them stronger, they made more of them so that every archer could unleash them in one, rapid moment, literally blacking out the sky with arrows.

This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever
“Cats! Our only weakness!” – Some Egyptian, probably. (Ancient History Museum)

Another example of the ferocity of the Immortals was when the Persians defeated the Egyptians at the Battle of Pelusium. The Persians knew that the Egyptians were faithful to the Egyptian Goddess of Cats, Bastet. To the Egyptians, any harm done to a cat was considered great sacrilege.

Knowing this, the Persians simply drew cats on their shields and let loose a bunch of cats onto the battlefield. This alone was enough to make many Egyptians immediately surrender. When the other Egyptians manned their catapults, the Persians would let them know that they had cats with them — and that unleashed the artillery could mean killing a few felines.

If the Immortals didn’t have enough time to prepare for an individual opponent, they’d resort to their shock-and-awe cavalry, armed with sagaris, or long axes. The lightweight ax made it easy for Immortals to twirl them over their heads and swing fast enough to make an enemy’s blood splash far enough back to intimidate their foes.

At the Battle of the Granicus in 334 B.C., Alexander II of Macedon was nearly scalped by an Immortal cavalryman named Spithridates. His ax sliced clean straight through Alexander’s helmet and was just millimeters away from being a fatal blow.

After that moment, Alexander swore to the destruction of Persia. He studied their tactics and instructed his men on how to counter their advances. This took away the Persian’s edge in battle, and Alexander, from then on, took on the moniker of “the Great.”


Features images: Wikimedia Commons

MIGHTY HISTORY

The last charge of the bicycle brigade

In World Wars I and II, where thousands of tanks clashed on land and hundreds of ships fought at sea, and millions of men charged each other through trenches and across hills and valleys on foot, hundreds of thousands of soldiers fought from their trusty steeds: the bicycle.

Yeah, the two-wheeled contraptions that most kids get for Christmas or a birthday a few times throughout their childhood was once a cutting-edge weapon of war — and they were effective.


This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever
Indian bicycle troops at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
(Imperial War Museums)

 

The modern bicycle, with pedals and two wheels, emerged in the 1860s and slowly turned the “velocipede” from a leisure device of rich gentlemen into a viable method of transport. Fairly quickly, especially after the introduction of rubber tires, military experts saw a role for bicycles in wartime.

The European powers embraced the new technology first — not surprising, since that’s where the bike originated. Most military advocates pushed for the bike as a scout vehicle, allowing observers to get close to the front or ride near enemy units to collect data and then quickly get away with the information to friendly lines.

But, by the 1880s, there were already hotly debated movements to use the cyclists as a sort of alternate mounted infantry. Mounted infantrymen rode horses like cavalry, but generally dismounted and fought on foot when they arrived at the battle. They could cover more ground and often acted as a vanguard, tying down enemy forces until their foot-bound brethren could arrive.

In the late 1800s, cyclists took on challenges to prove their worth in battle. Bicycle infantry covered 40 miles a day with all their gear to prove they were more mobile, and messenger cyclists raced other signal soldiers working with flags and torches to prove who was faster. The cyclists won most of the competitions, and one messenger unit delivered from Washington, D.C. to Denver in just six days, covering approximately 1,700 miles while climbing 5,000 feet in altitude.

This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever
An ad recruiting cyclists for the British military.
(Imperial War Museums)

 

By the time Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914 — coincidentally, on June 28, the same day that the 12th Tour de France began — cyclists were an accepted part of warfare.

As The Great War got underway, Allied governments rushed to increase the size of their cyclists corps. Reconnaissance cyclist John Parr, a 17-year-old who had lied about his age to join, was possibly Britain’s first casualty of the war, taking fire from German troops while relaying messages.

As the war ground on, Great Britain bought bicycles and trained troops to ride them, famously advertising that “bad teeth” were “no bar” to joining. Bicycle infantry units rode around the front, quickly reinforcing areas that had suffered unsustainable losses from German attacks or plussing up British positions for major attacks. Cyclists mounted coastal patrols and fought fires in areas raided by German aircraft.

And cyclists were added to standard units with even conventional infantry units getting a few cyclists to ride ahead and get orders, relaying them back to the unit so it could deploy effectively as it arrived. Eventually, even artillery units got cyclists, and some even experimented with towing the guns, especially machine guns, behind the bicycles. (This was one job that bikes weren’t great for. Just watch a dad huffing and puffing away while towing their kid — then imagine the kid weighs hundreds of pounds.)

This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever
It’s all whimsical and charming until you realize these are Nazi SS soldiers and they likely used the bicycles to more quickly murder people.
(German Federal Archives, CC BY-SA 3.0)

 

By the end of World War I, hundreds of thousands of troops were serving in bicycle units or roles, but the increasing role of the automobile threatened their continued use in warfare. Italy even equipped their elite marksmen, the Bianchi, with the bicycle so they could strike faster.

After all, many of the bike’s advantages over walking; the speed and the efficiency, or horseback riding, no animal to care for and feed, were also true of the automobiles. And, except for the need for gasoline, the automobile was simply a better tool. It was faster, could carry heavier loads, and it was less draining on the operator’s mind and body.

So, when World War II rolled around, the bicycle took on a smaller role, but it still served, mostly with scouts and the occasional military maneuver. Britain actually created a special bicycle for paratroopers, but then got larger gliders that could carry Jeeps before D-Day, so the bikes went ashore with Canadian soldiers and others instead of paratroopers.

Bicycle-mounted troops were key for many counterattacks or quick movements, especially where supply lines were long, or the demand for fuel for tanks was high. The fuel problems of Germany led to a greater concentration of bicycles in their units while the Allies, with better logistics and greater natural resources, relied more heavily on vehicles.

After World War II, some European militaries continued to employ these two-wheeled vehicles for reconnaissance and even anti-tank roles. Switzerland even kept its bicycle units around until 2001, nearly a century after standing up their first bicycle unit.

Today, bicycles enjoy a very limited role in special operations and espionage. U.S. operators even used bikes in Iraq and Afghanistan. But don’t expect a sudden increase in bicycle operations unless more guerrilla forces embrace them. A modern military is more likely to increase mobility with helicopters and armored vehicles. And, if necessary, electric motorcycles would provide much of the stealth of bicycles and even better mobility without wearing out the rider.

MIGHTY HISTORY

An Army officer disobeyed orders and stole four tanks to save 65 soldiers in Korea

In April 1951, Lt. Dave Teich heard a call from about 65 U.S. Army soldiers from the 8th Ranger Company. They were completely cut off from the rest of the main force and some of them were wounded. 

Meanwhile, some 300,000 Chinese soldiers were on their way to overrun their position. The Rangers were calling for help from Lt. Teich’s tank company. Teich asked his captain if he could go to their rescue. His response was a firm no. Teich went anyway.

One of the trapped Rangers, E.C. Rivera, told NBC News he’d risked his life in a slow low crawl to make his way to a ridge just so he could get line of sight to use his radio. When he peeked over the ridgeline, he saw four American tanks. 

Rangers E.C. Rivera (left) and Joe Almeida (right) recline against an M39 Armored Utility Vehicle. Rivera carried the radio that was the 8th Ranger’s only link to friendly forces during the battle of Hill 628. Photo Courtesy USAHEC Ranger Photo Collection

He called it “the most beautiful sight of my life” 60 years after the end of the Korean Conflict, which is a title the view still held when the veterans met up for their 60th reunion.

The tankers and the rangers were about five miles south of the 38th parallel, which divided the two Koreas then, as it does today. When the Rangers radioed that they were in “bad shape,” Lt. Teich asked his captain if they could move to assist. The answer was a surprise to Teich. 

“We’ve got orders to move out. Screw them. Let them fight their own battles,” he said. 

Teich disagreed with his captain’s assessment. He stayed behind with four tanks as the main force moved out, disobeying order from both the captain and higher command. Teich felt he had a moral obligation to help the wounded and cut-off Rangers as both an Army officer and a human being. 

“I know I did the right thing in my heart because if I didn’t and those guys got wiped out,” Teich said, “I could never live that down.”

The Chinese were coming in what the Rangers then described as a “river of soldiers,” blocking the Rangers’ escape from the napalm-charred hill they were defending. The Chinese came in hot, firing a barrage of bullets at the beleaguered Americans. They all had to move as fast as they could, even if they were wounded to rendezvous with the waiting tanks. 

After carrying their wounded and sick comrades over a mile’s distance, a total of 65 wounded Rangers were loaded onto Teich’s four tanks, who sped them all to safety as the rest of the Rangers who could move beat a hasty retreat in the face of the Chinese wave coming at them.  

Ever since that day in Korea that gave Dave Teich the opportunity to fulfill his moral obligation to the wounded and stranded soldiers of the 8th Ranger Company, he’s received calls and letters from the men he helped pull from the jaws of death.

“Though we don’t always say it, Dave Teich saved our lives,” the leader of the Ranger company, then-Capt. James Herbert said. “If it wasn’t for him, we figure all of the survivors of the battle would have been killed or captured by Chinese. We look upon Dave as our savior.”

8TH Ranger Company commander Capt. James Herbert (left) and his second in command Lieutenant Giacherine (right) confer with an unknown officer (middle). Photo Courtesy USAHEC Ranger Photo Collection.

Herbert himself had a hole in his neck from the Chinese attack. He survived by plugging the hole with his finger until he could get to an aid station.

Teich doesn’t know many of the men who send him cards, calls, and letters every year, but he knows their names, at least. 

“If somebody asks for help, you can’t deny them,” Teich said.

Articles

This is the legend of the Knights of the Round Table

According to medieval legend, King Arthur lived in the late 5th and early 6th centuries where he fought off the Anglo-Saxons with his legendary sword, Excalibur. He lived in Camelot, and his life long mission became the quest for the Holy Grail.


While Arthur would attend festivals, his noble knights often got into violent brawls over who should be sitting at the head of the table — granting them power over those in attendance. The other war-hardened Knights just couldn’t figure out a resolution to the issue.

Therefore, King Arthur used his wisdom had a round table constructed, making all his men feel equal. It was a good leadership move and created what we all know today as the “Knights of the Round Table.”

This trek through Iraq was the longest escape and evasion by any soldier ever
The Knights of the Round Table (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

The Knights embodied a unique code of chivalry like righteousness, honor, and gallantry towards women — but one of them was bound to carry it too far.

Sir Lancelot was King Arthur’s closest friend, the best swordsman and knight in all the land. He was also known for sleeping with a lot of women. He even started a romantic affair with Arthur’s wife, Queen Guinevere. This action sparked a civil war, which led to the death of King Arthur and the dissolution of his knights.

But the legacy of the Knights of the Round Table lives on forever. Learn more in the video above.

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