Napoleon's bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion

Alexandre Walewski, born to a Polish countess in 1810, was the acknowledged son of a Polish count who had served the last king of Poland before it was annexed by Russia — but most people who knew the family suspected that he was the son of the countess’s lover, Emperor Napoleon. Napoleon’s illegitimate son later ignored his Polish roots and joined the French Foreign Legion.


Countess Marie Walewska was a beautiful woman who married a much older man, Count Athanasius Walewski, who had a burning desire to see Poland break from the Russian Empire and establish itself as a free land once more. A former chamberlain to the last Polish king, Walewski and many of his contemporaries fervently believed that Napoleon was their best chance at a free Poland.

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion
I mean, she’s pretty if you’re into that “classical beauty” thing.
(Portrait by François Gérard)

So, when the count learned that Napoleon had the hots for his young wife, he encouraged her to go to him. Marie was, by many accounts, pious and initially reluctant. But she eventually became one of Napoleon’s mistresses and, in 1809, became pregnant with what she suspected was an imperial child.

When young Alexandre was born, the rumor mills quickly commented on how much he looked like the French emperor, but Walewski publicly acknowledged the boy as his own, granting the boy the privileges of nobility.

Alexandre grew up with his two acknowledged fathers. At the age of 2, Napoleon gifted the boy the title of count and 69 farms with a combined revenue of 170,000 francs, though the lands were later taken after Napoleon’s first abdication.

So, little Alexandre was the acknowledged son of a count, the biological son of a countess with her own family line, and a count in the Kingdom of Naples by Imperial decree.

But Alexandre shared his Polish father’s desire to break Russian rule of Poland, and, at the age of 14, this got him in trouble.

The Russian Army came calling for young Alexandre and he ran away, first to London and then Paris. In France, the royal line was back on the throne but Alexandre was not punished for his father’s reign. King Louis-Philippe sent him back to Poland.

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion
The young Count Alexandre Walewski was considered handsome despite his neckbeard.
(Portrait by the school of George Hayter)

In Poland, Alexandre reached the age of 20 and quickly fell in with an attempted rebellion led primarily by Polish officers at the military academy. The uprising had some early success, and Alexandre was sent to London to be the group’s envoy to England. As it would turn out, he was lucky out of the country when the Russian army crushed the uprising in 1831.

Alexandre married the daughter of an earl that December but she tragically died — not long after the deaths of their two children. In 1834, Alexandre was a widower with no living children, so he decided to go back to France.

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion
Typical French Foreign Legion uniforms in 1830s Algeria.

Once there, he applied for French citizenship, which was granted, and a French commission. Soon, Capt. Alexandre Walewski was serving with the French Foreign Legion in Algeria.

During this period, French forces in Algeria were focused predominantly on driving back the Ottomans and ensuring French control of the country. Alexandre distinguished himself as a light cavalry officer and was eventually awarded the grand cross of the Legion of Honor.

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion
Facing off against the Arabs in Algeria took guts, as these Frenchmen found out when they were stomped at Constantine in 1836.
(Print by Auguste Raffet)

By 1837, Alexandre was ready to return to civilian life and he took up writing. He continued to serve as a diplomat when called upon, occasionally representing his cousin, Napoleon III, a French president who would be emperor from 1848 to 1870.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Fort Bragg live theater program reduced suicide rates

At Fort Bragg, North Carolina, something rare and particular began in the 1970s. When — citing the growth of accidental deaths — command decided to take a different type of approach at protecting their soldiers. With song and dance. With a new type of theater show, one that incorporated actual combat soldiers performing song and dance numbers — intertwined with real, somber video recounts of soldier death. It was a merger of a real message and quality entertainment.

Known as the Soldier Safety Show, this military-meets-Broadway program took place during the 70s, 80s and 90s as part of a new approach to get young soldiers to take safety measures seriously.

Former Fort Bragg Commander, retired four-star General Carl Stiner, said that the Soldier Safety Show was born out of growing death toll rates.

US Army General Carl W. Stiner (Public Domain)

“We realized we were having more casualties of all off-duty activities, mainly motorcycles, than from thousands of parachute jumps and heavy equipment drops. We just needed to do something about it,” he said in a 2015 interview with NPR’s This American Life.

Steiner added that between suicide and reckless drinking, Fort Bragg was losing 10 soldiers to every one soldier that died in a training-related event. 

Briefs were scheduled, but soldiers slept through them, and other measures were taken but saw little results.

Enter the Soldier Safety Show, which not only engaged young soldiers, but dropped the accidental death rate by one-third. 

It worked by employing a combination theater and screen projections of “gut-wrenching” testimonials from soldiers who had lost friends due to accidents and careless mistakes. Then it ended with soldiers standing to take a safety pledge. (This also created the opportunity for a standing ovation at the end of every show.) Viewers and performers alike called the juxtaposition of mournful renditions and live musical theater absurd and unexpected, but somehow, effective. 

The Soldier Safety Show was mandatory for all stationed at Bragg. To meet this demand, performing soldiers held 3-4 shows a day around the Christmas holiday, when deaths typically peaked.

On-stage meets the military: Operation Shock and Awe

Those who worked with the program credited most of its success to the director, Lee Yopp. They said Yopp was a unique, boisterous personality with much gusto. Having become a director by accident when working as a football coach and he broke his leg, Yopp found he excelled at directing and took higher, bigger directing jobs. He ended up bankrupting a large theater — and himself — by overspending and creating a flop. However, he was offered the gig to manage the Fort Bragg Playhouse by an old Army buddy.

Leon R “Lee” Yopp in front of the Fort Bragg Playhouse (Image courtesy of Bobby Moody, Facebook)

The running joke was the DoD was the one financial baker who could afford his visions. Yopp incorporated waterfalls, a roller skating rink, parachute rigs, cannons and machine guns (that actually fired); he planted real grass on the stage to bring in horses. And — perhaps his biggest move of all — he brought in explosive experts from Special Forces who helped them rig up loud booms in the stage floor, complete with flash pods. 

But Yopp did more than that — he knew how to reach soldiers in a way that mattered. He got big, exciting performances out of his actors … including those who’d never been on stage before. When one of the soldiers’ teenage son got in a car wreck, Yopp took the crew on a field trip and filmed them in the hospital. That was the start of a new act where a young actor talked about driving too fast and losing control, spliced with the real-life footage. They paired it with the song “Tomorrow” from the musical Annie, and it was an instant hit.

Viewers and performers alike say Yopp’s unique way of making the simple overtly complicated helped bring the message together. It got attention and it struck a chord, especially with a young crowd. 

Former Fort Bragg soldier Derek Brown, a paratrooper in the 1990s, performed in the Soldier Safety Show after he volunteered with his unit. Brown said he initially thought it was a joke when briefed about an audition for musical theater. (He fell into the category of performers who had never sang or danced before.) It was mandatory for his unit to send a representative, and he was the only volunteer. 

Brown called the show a blend of “…the honor and discipline movements with the bravado and panache of Broadway musicals.” And with Yopp’s direction, his encouragement to be big and loud at all times, the show was able to get results.

A production of Treasure Island performed by Fort Bragg Playhouse, circa 1983

“He had no room at all for shyness on stage. He made it a point of saying, ‘If you were going to fail, please fail loudly, please fail loudly and sing it as though your life depended on it.’”

During Yopp’s tenure as managing director of the Fort Bragg Playhouse from 1974-1993, they earned more than 35 awards, including a 1980 sweep of the U.S. Army Forces Command music and theater competition, with 15 titles, and best music and theater program among worldwide Army installations in 1981.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how General Pershing’s ‘favorite doughboy’ earned the Medal of Honor

Samuel Woodfill already had a lengthy career in the U.S. Army by the time the United States declared war on Germany in 1917. The son of a Mexican-American War and Civil War veteran, he enlisted in 1901 at the age of 18 and left his native Indiana.


After basic training, Pvt. Woodfill found himself assigned to the 11th Infantry Regiment stationed in the Philippines. He saw action in various campaigns against the rebellious Moros and earned accolades as a crack shot and for his “honest and faithful service.” In 1910, Woodfill left the Philippines for a number of duty stations. Over the next seven years, he would see service in Alaska, Kentucky, and on the Mexican border. But he would not see any more combat in that time.

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion
Samuel Woodfill served in many places over his long career.

Then, everything changed. America declared war on Germany. Woodfill, then a sergeant, attended an officer training course and received a temporary wartime rank of 2nd lieutenant. Soon after, he was given command of a machine gun company of the 60th Infantry Regiment, 5th Division. Finally, in April 1918 his unit sailed for France.

However, the 5th Division stayed in the rear until October 1918 when they were sent to the front to take part in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

Woodfill was leading his company in an attack near the village of Cunel when they came under heavy German machine gun fire from multiple positons. He ordered his company to take cover while he moved forward alone to scope out the situation.

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion
The fighting in the Meuse-Argonne area was muddy and brutal.

He quickly spotted three German machine gun nests that were firing on his men. Using the stalking skills he learned hunting in the backwoods of Indiana, he approached the Germans unseen and prepared to take them out.

The three German positions were well concealed in some bushes, an old barn, and a derelict church, respectively. Woodfill took aim at the machine gunner firing on his men in the church tower about 300 yards away. Unable to make out the gunner, he simply took aim at a position behind the muzzle flash and pulled the trigger. The gun fell silent. This was repeated four more times, as each German crewmember stepped forward to take their place on the gun.

Woodfill dropped another five-round clip in his Springfield and moved on to the next target. A single shot at the German in the barn put an end to the firing from that position.

He next maneuvered on a third machine gun position. In doing so, he took cover in a shell hole filled with lingering mustard gas. He approached to within ten yards of the position. Then, in rapid succession, he dispatched three of the crew members with his rifle. A fourth, a German officer, charged Woodfill and engaged him in hand-to-hand combat. He overcame the officer and killed him with a M1911 pistol.

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion

With this line of machine guns silenced, Lt. Woodfill’s company continued their advance until they were again held up by a German machine gun nest. The officer once again raced forward to single-handedly attack the position. He killed the entire machine gun crew with his rifle before capturing three ammunition carriers from the position.

As the advance continued, Woodfill’s men again ran into murderous German machine gun fire. And once again their leader charged forward to handle the situation. Woodfill dispatched this crew with five shots from his rifle before drawing his pistol and charging the position to take on the remaining men. He killed one man with his pistol before grabbing a nearby pick axe and bludgeoning the other to death.

By this time, Woodfill was suffering heavily from exposure to mustard gas and was limping from a shrapnel wound. He was evacuated from the front lines and sent to Bordeaux to recover.

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion
An American machine gun position during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. German positions were similarly manned and hidden.

 

On Jan. 22, 1919, Woodfill was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions the previous fall. The next month, Gen. John Pershing personally presented the award to the young lieutenant.

In 1921, Gen. Pershing bestowed two more honors on Woodfill. When asked that year to name the outstanding American soldier of the Great War, Pershing surprised everyone by naming Lt. Samuel Woodfill, claiming he had always considered him “America’s Greatest Doughboy,” over the likes of Alvin York, Charles Wittlesey of the Lost Battalion, and even Eddie Rickenbacker.

Pershing then named Woodfill as a pallbearer, this time along with Alvin York, for the internment of the first Unknown Soldier.

The legendary soldier, having reverted to his pre-war enlisted status, retired from the Army as a Master Sergeant in 1923. However, he served his country again during World War II. Then commissioned a Major, he trained and inspired young officers as they prepared for the great challenges ahead.

 

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion
Master Sgt. Samuel Woodfill, wearing his Medal of Honor.

Woodfill’s final service to his country was to once again act as a pallbearer, this time for his former commanding officer and supporter, Gen. Pershing. Woodfill himself passed away at the age of 68 in August 1951.

Articles

France sent thousands of thank you gifts to the US after WWII

In 1949, the French freighter Magellan steamed into New York Harbor with “Merci, America” painted on its bow. The ship was carrying 49 railway cars filled with thousands of gifts donated by the people of France — a thank you for the food donated by American citizens to help rebuild Europe after WWII.


Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion
The Magellan steaming into New York Harbor in 1949.

Just two years before the Magellan arrived, the Marshall Plan inspired Americans to collect food and put their donations aboard what they called the “Friendship Train.” The train’s journey began in Los Angeles on Nov. 7, 1947, and arrived in New York City to a ticker-tape parade before shipping off to Europe.

Along the way, it stopped in many major cities on its 11-day route from sea to shining sea. When the cars arrived in the French city of Le Havre, it was 700 cars long and valued at some $40 million ($435 million adjusted for inflation).

Theme Trains, a site dedicated to the appreciation of historical railway events, notes that the idea of the American Friendship train was the brainchild of journalist Drew Pearson. Through his work and colleagues in Europe, he believed the Russians (and thus, Communists) were getting the credit for aid sent there through disinformation campaigns.

Pearson’s idea for the American train would make certain the Russians couldn’t take credit for western aid. He organized a grassroots effort through American newspapers, that effort resulted in the Friendship Train.

The people of France were so grateful that they responded with a train of their own — the Merci Train. French war veteran Andre Picard organized 49 WWI-era boxcars, one for each state (Hawaii and Washington, D.C. shared a car). The cars were filled with personal gifts from individual French citizens.

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion
The Merci Train arrives in New York, 1949.

When the Magellan arrived with the boxcars in 1949, delegations from each state received it, then sent its train on a tour of their state.  The boxcars bore a ribbon reading “gratitude train,” along with every crest from the provinces of France. They came to rest in public locations that vary from state to state — parks, museums, schools — for the public to view.

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion
Arizona’s boxcar, located near Scottsdale.

Articles

That time a bugler led the charge by scaling the walls of Peking

At the turn of the 20th Century, all of the great powers had converged on China seeking to curry favor and carve up the country for trade. This led a secret Chinese organization, the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists (known as the Boxers to the foreigners), to rise up in rebellion.


At the end of 1899, the Boxers rose up against the foreigners and Christians they felt were invading their country. Coming from the countryside, they met in Peking (now Beijing) with the intention of turning the Chinese imperial government to their cause and destroying the foreign presence.

As the situation deteriorated, foreign nationals and Chinese Christians sought refuge in the Legation Quarter of Peking. The increased presence of the Boxers led the international community to send a force of 435 men to guard their respective legations.

The American contingent joined the Marines already stationed there, including one Pvt. Dan Daly.

Throughout the spring, the Boxers gained strength and were actively burning churches, killing Christians, and intimidating Chinese officials who opposed them.

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion
Russian cannons firing at Beijing gates during the night. August, 14, 1900.

As the international community stepped up efforts to maintain their positions in China, they put the Imperial Chinese government and Empress Dowager Cixi in a bind. The Empress was being pressured to take the side of the Boxers by officials who felt exploited by foreign nations.

Finally, in June 1900, the Empress’ hand was forced by international attacks on Chinese forts as well as the presence of the Seymour Expedition sent to reinforce the Legation Quarter.

On June 19, she sent word for the international community to leave. The next day the Chinese military, along with Boxer supporters, laid siege to the Legation Quarter.

As the situation was deteriorating, America began planning its response.

Also read: This Marine’s actions against the Chinese during the Boxer Rebellion remain the stuff of legend

Known as the China Relief Expedition the force that assembled in China consisted of the 9th Infantry Regiment, 14th Infantry Regiment, 6th Cavalry Regiment, and Battery F, 5th Field Artillery Regiment totaling some 2,500 men.

After brief fighting at Tientsin, in which Col. Liscum, commanding the 9th Infantry, was killed, the force marched on Peking to relieve the besieged Legation Quarter.

The pressure on the Legation Quarter had been steadily increasing. Through the night of Aug. 13 and into the morning of Aug. 14, Dan Daly was single-handedly holding off a determined assault by the Boxers. When Daly’s relief finally arrived, he inquired about the meaning of “Quon fay,” something the Chinese had been yelling at him all night.

He was amused to learn that it meant “very bad devil.”

For his actions that night Daly was awarded his first Medal of Honor.

Later in the day on Aug. 14, the first units of the Eight-nation Alliance reached the outer walls of Peking.

Leading the American units was the 14th Infantry Regiment.

When they arrived at their assigned gate, they found it already under attack by a Russian unit which was pinned down and taking heavy casualties.

The Americans moved south looking for an opening. The best they found was a lightly defended section of the Tartar Wall. The wall was some 30 feet high, and with no scaling ladders or grappling hooks, Col. Daggett, the regimental commander, asked for a volunteer to climb the wall.

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion
I’ll try, Sir,

Cpl. Calvin Pearl Titus, a bugler from Company E, stepped forward and said, “I’ll try, sir.”

With a rope slung over his shoulder Titus began to climb the wall. He grasped to the slightest of holds and he made his way up, undetected by the Chinese defenders.

“All below is breathless silence. The strain is intense.” Daggett would later write, “Will that embrasure blaze with fire as he attempts to enter it? Or will the butts of rifles smash his skull?” 

As Titus cleared the wall, he found it undefended. He called down to his comrades, “The coast is clear! Come on up!”

Following Titus’ lead and using the rope he threw down, more soldiers followed. As the number of Americans on the wall increased, they were finally discovered by the Chinese.

The Chinese opened fire but it was too late — the Americans held the wall.

Shortly after 11am, the 14th Infantry planted the American flag atop the wall.

They then fought their way back to the gate to relieve the beleaguered Russians.

With the Chinese driven back, the American artillery arrived and blasted down the inner gate leading to the Legation.

The Americans then cleared the way to the Legation Quarter only to find that the British had beat them to it. Thanks to the confusion caused by the Russians and Americans, British Indian soldiers had snuck through a water gate and directly into the Legation relieving the siege.

The Americans consolidated their position while the rest of the relief force conducted mopping up operations throughout Peking.

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion
Calvin P. Titus, 1905.(Library of Congress photo)

For his heroism in breaking the siege, Cpl. Titus was awarded an appointment to West Point where, during his second semester in the spring of 1902, he was presented the Medal of Honor by president Theodore Roosevelt.

A fellow cadet approached Titus after he received his award exclaiming, “Mister, that’s something!” That cadet was Douglas MacArthur, who would receive his own Medal of Honor during World War II.

Titus went on to serve 32 years in the Army, rejoining his old unit, the 14th Infantry, before seeing action against Pancho Villa in 1916 and occupying Germany after WWI.

He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1930.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The fall of Soviet Russia hysterically explained through memes

The reign of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (or USSR) came to a screeching halt in 1991. After 68 years of reign, the collective of socialist countries were dissolved and reformed into new borders and republic entities.

This month, we look back on the August Coup, when Soviet Communists failed their takeover, and eventually, to the dissolution to the Soviet Union as a whole.


Take a look at the best memes we found commemorating this important event in world history.

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion

(Know Your Meme)

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion

(Reddit)

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion

(Memecenter)

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion

(Me.me)

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion

(Imgflip)

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion

(Makeameme)

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion

(memes-4ever.tumblr.com)

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion

(Ballmemes)

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion
Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion

Ice Age baby is actually to blame after all.

What’s your favorite USSR meme? Tell us below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Budweiser will brew George Washington’s 1757 beer recipe

We need a batch of good news. A little hops in our step. Something to sip on that takes us to a different time. 1757 to be exact.

Budweiser has done it again. Making history. And this is just straight up awesome. Using the original recipe from George Washington’s handwritten notes found in a notebook from 1757 during the French and Indian War, Budweiser has crafted the next edition in their Reserve collection. Here is the page from the notebook:


Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion

So cool! And it just gets better.

This limited edition Freedom Reserve Red Lager is brewed exclusively by veteran brewers who brew for Budweiser.

“We are incredibly proud of our Freedom Reserve Red Lager because it was passionately brewed by our veteran brewers who have bravely served our country,” Budweiser Vice President Ricardo Marques

Proceeds from the beer go to support Folds of Honor, whose mission is to provide scholarships to spouses and children of fallen and disabled service members.

America, ladies and gentlemen.

The 5.4 ABV lager is described as “a rich caramel malt taste and a smooth finish with a hint of molasses.”

Ok, fine, you’ve convinced me. OMW to get some right now. Hopefully you live close enough to snag up some of this speciality brew, too. Enter your zip code here to find out where you can buy it.

This 2018 Memorial Day, toast to the men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy our lives safely in our back yards with the peace of mind to sit and have a beer this weekend.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The time a teenager stowed away on a Navy destroyer

A teenager (or kid) running away from home happens all too often, and not just in light-hearted film plots; while most real-world cases never get much further than the best friend’s house, there can be severe consequences to such a flight.


In 1988, 16 year-old Suzanne Twomey of Cork, Ireland, took it to an extreme by stowing away on board a United States Navy warship.

According to a 1988 AP report, Twomey hid on board the guided-missile destroyer USS Conyngham (DDG 17), a Charles F. Adams-class vessel, after a port visit to the city of Cobh following some NATO exercises.

A UPI report from the time noted that Twomey had previously run away from her home in the Emerald Isle to Spain, from which she returned just ten days prior to stowing away on the Conyngham. She’d also run away to London in the past, “living on her wits” according to Irish authorities interviewed by the Washington Post.

 

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion
USS Conyngham underway in 1975. (U.S. Navy photo)

Twomey was found the day before the Conyngham arrived in her home port of Norfolk. She was suffering from seasickness and dehydration after hiding away for nearly ten days. The Post reported she was found in a 30-inch wide, 15-foot long, and three-foot high compartment that also had pipes and electrical wiring.

Eight sailors were ultimately disciplined for aiding Twomey, either helping her get on board or stay hidden for that timeframe. The AP reported that six sailors received non-judicial punishment at a captain’s mast. Seaman Apprentice Paul D. Davidson received 30 days in the brig and was forced to forfeit two-thirds of his pay for a month.

Navy authorities ultimately charged Seaman Apprentice David G. Peters with hiding an illegal alien and aiding her entry into the United States. He pled guilty at a court-martial and received 70 days in the brig, in addition to a suspended bad conduct discharge.

As for Miss Twomey? She was returned to Ireland after two brief hospital stays (one to treat her dehydration and seasickness, one after she had convulsions on a flight), escorted by two agents of the Naval Investigative Service — the forerunner to NCIS. According to a 2012 discussion thread on the forums at PeoplesRepublicofCork.com, she had died “some years back.”

As for the Conyngham, she suffered a major fire in her engine room on May 8, 1990, that killed one sailor and injured 18. The ship was decommissioned later that year, then sold for scrap in 1994.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The spy who gave nukes to the USSR applied for a veteran’s pension

In 1999, a U.S. Army World War II veteran applied for his Social Security pension. There would have been nothing out of the ordinary for any other vet down on his luck. He knew that any veteran of WWII was able to apply at the Social Security office for special benefits for Army vets during that war. Later that year, 1999, he received a notification by mail, with just one line:

“We are writing to tell you that you do not qualify for retirement benefits.”

The veteran applying for that bit of extra cash every month applied from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. His name was George Koval, and just 50 years prior, he was giving the Soviet Union the information it needed (and couldn’t produce itself) to build an atomic bomb.

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion

What a tool.

The American-born Koval actually moved to Russia in his early years with his family. It was there he was recruited by Soviet intelligence to return to the United States and work as a spy. He came back to the mainland U.S. by way of San Fransisco, moved to New York, and became an electrical engineer for a company subcontracting to General Electric. Except this company was a front company owned by Soviet spies. Koval soon became the head of his own GRU-led cell.

Then, he was drafted to fight in World War II. But instead of fighting in the Infantry, he was sent to the City Colleges of New York to study more and prepare for his real assignment – the Manhattan Project.

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion

George Koval (middle row, first from the right) and classmates at CCNY.

Koval was transferred to Oak Ridge, Tenn. where he became the projects public safety officer. He had unfettered access to everything in the Manhattan Project, especially the radioactive elements necessary to trigger the fission that would create the world’s largest explosions. He sent everything back to the Soviet Union, including production processes for plutonium, uranium, and polonium. The coup de gras, however, was the polonium initiators that triggered the fission reaction. The Soviets got those designs too.

Agent DELMAR, Kovals code name, was given unrestricted access to all the top sites of the Project. He freely walked around the halls of the Dayton, Ohio facility where polonium triggers were manufactured. He had free access to the Los Alamos National Laboratory where the triggers were integrated into the greater design. Koval was basically able to guide Soviet scientists through the process, step-by-step. He sent information back to the Soviets for three years, between 1943 and 1946.

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion

Koval, later in life.

Eventually, the heat started getting to Koval, so he decided to apply for a passport. He told friends and colleagues he was going to Europe or Israel, but he left one day and never returned. Koval escaped to the USSR, where he was discharged from the Soviet military as an unskilled rifleman and given the appropriate pension… which probably wasn’t much. That’s likely the first step in what led him to apply for special benefits at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow that day in 1999. The United States never suspected his involvement until the mid-1950s. By 1999, he was an FBI legend.

Koval lived until 2006 when President Vladimir Putin posthumously declared him a Hero of Russia for being the only spy to ever get into the Manhattan Project – much too late to get that pension.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The good ol’ days when you could rock a beard in the US military

Unless you are a member of special ops, most U.S. military members these days are not allowed to rock a beard. Which is a damn shame, because it wasn’t always this way.


After shaving every day of their time in, some veterans make growing a beard their first order of business once they get out of the military. But there were times — we’ll refer to them as “the good ol’ days” — when you could grow a beard. In fact, it was often encouraged.

For about the first 66 years of its existence, the Navy didn’t really have much of a standardized grooming standard. Many sailors during the Revolution opted for clean shaves, until sideburns became a thing around 1812. The Navy finally implemented grooming standards in 1841 that mandated “hair and beards had to be cut short,” according to the US Naval Institute.

In the early years of the Army, beards were expressly forbidden and soldiers were required to shave at least three days per week, according to this article at Defense Media Network. This of course dramatically changed during the Civil War, when everyone from Pvt. Joe Schmoe to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was seen rocking face armor.

 

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion
I’ll try and shave when I’m not too busy beating the hell out of the Confederacy.

The Navy slightly modified its rules in 1852 to ban officers from wearing mustaches and imperials — a larger ‘stache featuring whiskers styled upward over a man’s cheeks — but it was later relaxed to allow “neatly trimmed” beards. Much like the Army during the Civil War, there was some pretty interesting interpretations of “neatly trimmed.”

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion
I trimmed this very neatly, I swear.

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion
My beard is certainly neat, and I trimmed it two years ago.

Many sailors of the late 19th and 20th century followed the prevailing fashions of the day, dropping their beards for the mustache and goatee, according to Navy History. Some continued to wear beards, which was generally allowed as long as they were trimmed.

There were some notable exceptions: Sailors operating in colder climates could have full face jackets, and those on submarines didn’t have to shave more as a necessity, since fresh water was usually scarce.

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion
Sailors on the USS Pensacola give their best Popeye impressions, 1944. (Photo Credit: USNI)

 

For soldiers on the ground, the death of the beard came along with the need for gas masks. The first World War saw the widespread use of chemical weapons, and gas masks needed to maintain a proper seal against the skin to be effective. Having whiskers didn’t exactly inspire confidence when chlorine gas was involved.

“They were eliminated in the US military in WWI due to the need to wear gas masks,” Penny Jolly, a professor of art and art history, told the BBC. “Razors were issued in GI kits, so men could shave themselves on the battlefield.” The clean-shaven soldier eventually became the norm for the World Wars and beyond.

Although some didn’t really get the memo, like one unit of soldiers stationed in the Phillipines in 1941 which actually held a beard-growing contest. They are all winners, in our eyes.

Still, the reasoning against soldiers having beards has often boiled down to maintaining a uniform appearance and keeping a good seal on a gas mask, and it continues to this day.

In 1970, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo Zumwalt came in and basically said to hell with grooming and uniform regs in attempt to raise morale. Zumwalt — a wearer of his own sweet set of sideburns — issued one of his famous “Z-grams” in Nov. 1970, which directed the Navy to “adapt to changing fashions” of the day, which meant beards, mustaches, and sideburns, my man.

Beards were a staple of the Navy for quite a time, although even Zumwalt figured out his changes to the regs were a bit too permissive, USNI notes:

It did not take long before Navy ships began to look like they were crewed by hippies who had crashed their bus into a military surplus store. Even Zumwalt realized that the liberalization of grooming standards had gone too far and needed to be scaled back. Hair and beards were ordered to be neat while “eccentricities” such as mutton chop sideburns were outlawed.

Besides the surface fleet, Navy SEALs operating in Vietnam were allowed to rock beards, and the “Vietnamese regarded beards as a reflection of wisdom gained with age,” wrote Maury Docton at Quora.

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion

 

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and the beard (even on submarines) became a thing of the past under Chief of Naval Operations Adm. James D. Watkins, who outlawed them in Dec. 1984. Beardos were outraged at the time: “‘It’s rotten,” Petty Officer Richard New told The New York Times. “I don’t think they can tell you everything to do.”

It turns out they can, and the order still remains in effect today. Across all the military services, beards are no longer allowed and even mustaches need to be trimmed within the corners of the mouth — a look so terrible even Hitler would say “what in the hell?”

The only men lucky enough to be allowed beards now are special operations units such as Army Special Forces and Navy SEALs (as long as they are in Afghanistan at least).

Articles

Watch this bird strike take out a jet…from the pilot’s POV

What does a bird strike look like from the perspective of a fighter pilot? We actually have that — thanks to cockpit video that was released about a decade ago.


Bird strikes do a lot of damage. Even legends like the B-52 can be brought down by seagulls.

Now, when this video first appeared, it was believed to have been from the cockpit of a F-16. According to FlightGlobal.com, though, the actual plane was a CT-155 Hawk assigned to NATO Flying Training Canada.

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A Canadian CT-155 Hawk performing a flyby at the Alliance Air Show 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. The video below is from a similar plane. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

For a single-engine fighter like the CT-155, this bird strike prove to be very fatal. As heard in the video, the two pilots on board tried to get the engine to re-start. When that fails, there’s only one option left for the pilots: GTFO.

That’s exactly what these pilots did, leaving the stricken Hawk to its fate.

The pilots who ejected, RAF Flight Lieutenant Edward Morris and Captain John Hutt of what was then the Canadian Defense Forces Air Command (now the Royal Canadian Air Force), were both recovered alive and well. It was a close call. You can see that close call from their perspective below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The most ‘Murican moments of every presidency, part one

Politics in the United States can be an incredibly divisive topic of conversation, if recent news is any indication. Still, no matter how you feel (or felt) about any Commander-In-Chief, there’s one thing we can agree on for all of them: each loved this country and cared about doing a good job. No one wants to be remembered as the the “worst president of all time” — and no matter whether you hate or love the current president or the last, I can guarantee you that neither will hold that title.

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But even the now-reviled James Buchanan didn’t set out to become the worst President ever. Even the Pierce Administration thought it was doing what was right for the United States. And, in Warren G. Harding’s defense, things were going really well in America during the 1920s. Let’s take a moment to forget party divisions and just remember the good times.


(And if you’re wondering, President Trump isn’t on here because his term isn’t over yet — his most ‘Murica moment might be yet to come)

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George Washington accepting Lord Cornwallis’ sword at Yorktown in 1781.

George Washington

What was George Washington’s most “‘Murica” moment? Making everything about this country happen. The original Commander-In-Chief trapped the British Army under Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown with the help of the French Fleet. With nowhere else to go, Cornwallis surrendered, breaking the will of the British to keep fighting in North America.

The United States was born two years later and George Washington set the standard for how every democratically-elected President should act in office. It was his will that set these precedents and allowed the American experiment to continue. We would not have our democratic traditions were it not for how Washington conducted himself during and after his time in office.

He even warned us about political parties. Just saying.

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“The Directory is a stupid name for a ruling body. France is dumb.” — John Adams, probably.

John Adams

In many ways, the way John Adams conduct in office was as important as George Washington’s. Adams’ continuation of precedents set by Washington meant that successive Presidents would do the same. But that wasn’t Adams’ most patriotic moment.

That came when Revolutionary France demanded a bribe from the United States in order to accept diplomatic envoys. Rather than quietly pay up, Adams read the letter to Congress — who promptly printed it. Adams also commissioned ships for the U.S. Navy and raised a provisional army as reports of armed actions from France mounted. Instead of going to war, the French relented when American ships started clearing sea lanes and accepted American diplomats.

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This is a face that says, “I’m sick of your sh*t.”

Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson’s finest American hour came when he launched the nascent United States’ first war on terror. For decades, countries paid the North African Barbary States for the right to not get attacked by pirates in the Mediterranean. Corsairs from Tripoli and Algiers would raid foreign shipping and enslave entire crews, often even if the ransom was paid.

When Thomas Jefferson took office in 1801, the Barbary States got no more money from the United States. What they got instead was Stephen Decatur stealing their ships and burning their harbors as United States Marines under Lt. Presley O’Bannon captured their cities from the rear. When they Barbary Pirates tried the same stuff again a few years later, Decatur returned and this time, Algiers paid the U.S. to stop.

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James Madison

James Madison is one of our more overlooked Founding Fathers, and it’s probably because the war his administration oversaw ended in a stalemate — and the burning of Washington, D.C. But what was Madison supposed to do? Sit there and let Britain steal American sailors and tell the United States with whom who it could and couldn’t conduct trade just because they were the world’s dominant power? If your answer is ‘hell no,’ then you know why Madison took America to war, despite having very little to fight with.

It was the first time the United States declared a war against anyone and declared to the world that we were here to stay.

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“Back. The Hell. Up.” – James Monroe (paraphrasing)

James Monroe

For almost the entire lifespan of the United States, our policy in the Western Hemisphere was that any European meddling in the affairs of states in North and South America would be seen as “the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States” and be dealt with accordingly — this became known as the “Monroe Doctrine.” Recolonization of the Western Hemisphere was not gonna fly.

Basically, he told the world that the West was an American Hemisphere and if you f*ck with free and independent Latin America, you’re f*cking with the United States. And they all listened.

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That is what a game face looks like.

John Quincy Adams

Adams wasn’t just the progeny in the first Father-Son Presidential legacy, he was also the first “America First” President, opting to maintain good relations with Europe but focus any military and economic might right here in the Western Hemisphere. Under John Quincy’s administration, infrastructure projects created a marvelous system of roads and canals across state lines.

Unfortunately, while this was good for the young country’s development in the long term, the short term effect caused Adams to lose after his first administration, being accused of “public plunder” and federal overreach by his detractors.

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion

“The Era of Good Feelings is over. Daddy’s home.”

Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson came into office like a wrecking ball — literally. His inauguration party nearly destroyed the White House. But as Jackson pledged his respect for the right of the states’ self-governance, he also had a deep respect for the law of the land. So, when uppity U.S. states thought they could nullify federal laws they just didn’t like, President Jackson had to remind them that the the Constitution of the United States was in charge.

Even lowering the so-called “Tariff of Abomination” didn’t placate the South. So, Jackson sent the U.S. Navy into Charleston Harbor and threatened to hang anyone who even said the word “nullification.” He considered states defying federal law to be in full rebellion. And secession — another word Jackson hated — was not something he would tolerate either. You might say Andrew Jackson’s fury at Southern intransigence held the Union together for another decade.

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He was also the first President born in the United States.

Martin Van Buren

This one… this one was a tough one. There’s no doubt President Van Buren did what he thought was right, even if it meant disagreeing with his political patron and idol, Andrew Jackson. But Martin Van Buren’s greatest accomplishment seems to be keeping the United States out of wars at a time when it couldn’t really pay the debt a war would cause — and it cost Van Buren the office of President.

It’s not as if there weren’t reasons to go to war. The newly-freed Republic of Texas was clamoring to be annexed by the United States, but it would lead to a war with Mexico. Canadian freedom fighters begged for help from the Van Buren Administration in liberating our northern neighbor from British rule. The British were even close to invading Maine. But after the Panic of 1837, the finances of the U.S. were weak and a war, though good for his approval rating, was not something they could afford.

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He came from a time when a popped collar meant something.

William Henry Harrison

Harrison, the General and hero of Tippecanoe and the War of 1812, was propelled to the Presidency by popular demand. Everything about Harrison was America. Sadly, he famously died in office after 30 days and a long bout with pneumonia. As the oldest President ever elected at that time (only Reagan and Trump were older at their elections), it’s a surprise no one saw that coming.

On a cold, wet day in March, he delivered the longest inaugural address in history and he got there riding a horse without a coat and hat. The guy was practically begging for pneumonia. But the most American thing about Harrison was his dedication to bipartisanship — every time someone tried to force him to do something unethical, he reminded them that William Henry Harrison was the President of the United States and he’ll do what he damn well wants.

A full, four-year Harrison Administration would have been quite the sight.

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If ever there was a face that said, “I didn’t ask for this, leave me alone,” it was John Tyler’s.

John Tyler

Tyler took over for Harrison after his death, assuming office amidst a number of terrible crises for the still-young United States. Tyler’s most American moments just might be weathering all of these crises in line with the Constitution, as he believed the Founders would have intended.

Known as “His Accidency” for being the first unelected President of the United States after Harrison died, Tyler moved into the White House and assumed the duties of President. At the time, Presidential succession was not outlined in the Constitution as it is today. He was the first President to have a veto overridden by Congress, the first President against whom the House of Representatives began impeachment proceedings, and the first President to be expelled from his own party. He took all of it in stride and when the time to step down came, he did.

Napoleon’s bastard rejected his noble blood to join Foreign Legion

The first Presidential Mullet says, “Manifest Destiny, b*tches.”

James K. Polk

After three very lackluster Presidencies, there’s no doubt the people were excited to have a President like Polk. James Polk promised he’d only serve one term and he kept that promise — but not before achieving every single goal he said was a priority for his administration.

James Polk’s most American moment came when he pretty much created or settled the borders of the mainland United States as we know it today. With the exception of a strip of New Mexico and Arizona purchased from Mexico in 1853, Polk annexed Texas for the United States, negotiated with Britain for what is now Oregon and Washington, and sent the Army and Navy to a war with Mexico, securing the Rio Grande as the southern border and acquiring what is today California, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Arizona and Colorado — exactly what he said he was going to do in his inauguration address.

The list continues in part two.

Articles

The US Army’s plan to win the Plains Wars was to kill every American Bison

One of the reasons the U.S. Army is so capable and successful is its ability to think outside the box to achieve its major objective. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always mean it includes unintended consequences into its calculations.

One of the major examples of this include using Agent Orange to defoliate the jungles of Vietnam. The United States could see the enemy on the ground after using Agent Orange, but it also gave everyone cancer, from the soldiers and airmen who used it to generations of Vietnamese people, decades after the war ended.

The Army’s disregard of the laws of unintended consequences isn’t strictly a 20th Century occurrence (it’s also not limited to the Army, or to the United States). In the drive to push Indian Tribes onto reservations during the last part of the 1800s, the Army’s plan to subdue the hunter-gatherer tribes of the American West involved an unorthodox, but not well thought-out idea: destroy their resources. 

At the time the frontier was disappearing, the U.S. government and U.S. Army was full of Civil War veterans, who saw victory on the battlefields through destroying the meager resources of the Confederacy. The trio that managed the final destruction of the Confederate Armies, President Ulysses S. Grant, Gen. Philip Sheridan, and Gen. William Techumseh Sherman devised a plan to do the same to the Indian tribes in the West. 

The Indians didn’t have farms, factories, or shipping ports, though. If they did, the U.S. Army would have been less inclined to engineer the tribes’ destruction. Their goal was to get the roving bands of Native tribesmen off the plains and onto plows, where they would stop harassing settlers, destroying rail and telegraph lines, and stop killing soldiers.  

In 1868, the massive buffalo herds that once roamed North America had dwindled into two giant herds, but the tribes still relied on them for everything from clothing and shelter to food. Army leadership recognized that destruction of the herds was the only means of controlling the native population. While the Army never officially adopted a policy of slaughtering buffalo, they helped it along. 

“Every buffalo dead is an Indian gone,” Col. Richard Dodge said of the slaughter.  “Kill every buffalo you can.”

Col. Richard Dodge/Wikipedia Commons

So they made a most uniquely American solution, promoting a market-based solution to the destruction of the herds. A 2016 article from the Atlantic notes that buffalo hides in 1868 fetched $3.50 each, nearly $70 today. Cartridges for the popular hunting rifles of the time cost just under $5 each in 2021 dollars. It could be a big business, and it was. Killing bison was a cheaper alternative to cattle ranching.

Businessmen hunting hides decimated what was left of the herds, taking what would sell and leaving the meat to rot in the plains of the frontier. In just a few short years, the American Bison was facing extinction and the Grant Administration would do nothing to protect them. By the turn of the 20th century, there were just 300 left. 

In the end, the plan worked. Tribes who were most affected by Sheridan’s plan, the Kiowa, Comanche, Cheyenne and Arapaho were eventually forced onto their reservations as their food sources dwindled away. Since the buffalo was so important to their society, the tribes also became heavily dependent on the U.S. government for food and other supplies.

The bison survived by migrating to the protected lands on Yellowstone National Park. Today the American Bison is making a comeback, with more than 500,000 in public and private herds, including the herds Native tribes have also reintroduced onto their lands.

Featured image: Left: Screenshot – Red Cry, YouTube; Right: stock image

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