How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

Even after Confederate commander Robert E. Lee surrendered in Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865, one Confederate army refused to acknowledge defeat and for months stubbornly fought on.

It was led not by one of the wealthy white southerners who made up much of the Confederacy’s officer class — but by a Native American chief called Stand Watie.

So how did a leader of a people facing systematic persecution come to fight for a cause founded on racism and the right to own slaves?

The story illustrates how in the Civil War, the presence of a common enemy caused unexpected alliances to be formed, including an alliance Paul Chaat Smith, a curator at the National Museum of the Native American, has characterized as a “mangy, snarling dog standing between you and a crowd-pleasing narrative.”


Watie was himself a plantation holder and slave owner, and had settled in Oklahoma after playing a central role in events that resulted in the eviction of thousands of Native Americans from their land in what is now Georgia.

He was born in 1806 in Cherokee country near what is now Rome, Georgia, and was given the Cherokee name Degataga, meaning “stand firm.”

His father — also a slave owner – was baptized, giving his son the Christian name Isaac S Uwatie. Dropping the ‘U’ and combining it with his Cherokee name, his son took the name Stand Watie.

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

General Stand Watie, leader of a Native American army which fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.

(National Archives Catalogue)

In 1835, Watie was one of the Cherokee leaders to sign the treaty of New Echota handing over Cherokee ancestral territory to the federal government. In exchange they were granted land to resettle the nation west, in Indian Territory, in what is now Oklahoma.

Some refused to leave and were forcibly removed by the government. It is believed that nearly 4,000 Cherokee died attempting to make the journey to Indian Territory after 1838 in what has become known as the Trail of Tears.

Four years after the treaty, the Cherokee turned against those who had signed away their land, assassinating three of them. Watie survived.

Cherokee chief John Ross, who opposed the treaty, became an adamant enemy of Watie.

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

John Ross, Cherokee Chief, Protested Treaty of New Echota, 1835, and Subsequent Forcible Removal of Cherokees to the West During Winter of 1838-39.

In 1861, Georgia ceded from the Union, becoming one of the original seven states that formed the slave-owning Confederacy.

That same year, Watie raised a force of Native Americans to fight for the Confederacy as North and South went to war.

It was the federal government, responsible for robbing Cherokee of their ancestral land, which Watie — in common with many of his people — saw as his main enemy, not the Confederacy.

And shockingly, many Cherokee were themselves slave owners, with some taking their slaves with them to Indian Territory after the forced resettlements west.

Smith has described the Cherokee as “deeply committed to slavery.”

He told the Smithsonian Magazine they “established their own racialized black codes, immediately reestablished slavery when they arrived in Indian territory, rebuilt their nations with slave labor, crushed slave rebellions, and enthusiastically sided with the Confederacy in the Civil War.”

Watie’s force earned a fearsome reputation, performing audacious raids behind enemies lines and attacking Native American settlements loyal to the Union.

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

The surrender of General Lee to General Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, April 9, 1865.

Even as the majority of Cherokee repudiated the alliance with the Confederacy in 1862, Watie remained loyal. So successful was he as a military commander that in 1865 Waite was promoted to the rank of brigadier general, one of only two native Americans to achieve the rank in the conflict.

In wasn’t until June 23, 1865 — 154 years ago — that Watie surrendered to Union forces in Doaksville, Oklahoma. In doing so, he became the last Confederate general to lay down his arms in the Civil War.

His force at the time comprised Creek, Seminole, Cherokee, and Osage Indians.

Watie led a delegation of his Cherokee faction in Washington DC in 1866 to negotiate a new treaty with US government. Their loyalty to the Confederacy meant the old treaties had been torn up.

The new treaty signed by Watie granted former slaves tribal citizenship.

After the war, Watie spent the rest of his life as a businessman and plantation owner, and collecting his people’s folk tales and legends. He died in 1871.

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

Articles

This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks

With more than 900 missions under his belt, Johannes “Macky” Steinhoff was one of the most famous German fighter pilots during WWII and was reportedly known as the “Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe.”


Operating everywhere from the western to the eastern fronts, Steinhoff squared off with some of the world’s best pilots at the time and racked up  176 victories. But he was also shot down a dozen times.

The German ace nearly rode his damaged plane all the way down to the ground every time because he didn’t trust that the parachutes would properly deploy if he jumped out.

Related: These 7 American legends were pilots for the Flying Tigers

Although he was very efficient during the war, Steinhoff was known for spearheading the fighter pilots’ revolt of January 1945 by voicing concerns to the corrupt leadership in the Third Reich’s high command who in return accused their pilots of cowardice and treason.

For this role in the rebellion, Steinhoff was threatened by his commanders with court-martial and banishment to Italy.

Towards the end of the war, Steinhoff took flight on a mission in his Messerschmitt Me-262 jet but was shot down soon after by Allied forces — officially ending his involvement in war.

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy
This photo was taken during Steinhoff’s recovery. (Source: WW2 Gravestone)

The German ace fighter was so badly burned in his last crash he would receive 70 operations to help restore his facial structures.

In February 1994, the German general passed away from heart failure at the age of 80.

Also Read: These were some of the ballsiest pilots of WWII, and their planes didn’t even have engines

Check out David Hoffman‘s video below to hear this story from Johannes Steinhoff himself.

(David Hoffman, YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

Here is the story behind John F. Kennedy’s Purple Heart

John F. Kennedy was born into privilege, graduated from Harvard, and did not have to fight in World War II, but he did — he insisted.


Related: 6 alternated names troops have for military awards

Ironically, Kennedy was not allowed to serve in the military on his first attempt. He was disqualified from entering the Army’s Officer Candidate School in 1940 because of a severe back injury. Historian and Kennedy biographer, Robert Dallek suggests his vertebrae started degenerating while treating his intestinal problems with steroids in the late 1930’s, according to the New York Times.

Thanks to his father’s political influence as the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain and the help of his friend, Captain Alan Kirk, the Director of Naval Intelligence, Kennedy got his foot in the door despite his back problems. He was commissioned as an ensign on October 26, 1941, and assigned to the Office of Naval Intelligence in Washington D.C.

Not satisfied with simply serving, Kennedy made his way to the Naval Reserve Officers Training School at Northwestern University in Chicago, Il. After completing his training on September 27, 1942, he entered the Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Training Center in Melville, Rhode Island and promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) on October 10, 1942. On December 2, he received orders to his first command aboard PT-101 with Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Four in Panama.

His stint in Panama was short lived, in February 1943, he was transferred to the Island of Tulagi in the Solomons as a replacement officer to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Two. By April 1943 he was the commanding officer of PT-109, the boat that distinguished his Naval career and arguably his path to the White House.

 

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy
Lieutenant John F. Kennedy, USNR, (standing at right) with other crewmen on board PT-109, 1943. Image: Collections of the U.S. National Archives, downloaded from the Naval Historical Center.

After the sinking of PT-109 by a Japanese destroyer, he gathered the remaining survivors of his crew to vote on whether to fight or surrender. It was there that he famously said, “there’s nothing in the book about a situation like this. A lot of you men have families, and some of you have children. What do you want to do? I have nothing to lose.”

This American Heroes Channel video profiles John F. Kennedy’s actions that earned him the Purple Heart along with the Navy and Marine Corps Medal.

Watch:

American Heroes Channel, YouTube

MIGHTY SPORTS

A college lacrosse team wants to raise money while helping troops

“Remember everyone deployed” isn’t just a catchphrase for the Maryville University Men’s Lacrosse Team. It might seem counterintuitive for a team that wants to raise money for its upcoming season to spend part of that money on another good cause, but that’s just one more reason Maryville University athletes are known as the Saints.


Maryville, a small, private university just 22 miles from St. Louis, Mo., is one of the best-run colleges financially, known for making their dollars go far. This frugality means the students in its athletic programs need to raise a little money on their own to make their seasons a reality.

This is no problem for the men’s lacrosse team. They started a crowdfunding project to get the money they need, but the reward for their hard work is more than just a third season in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. With money raised, they intend to send care packages to US troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. For every $100 raised, they will send out a gift to the men and women overseas.

As of this writing, the team has raised just shy of 20 percent of their ,000 goal. This means that, so far, they’re set t send out 19 care packages to U.S. troops with another just around the corner. And this isn’t the first year of their patriotic efforts. Last year’s crowdfunded lacrosse team-care package effort saw 52 care packages shipped overseas from the Maryville Saints.

The Saints are accepting donations in any amount – and look forward to doubling their output from last year. What’s really great about their efforts is that the Saints don’t just give when raising money, they can be found at the St. Louis VA year round, donating their time and effort to veterans.

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

The Maryville University Saints Lacrosse team at the St. Louis, Mo. VA hospital on Veterans Day, 2018.

(Maryville University Lacrosse Twitter)

The NCAA Division II school crowdfunds many of its athletic programs. The Swimming and Diving team, the Women’s Bowling team, and even the Men’s Basketball team all crowdfund their programs through the Maryville University site — and the campaigns don’t require offering rewards to donors, like many crowdfunding websites.

Only the Men’s Lacrosse team gives something back in exchange for their good fortune — and it’s purely because they want to give to American troops. For some of these lacrosse players, playing university sports is akin to being part of a family, something to which deployed military members can certainly relate.

I enjoy being at Maryville University because it’s like my second home,” said lacrosse player Darrius Davenport. “We are brothers with an unbreakable bond.”

Donate to the Maryville Saints Men’s Lacrosse Team by clicking this link.

Articles

79 cringeworthy errors in ‘Top Gun’

‘Top Gun’ is a classic and arguably one of the most visually stunning aviation movies ever made. Few movies in cinematic history have been as prolific in contributing to the pop culture lexicon, as well. (Who among us hasn’t said, “I feel the need for speed” in random social situations?) And if you ask military aviators who signed up for flight school after 1986 why they did it chances are they’ll list ‘Top Gun’ as one of the reasons.


Paramount had a huge challenge when they decided to make ‘Top Gun.’ Real-life air-to-air combat doesn’t lend itself to the silver screen in that it’s super technical, very chaotic, and generally takes place at ranges that would prevent two jets from being in the frame at the same time. So, of course, writers Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr. and the late-great director Tony Scott had to take some liberties to make the dynamic world of fighter aviation into something that might entertain movie-goers.

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

But, even allowing for that, ‘Top Gun’ has a bunch of cringe-worthy technical errors that cause it to be as much cartoon as tribute. Here’s WATM’s list of the big ones (annotated by the exact time they occur). After reading them we guarantee you’ll never look at the movie the same way again.

(4:23) CATCC controller is sweating. Those spaces on the ship are usually freezing cold to protect the electronics.

(4:26) Bald-headed guy (played by actor James Tolkan) walks in wearing cover, something the crew doesn’t do on Navy ships unless they’re on watch on the bridge. What is this guy’s billet anyway? CAG? Carrier CO? Tomcat squadron skipper? (He’s an 0-5, so that would make him too junior for the first two, but he acts like he’s in charge of everything.)

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

(4:33) (Not an error but a technical note): MiGs-28s are actually F-5Fs painted black. (Top Gun still uses F-5s as aggressor aircraft.)

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

(4:45) GCI controller refers to crews by their callsigns: “Cougar and Merlin and Maverick and Goose.” A controller would refer to jets by aircraft side numbers.

(4:56) Maverick and Goose are sweating in the cockpit, which they’d only do if the pilot had the environment control system (ECS) jacked up uncomfortably high and the RIO didn’t bitch at him to turn it down.

(5:00) RIO’s radar presentation shows a 360-degree PPI presentation. Tomcat’s radar only sweeps 65 degrees either side of the nose. (Wouldn’t want a radar that pointed back at the crews. That would be a huge radiation hazard, to put it mildly.)

(6:00) Tomcat’s wings are swept fully aft, which means — at that altitude — that the aircraft is going supersonic or the pilot commanded them into that position, which he wouldn’t do because the airplane doesn’t turn that well in that configuration.

(7:21) Standby gyro is un-caged as Maverick “goes for missile lock” by twisting a nob on the mid-compression by-pass selector — a system that has nothing to do with the Tomcat’s weapons suite.

(8:00) Cougar transmits: “This bogey’s all over me. He’s got missile lock. Do I have permission to fire?” Well, whatever the ROE, the question is moot until you do some pilot shit and actually maneuver your jet into a position to commit a weapon.

(9:01) As far as Maverick’s “4-G inverted dive” (as Charlie later labels it) goes, if the two airplanes were that close the Tomcat’s vertical stabs would be jammed into the MiG-28.

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

(9:03) The RIO wouldn’t be carrying a Polaroid camera. He’d have a regular “intel” camera, and if he didn’t get good photos of an airplane that nobody had ever been that close to before (as Goose says) then he would have failed in his part of the mission, big time.

(9:59) Merlin taps on a fuel gauge that doesn’t exist in the rear cockpit of the F-14, only in the front cockpit. (The RIO only has a fuel totalizer.)

(10:06) Cougar rips his oxygen mask off to breathe more oxygen, which would be in short supply at high altitude.

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

(10:12) Cougar has a photo of his wife and baby taped over the airspeed gauge to the left of the altimeter. Meanwhile the vertical speed indicator shows he’s descending at 6,000 feet per minute, which would be an aggressive dive. At the same time the altimeter, which shows he’s at 31, 500 feet, is set to standby with the barometric pressure dialed to 28.32 when it should be at 29.92.

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy
F-14 A Tomcat cockpit. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

(10:26) ICS comms (intra-cockpit chatter) can be heard in air ops.

(10:48) A ball call (the transmission indicating the pilot sees the Fresnel lens that gives him glide slope information for landing) would not include the pilot’s call sign.

(10:57) Goose has the same non-existent rear cockpit fuel gauge as Merlin.

(10:58) Maverick crosses the ramp with his hook down and then a second later he has the hook up. (It takes several seconds to cycle between fully up and fully down.) Then he pulls the throttles aft to go around, which would reduce engine power, as somebody screams “Cougar!” over the radio.

(11:06) Maverick instantly bolters — in full burner, no less — with the hook down again.

(12:25) Cougar never calls the ball when instructed but gets a “roger, ball” from the LSO.

(12:27) There’s no way Cougar wouldn’t have been waved off based on that wild approach. He gets at least five “power” calls and no “wave off” call. The Air Boss would have had Paddle’s ass after that.

(12:51) Cougar traps, leaves lights on (Case I or Case III approach? Unclear here), and immediately shuts the jet down instead of taxiing out of the landing area. Maverick is still airborne, low on gas, and needs to land but can’t now because Cougar has fouled the landing area and has to be towed out of the wires.

(13:00) Nice stateroom for a squadron CO. (He’s an 0-5, fer crissakes.) Again, what’s this guys’ billet?

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

(13:58) First glimpse of random patch assortments on flight suits as Maverick and Goose get chewed out by skipper in his really nice stateroom. (And everybody’s sweating.)

(14:19) Ship’s captain/CAG/squadron skipper says, “With a history of high-speed passes over five air-controlled towers.” Not sure what those are but they must be different than ground- or water-controlled towers.

(15:36) Ship’s captain/CAG/squadron skipper says, “You can tell me about the MiG some other time” and dismisses the crew to head for Top Gun, thereby committing professional suicide by not getting the only information that anyone above him in the chain of command would care about that particular day.

(16:06) “Um, tower, there’s some dork riding a motorcycle down one of the taxiways shaking his fist at us.”

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

(16:59) There is no Santa Claus. And there’s no such thing as the Top Gun Trophy.

(17:46) Slider is a lieutenant (junior grade). That’s too junior for a Top Gun slot.

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

(18:32) Navy leaders would be reprimanded for encouraging arrogance because the Navy spent money on posters that read “excellence without arrogance.”

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

(20:02) Goose quips, “Slider, thought you wanted to be a pilot, man; what happened?” So he’s a RIO slamming a fellow RIO for being a RIO? Not likely. And the “RIOs as second class citizens” vibe left the community with the F-4.

(25:52) A hangar isn’t the most conducive place for detailed flight briefs.

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

(26:29) Charlie briefs, “The F-5 doesn’t have the thrust-to-weight ratio that the MiG-28 has.” Must be because black paint is lighter than other colors.

(26:37) Charlie briefs, “The MiG-28 does have a problem with its inverted flight tanks.” Those must be different than upright flight tanks.

(26:54) Anybody who showed up to a flight brief wearing a cowboy hat would have his or her wings pulled on the spot.

(27:36) Maverick makes a big deal about how the information regarding his MiG encounter is classified and then proceeds to reveal it in front of the entire group with no idea of whether they have clearance or not. Again, they’re briefing in a hangar. Not exactly a SCIF.

(28:42) Jester says, “All right, gentlemen, we have a hop to take. The hard deck on this hop will be 10,000 feet. There will be no engagements below that.” Of course we haven’t briefed any of the other details of this event — including ACM rules of engagement — because Charlie has wasted our time hitting on Maverick, but whatever . . .

(29:53) Smoke effect is actually the Tomcat dumping fuel . . . a stupid idea when you’re about to enter a dogfight.

(30:01) First merge happens very low to the ground over the desert, not exactly a hard deck of 10,000 feet.

(30:51) Goose says “Watch the mountains!,” words never spoken during an air combat maneuvering event with a hard deck of 10,000 feet.

(31:31) Maverick “hits the brakes” by pushing the throttles forward, which would increase power, not decrease it.

(31:49) Jester’s evasive maneuver in the A-4 is an aileron roll – not exactly an effective move in terms of creating the sort of lateral displacement that might defeat an enemy’s weapons solution.

(32:08) Goose says, “We’re going ballistic, Mav. Go get him,” which makes no sense because a pilot has no control over a ballistic airplane.

(33:34) Maverick does a barrel roll after the tower fly-by in full afterburner, a violation of Federal Aviation Regulations to the extreme without an FAA waiver, which he certainly didn’t get at the spur of the moment. That would have cost him more than an ass chewing by Viper. He would have lost his wings.

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

(35:52) Maverick explains, “We weren’t below the hard deck for more than a few seconds. I had the shot. There was no danger. So I took it.” The hard deck simulates the ground, so basically Maverick is saying, “We didn’t hit the ground for more than a few seconds . . .”

(37:10) Any lieutenant whose fitness report reads “He’s a wildcard. Completely unpredictable. Flies by the seat of his pants” would be done flying, not to mention unqualified for a Top Gun slot.

(38:26) Goose says to Maverick, “They wouldn’t let you into the Academy ’cause you’re Duke Mitchell’s kid.” There are lots of reasons not to get admitted into a service academy — low SAT scores, for instance. Being the dependent of a veteran isn’t one of them; in fact, that status qualifies the candidate for a Presidential nomination.

(39:26) Maverick explains to Charlie during a TACTS debrief, “If I reversed on a hard cross I could immediately go to guns on him.” She replies, “But at that speed it’s too fast.” Um, what are you guys talking about, and what language are you even speaking?

(51:43) Charlie says, “That’s a big gamble with a $30 million plane.” Tomcat unit cost (cost per jet) circa ’86 was $42 million. Maybe she wasn’t including the cost of the two engines, which could have been a subtle dig on his energy management skills.

(55:31) Why is Hollywood eating an orange on the flight line?

(55:45) More dumping of gas going into a dogfight.

(56:30) Crews are surprised that Viper is one of the bandits. They would have briefed with him (in accordance with safely of flight rules).

(57:26) Logic of the engagement is ridiculous. Maverick lets Jester go and then flies in parade formation behind Hollywood who’s saddled in super-close behind the other bandit. Hollywood whines at Maverick not to leave him when he should just shoot the bandit right in front of him, and then Maverick leaves to go after Viper and ultimately winds up getting shot because Goose does a shitty job of keeping their six clear (at 59:23).

(57:49) More fuel dumping.

(58:42) HUD display looks nothing like the real thing.

(59:04) Maverick switches to guns but HUD symbology stays the same.

(1:06:16) Iceman transmits, “I need another 20 seconds then I’ve got him” while flying so close that if he took a gun shot he’d probably FOD his own engines with the debris from the airplane in front of him. What does he need 20 seconds for?

(1:06:56) Goose says “Shit, we got a flameout. Engine 1 is out.” The RIO has no engine instruments in the rear cockpit of the F-14.

(1:07:13) Iceman transmits, “Mav’s in trouble. He’s in a flat spin and headed out to sea.” When an airplane is in a flat spin it is not heading anywhere except straight down.

(1:07:22) Goose reports, “Altitude 8,000. 7,000. Six, we’re at six.” They should have ejected already. NATOPS boldface (immediate action steps committed to memory) procedures read like this: “If flat spin verified by flat attitude, increasing yaw rate, increasing eyeball−out G, and lack of pitch and roll rates: 8. Canopy – Jettison. 9. EJECT – RIO Command Eject.”

(1:07:23) Goose says “We’re at six [thousand feet]” while the altimeter shows 2,200 feet.

(1:07:48) See step 8 above. If Goose had followed procedures he wouldn’t have died.

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

(1:14:20) A Field Naval Aviator’s Evaluation Board (FNAEB — pronounced “fee-nab”) would not look like a judicial proceeding held in a courtroom.

(1:23:08) Viper tells Maverick about the day his dad died like this: “His F-4 was hit. He was wounded but he could have made it back. He stayed in it. Saved three planes before he bought it.” And Maverick doesn’t respond by saying, “That makes no sense, sir. How does a pilot save three planes after his jet is hit? Why are you bullshitting me?”

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

(1:23:20) Viper explains, “It’s not something the State Department tells dependents when the battle occurred over the wrong lines on some map,” which ignores the fact that the Pentagon would be pissed if some random State Department dude spoke to surviving family members at all.

(1:26:50) Aviators wouldn’t get orders at the Top Gun graduation. They’d get them via a frustrating process of arguing with their detailers on the phone over the period of a few months.

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

(1:27:24) Again: What. Is. This. Guy’s. Billet?

(1:28:56) Pilots salute cat officers for launch with oxygen masks off.

(1:29:08) Maverick walks on the flight deck during flight ops without his helmet on.

(1:32:10) Tomcat does an aileron roll right off the cat, which it wouldn’t have the speed to do — not to mention that maneuver would be a gross violation of Case I departure procedures.

(1:33:08) Random lieutenant reports, “Both catapults are broken. We can’t launch any aircraft right now,” which ignores the fact that modern aircraft carriers have four catapults.

(1:34:47) Controller says, “Maverick’s re-engaging, sir.” There’s no way his radar displays would give him any indication of that.

(1:36:41) Ice says, “I’m going for the shot” while at close range behind a bandit, but he switches from ‘Guns’ to ‘Sparrow/Phoenix’ — the long range, forward-quarter weapons.

(1:36:54) Missile magically transforms from an AIM-7 Sparrow into a AIM-9 Sidewinder in flight.

(1:37:48) Maverick shoots a Sparrow in the rear quarter at short range, which wouldn’t work because the AIM-7 needs a lot of closure to guide.

(1:38:02) Again the missile magically transforms from a Sparrow into a Sidewinder in flight.

(1:38:54) Once again Maverick ‘hits the brakes’ by advancing the throttles, which would make the airplane speed up.

(1:39:47) Maverick leads a two-plane fly-by next to the carrier with a wingman that’s been riddled with bullets and most likely has sustained major damage to the hydraulic system that powers the flight controls.

(1:41:14) Iceman says, “You can be my wingman any time,” which ignores the fact that unless he’s the ops officer or schedule officer or squadron CO who signs the flight schedule then he just needs to shut up and fly with whomever he’s assigned to fly with.

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

(All photos courtesy of Paramount Pictures except as otherwise indicated.)

Articles

This is why the Apache is a tank’s worst nightmare

With the fear that hordes of Russian tanks would storm through the Fulda Gap at the start of World War III, the United States Army looked for an advanced helicopter.


The first attempt, the AH-56 Cheyenne, didn’t quite make it. According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Cheyenne was cancelled due to a combination of upgrades to the AH-1 Cobra, and “unresolved technical problems.”

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy
An Apache attack helicopter assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, 1st AD Combat Aviation Brigade also known as ‘Task Force Apocalypse’, fires a Hellfire missile Sept. 11, 2014 at Fort Irwin, California. (US Army photo by: Sgt. Aaron R. Braddy/Released)

The Army still wanted an advanced gunship. Enter the Apache, which beat out Bell’s AH-63.

The Apache was built to kill tanks and other vehicles. An Army fact sheet notes that this chopper is able to carry up to 16 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, four 19-round pods for the 70mm Hydra rocket, or a combination of Hellfires and Hydras, the Apache can take out a lot of vehicles in one sortie.

That doesn’t include its 30mm M230 cannon with 1200 rounds of ammo. The latest Apaches are equipped with the Longbow millimeter-wave radar.

According to Victor Suvarov’s “Inside the Soviet Army,” a standard Soviet tank battalion had 31 tanks, so one Apache has enough Hellfires to take out over half a battalion. Even the most modern tanks, like the T-90, cannot withstand the Hellfire.

Then, keep this in mind: Apaches are not solo hunters. Like wolves, they hunt in packs. A typical attack helicopter company has eight Apaches.

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy
Apache helicopters have successfully taken out advanced air defenses before, but it would still be better to use F-22s when possible. (Photo: US Army Capt. Brian Harris)

So, what would happen to a typical Russian tank battalion, equipped with T-80 main battle tanks (with a three-man crew, and a 125mm main gun) if they were to cross into Poland, or even the Baltics?

Things get ugly for the Russian tankers.

That Russian tank battalion is tasked with supporting three motorized rifle battalions, in either BMP infantry fighting vehicles or BTR armored personnel carriers, or it is part of a tank regiment with two other tank battalions and a battalion of BMPs. In this case, let’s assume it is part of the motorized rifle regiment.

This regiment is slated to hit a battalion from a heavy brigade combat team, which has two companies of Abrams tanks, and two of Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, plus a scout platoon of six Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicles.

A company of Apaches is sent to support the American battalion. Six, armed with eight Hellfires and 38 70mm Hydra rockets, are sent to deal with the three battalions of BMPs. The other two, each armed with 16 Hellfires, get to deal with the tank battalion.

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy
An Apache Longbow attack helicopter assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, 1st AD Combat Aviation Brigade also known as ‘Task Force Apocalypse’, fires a Hellfire missile Sept. 11, 2014 at Fort Irwin, Ca. (US Army photo by: Sgt. Aaron R. Braddy/Released)

According to Globalsecurity.org, the AN/APG-78 Longbow radars are capable of prioritizing targets. This allows the Apaches to unleash their Hellfires from near-maximum range.

The Hellfires have proven to be very accurate – Globalsecurity.org noted that at least 80% of as many as 4,000 Hellfires fired during Operation Desert Storm hit their targets.

Assuming 80% of the 32 Hellfires fired hit, that means 25 of the 31 T-80 main battle tanks in the tank battalion are now scrap metal.

Similar results from the 48 fired mean that what had been three battalions of 30 BMPs each are now down to two of 17 BMPs, and one of 18, a total of 52 BMPs and six T-80 tanks facing off against the American battalion.

That attack would not go well for Russia, to put it mildly.

MIGHTY CULTURE

21 injured after explosion, fire breaks out aboard Naval ship

Early Sunday, a fire broke out below decks on the USS Bonhomme Richard which is currently docked in her home port of San Diego.


The fire was reported to be as a result of an explosion below deck, possibly originating in the hangar bay of the amphibious assault ship. The first reposted call went out around 10am and was later expanded to a three-alarm call for the San Diego Fire Department.

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Injuries have been reported for 17 sailors and 4 civilians, but no details have been confirmed.

The Bonhomme Richard, named after Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones’ famous ship, is primarily used to embark, deploy and land elements of a Marine assault force in amphibious operations by air, landing craft and amphibious assault vehicles. It can also act as a light aircraft carrier. The ship was commissioned in 1998 and San Diego became its home port in 2018. She has deployed numerous times in support of Operation Iraq Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and was part of humanitarian efforts in during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami disaster.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

How to make good coffee in bad places, according to Evan Hafer

Making coffee isn’t strictly relegated to your kitchen or the local coffee shop. People around the world find ways to enjoy a hot brew in high-altitude mountains to the middle of the ocean, and everywhere in-between. A good cup of coffee can make inhospitable conditions more tolerable, but the quality in your cup often suffers without the trappings of your home coffee kit.

Evan Hafer, the CEO of Black Rifle Coffee Company, found a way to make great coffee in one of the most extreme environments on earth: war.


Hafer served as both a U.S. Army Special Forces non-commissioned officer (NCO) and a contractor for the CIA, with assignments that took him to combat zones around the world. Even during the invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003, he found a way to grind and brew his daily dose of caffeine — without sacrificing quality.

Coffee or Die Magazine caught up with Hafer recently to find out about his battle-tested methods for making good coffee in bad places.

It’s Who We Are: Evan Hafer

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Take good coffee beans with you.

During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Hafer took premium coffee with him, and his fellow Special Forces teammates often woke up to the sound of a coffee grinder on the back of their gun truck. “I think we were probably the only ODA to take whole bean, good coffee with us. In the mornings, we would always start the day by grinding fresh coffee,” Hafer said. He recommends finding single-origin, high-altitude beans — he prefers Panamanian or Colombian.

Roast your own beans.

By 2006, Hafer was deploying with the CIA but was surprised to find that the coffee options left a bit to be desired: “You’d think the agency, especially with their kind of gucci reputation, would have amazing coffee. But they didn’t.” So he started roasting in his garage and bringing a duffel bag’s worth of beans overseas with him for his 60-day deployments.

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

Hafer while deployed.

(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)

A french press is good, but pour over is better.

“I did the french press for a long time, until I had broken so many,” Hafer said. “I eventually found a double-walled, stainless steel one and went through quite a few of those because people would literally steal them, they were in such high demand.” These days, Hafer doesn’t leave home without a custom travel pour-over system that he invented that is much more compact than a french press and has simple, durable components.

How to Make Coffee with BRCC Collapsible Pour Over Coffee Device

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Know the boiling point for the altitude you’ll be at.

You typically want your water to be about 200 degrees Fahrenheit before pouring it over the ground coffee, but deciphering water temperature might seem tricky if you don’t have a thermometer. “I know roughly what temperature water is going to boil at based on the elevation; it’s either going to boil faster or slower,” Hafer said. “You don’t have to put a thermometer in it because you’ll know exactly what the temperature is based on the boiling point.” When planning your next trip, go to omnicalculator.com to quickly find the boiling point for your intended elevation.

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

Hafer while deployed.

(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)

Get the right coffee-to-water ratio.

According to Hafer, you want approximately a 1:16 ratio of coffee to water. This roughly breaks down to 1 tablespoon of ground coffee for every one cup of coffee (8 ounces). “I know that by eye because I’ve been doing it for so many years. It’s what you do every day [at home] that will allow you to master making coffee in the field,” Hafer said. “All that skill translates to when you’re in shitty places.”

Don’t be intimidated by the process.

As much as the science and logistics of making a great cup of coffee might deter the average person from going through the effort in austere environments, Hafer emphasized that it’s all very doable — and will only take 10 minutes of your time. “At the end of the day, if you have a hand grinder or maybe you’ve pre-ground some coffee, you got an indestructible pour-over and a means to boil water, you’re gonna make a great cup of coffee.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Articles

Everybody should read General John Kelly’s speech about two Marines in the path of a truck bomb

Eleven years ago, two Marines from two different walks of life who had literally just met were told to stand guard in front of their outpost’s entry-control point.


Minutes later, they were staring down a big blue truck packed with explosives. With this particular shred of hell bearing down on them, they stood their ground.

Heck, they even leaned in.

I had heard the story many times, personally. But until today I had never heard Marine Lt. Gen. John Kelly’s telling of it to a packed house in 2010. Just four days following the death of his own son in combat, Kelly eulogized two other sons in an unforgettable manner.

From Kelly’s speech:

Two years ago when I was the Commander of all U.S. and Iraqi forces, in fact, the 22nd of April 2008, two Marine infantry battalions, 1/9 “The Walking Dead,” and 2/8 were switching out in Ramadi. One battalion in the closing days of their deployment going home very soon, the other just starting its seven-month combat tour.

Two Marines, Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, 22 and 20 years old respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch together at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines.

The same broken down ramshackle building was also home to 100 Iraqi police, also my men and our allies in the fight against the terrorists in Ramadi, a city until recently the most dangerous city on earth and owned by Al Qaeda. Yale was a dirt poor mixed-race kid from Virginia with a wife and daughter, and a mother and sister who lived with him and he supported as well. He did this on a yearly salary of less than $23,000. Haerter, on the other hand, was a middle class white kid from Long Island.

They were from two completely different worlds. Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other, or understood that multiple America’s exist simultaneously depending on one’s race, education level, economic status, and where you might have been born. But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman.

The mission orders they received from the sergeant squad leader I am sure went something like: “Okay you two clowns, stand this post and let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.” “You clear?” I am also sure Yale and Haerter then rolled their eyes and said in unison something like: “Yes Sergeant,” with just enough attitude that made the point without saying the words, “No kidding sweetheart, we know what we’re doing.” They then relieved two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, al Anbar, Iraq.

A few minutes later a large blue truck turned down the alley way—perhaps 60-70 yards in length—and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both catastrophically. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck’s engine came to rest two hundred yards away knocking most of a house down before it stopped.

Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was made of 2,000 pounds of explosives. Two died, and because these two young infantrymen didn’t have it in their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American brothers-in-arms.

When I read the situation report about the incident a few hours after it happened I called the regimental commander for details as something about this struck me as different. Marines dying or being seriously wounded is commonplace in combat. We expect Marines regardless of rank or MOS to stand their ground and do their duty, and even die in the process, if that is what the mission takes. But this just seemed different.

The regimental commander had just returned from the site and he agreed, but reported that there were no American witnesses to the event—just Iraqi police. I figured if there was any chance of finding out what actually happened and then to decorate the two Marines to acknowledge their bravery, I’d have to do it as a combat award that requires two eye-witnesses and we figured the bureaucrats back in Washington would never buy Iraqi statements. If it had any chance at all, it had to come under the signature of a general officer.

I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen Iraqi police all of whom told the same story. The blue truck turned down into the alley and immediately sped up as it made its way through the serpentine. They all said, “We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing.” The Iraqi police then related that some of them also fired, and then to a man, ran for safety just prior to the explosion.

All survived. Many were injured … some seriously. One of the Iraqis elaborated and with tears welling up said, “They’d run like any normal man would to save his life.”

What he didn’t know until then, he said, and what he learned that very instant, was that Marines are not normal. Choking past the emotion he said, “Sir, in the name of God no sane man would have stood there and done what they did.”

“No sane man.”

“They saved us all.”

What we didn’t know at the time, and only learned a couple of days later after I wrote a summary and submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras, damaged initially in the blast, recorded some of the suicide attack. It happened exactly as the Iraqis had described it. It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated.

You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. Putting myself in their heads I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. Exactly no time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before: ” … let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.”

The two Marines had about five seconds left to live. It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time the truck was half-way through the barriers and gaining speed the whole time. Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were—some running right past the Marines. They had three seconds left to live.

For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing non-stop…the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tore in to the body of the son-of-a-bitch who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers—American and Iraqi—bedded down in the barracks totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground. If they had been aware, they would have know they were safe … because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide bomber.

The recording shows the truck careening to a stop immediately in front of the two Marines. In all of the instantaneous violence Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live.

The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God.

Six seconds.

Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty … into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight—for you.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Special Forces veterans were the most important part of ‘Triple Frontier’

If you haven’t given Triple Frontier a go on Netflix, you definitely should. If you’re unfamiliar, the story follows five Special Forces veterans who travel to a multi-bordered region of South America to take money from a drug lord. It stars Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Pedro Pascal, and Garrett Hedlund, who all do a fantastic job capturing the attitudes of their characters. But one thing especially helped make this film feel realistic: the presence of Special Forces veterans.

While Hollywood productions generally do have military advisors, it isn’t necessarily common that those advisors take the time to work with the cast to really nail down things like tactics and weapons handling. In this case, J.C. Chandor had two Special Forces veterans who did just that — Nick John and Kevin Vance.

Here’s why they were the most important part of the production:


How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

This may not seem like a big deal but nicknames are a huge part of military culture and knowing how service members earn their nicknames can help you really understand the culture itself.

(Netflix)

They taught the actors about nicknames

Charlie Hunnam plays William Miller who goes by the nickname “Ironhead,” and, of course, he wanted to know why, so he asked one of the advisors who explained that the nickname likely comes from the character having survived a gunshot to the head.

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

This film will have you saying, “Wow, these actors actually know what they’re doing with that weapon.”

(Netflix)

They taught the actors how to handle weapons

Most of us who spent a lot of time training in tactics can really tell when the actors on screen haven’t had enough training, if any at all. It’s probably most evident in the way they handle weapons. In the case of Triple Frontier, Nick John and Kevin Vance really took the time to train the actors, and it shows.

They trained the actors with live ammunition

When learning how to handle a weapon, it helps to shoot live ammunition. Well, at the end of the first day of the two-week training, Nick John felt the actors were prepared to handle it. So, they gave them live ammunition and let them shoot real bullets, which is not standard for a film production, but it really pays off in this film.

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

The way these actors clear buildings is very smooth and convincing.

(Netflix)

They taught tactics

After trusting the actors with live ammunition, Nick John and Kevin Vance ran them through tactics. From ambushes to moving with cover fire, the actors learned the basic essentials to sell their characters on screen, and they do so extremely well.

Actor Charlie Hunnam said, “It was amazing. I was shocked by how much trust they put in us. Very, very quickly, they allowed us to be on the range with live fire, doing increasingly complex maneuvers. We started ambush scenarios, shooting through windows and panes of glass, doing cover fire, and operating movements I’ve never done before.”

Triple Frontier | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

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They made this movie feel realistic

Veterans have a tendency to spot inaccuracies immediately. But, what Triple Frontier brings to the table is realism. While not perfect, it does a great job of really making you believe these characters are real and all the work Nick John and Kevin Vance put into teaching the actors really pays off.

If you haven’t checked out Triple Frontier on Netflix yet, you definitely should.

Articles

5 fairy tales as told by your platoon sergeant

Platoon sergeants aren’t just managers and leaders, they’re also mentors — proxy parents even.


But they’re (in)famously gruff about it. After all, they didn’t father any of these kids, and they didn’t pick them either. And their primary job isn’t to turn them into beautiful snowflakes but honed weapons.

So, below are 5 classic fairy tales as recited by cigar-chomping and dip-spewing platoon sergeants:

1. Red Riding Hood Learns to Secure Her Logistics Chain

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy
Photo: Public Domain

So, this little girl was getting ready for a trip to her grandma’s house. Red Riding Hood started by doing a map recon and checking with the intel bubbas to see what was going on along her route. After she heard about the increase in wolf-related activity in the area, she requested additional assets like a drone for overwatch and more ammunition for the mass-casualty producing weapons systems.

When a wolf attempted to hit her basket carriers and then fled, she had her drone operator follow the wolf to the cave. Red and her squad conducted a dynamic entry into the cave and eliminated the threat. Now, they conduct regular presence patrols to deter future wolves from operating in their area of operations.

2. Goldilocks and the Three Tangos

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy
Photo: Israeli Defense Forces

Goldilocks was moving tactically through the forest when she spotted a large wooden structure with a single point of ingress/egress. Since she wasn’t an idiot, she didn’t just burst inside to try out the beds. Instead, she practiced tactical patience and established an observation post.

After tracking patterns of life for a few days, she was certain that the structure housed three bears of various sizes. In her head, she rehearsed the battle dozens of times before engaging. When the dust settled from the firefight, she found herself in possession of a defendable combat outpost deep in the woods.

3. Hansel and Gretel Learn About SERE

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy
Photo: Public Domain. Cartoon bubbles by WATM Logan Nye

When two privates were led by their evil stepmother to play deep in the woods, they brought a compass and map. The stepmother then attempted to abandon them in the forest. Since they knew their stride counts and checked their azimuth often, the kids were able to quickly move back to their home.

Near the house, the kids prepared a number of traps normally used to hunt game for food. These traps were positioned on areas the stepmother was known to frequent and the kids waited. When she trapped herself in a snare near the river, the kids bundled her up and sent her to a black site hidden under a candy cottage. The HUMINT guys got valuable information about witch operations and everyone else lived happily ever after.

4. Jack Gives the Army Instant Cover and Concealment

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy
GIF: YouTube/loverhole

Jack was a pretty forgettable little science nerd in his high school but he went on to join DARPA and invented some techno-wizardry-magical device that allowed soldiers to plant a single bean and create a towering observation post from which to cover the surrounding battlefield.

So soldiers began tossing these things all over the place to create forests overnight. Then, they’d slip into one of the beanstalks to get eyes on roads and other important battlefield objectives. The height of the stalks ensured them a clear line of sight for miles and since they could be grown overnight, troops could plant their own cover and concealment ahead of major operations.

5. The Three Little Pigs Use Concentrated Combat Power

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy
Photo: Public Domain

Three little pigs were preparing for an imminent invasion by a big, bad wolf when one proposed that each pig should fall back to their own home, the senior pig got pissed. “What are you, some kind of dumb boot!?” he asked. “We should concentrate our forces in the most defensible territory we have.”

That pig led his brothers to his house made of brick where they took shelter behind the thick walls. When the wolf arrived, the oldest pig engaged him from a second-floor window while his brothers maneuvered behind the enemy. Then, the pigs established fire superiority and cut the wolf down.

If you have your own platoon sergeant fairytale, share it with us on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #PltSgtFairyTales.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The first casualty of the Civil War happened entirely by accident

On Dec. 20, 1860, the state of South Carolina seceded from the Union, leaving military personnel stationed there in a state of confusion. What belonged to the United States, what belonged to South Carolina, and who was going to be loyal to which side was all unclear. On Apr. 12, 1861, after a long siege, South Carolina Militia commander P.G.T. Beauregard fired the opening salvo of a barrage of cannon fire that would last 34 hours.

In return, Federal Captain Abner Doubleday ordered his men to fire on the South Carolinians. The exchange sparked four years of bloody Civil War in the United States — but not a single man died in combat that day.


When the state seceded, there were actually only two companies of federal U.S. troops in South Carolina. The decision for who would be loyal to who actually turned out to be fairly simple. The rest of the American troops defending South Carolina were actually state militiamen. That’s who Beauregard manned on Charleston’s 19 coastal defense batteries.

But the Federals weren’t actually stationed at Fort Sumter, they were land bound on nearby Fort Moultrie. It was only after the base commander Maj. Robert Anderson feared an attack from state militia via land that the Federals were moved into Charleston Harbor and the protection of Fort Sumter.

Anderson was right. South Carolina state forces began to seize federal buildings, arms, and fortifications almost immediately, and Fort Moultrie was among those buildings. That left the garrison at Fort Sumter as the sole remaining federal possession in South Carolina. And the Carolinians demanded their surrender. Some 3,000 rebel troops laid siege to the base and, by the time of Lincoln’s inauguration, it was one of the last remaining federal holdouts in the entire south.

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

President Lincoln announced in March, 1861, he would send three ships to resupply and relieve Fort Sumter, so the pressure on Beauregard to take the fort soon increased. On Apr. 11, Beauregard demanded the fort’s surrender and warned he would fire on the fort if the Federals did not comply. They didn’t. That’s when Beauregard fired a punishing barrage at the defenders.

Rebels poured 3,000 cannon shots into the fort over the next 34 hours. The Federals didn’t just take it, they returned fire with everything they had, literally. The U.S. troops were running low on powder and ammunition by mid-afternoon the next day. With their walls crumbling and the fort burning around them, Maj. Anderson reluctantly ordered Fort Sumter’s surrender.

Amazingly, no one was killed in the exchange on either side.

When the time came to lower the Stars and Stripes, Federal troops — soon to be known as Union troops — gave the flag a 100-gun salute as it came down on Apr. 14. But an accidental discharge from one of the fort’s cannons caused an explosion that killed Pvt. Daniel Hough of the 1st U.S. Artillery, the first death of hundreds of thousands to come.

In the days that followed, Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee also seceded from the Union and both sides of the conflict began to mobilize for the next meeting, which would come on July, 1861, in Manassas, Virginia.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Who is buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier?

It’s Armistice Day, November 11th, in the nation’s capital. It is a brisk day at Arlington National Cemetery. Dignitaries stand silently on the third anniversary of the ending of World War I, watching as a single white casket is lowered into a marbled tomb. In attendance is President Calvin Coolidge, former President Woodrow Wilson, Supreme Court Justice (as well as former President) William Howard Taft, Chief Plenty Coups, and hundreds of dedicated United States servicemen. As the casket settles on its final resting place in the tomb, upon a thin layer of French soil, three salvos are fired. A bugler plays taps and, with the final note, comes a 21 gun salute. The smoke clears and eyes dry as the Unknown Soldier from World War I is laid to rest; the first unknown soldier to be officially honored in this manner in American history.


Also read: Here’s what it takes to guard the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’

The United States’ allies in World War I, France and Britain, were the first countries to practice the concept of burying an “unknown soldier.” World War I was, at the time, the most destructive global war in human history. A staggering 37 million people (about 1 in 48) were killed, wounded, captured, or missing in action across both sides in what was called “The War to End All Wars.” (Interestingly, around this same time, the Spanish Flu killed between 50-100 million people and infected around a half a billion around the globe, roughly 1 in 4 humans.)

Even before the end of the war, the idea of finding a way to properly commemorate the lost, missing, or unable-to-be-identified French soldiers who died fighting for their country was conceived. Around November 1916, a full two years before the war ended, the city of Rennes in France performed a ceremony to honor those local citizens who were lost and unable to be found. Upon hearing of this ceremony, three years later, France’s Prime Minister approved a tomb dedicated to France’s unknown soldier to be installed in Paris. He originally proposed that the tomb be placed in the Pantheon, with other French historical figures like Victor Hugo and Voltaire (the latter of which made his fortune by rigging the lottery). However, veterans organizations wanted a location that was reserved solely for the Unknown Solider. They agreed upon a tomb under the Arc de Triomphe, originally completed in 1836 to commemorate other lost French military members.

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy
The tomb of the unknown soldier, Paris, France. (Photo by Jérome BLUM)

With the help of a 21-year-old French baker turned “valiant” soldier named August Thin, a representative unknown soldier was settled upon. On November 11, 1920, his casket was pulled down the streets of Paris, before settling under the Arc de Triomphe, where he was laid to rest. To this day, the tomb is still there with a torch by its side, rekindled every night at 6:30 PM.

That same day, two hundred eighty-five miles away in London, Great Britain was holding a similar ceremony. “The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior,” as it is called in London, is housed at Westminster Abbey. It is the only tombstone in the Abbey that it is forbidden to walk upon, and bears this inscription, “Beneath this stone rest the body of a British warrior unknown by name or rank brought from France to lie among the most illustrious of the land and buried here on Armistice Day 11 Nov: 1920.”

Related: Watch this guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns get stabbed and carry on

Many countries worldwide adopted this symbol of commemoration, including the United States of America. In December 1920, Congressmen Hamilton Fish Jr. of New York introduced in Congress a resolution that asked for a return of an unknown American soldier from France for proper ceremonial burial in a to-be-constructed tomb at the Memorial Amphitheater in Arlington National Cemetery. The measure was approved a few months later for a “simple structure” that would eventually serve as a basis for a more elaborate monument. Originally set for Memorial Day in 1921, the date was pushed back when it was noted that many of the unknown soldiers in France were being investigated and may be identified, rendering them no longer qualified to be the unknown soldier. The date was then changed to Armistice Day, 1921.

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

An important qualification to be selected as the “unknown soldier” is, of course, that the soldier is truly unknown, for they are meant to symbolize any soldier. Thus, there could be no ID on the body, no personal records of the deceased, no family identifications, and no information anywhere at all about who this person was. It also meant that certain precautions needed to be taken to make sure the selected would never be identified. For example, in France, when eight bodies were exhumed from eight different battlefields, they mixed up the coffins to make sure no one knew who came from where.

When August Thin, the young soldier who was given the honor of selecting the Unknown Soldier, walked around the caskets and delicately placed flowers upon one of them, he legitimately had no idea who he was choosing. In Britain, six bodies were chosen from six different battlefields. Not told of any order to the bodies, Brigadier L.J. Wyatt closed his eyes and walked among the coffins. Silently, his hand rested on one — the Unknown Warrior.

More: New monument will honor Vietnam helicopter crews

In America, the process was even more ceremonious. Four unknown Americans were exhumed from their French cemeteries, taken to Germany, and then switched from case to case, so not even the pallbearers knew which casket they were carrying. The honor of choosing exactly which casket was then given to Sgt. Edward F. Younger of Headquarters Company, 2d Battalion, 50th Infantry, American Forces in Germany. Placing one rose on top of the chosen casket, the Unknown Soldier was selected and sent to the U.S. on the ship Olympia. Later, that rose would be buried with the casket.

Arriving on the shores of America, the casket was taken to the Capitol, where it was laid out under the rotunda. President Warren G. Harding and the first lady, Florence, paid their respects, with Mrs. Harding laying a wreath she made herself upon the casket. After visits from many notables and military, a vigil was kept overnight. The next day, the rotunda was opened up for public viewing. It was reported that nearly 100,000 people came to commemorate the Unknown Soldier.

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy
(Official DoD photo)

Around 10 AM on Nov. 11, the funeral procession began, passing by the White House, the Key Bridge, and the construction of the Lincoln Memorial (which would be finished six months later). Arriving at Arlington National Cemetery and the Memorial Amphitheater, the ceremony began rather quickly. In fact, it was reported that the President, who was traveling by car, got stuck in a traffic jam on the way there and would have been late if it wasn’t for his driver’s quick decision to cut through a field.

The beginning of the ceremony featured the singing of the National Anthem, a bugler, and two minutes of silence. Then, President Harding spoke, paying tribute to the Unknown Soldier and asking for the end to all wars. He then placed a Medal of Honor upon the casket. Congressman Fish followed with laying a wreath at the tomb. Next, Chief Plenty Coups, Chief of the Crow Nation, laid his war bonnet and coup stick. Finally, the casket was lowered into the crypt as the saluting battery fired three shots. Taps was played with a 21 gun salute at the end. The ceremony for America’s first Unknown Soldier was finished.

Related: Construction of the National WWI Memorial begins 100 years later

Many elements for this ceremony were repeated in 1956, when President Eisenhower made arrangements for unknown soldiers to be selected from World War II and the Korean War. In 1984, President Reagan presided over the ceremony for the Unknown Soldier for the Vietnam War. Acting as next in kin, he accepted the flag presented at the end of the ceremony. In 1998, a mini-controversy occurred when, through DNA testing, it was discovered that the remains of the Unknown Soldier from Vietnam was Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who was shot down near An Loc, Vietnam, in 1972. Due to this, it was decided that the crypt that once held his remains would remain vacant with only this inscription, “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen, 1958-1975.”

Today, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in America is under ceremonious guard 24/7, with the changing of the guard happening up to 48 times a day. It is truly one America’s most somber, affecting, and patriotic memorials.

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