A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

John Anderson was many things: a skilled seaman, a ship’s surgeon and charming drinking buddy. All three of these qualities would help him seize control of the island of Guam, briefly, before ceding it back to the Spanish governor. 

He found himself on Guam after being convicted of breach of trust while serving aboard a ship in the Royal Navy. He escaped to the island, where he started a new life.

Once there, his only real behavioral issues came when in the port with fellow Englishmen. They would tip a few glasses and get proper drunk. He first first came to Guam in 1819 and liked it so much, he decided he would stay.

He eventually got married, had several children and began to work in the port of the Spanish-held island. One day he decided that maybe Spain shouldn’t control the island – maybe he could do a better job. 

Anderson and his fellow Englishmen there hatched a scheme that would leave them in charge of Guam. He would simply get the governor stinking drunk and take it by force. 

The plan began with ingratiating themselves to the ruling class of the island. Now going by the name Juan Anderson, he integrated himself and his colleagues into the inner circles of Guam’s most important people, eventually meeting the governor and earning his trust. 

By 1831, Don Francisco Villalobos, Spanish Governor of the Mariana Islands, appointed Juan Anderson as the Port’s Adjutant, acting with full authority of the Captain of the Port. He was also granted the honorific title of “Don” himself. 

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it
The Mariana Islands are circled in red. (Wikipedia)

One night, they sat to have drinks with the Spanish Governor of Guam, Pablo Perez. After getting Perez “as drunk as a boiled owl,” the English took control of the palace, along with all the weapons and ammunition on the island. With possession of the island in their hands they began to celebrate.

They also had to decide who would rule as the new governor, a decision to which no one could agree. So the English did what good Englishmen do, and had a drinking contest. The last man standing sober would win the governor’s palace. The winner was Anderson, the expert-level drinker. 

But even Anderson was so drunk he couldn’t stand. With the Englismen passed out drunk, the Spanish calmly took back control of the situation, the palace, and the island. The English were subsequently tied up and arraigned for their treason, then sentenced to be placed on a raft and cast away at sea. 

Once convicted, their sentence was carried out right away and the men drifted around the Pacific Ocean for several days before coming ashore at Tinian island. They made the best of their new home on Tinian, but longed to return to Guam. 

The conspirators wrote a letter to the once-deposed Spanish governor pleading for forgiveness and expressing their regret for what they’d done. Governor Perez pardoned them with the condition that they swear allegiance to the Spanish government and the island of Guam and spend the rest of their lives as loyal citizens. 

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Why the American military created the Silver Star, Navy Cross and other medals for valor

Today, the Silver Star, Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Cross, and Air Force Cross are known as awards that recognize heroic actions by service members in combat.


But they were created on the heels of serious controversy over other awards.

During the Civil War, Congress created the Medal of Honor to recognize valor. But some of the awards were seen as questionable by some. Perhaps the most egregious of these was the case of the 27th Maine Regiment.

According to HomeofHeroes.com, the 864 men of this regiment were awarded the medal en masse due to a poorly-worded order by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and a bureaucratic snafu.

 

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it
Sgt. Joshua Moore receives the Navy Cross from Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus during a 2013 awards ceremony. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Arif Patani)

 

So, in 1917, there was an effort to clean up the mess that had been created. A total 911 Medals of Honor were revoked, including those from the 27th Maine. But there was also an effort to make sure that the Medal of Honor would not be so frivolously awarded in the future, while still recognizing gallantry in action.

As America entered World War I, it was obvious there would be acts of valor. So Congress created the Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Citation Star (Which would later become the Silver Star Medal) in 1918, and the Navy Cross in 1919 to address valor that didn’t rise to the level of the Medal of Honor. It was the start of the “Pyramid of Honor,” which now has a host of decorations to recognize servicemen (and women) for valor or for other meritorious actions.

 

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it
Army Spc. Craig Middleton receives the silver star from Army Maj. Gen. Kurt Fuller in a 2012 ceremony. (Photo: US Army)

 

So, what sort of courageous actions warrant which medal? Perhaps one indicator of today’s standards can come from the sample citations in SECNAV Instruction 1650.1H.

Historically, though, it should be noted that in the Vietnam War, Randy “Duke” Cunningham received the Navy Cross for making ace (an Air University bio reports that he was nominated for the Medal of Honor for his actions on May 10, 1972).

Or, one can look at the actions of Leigh Ann Hester to get a good idea of what would warrant a Silver Star.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the most fearsome army in the Vietnam War

It might come as a surprise to some that the fighting in Vietnam wasn’t limited to the Soviet-backed North or the U.S.-back South Vietnamese forces. Along with Communist China and other Communist movements in the region, who were fighting to reunite the Vietnams under the red banner, there were other belligerent, free countries in the region who had an interest in keeping South Vietnam away from the Commies. Among them was South Korea, whose tactics were sometimes so brutal, they had to be reined in by American forces.

But brutality doesn’t always inspire fear, and fear is what struck the hearts of Communist forces when they knew they were up against the Australians. The Aussies brought a death the Viet Cong might never see coming.


A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

(Australian War Memorial)

Today, the picture of the Vietnam War is often American troops on search-and-destroy missions, fighting an often-unseen enemy who blends in with the jungle. When the North Vietnamese Army or the Viet Cong do attack the Americans in this perception, it comes as an unseen, unexpected ambush, routing the Americans and forcing them back to their fire bases. This is not actually how the Vietnam War went – at all. In Vietnam, much of the fighting was also done in the cities and in defense of those firebases. There were even often pitched battles featuring tanks and artillery. In fact, the 1972 Easter Offensive was the largest land movement since the Chinese entered the Korean War, and featured a three-pronged invasion of the South.

So let’s not pretend it was rice farmers vs. American soldiers.

But the North Vietnamese forces in the jungle did have to worry about a mysterious fighting force, moving silently to close in on them and murder them. They weren’t Americans — they were Australians, and they came to Vietnam to win.

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

Centurion Mark V/1 tanks of C Squadron, 1st Armoured Regiment, Royal Australian Armoured Corps (RAAC), taking up position on the perimeter of Fire Support Base (FSB) Coral, shortly after their arrival at the Base.

(Neil James Ahern)

Australian special operations units would go out into the jungles of Vietnam for weeks at a time, often without saying a word to one another in order to maintain complete silence as they stalked the Northern troops through the jungles. The Australians committed more forces to the war in Vietnam than any other foreign contributor (except for the United States, that is). It was the largest force Australia had ever committed to a foreign conflict to date and was its largest war. But they conducted themselves slightly differently, especially in terms of special operations.

Just like the image of U.S. troops moving through the jungle, dodging booby traps and getting ambushed, the North Vietnamese forces had to face the same tactics when operating against the Australians. Aussies routinely ambushed NVA patrols and booby trapped trails used by the Viet Cong. When they did engage in a pitched battle, such as places like Binh Ba, the Australians weren’t afraid to fight hand-to-hand and move house-to-house. In fact, the NVA was beaten so badly at Binh Ba, they were forced to abandon the entire province.

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

A US Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter delivering stores to 102 Field Battery, Royal Australian Artillery, at Fire Support Base Coral, which is just being established.

(Keith Foster)

The Vietnamese didn’t have much luck on the offensive against the Australians, either. When assaulting Firebase Coral-Balmoral in 1968, the Communists outnumbered the Aussies and New Zealanders almost two-to-one. They hit the base with a barrage of mortars in an attempt to draw the ANZAC forces out of the base and chalk up a win against the vaunted Australians. When the 120 Australians came out to clear the mortars, they found way more than a mortar company – they found 2,000 NVA troops surrounding them.

The Aussies fought on, calling sometimes dangerously close artillery strikes from New Zealand and U.S. positions. The outnumbered fought, surrounded, until an Australian relief force came out of the base to help their beleaguered mates. The NVA pressed an attack on the firebase using an entire regiment but were repulsed. Rather than sit and wait to be attacked again, the Aussies and New Zealanders went out to meet the enemy, this time with Centurion tanks. The battles for Coral-Balmoral went on like that for nearly a month: attack, counter-attack, attack counter-attack. The NVA had strength in numbers but the Aussies had pure strength.

Eventually the NVA would be routed and would avoid Nui Dat Province for as long as the Australians were defending it.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The United Kingdom had special battalions for short soldiers in World War I

At the outbreak of the 20th century’s first global conflict, when you might think they’d take anyone who wanted to fight,  the British Army was actually turning able-bodied men away. 

On the surface, that’s nothing new. Armies all over the world turn men away all the time. The U.S. military will turn troops down for things like flat feet, scoliosis, or hemorrhoids (to name a few). 

But in 1914, the British were turning men down for lack of height, even if they were roaring to fight the German menace. 

There was one miner from Birkenhead, Cheshire who couldn’t make the minimum height of 5’3”, and was turned away from every recruiting station in which he tried to enlist. Frustrated, he challenged to fight anyone who said his height mattered – and took down six people before the police had to step in. 

But word got around to the local Member of Parliament, the ironically-named Alfred Bigland. Bigland reached out to Secretary of State for War Lord Herbert Kitchener about the plight of the vertically-challenged in his district.

Bigland believed that refusing these otherwise healthy and fit men service in the Army was a mistake and that the Kingdom should form a regiment to prove they were just as capable as taller men.

Kitchener and the War Office replied with the military equivalent of “sure, whatever,” agreeing to allow Bigland to raise a regiment of short people but opting not to fund it at all. 

The result was that the 15th Battalion, 1st Birkenhead, The Cheshire Regiment was formed, calling for men between 4’10” and 5’3” to enlist in the British Army. Men came from across Britain and Canada to finally get their chance to fight in France.

Originally, they were known as the Bantams, but when other height-capable units were raised, they became known as “Bantam battalions.” Though small in stature, they did not shy away from conflict – and when it came time to fight, they did not disappoint. 

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it
A British trench near the AlbertBapaume road at Ovillers-la-Boisselle, July 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. The men are from A Company, 11th (Service) Battalion, Cheshire Regiment.

Even if those fights were in the taverns of Glasgow with fellow British Empire troops, scuffles which earned them the backhandedly complimentary nickname “Devil Dwarfs.” 

In battle against the Germans, however, the Bantams earned a reputation for bravery and ferocity that had Entente soldiers talking about them wherever they were found along the front. 

As the war ground on and the British were forced to be less choosy about who they decided to accept (and then who they had to conscript), the Bantam battalions faded away as a separate unit, replaced by a regular mix of tall and not-so-tall soldiers. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

This former President’s son was killed in combat in World War I

The casualty list released by the American Expeditionary Force on July 21, 1918 listed 64 American soldiers and Marines killed in action and 28 missing.

But the name reporters noticed first was that of a 20 year-old college student from Oyster Bay, Long Island: Lt. Quentin Roosevelt.

Quentin Roosevelt had been a public figure since he was four years-old, when his father, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, became president.


Roosevelt had been missing since July 14, 1918, when he and four other pilots from the U.S. Army Air Service’s 95th Aero Squadron engaged at least seven German aircraft near the village of Chamery, France.

His father had been notified that he was missing and presumed dead on July 17 and took it hard.

Quentin Roosevelt was a flight leader in the 95th and despite his famous family, he was very much a regular guy.

“Everyone who met him for the first time expected him to have the airs and superciliousness of a spoiled boy,” wrote Capt. Eddy Rickenbacker, the top American Ace of World War I. “This notion was quickly lost after the first glimpse one had of Quentin.”

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

Army Air Service Lt. Quentin Roosevelt

“Gay, hearty and absolutely square in everything he said or did, Quentin Roosevelt was one of the most popular fellows in the group. We loved him purely for his own natural self,” Rickenbacker remembered.

Quentin Roosevelt was the fifth child of Teddy and Edith Roosevelt. Quentin was his father’s favorite and his dad told stories to reporters about Quentin and the gang of boys — sons of White House employees — he played with.
When the United States entered World War I, Quentin Roosevelt was a Harvard student.

His father had argued for American entry into the war, so it was only natural for Quentin and the other three Roosevelt sons to join the military.

Quentin dropped out of Harvard and joined the 1st Aero Company of the New York National Guard. The unit trained at a local airfield on Long Island, which was later renamed Roosevelt Field in Quentin Roosevelt’s honor.

The 1st Aero Company was federalized in June 1917 as the 1st Reserve Aero Squadron and sent to France. Roosevelt went along and was assigned as a supply officer at a training base.

He learned to fly the Nieuport 28 fight that the French had provided to the Americans. The Nieuport 28 was a light biplane fighter armed with two Vickers machine gun.

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

Army Air Service Lt. Quentin Roosevelt

The French had decided to outfit their fighter squadrons with the better SPAD 13 fighter, so the Nieuports were available for the Americans. They equipped the 95th and three other American fighter squadrons.

In June 1918 Roosevelt joined the 95th. Roosevelt was a good pilot but gained a reputation for being a risk-taker. With four weeks of training, Quentin Roosevelt got into the fight in July 1918.

On July 5, 1918 he was in combat twice.

On his first mission, the engine of Roosevelt’s Nieuport malfunctioned. A German fighter shot at him but missed. Later that day he took up another plane and the machine guns jammed.

On July 9 he shot down a German plane and may have got another.

On July 14 — Bastille Day the other American pilots were ordered into the air as part of the American effort to stop the German advance in what became known as the Second Battle of the Marne. The German Army was attacking toward Paris. The American Army was in their way.

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

New York National Guard Chaplain (Cpt.) Father Francis P. Duffy, the chaplain of New York’s famed “Fighting 69th” reads a service as a cross is placed on the grave of Lt. Quentin Roosevelt in August 1918.

In World War I the main enemy air threat was observation planes that found targets for artillery. The job for Roosevelt and the other American pilots was to escort observation planes over German lines.

The Americans accomplished their mission and were heading home when they were jumped by at least seven German plans. The weather was cloudy, so Lt. Edward Buford, the flight leader, decided to break off and retreat.

But instead he saw one American plane engaging three German aircraft.

“I shook the two I was maneuvering with, and tried to get over to him but before I could reach him his machine turned over on its back and plunged down and out of control,” Buford said.

“At the time of the fight I did not know who the pilot was I’d seen go down. ” Buford remembered, “But as Quentin did not come back, it must have been him.”

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

Quentin Roosevelt’s grave outside Chamrey, France after the French erected a more permanent grave marking.

“His loss was one of the severest blows we have ever had in the squadron. He certainly died fighting,” Buford wrote.

Three German pilots took credit for downing Roosevelt. Most historians give credit to Sgt. Carl-Emil Graper. Roosevelt, Graper wrote later, fought courageously.

The Germans were shocked to find out they had killed the son of an American president.

On July 15 they buried Quentin Roosevelt with military honors where his plane crashed outside the village of Chamery. A thousand German soldiers paid their respects, according to an American prisoner of war who watched.

On the cross they erected, the German soldiers wrote: “Lieutenant Roosevelt, buried by the Germans.”

When the German’s retreated, and the Allies retook Chamery, Quentin Roosevelt’s grave became a tourist attraction. Soldiers visited his grave, had their photograph taken there, and took pieces of his Nieuport as souvenirs.

The commander of New York’s 69th Infantry, Col. Frank McCoy, had served as President Roosevelt’s military aid and had known Quentin when he was a boy. At McCoy’s direction, the regiment’s chaplain Father (Capt.) Francis Duffy had a cross made and put it in place at the grave.

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

American Soldiers stand at the grave of Lt. Quentin Roosevelt in 1918.

“The plot had already been ornamented with a rustic fence by the soldiers of the 32nd Division. We erected our own little monument without molesting the one that had been left by the Germans,” he wrote in his memoirs.

“It is fitting that enemy and friend alike should pay tribute to his heroism,” Duffy added.

An Army Signal Corps photographer and movie cameraman recorded the event.

After the war, the temporary grave stone was replaced with a permanent one and Edith Roosevelt gave a fountain to the village of Chamery in memory of her son.

Quentin Roosevelt’s body remained where he fell until 1955. Then, at the request of the Roosevelt family, Quentin’s remains were exhumed.

He was laid to rest next to another son of Teddy Roosevelt; Theodore Roosevelt Jr. Ted, as he was called, was a brigadier general in the Army who led the men of the 4th Infantry Division ashore on Utah Beach on D-Day before dying of a heart attack on July 12, 1944.

Both men are buried in the Omaha Beach American Cemetery.

Quentin’s death shocked the apparently unstoppable Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. who grieved deeply, according to his biographers.

Teddy Roosevelt had fought childhood asthma, coped with the deaths of his first wife and mother on the same day, started down rustlers as a rancher in the Dakotas, faced enemy fire in the Spanish American War, survived a shooting attempt in 1912 and survived tropical illness and exhaustion during a 1914 expedition in the Amazon.

But six months after Quentin’s death, Theodore Roosevelt died of a heart attack in his sleep.

During the World War I centennial observance the Division of Military and Naval Affairs will be issue press releases noting key dates which impacted New Yorkers based on information provided by the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. More than 400,000 New Yorkers served in the military during World War I, more than any other state.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The man who saved North Carolina from nukes speaks out

Jack ReVelle, an Air Force munitions expert during the Cold War, recently went to a sound booth to record an interview with his daughter where the pair discussed one of the most harrowing moments of Jack’s life: That time he was called to North Carolina to defuse two hydrogen bombs that had plummeted to earth with a combined potential explosive power equivalent to 500 Hiroshima bombs.


A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

A Mark 39 nuclear bomb rests with its nose buried in the mud near Goldsboro, North Carolina, in 1961 after a B-52 broke up in mid-air.

(U.S. Air Force)

In 1961, a B-52 bomber was flying over the great state of North Carolina when it began to break apart. Its entire right wing failed and the plane began falling towards earth. The order was given to abandon the plane, and eight crewmembers attempted to escape. Five survived.

But two other objects joined the crew in the air with parachutes. Two Mark 39 nuclear bombs, one with a successfully deployed parachute and one with a failed chute, fell from the sky. The Air Force sent a team out relatively quietly to find and defuse the nukes. Jack ReVelle told his daughter about getting the mission:

“One night, I get a phone call from my squadron commander. And instead of using all the code words that we had rehearsed, he says, ‘Jack, I got a real one for you.’ You don’t often have two hydrogen bombs falling out of aircraft onto U.S. property.”
A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

Air Force technicians dig through the mud near Goldsboro, North Carolina, in 1961 after a B-52 broke up in mid-air.

(U.S. Air Force)

There was precious little preparation done for such an insane mission, and the airmen found themselves scrambling to get everything they needed to do the mission:

“Ten – we call them the Terrible 10. I knew all of them very well. But nobody was cracking jokes like they usually did. And the first couple of days there, they didn’t even have food for us – nothing. It was snowing. It was raining. It was frozen. That’s why we worked in shifts, sometimes on our hands and knees.”

The first bomb was quickly found hanging from a tree. The parachute had kept its descent reasonable, and it had stuck vertically in the ground, buried only partially in the dirt. The team found that three of its four safeguards had either failed or triggered. Only one safety, the actual safe/arm switch, had prevented a nuclear explosion.

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

Air Force explosive ordnance disposal technicians remove components of a Mark 39 nuclear bomb from the deep hole that the bomb buried itself in.

(U.S. Air Force)

But the second bomb, the one with an improperly deployed parachute, had hit the ground at 700 mph and plunged 18 feet into the ground. It was Jack and his men’s job to dig in, find as many of the 92 detonators as they could, and recover the warhead.

Most of the detonators were found and recovered, one at a time. But the team got a horrendous surprise when they found the safe/arm switch:

“And as we started digging down, trying to find the second bomb, one of my sergeants says, “hey, Lieutenant, I found the arm safe switch.” And I said, “great.” He says, “no, not great. It’s on arm.” But we all knew what we were there for and the hazards that we were facing. So, we pulled it up out of the mud and brought it up over this wooden rickety ladder that we had, to the surface of the ground, in a safe condition.”

Yeah, the switch had been the only thing that prevented the first bomb from detonating. It had failed on the second bomb. As they recovered the rest of it, they found no safeguards that had properly survived. The bomb should’ve exploded. Engineers wrote in a classified report in 1969 that a single electrical jolt could’ve triggered a weapon. The lead on the study, Parker F. Jones, recommended that Mark 39 bombs no longer be used in an airborne role since they almost gave us Goldsboro Bay.

But Jack and his team were able, through painstaking work, to recover most of the bomb, including the nuclear core. If even one of them had gone off, it could have killed approximately 28,000 people. 60,000 live there today and would, obviously, not be able to live there if the bombs had irradiated the whole area in 1961.

Jack ReVelle’s interview is available on StoryCorps and NPR.

(This article was updated on Feb. 4, 2019. The article originally stated that seven of the eight steps needed to detonate a Mark 39 bomb had been taken and cited a Stanford paper from 2018. But the Stanford paper cites a Guardian article for that claim, and the Guardian article only supports that three of the four major safeguards had failed. This post was changed to reflect this more solid information.)

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The often forgotten Buffalo Soldiers must be remembered

They served in battles on the Great Plains, Cuba, Mexico, the Philippines and France. They fought the Native Americans, protected American pioneers, took on ranchers to protect farmers, battled with Pancho Villa, protected our southern border, charged up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt, served under Black Jack Pershing, served as the first park rangers for our National Parks, inspired the Smokey Bear and Drill Instructor hat, had Bob Marley write a song about them and earned Medals of Honor along the way.


They also did all this in the face of extreme racism and prejudice from the people they served with, people they protected and the government who put them in harm’s way.

The Buffalo Soldiers first came into existence immediately after the Civil War. The Union Army had seen the bravery of African Americans in the war and set about creating units for them. In 1866, they drew up what would eventually be 2 Cavalry Regiments (9th and 10th) and 2 Infantry Regiments (24th and 25th)

 

The United States reduced the number of its soldiers to 25,000 at the end of the war, and African Americans made up 10% of the Army’s ranks. They were paid $13/month, which was the same as a white man who served (which was unheard of at the time). They were also prohibited from being stationed East of the Mississippi River as Congress and the Army feared reaction to black troops (especially in the South during Reconstruction) would not be civil.

So the newly formed units were sent West.

The origins of the name ‘Buffalo Soldier’ are contested to this day. Some believe they were given the name as a sign of respect from the Cheyenne or Comanche. Others say it was because they wore buffalo hide coats to keep warm on the prairie or because they fought with the nobility of a buffalo. Another legend that is less politically correct is that the Apaches saw the hair of the African American soldiers and likened it to a buffalo’s mane. In any case, the troops gradually adopted the name as their own and wore it as a badge of honor.

The first part of the history of the Buffalo Soldiers takes place during the Indian Wars. Americans were expanding out West and into direct conflict with the Native Americans who fought to maintain their lands. The Buffalo Soldiers had plenty of tasks outside of fighting. They built roads, protected mail carriers, enforced land settlement disputes, protected farmers from free-range cattlemen and fought the Native Americans.

Fighting over 177 engagements, the Buffalo Soldiers went up against the Apache, Comanche, Kiowas, Cree, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe Indians. They worked to keep Indians on reservations, protected settlers from raids, and protected settlers’ interests from as far north as Montana down to southern Texas. They also enforced settlement rules, making sure that land wasn’t (ironically) illegally taken by settlers.

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it
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In the midst of all this, the Buffalo Soldiers experienced extreme racist behavior from their fellow soldiers and the people they were protecting. African Americans, for a long time, could not become officers and command Buffalo Soldiers. White officers would sometimes refuse to take commands in Buffalo Soldier units, thinking it was beneath them. George Custer famously refused to command black troops convinced they wouldn’t fight (they came to his rescue later on). They were also subject to abuse from the very people they were protecting. White settlers would ask for help only to attack Buffalo Soldiers when they were the ones who were sent to help.

(Who knew Blazing Saddles was based on a true story?)

At the turn of the century, as the Indian Wars wound down, the Buffalo Soldiers were sent overseas as part of America’s foray into foreign affairs. They were sent to the Philippines to help put down insurrections and also fought in the Spanish-American War. When Teddy Roosevelt charged up San Juan Hill, the Buffalo Soldiers charged alongside him. One of their 1st Lieutenants was a young man named Jack Pershing.

Cuba was not Pershing’s first command with the Buffalo Soldiers, nor would it be his last. Pershing was so impressed with the courage of the soldiers he commanded, he sought for other units to emulate their discipline and standards. Ironically when he ended up at West Point as an instructor and tried to enforce the same standards, he earned the despicable nickname N***** Jack. This was eventually softened to ‘Black Jack’ Pershing. Pershing would later command the Buffalo Soldiers on the border but bow to political racism when it came to the Great War.

After Cuba, the Buffalo Soldiers were sent to California. At the time, several National Parks had been established and there was a need to protect the lands. At Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, the Buffalo Soldiers became the first park rangers chasing after poachers, ejecting settlers and squatters, keeping illegal logging in check, and building infrastructure so that people could visit.

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it
Wikimedia Commons

On a side note, the Buffalo Soldiers adopted the ‘Montana crease’ in their hats in Cuba. When they ended up at Yosemite the creased hats became synonymous with the park. The style was later adopted by park rangers, Smokey Bear, border patrol agents, highway patrolmen, and your ferocious drill instructor.

In the lead up to World War I, the U.S. at first took an isolationist role. That said, there was worry that the Germans would try to interfere with U.S. sovereignty. The Buffalo Soldiers were sent to the border with Mexico as the Mexican Revolution had caused instability on the border, and the U.S. was worried about Mexican and German interference with the border.

Back under the command of Black Jack Pershing, the Buffalo Soldiers chased after Pancho Villa after his incursion into New Mexico. They later battled Mexican forces and German military advisors in the Battle of Ambos Nogales in 1918.

Although successful in that battle, there was a bittersweet element to it.

The Buffalo Soldiers watched as Black Jack Pershing, one of their biggest advocates, took command of the American Expeditionary Force as they headed over to Europe to fight in the Great War.

The Buffalo Soldiers did not go. President Woodrow Wilson was openly racist and did not want them to fight alongside white soldiers. They were kept home, while segregated support units were sent to work behind the lines. It only added to the hurt when some of those support units were lent to the French to fight under their command.

In World War II, the reorganization of the Army led to the creation of the 92nd Infantry Division, the Buffalo Division. Other segregated units were organized, and many took on the name and traditions of the Buffalo Soldiers.

After World War II, the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers was instrumental in desegregating the Army. By the time the Korean conflict started, the descendant units of the Buffalo Soldiers were absorbed into other units as part of integration.

The legacy of the Buffalo Soldier cannot be denied. Given the opportunity to serve, African Americans came through time and time again, even in the face of racism and prejudice. The history of these men goes hand in hand in the expansion into the West, the establishment of our National Parks, protection of our borders and the fight for freedom.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the hot-rod F-15 the Air Force used to set 8 world records

McDonnell Douglas, the manufacturer of the F-15 Eagle, knew it had a winner on its hands with the plane. It was the first U.S. fighter with greater engine thrust than weight, allowing it to accelerate vertically like a rocket. And it was highly maneuverable, so it could out fly its likely adversary in the Foxbat and other MiG jets.


F 15 Streak Eagle Record Flights

youtu.be

But McDonnell Douglas and the U.S. Air Force wanted to prove that the F-15 was superior to anything Russia had before pilots clashed in actual combat. After all, if your enemy knows their likely to lose in a real battle, they’ll hopefully just stay home.

So they took a pre-production version of the F-15 and stripped everything unnecessary off of it, to include the bulk of its paint. It had an Air Force graphic on the fuselage, but the standard gray, anti-corrosion paint was removed to save even that little bit of weight. Their goal was to set all of the major time-to-climb records for planes.

If time-to-climb sounds like a niche record to compete on, it’s actually super important to air combat. Speed, max altitude, and acceleration are all important as well. But speed in a climb determines which plane in a dogfight is likely to get above the other while they’re maneuvering. And altitude equates to extra energy and speed in a fight, because the higher pilot works with gravity instead of against it while attacking.

And so, in just two weeks in late January to February 1975, Air Force pilots took the “Streak Eagle” on a series of flights where they broke eight world time-to-climb records. Five of the records had been held by another McDonnell Douglas aircraft, the F-4 Phantom. But three of them had been held by the Russian MiG-25 Foxbat until the Eagle came calling for them.

The first record was shattered on Jan. 16, 1975. Maj. Robert Smith took off from North Dakota in freezing weather. Smith conducted a 5G pull-up and rocketed up past 3,000 meters, over 9,840 feet. He hit his mark in 27.57 seconds, shattering the old 34.5 record.

That afternoon, another major broke the 6,000-meter, 9,000-meter, and 12,000-meter records. Another pilot destroyed the 15,000-meter record by 37.5 seconds, breaching the altitude in just 77.05 seconds.

And yes, all three pilots were flying the same Streak Eagle. They went on to beat the Foxbat’s records for 20,000 meters, 25,000 meters, and 30,000 meters in the following two weeks. The 30,000-meter record was beaten in just under 3.5 minutes. That 30,000 meters number equates to 98,425 feet, and the pilot coasted to 103,000 feet before beginning his descent.

The Streak Eagle used in all of these record-setting flights is now in the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.


Articles

This is the disease Hitler hid from the public for years

Towards the end of WWII, allied forces gained much-needed ground on diminished German forces while Adolf Hitler was carefully concealing a dark secret from his devoted followers.


Years prior, Hitler was seen in several propaganda films walking tall and strong. As time progressed, detailed media footage was limited as the Führer showed signs of a major debilitating disease.

The German leader tried to hide his declining posture, stumbling walk and hand tremors during his public appearances. Theodore Morell was Hitler’s devoted personal physician for nine years but missed the critical condition — Parkinson’s disease.

Related: This is the legendary Nazi general who turned on Hitler

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it
Theodor Morell is shown here standing behind his patient — Adolf Hitler. (Source: Smithsonian Channel/YouTube/Screenshot)

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive neurological disorder which disrupts the function of nerve cells in the brain.

After the bombing of Hitler’s East Prussia Headquarters in a plot to kill the Nazi party leader in 1944, his symptoms seemed to wane — but for only a short period.

At the time, Morell had already taken notice of Hitler’s condition, documenting it in a journal back in 1941 and years later labeling the neurological disorder as stress related.

Advanced Parkinson’s usually leads to slower reaction times and delusions — all requiring constant medical care. It wasn’t until the final days of the war that Morell would make the correct diagnosis.

As forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, Hitler’s delay in ordering a defense may have been a result of the Parkinson’s.

Ultimately, Adolf Hitler died on April 30th, 1945, as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his Führerbunker in Berlin.

Also Read: Hitler’s nephew earned a Purple Heart with the US Navy during WWII

Check out the Smithsonian’s Channel video to view how Hitler attempted to mask his Parkinson’s in his last years of his rule.

(Smithsonian Channel, YouTube) 
popular

11 rarely seen photos from the Civil War

Photography’s growing influence in the world during the Civil War allowed the conflict to be documented in a whole new way. There are hundreds of images that have become a lasting and well-known part of the historical record, but there are thousands of photos in archives around the country that have remained in relative obscurity.

Here are 11 from the National Archives and Records Administration:


A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

MIGHTY HISTORY

This World War II battlefield will disappear forever

The 1943 Battle of Tarawa was the first of the Central Pacific Campaign. There, 18,000 Marines fought a bloody, 76-hour battle to seize the heavily fortified Tarawa Atoll from 4,500 Japanese defenders, wading through hundreds of yards of surf and scrambling for cover on the nearly flat islands.


A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

Marines take cover on the beaches of Tarawa while planning their next move forward. Conquering Tarawa would take 76 hours and cost thousands of lives.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Now, the nation of Kiribati, as the former British territory is known today, is expected to be completely underwater within a few decades, including all the territory of its capital, Tarawa.

Importantly for Marine Corps historians, that means that one of World War II’s most bloody and important battlefields will disappear under the waves — with Marine remains and artifacts still on it.

The 1943 battle for the island began with a massive naval artillery bombardment that failed to dislodge most of the pillboxes, obstacles, and defenders on the island. When troops landed on November 20, underwater obstacles in the form of coral reefs, sandbars, and other barriers caused landing craft to get stuck out at sea.

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

The assault on Tarawa was a nightmare. Shallow waters led to gently sloping beaches and hundreds of yards of obstacles — all factors that favored the Japanese defenders.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Those who could rode their boats all the way to shore, but men who were stuck eventually waded through chest-deep water for hundreds of yards while under machine gun fire. When the Marines finally reached the beach, they struggled to find good cover on an island where the highest elevation was about 10 feet above sealevel.

Undeterred, the Marines fought through barbed wire and Japanese attackers. On the second day, they were able to land tanks and artillery and punch out from the beach, starting their campaign across the tiny island.

At the end of the three-day battle, the Marines had suffered almost 3,000 casualties, including many men marked missing in action who were either washed out to sea or lost in the sand dunes and vegetation. Of the 4,500 Japanese defenders, there were only 17 survivors left. Most fought to the death as there was no way to escape the island.

Four men earned Medals of Honor during the fighting.

After the war, the Kiribati Islands reverted to British control and then became a sovereign country in 1979. The U.S. signed a treaty of friendship later that year and then established full diplomatic relations in 1980. Since then, the relationship has been friendly if not exactly close.

The State Department says that they actively cooperate with Kiribati to repatriate the remains of Marines when discovered on Tarawa or on any other island within the nation.

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

Marine Corps 1st Lt. Alexander Bonneyman, Jr., thought to be fourth from the right, and his men attack a Japanese position on Tarawa. Bonneyman posthumously received the Medal of Honor and his remains were recovered from Tarawa in 2015.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Obie Newcomb)

The remains of 139 service members were discovered and repatriated in 2015. One of those repatriated was 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman, Jr., who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions on the island.

In 2017, another 24 remains were discovered and returned.

500 American service members were thought lost on the island, meaning that the remains of hundreds may still be hidden there.

Unfortunately, much of Kiribati rises in elevation no more than 10 feet, meaning that it will be one of the first nations wiped out by rising seas.

Another island nation and World War II battle site under threat is the Marshall Islands, where 400 Americans died seizing the strategic islets from Japanese defenders.

Luckily, these were well-documented battles. Historians have recovered many documents and interviewed survivors of each, and With the Marines at Tarawa was an Academy Award-winning documentary produced during the invasion. So, future generations will still see evidence of the Marine Corps’ sacrifice.

But any historians who need additional evidence from the islands better get to work soon. Time is ticking.

MIGHTY HISTORY

WATCH: Welcome to Offutt, the only military installation you’ll find in Nebraska

Did you know there’s only one military installation in the entire state of Nebraska? Okay, maybe that’s not super surprising, since the state’s population is only around 1.9 million people. While there are National Guard facilities, the only installation you’ll find in the state has its roots as an old Army post.

Fort Crook is over 100 years old and got its start as a dispatch point for conflicts between the early American military and the indigenous peoples who lived on the Great Plains. Fort Crook’s first building was a blacksmith shop built in 1893, which is still standing today. Its barracks are still standing as well, only now they are used as offices for military personnel. Now, the area is known as Offutt Air Force Base. It’s located just south of Omaha, Nebraska.

The old houses of Generals Row face the barracks just across the lawn and are homes to current generals just as they were homes to many military officers throughout the years. All of the homes are on the National Historic Register. And the history of Offutt Air Force Base doesn’t end there. The oldest continuously working prison in the entire U.S. is on Offutt’s grounds. 

Fort Crook Begins its Transformation

In 1918, Fort Crook transformed into an airfield for use during World War I. Then in 1924, the US government changed its name to Offutt Field, honoring a fallen World War I pilot from Omaha, First Lieutenant Jarvis Offutt. 

It continued as a Military aviation center during World War II tasked with producing aircraft. The aircraft were built at the Martin Bomber Assembly Plant. Today, this plant has other uses. Building D is a bowling alley, the Logistics Readiness Squadron, and the Defense POWMIA Accounting Agency, just to name a few. The Martin Bomber Modification Center also remains standing, though today it is known as Offutt Field and is one of the Air Force’s largest gyms. 

Gaining Official Air Force Base Status

When World War II was over, Offutt Field officially turned into Offutt Air Force Base, taking on a different role once again. This time, it would serve as a host to Strategic Air Command which oversaw the arsenal of the country’s nuclear weapons. Its major facility looks like a pretty small building from the outside, though there’s a lot more where that came from. Underground is where much more of the facility exists. 

The Indispensable Offutt 

In 1966, Offutt Air Force Base began to host the 55th Wing, which it continues to host in the present. It is the largest wing of the US Air Force’s Air Combat Command. So, you might say that it’s a pretty big deal. How could you not? It houses the US Strategic Command Headquarters and the Air Force Weather Agency, its only weather wing. 

Offutt Air Force Base has 10,000 personnel, more than any other in US Air Combat Command and second in the entire Air Force. Around 16,000 family members and 11,000 retirees also reside in the area. The base is pretty much a small town, as most working military bases are. It has everything a person or family could need right there on its grounds. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Canadian officer rescued the real Winnie the Pooh

We’ve written before about how the stories of Winnie the Pooh were, at least in part, the result of a World War I veteran trying to explain war, and his own PTSD, to his son. But Pooh bear was inspired by an actual bear at the London Zoo, Winnipeg, rescued by a Canadian cavalry veterinarian on his way to France for combat.


The Winnipeg connection to Winnie the Pooh

www.youtube.com

Harry Colebourn was born an Englishman but moved to Canada to study veterinary surgery. When World War I broke out and British subjects were called up to defend the empire, he joined the unit of Fort Garry Horse to treat the horses. On Aug. 24, 1914, he was traveling with his unit by train when they stopped at a small lumber town.

Colebourn got off to stretch his legs like everyone else, but he spotted a trapper standing near the train, trying to sell a small bear cub. Colebourn got into veterinarian sciences because of his love of animals, and the baby bear captured his heart almost immediately.

The trapper explained that he had killed the mother, but then couldn’t do the same to the cub. He was asking for the cub, about the same as 0 today. It was a princely sum for a bear cub, but Colebourn paid it out. He named the cub “Winnipeg Bear” after his adopted hometown.

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

1914 photo of Colebourne and Winnipeg the Bear.

(Library and Archives Canada)

The bear cub followed Colebourn around during training, climbing trees and begging for treats as the cavalrymen and the veterinarian trained to take on the Kaiser’s armies. Winnie quickly rose to be the regimental mascot. By October, the men were on their way to England with Winnie in tow for final training and then deployment.

In England, Winnie was once again popular, but it was quickly clear that the front in France would be no place for the animal. Colebourn, hoping that the war would be over within months, arranged for Winnie to spend a little time in a brand new bear habitat at the London Zoo. He promised her that they would return to Canada together once the war ended.

But, of course, the war did not end quickly. Colebourn went to the front in December 1914, and the war would go on for almost four more years. He visited Winnie whenever the unit was granted leave or pass in England, but the war dragged on too long for their relationship. By the time it was over, Winnie was well-established in London and pulling her out would have been a disservice.

A British Naval Officer captured Guam by getting the governor drunk, then lost it

Harry Colebourne and Winnipeg the Bear when Winnie was still young.

(Manitoba Provincial Archives)

So she remained there, a celebrity of the post-war city. Children, especially, loved their war-time gift from the Canadian officer. It was there that a young Christopher Robin Milne, the proud owner of a Teddy Bear named Edward first met Winnie. He was smitten with the black bear and renamed his teddy to “Winnie the Pooh,” combining her name with the name of a swan he used to feed.

The boy’s father, A.A. Milne, began using Christopher’s stuffed animals to tell him stories, including stories about his own responses to the war. A.A. Milne had fought on the Western Front, same as Colebourn, and it was a horrible place to be.

The stories that the prolific author told his son were first included in a collection in 1924, followed by a book of stories focused on “Winnie-the-Pooh” in 1926. Today, the stories of the adorable bear and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood endures, largely thanks to a Canadian veterinarian who saved the cub and an English veteran who told the stories.

By the way, Winnie really did love honey, and Christopher Robin was able to feed it to her on at least one occasion. Unfortunately, her sweet tooth and the tendency of the English to let her indulge led to her developing periodontitis, a painful gum disease.

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