Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory - We Are The Mighty
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Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory

The Third Reich attempted a number of unconventional plots to win World War II, including counterfeiting U.S. and British currency to destabilize the Allies’ wartime economies.


Not surprisingly, the Nazi plan relied on Jewish slave labor. Operation Bernhard recruited Jewish artists, printers, bankers, and others from concentration camps and pressed them into creating engraving plates and physically counterfeiting money and important documents.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
Nazi leaders organized a counterfeiting ring that created British bank notes. (Photo: Public Domain)

Prisoners pressed into counterfeiting who survived the war described an initial test where they would be asked to print greeting cards. Prisoners who printed it well enough or who had a strong background in art or printing were then sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

Adolf Burger, a printer who survived the war and wrote memoirs detailing his experiences, was personally congratulated by Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hoss when he was selected for the program.

“Herr Burger!” Hoss reportedly said. “We need people like you. You’ll be sent to Berlin. You will work as a free man and I wish you every success.”

The men were granted special privileges not afforded to other prisoners, but they were not free.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
Starved prisoners, nearly dead from hunger, pose in the Ebensee, Austria, concentration camp. Prisoners forced to create counterfeit English bank notes were sent here for execution but survived thanks to a prisoner revolt. (Photo: U.S. Army Lt. A. E. Samuelson)

“I always said I was a dead man on holiday,” Burger told a historian. “We never believed we would get out of there. But in the block we had everything — food, white sheets on the bed. Each one of us had his own bed; not like Birkenau, where six of us slept under a single lice-ridden blanket.”

The plan to print American currency was scuttled quickly due to problems with getting the necessary papers and inks, but the Nazis were able to collect all the proper supplies to print British bank notes.

While the Nazis destroyed most of their records and the counterfeit notes after the war, Allied investigations into the scheme estimate that nearly 9,000 banknotes with a total value of over 134 million British pounds were printed, though as little as 10 percent may have been usable.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
The original plan for Operation Bernhard called for the counterfeit currency to be dropped by bombers. (Photo: Imperial War Museum)

The initial plan called for the Luftwaffe to airdrop the illicit currency into Britain and other Allied areas to get it into circulation, but a shortage of aircraft led to them distributing the money through a network of agents.

Surprisingly, they actually got some of the money into circulation by using it to pay unsuspecting intelligence sources and agents, a move that could have caused their intelligence networks to collapse if it had been discovered.

Britain learned about the plot from a spy in 1939, three years before the printing got underway in earnest. By 1943, it was finding some of the notes in circulation. Some of the first counterfeits were caught when people tried to redeem bank notes for pounds sterling using serial numbers that had already been redeemed at the bank.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
American troops ride a captured German tank during the Battle of Hurtgen Forest. The Allied advance in 1945 ended the German counterfeiting operation and resulted in the liberation of the printers. (Photo: U.S. Army)

As the Allied war machine bore down on Berlin, the counterfeiting operation was moved two times before the Nazis running it made the decision to destroy the equipment and records and kill the printers.

Luckily, the order was given to kill all the printers at the same time at the Ebensee prison camp, but a prison riot occurred while a truck was ferrying the printers to the site of their execution.

The printers escaped into the Ebensee prison population and were liberated by the Allied armies on May, 6, 1945.

Today, few of the counterfeit notes remain, though a large quantity was recently recovered from where it was dumped in Lake Toplitz. The lake has little to no oxygen below a depth of 65 feet, preserving the bank notes.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why grave-robbing Confederate generals is big business

In April, 2013, an iron casket was found pulled out of its grave and its contents were spilled all over the Old Church Cemetery near Waynesboro, Ga. A man, later found to be Ralph “Bubba” Hillis, and a partner had taken to digging up graves in the cemetery.

Why target this little cemetery? Because it was filled with the remains of Confederate and Revolutionary War soldiers.


Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
(Sgt. Sean Cochran, Burke County Sheriff)

The issue of grave robbing by those searching unique, ancient artifacts is a huge problem the world over, especially in places like Egypt, Peru, and Cambodia. These are areas filled with archaeological treasures and a steady flow of individuals who are struggling economically and are willing to risk punishment to go dig up said artifacts for the right price.

And that price can always be found. Illegally-sold Egyptian antiquities are found all over the world as they make their way from the Valley of the Kings to Syria to Dubai to New York and, finally, to whatever buyer is waiting at their final destination. Eager collectors are just waiting to find the right artifact from the right seller at the right price. The same technology that brings the world closer together also brings looters and grave robbers closer to these buyers.

Online sales and auction sites like eBay make it possible for individuals to make these transactions in short order, while the popularity of television shows like Pawn Stars and American Pickers show just how easy it is to profit from a few authentic pieces of history. The ease of selling ill-gotten items and the interest garnered by their value and origins are making grave robbing a profitable crime right here in the United States, too.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory

A sword like this one, which belonged to Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, is worth tens of thousands of dollars. This example was never dug up from a grave, however.

The value of Civil War-era artifacts has lead to the growth of a booming black market. A single button from a Confederate uniform can net as much as 0. Full uniforms and medals can fetch anywhere from 0 to thousands of dollars for the right collector. According to Southern antiques brokers, an officer’s sword is worth anywhere from ,000 and ,000 — it doesn’t even matter if that officer was a general.

Two big things make dealing in black-market Confederate artifacts so profitable. The first is how rarely these sorts of things are available at auction. Electronic tracking, official dealers, and mandatory identification make it very difficult to illegally transport Civil War relics. The second is the inability to track the authenticity of the artifacts themselves. As you can imagine, Confederate records were kept only for as long as the Confederacy existed, which means there are plenty of legitimate artifacts that lack a kept record.

As a result, there is treasure literally buried all over the South.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory

Archaeologists carry out a dig at New Mexico’s Fort Craig cemetery, where the remains of dozens of soldiers and children were secretly exhumed after an informant tipped them off about widespread grave-looting.

(U.S. Bureau of Reclamation)

And people are starting to go dig for it — risking stiff prison terms.

But don’t be concerned that your local Civil War museum or historical society is dealing in stolen goods or housing grave-robbed artifacts. You can be reasonably certain that anything accepted by a legitimate museum was purchased with a clear record of ownership and was probably tracked through INTERPOL.

Authorities are now taking to hiring archaeologists to exhume grave-robbed Civil War-era sites in order to preserve the history entombed there while keeping them from being looted again in the future.

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15 quotes from Gen. Mad Dog’ Mattis, slayer of bodies

Marine Corps Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis is known for his aggressive tactics and his even more aggressive quotes.


While he embraced counter-insurgency tactics with the rest of the military, his quotes put a decidedly lethal spin on “low-intensity combat.” Check out these 15 great Mattis quotes — but be warned… they’ll make you want to charge into hordes of America’s enemies with nothing but a Ka-Bar:

1. “The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event. That said, there are some a-sholes in the world that just need to be shot.” (America and Iraq: Policy-making, Intervention and Regional Politics)

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
Photo: U.S. Marine Corps

2. “I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you f-ck with me, I’ll kill you all.” (Slate)

3. “I’m going to plead with you, do not cross us. Because if you do, the survivors will write about what we do here for 10,000 years.”

4. “Fight with a happy heart and strong spirit … Demonstrate to the world there is no better friend, no worse enemy than a U.S. Marine.” (Letter from Mattis to his troops just before the Iraq invasion)

5. “I don’t get intelligence off a satellite. Iraqis tell me who the enemy is.” (Press conference in Iraq via National Review)

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
(Photo: U.S. Department of Defense Erin A. Kirk)

6. “Find the enemy that wants to end this experiment (in American democracy) and kill every one of them until they’re so sick of the killing that they leave us and our freedoms intact.”

7. “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

8. “Be the hunter, not the hunted: never allow your unit to be caught with its guard down.” (Letter from Mattis to his troops just before the Iraq invasion)

9. “The most important six inches on the battlefield is between your ears.”

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
(Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communication Specialist Eric A. Clement)

10. “You are part of the world’s most feared and trusted force. Engage your brain before you engage your weapon.” (Letter from Mattis to his troops just before the Iraq invasion)

11. “There are hunters and there are victims. By your discipline, cunning, obedience and alertness, you will decide if you are a hunter or a victim.” (Told to troops at Al Asad, Iraq)

12. “No war is over until the enemy says it’s over. We may think it over, we may declare it over, but in fact, the enemy gets a vote.”

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
(Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communications Specialist Shawn P. Eklund)

13. “There is nothing better than getting shot at and missed. It’s really great.”

14. “You cannot allow any of your people to avoid the brutal facts. If they start living in a dream world, it’s going to be bad.”

15. “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling.” (Said during a panel discussion in San Diego, via CNN)

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time two Navy legends fought a duel with Marines

In 1818, two of the Navy’s most famous names, Oliver Hazard Perry and Stephen Decatur, were involved, one as a participant and the other as his second, in a duel that was the culmination of a two-year-long dispute about Navy discipline and the limits of a commander’s powers.


It was an era when dueling was all too common.

“In the United States, dueling’s heyday began at around the time of the Revolution and lasted the better part of a century,” wrote author and researcher Ross Drake for Washington’s Smithsonian Institute. “This was especially true in the Navy, where boredom, drink, and a mix of spirited young men in close quarters on shipboard produced a host of petty irritations ending in gunfire.”

In the late summer of 1816, the USS Javawhich Perry commanded, was stopped at Messina, Sicily, when Perry became displeased with what he considered the unsatisfactory appearance and attitude of the ship’s Marines. Capt. John Heath, the Marine commander, added to the problem by responding — at least in Perry’s opinion — with what Perry later called, “marked insolence.”

The incident escalated to the point that the two men had words. Perry allegedly shouted that Heath was a “damned rascal and scoundrel” and had “not acted as a gentleman.” Perry then summoned 2nd Lt. Parke G. Howle, the Marine detachment’s second in command, and relieved Heath. In a rash and thoughtless act, Perry, who was known for is short and violent temper, then slapped Heath.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
Oliver Hazard Perry standing at the front of a small boat after abandoning his flagship, the Lawrence at the Battle of Lake Erie. (Library of Congress)

Lieutenant Howle stepped between the men and no further blows were exchanged — but the damage had been done.

According to a Midshipman Mackenzie, who was aboard the Java at the time, the “following day was a gloomy one on board the Java. The officers and crew had the most profound respect for their commander, [Perry], and were strongly attached to his person; the victim of uncontrolled passion, he became an object of their pity; he was himself overcome with shame and mortification.” Perry meanwhile, realizing he had acted in anger, had a fellow officer write to Heath saying that Perry regretted what had happened and was in “readiness to make an honorable and personal apology.” 

It was, however, not enough for Heath or the other Marine officer on the Java, who thought Perry’s actions had insulted the entire Corps.

Related: This fight proves Stephen Decatur is the most intense sailor ever

On Dec. 31, 1816, a court-martial was convened to hear the charges that had been placed against Heath, namely disrespectful and insolent conduct towards a superior officer, neglect of duty, and disobeying orders, which involved what Perry considered an unacceptable delay in going after deserting Marines. Heath was found guilty of all but the last charge and was sentenced to receive a verbal reprimand from the Commodore of the squadron. Perry was also found by the court to have himself used “disrespectful language” toward a fellow officer and to have slapped him.

The incident became a major controversy in the Navy, gave birth to front page newspaper stories, and even ignited calls — that were ignored — for a Congressional investigation.

In the summer of 1817, Heath, who had then been dismissed from the service, published a pamphlet about the incident in which he referred to Perry, among other things, as “the slave of the most violent and vindictive passions” who could “descend to acts of revenge and cruelty.”  Perry was also, Heath wrote, filled with “the most consummate arrogance” and “a spirit of the rankest malevolence.”

A duel between the men became inevitable.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
Pistol duels, like the one depicted above, were all too common at the time.

As preparations for the meeting began, Perry, who had always opposed dueling, wrote to Decatur saying that he would meet Heath and stand in the duel, but he would not fire. He also asked Decatur to serve as his second, and Decatur traveled to New York to oblige. The two men finally met near Hoboken, New Jersey in October 1818, more than two years after the original incident. Heath and Perry stood back to back, marched five paces each, and wheeled. Heath fired missing Perry who, true to his word, handed his unfired pistol to Decatur.

Decatur then approached Heath, told him that Perry had all along intended not to fire and asked if Heath’s honor was not satisfied. Heath said it was.

It was over.

Articles

The first American shots in WW1 were actually fired in Guam

After receiving information that war was near, German Vice-Adm. Maximilian Von Spee sent a message to his Imperial navy colleagues in the Pacific to rally up for a fight.


Spee was aboard the SMS Scharnhorst docked near the Pacific island of Pohnpei when he sent his message to Tsingtao,  at the time the administrative center for the German Pacific colonies.

The battle damaged German ship SMS Cormoran geared up and was ordered to disrupt enemy supply lines. But after months at sea and under constant pressure by the Japanese, the Cormoran began running low on coal and needed a safe place to dock.

The Cormoran reached Apra Harbor in Guam — which had recently become a U.S. protectorate — on Dec. 14, 1914, hoping for some aid by the neutral Americans there.

Related: Here’s why flamethrowers were so deadly on the battlefield for both sides

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
The Naval officer stationed in Guam sitting with the natives. (Source: The Great War/YouTube/Screenshot)

Interestingly, until the 1950s, Guam’s governor’s office was held by American naval officers.

Guam’s Gov. William Maxwell initially refused to help the Germans because America wanted to stay neutral in the war, but since the Cormoran nearly was out of fuel, the ship wouldn’t leave.

The two sides finally came to an agreement and the German could stay but must live under restriction. The Cormoran’s crew had to stow their weapons on the ship, and the firing pins of the 10.5 cm guns had to be removed from service.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
The Germans were allowed to live on the ship or could stay in these tents featured in the image above. (Source: The Great War/YouTube/Screenshot)

Letting the Germans live on the island was extremely risky as the small amount of Americans were now outnumbered.

But during the time the Germans inhabited the small island alongside their soon to be American enemy, there weren’t any known reports of violent incidents — but that peace wouldn’t last forever.

Also Read: The Browning Automatic Rifle cut down enemies from WWI to Vietnam

In 1916, Guam’s new governor received a message that the US just entered the war. A small group of Marines assembled and demanded the German’s surrender right away. When the Germans refused, the Marines fired two warning shots across the Cormoran’s bow.

The warning shots were fired just two hours after the US entered the Great War, thus making history as the first shots fired by Americans at their new German enemy happened in Guam.

Check out The Great War‘s video to learn about this incredible story.

(The Great War, YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

The ultimate Pearl Harbor tour for history buffs

2020 marks the 79th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. While it’s been nearly eight decades since the attacks, December 7, 1941, as noted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, is “a date that will live in infamy,” and is never far from these historical landmarks. 

Be sure to bookmark these stops on your next trip to Oahu, Hawaii:

Pearl Harbor National Memorial

Pearl Harbor National Memorial is an obvious first stop for history enthusiasts. Open daily from 7AM – 5PM (except Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day), the grounds house a visitor’s center, museum and bookstore. It is also the access point for the USS Arizona Memorial and USS Bowfin Submarine Museum. 

The USS Arizona Memorial, arguably Pearl Harbor’s most recognizable landmark, features a full program for guests that includes a 23-minute documentary film and a Navy-operated shuttle boat ride out to the memorial. 

To note: Due to COVID restrictions, part of the USS Arizona Memorial program has been modified to exclude use of the theater. 

The USS Bowfin was launched on December 7, 1942, exactly one year after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, and is a fleet attack submarine that fought in the Pacific during WWII. She was nicknamed the “Pearl Harbor Avenger”.

Before leaving Pearl Harbor National Memorial, buy tickets for the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum and Battleship Missouri Memorial on Ford Island. 

To note: The cost of the tickets includes a bus ride to Ford Island, however there is also a parking lot for guests who choose to drive over. 

Ford Island

(Kait Hanson)

Driving across the bridge to Ford Island is a bit like stepping back into the 1940s, where historical homes, landmarks, and even bullet strafing, can still be seen. 

Here you’ll find:

The USS Missouri, also known as “Mighty Mo”, was the last battleship commissioned by the United States and was the site of the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945, officially ending WWII. The ship offers two daily tours, but is open daily for self-led tours. 

(Kait Hanson)

To note: The Battleship Missouri Memorial is currently closed due to COVID restrictions, but you can take a virtual tour here.

The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum allows guests to explore historical aircraft housed in two hangars on Ford Island. General admission covers access to more than fifty aircraft and all exhibits with free guided audio (available in multiple languages).

Ford Island’s 4-mile loop trail offers insight into lesser-known historical moments, which include plaques for clarification. Along this trail, accessible with base access onto Ford Island, guests can see bullet strafing, the CPO neighborhood that sat adjacent to the attack zone, the original Bachelor Officers Quarters and buildings, and the USS Oklahoma and USS Utah Memorials. 

Hickam Field

Located adjacent to Pearl Harbor, Hickam Field served as the principal airfield and bomber base in 1941. From the National Park Service on the morning of December 7th:

“At Hickam Field, Japanese Zero fighters and Val dive-bombers strafed and bombed the fight line and hangars, concentrating on the B-17 bombers. The 12 U.S. B-17s arrived unarmed and low on fuel during the attack. Most succeeded in landing at Hickam where they were attacked on the ground. The second wave of the Japanese attack struck Hickam at 8:40am and by 9:45 the attack was over. Nearly half of the airplanes at Hickam Field had been destroyed or severely damaged. The hangars, the Hawaiian Air Depot, several base facilities–the fire station, the chapel and the guardhouse–had been hit. The big barracks had been repeatedly strafed and bombed and a portion of the building was on fire. Thirty-five men were killed when a bomb hit the mess hall during breakfast. Hickam’s casualties totaled 121 men killed, 274 wounded and 37 missing.”

Residents who lived on Hickam Field at the time of the attacks recall blackouts on the base and hearing bullets bounce off the roof. Today, Hickam is home to the headquarters of the Pacific Air Force and features many of the buildings that were standing in 1941.

Wheeler Army Airfield

Exiting Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, hop on H2 North toward Wahiawa, where Wheeler Army Airfield is located. Wheeler Field was a primary target for the Japanese in 1941, as they hoped to prevent planes from getting airborne. While many of hte planes that were parked at Wheeler were destroyed in the attacks, twelve pilots managed to get P-36 Hawk and P-40 Warhawk aircrafts off the ground and engaged Japanese pilots. After WWII, Wheeler Army Airfield became a National Historic Landmark for the role it played during the war. 

Today, the airfield is accessible with valid military identification and features restored buildings and planes as they would have looked the day of the attacks.

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. 

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. 

Articles

These ancient Greek warriors would have laughed at ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

[ad-box path=”/41755326/300x250_button” width=”250″ height=”300″]Now that “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is a thing of the past, the U.S. military accepts that homosexuality doesn’t affect combat readiness or battlefield performance. In fact the RAND Corporation studied this in 1993 and found no impact on allowing gays to serve openly in the military.


But there was a time when military leaders actually thought the opposite – that purposely forming a unit of gay couples would enhance their combat effectiveness. For 40 years, it seemed the theory was right on.

The Sacred Band of Thebes was a hand-picked unit of 300 Greek soldiers that were chosen for their abilities and merit, not on their social class. They were also 150 couples, male lovers devoted to the Greek god Eros, and – according to the Macedonian author Polyaenus’ book “Stratagems,” they were “devoted to each other by mutual obligations of love.” They trained constantly in all areas of classical combat, including horsemanship and unarmed combat.

What this translated to on the battlefield was that this hand-picked group of foot soldiers did a lot of ass kicking.

After the 2006 movie “300,” many tended to think of the Spartans as the most elite warriors of the Bronze Age. The Greek historian Plutarch actually records the first instance of the Sacred Band in combat in a fight against Spartan leaders Gorgoleon and Theopompus at the Battle of Tegyra. The Spartans outnumbered the Thebans 2-to-1 and advanced on the Theban force. The Sacred Band immediately killed the Spartan leaders then cut through the Spartans like a warm knife through butter. The rest of the Theban force flanked the Spartan army as it fell apart.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory

It was the first time in history where a Spartan force was defeated by a numerically inferior enemy.

This led to a sharp rise in Thebes’ power and a general peace treaty between major city-states. Of course, that doesn’t mean the fighting ended there. Four years later, Sparta and Thebes were again at war. By this time, the mission of the Sacred Band in combat was to form at the head of the army to fight and kill the best warriors and leaders of the enemy force, just like they did at Tegyra. At the Battle of Leuctra, 12,000 Spartans were pitted against 8,500 Thebans. As the Spartans tried to end the battle by flanking the Thebans, the Sacred Band smashed into the entire Spartan right wing and held them in place until the rest of the Theban army could move in. The Spartan army was decimated, their king killed, and the city-state severely weakened.

Thebes maintained its independence for 40 years because of the Sacred Band’s combat skill. They didn’t lose a single battle in that time. It would all come crashing down when Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander invaded Greece in 338 BC. The Macedonians brought a new battlefield innovation, the long-speared phalanx. Greek Hoplites were no match for the phalanx and when Philip met the Thebans at the Battle of Caeronea, the Greeks quickly broke and fled – except for the Sacred Band.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory

The Band was long-thought to be invincible, but they died where they stood, to the last man. Their last commander fell with them. Plutarch, in his work “Lives,” wrote that Philip II wept when came upon the bodies of the Sacred Band of Thebes when he realized who they were.

Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything unseemly – Philip II of Macedon

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

How one man defeated the US military by enlisting 8 times

In 1980, Walter Banks Beacham enlisted in the United States Navy. He was excited for the signing bonus of $4,000, a cool $12,000 when adjusted for inflation in 2018. In 1984, Mark Richard Gerardi joined the U.S. Army Reserve. In 1986, Cedrick L. Houston joined the Navy. The next year, Chris Villanueva joined the Army. Zachary Pitt joined the Navy in 1989. And, finally, in 1992, George Perez joined the Army.

The trouble was that these were all the same person.


Beacham assumed the identities of six different individuals he came across through his life in coastal California. The Oakland native even somehow managed to enlist as himself, social security number and all, twice. The Los Angeles Times reported that Beacham was able to do this because he looked like he could be any of a number of ethnicities and he was able to procure fake drivers’ licenses, social security cards, and other identifying paperwork to support his claims.

Keep in mind, this was during the height of the Cold War and military recruiters have quotas to make. They relied a lot on personal integrity to make sure they put good — and real — people into the U.S. military. And there was a time when young Walter Beacham really did want to serve his country, but he failed to adapt to military life when it counted, and the rest is history.

*Note: Beacham is not in any of the photos below. I used photos that give an idea of how much time passes.

1. Walter Banks Beacham

The first time he enlisted, Beacham was drawn in by the guaranteed signing bonus and he really wanted to defend his country. When the recruiter came to his home, he saw Beacham and a few of his friends sitting, smoking, and drinking. He was able to recruit them all.

But the Navy wasn’t really for him. After six weeks and a few AWOL incidents at boot camp near San Diego, he was done.

“I put away my uniform, I got my money, I took a cab out of the front gate and then a Greyhound to L.A.,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory

What graduating from Army basic training looked like in 1980.

2. Walter Banks Beacham, Jr.

Maybe it wasn’t the military that was the problem — maybe he just wasn’t cut out for the Navy. Six months after leaving the Navy, he was on a bus, headed for Army basic training. This time, he simply threw a “Jr.” on the end of his name. When the Army asked if he’d ever served before, he said no, and that was that.

For about six months.

The Army eventually realized his Social Security Number matched that used during his previous, Navy life and he was promptly discharged from the U.S. Army.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory

What graduating from the Navy’s boot camp looked like in 1980.

3. Walter Banks Beacham

When he got back to his native Oakland, it was only three months before he decided to give the life of a sailor another chance. He dreamed of foreign lands and exotic ports and was ready to forego the sign-on bonus (if necessary). He again used his real name and was shipped back to San Diego. He made it through five weeks this time.

“I would have made it through but, five weeks into it, they found drugs in my urine and one of the company commanders was still there from the time before and he saw my name on a list,” Beacham said. “I went AWOL.”

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory

A U.S. Army Korean DMZ patrol in 1984.

4. Mark Richard Gerardi

In 1984, he joined the Army again, this time using an alias of his high-school friend. Beacham borrowed his friend’s diploma and birth certificate and was off to Fort Dix, New Jersey, for basic training — which he completed.

He was sent back to California, attached to a unit in San Francisco, and eventually sent over to Korea for three weeks. It was all for naught when he got a girl pregnant and then left her. She threatened to turn him in to the Army. Beacham tried to play it cool, but eventually bolted. He never heard from them again.

“I guess they just cut you loose after awhile. I don’t know,” Beacham told the Los Angeles Times.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory

Navy boot camp graduates in San Diego, 1986.

5. Cedrick L. Houston

In 1986, Beacham used the name of someone he met in Hollywood who was trying to be a dancer. He told the aspiring dancer he would get him work if he could use his identification papers… to join the Navy.

He actually finished Navy basic training this time around and was sent to learn to be a submariner on the East Coast of the United States. Of course, it didn’t last. He used a racial slur during the course of his duties and the Navy ended up booting him out for it.

“I was selling doughnuts on the base there until classes started and I called this sailor a silly-ass cracker,” Beacham said.
“And they put me out of the Navy for that.”

6. Chris Villanueva

Back in California in 1987 and using the name Walter Banks Beacham again, he went down to Glendale, outside of Los Angeles, to join the Army as a truck driver, which is where he got his new name, Chris Villanueva. The real Villanueva was an unemployed truck driver Beacham ran into in the Valley one day. The born-again Villanueva (Beacham) was sent to basic training at Fort Sill, Okla. and was sent to Germany right after.

He survived another boot camp only to come under suspicion for some cocaine found in soldier’s duffel bags while in Germany. He was afraid he would get arrested for it, so he went AWOL again and headed for home.

7. Zachary Pitt

Beacham doesn’t even remember the real Zachary Pitt, but the new Zachary Pitt made it through Navy training in San Diego in 1989 and was inducted into the Navy as a Mess Management Specialist — better known as “a cook.” When his ship was set to leave for Japan, Zachary Pitt just walked out and disappeared.

“I met him in the Bay Area. I don’t even remember if he was white or Mexican,” Beacham said of the real Zachary Pitt.
Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory

Army basic training graduates in 1992.

8. George Perez

In his last enlistment in 1992, he left before he even received his signing bonus. Now George Perez, Beacham completed Army basic training at Fort Bliss in Texas and was back at Fort Sill for AIT, where he became an artillery unit’s forward observer. This time, he just couldn’t do it.

“Something happened,” he recalled later. “I couldn’t stick around. Time was choking up on me. I was in trouble for staying out late, and I was afraid I’d be busted right then.”

Eventually, he was caught by civilian police officers and turned over to the U.S. military, who court-martialed him on multiple counts of wrongful enlistment, AWOL charges, and desertion. At age 34, he pled guilty to all of them. The old U.S. military would have executed this guy. Luckily for Beacham, there was no war on and he spent just under eight months in an Army prison and was released with a dishonorable discharge.

Articles

Navy SEALs develop dry submersible mini-attack submarine

U.S. Special Operations Command and sub-maker Electric Boat have partnered up to develop a dry submersible mini-submarine designed to more safely and efficiently deliver Navy SEALs into hostile, high-threat areas beneath the surface of the ocean.


The 31-foot long underwater vehicle, called the User Operational Evaluation System 3, can carry as many as six people. It is currently being tested and developed through a three-year, $44 million U.S Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, firm-fixed-price design, build and deliver contract with Groton, Conn.-based General Dynamics Electric Boat.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
US Navy photo

USSOCOM has a long-term goal to develop an affordable dry combat submersible system that satisfies current SOF (Special Operations Forces) maritime mobility requirements,” a SOCOM spokesman said. “Combat submersibles are used for shallow water infiltration and exfiltration of special operations forces, reconnaissance, resupply, and other missions in high threat, non-permissive environments.”

The pressure hull and motor of the User Operational Evaluation System 3, or UOES 3, have already been built and have undergone key tests, Electric Boat officials said.  Engineering plans call for the inclusion of a standard suite of submersible navigation systems, gyroscopes, sonar and obstacle avoidance technology, according to mission systems and business development officials with General Dynamics Electric Boat.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
General Dynamics

The idea with the dry submersible is to minimize risk and fatigue for special operations forces, such as SEALs, who are adept at quietly swimming into hostile areas to complete high-risk missions.

“Right now when we deploy SEALs they typically go in what’s called a wet boat – so they are in the ocean breathing through scuba gear. What the SEALs really want is something where they can get the guys to their objective dry, so they don’t have to endure this harsh water environment,” an Electric Boat official said.

While SEALs are known for their training and long-distance swimming abilities, a dry submersible could lessen mission- fatigue and reduce their exposure to harsh elements such as cold or icy water.  Therefore, the UOES 3 would seem to be of particular value in cold or stormy waters given that it would protect them from the elements.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
US Navy photo

It is not yet clear whether the 19-ton dry submersible will be launched from a submarine or from a surface ship, however those questions are now being explored, SOCOM and Electric Boat officials said.

The dry submersible was slated to undergo developmental testing and early operational assessment through fiscal year 2015, Special Operations Command officials said.

The idea is to use UOES 3 progress as a “technology development” effort to prepare for what will become a more formal effort to build a dry semi-submersible for SEALs.

The UOES 3 is currently being built to commercial specifications through a partnership between General Dynamics Electric Boat and an Italian firm called Giunio Santi Engineering, or GSE, Electric Boat officials explained.  The idea behind using commercial specifications is to leverage the best and most cutting-edge existing technology while working to keep costs lower, he said.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
U.S. Navy photo

Some of the navigational technology includes a sonar Doppler velocity log which bounces a signal off the bottom of the ocean to help provide essential mission-relevant location information, an Electric Boat official added.

“After bouncing off the bottom, a signal comes back to an array which tells you how far you are moving,” he said.

One analyst said such a technology could bring great advantage to the SEALs.

“It is sensible that they would want to deploy in the stealthiest way available. It is something that fits with the traditional missions of the SEALs,” said Benjamin Friedman, research fellow in homeland defense and security studies, Cato Institute, a Washington-based D.C. think tank.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This British tank crew survived 3 days trapped in No Man’s Land

On July 31, 1917, the British guns in the Ypres salient roared to life, marking the opening of the Battle of Passchendaele. The battle would rage back and forth for over two months. Through the chaos, one amazing story emerged: A tank crew refused to give up or be captured and held out, on their own, stranded in No Man’s Land, for three days.


The reason was the unrelenting mud that created an incredibly difficult terrain for the crew.

 

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
A Mark IV tank stuck in the mud during WWI.

Their story begins with 2nd Lt. Don Richardson, who was working in his family grocery business in Nottingham when the war broke out in 1914. He joined his local regiment, the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment – also known as the Sherwood Foresters – and shipped off the next year.

As Britain began incorporating tanks into its war plans, Richardson was promoted to captain and given command of a tank section. He named his own tank “Fray Bentos” after the canned meat sold in his family store.

The Fray Bentos was a British Mark IV tank. While these early incarnations of armored vehicles were slow moving behemoths capable of about four miles per hour at top speed, they were heavily armored and packed with weaponry.

The tank mounted two Ordnance QF 6-pounder guns, three Lewis guns, and had a crew of eight, each armed with their own personal weapons. On Aug. 22, 1917, the men in the Fray Bentos set off in support of an attack by the British 61st Division in the vicinity of St. Julien. Captain Richardson decided to walk alongside the tank during the advance.

After three weeks of near constant shelling and a heavy rainfall, the area literally became a muddy quagmire.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
While World War I remained a figurative one.

As the attack progressed, the tank took out a German machine gun position before encountering a fusillade of machine gun fire as it approached the objective. Richardson was hit in the leg and dove inside the tank.

The driver, Lt. George Hill, was then blown off his seat by a wound to the neck just as the tank got into what Sgt. Robert Missen said was “a very deep soft place” that they “went in sideways.” Richardson tried to regain control but he was too late and the Fray Bentos slid into a ditch. The Mark IV tank was prepared for such an instance however, and carried unditching beams on the roof to extract itself from these situations.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
A Mark IV’s unditching gear, circa 1917.

Missen and Lance Cpl. Braedy exited the tank to retrieve the unditching equipment but the Germans spotted them and unleashed a maelstrom of fire. Missen later recalled “I heard bullets hitting the tank and saw some Boche about 30 yards off firing at me, I got in again.”

Braedy wasn’t so lucky. In his attempt to attach the unditching gear, he was gunned down. His body sank into the relentless mud and was never found. The remaining men in the tank returned fire with their rifles and Lewis guns. They even managed to get some shots off from their cannons despite their awkward position.

Soon, the infantry attack stalled out ahead of the tank and British soldiers began falling back to their trenches. This left the men of the Fray Bentos completely alone and isolated in No Man’s Land. As Germans approached the tank using an old trench under the tank’s Lewis gun, the crew easily picked them off with their rifles through an opening in the cab.

Germans then tried to swarm over the tank and drop grenades inside to flush out or kill the occupants. The British tankers engaged them in close combat. One German soldier managed to get a grenade inside but one of the men retrieved it and threw it out before it exploded.

It wasn’t long before most of the crew had been wounded.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
A Tank Museum engraving of the story of the Fray Bentos.

Their ordeal was far from over. For the next three days and two nights, they fought off the Germans. They even had to contend with British snipers targeting them, unsure if they were Germans trying to steal the tank.

As time wore on, the men drained the radiator and drank the filthy water in order to survive. Richardson decided it was time for them to make their escape. Missen would go first to alert the infantry to their impending return in the hopes of them not being killed by friendly fire. The rest of the crew dismantled the cannons, gathered their maps and weapons, and, despite painful wounds, prepared to crawl through the treacherous mud back to friendly lines.

Under the cover of darkness on the night of Aug. 24, more than 60 hours after they first embarked on their mission, the men exited the tank one-by-one and made their way back to British trenches. Once they encountered men from the 9th Battalion, the Black Watch, they handed over their machine guns and made their way towards the aid station.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory

The wounded men from Passchendaele.

Richardson was mentioned in dispatches and would later receive the Military Cross for his actions. He would return to action in a new tank, Fray Bentos II, and serve until the end of the war. Lieutenant Hill was also awarded the Military Cross for his actions during the fighting. Missen and one of the gunners, William Morrey, were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for their part in the action. The other surviving gunners, Ernest Hayton, Frederick Arthurs, Percy Budd, and James Binley, were all awarded the Military Medal.

The men of the Fray Bentos were the most decorated tank crew of the First World War.

Articles

Here’s the Navy’s plan for light carriers

In the wake of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the Navy to find a way to get more aircraft carriers into the fleet quickly.


As Japan “ran wild” during the first six months of the war, nine Cleveland-class light cruisers were converted into aircraft carriers. The ships served during World War II, with one — USS Princeton (CVL 23) — being sunk during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

The United States Navy later added two more light carriers, the Saipan-class vessels USS Saipan (CVL 48) and USS Wright (CVL 49)

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
A lineup of the major American carriers in World War II. In the back is USS San Jacinto (CVL 30), an Independence-class light carrier. (U.S. Navy photo)

Now, the light carrier could be making a comeback. According to a report from Popular Mechanics, the Navy has received $30 million to come up with a preliminary design for a light carrier. This is being pursued at the behest of Senator John McCain (R-AZ), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Ranking Member Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., listen as retired Gen. David Petraeus testifies at a hearing in Washington, Sept. 22, 2015.

The report noted that the Navy had operated what amounted to “light” carriers in the Cold War. However, these “light” carriers were the fleet carrier designs (the Essex-class and Midway-class vessels), which had become “light” due to the development of the super-carriers, starting with USS Forrestal (CV 59).

The most notable of these “light” carriers, were the three Midway-class ships: USS Midway (CV 41), USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV 42), and USS Coral Sea (CV 43).

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV 42), a Midway-class carrier. (U.S. Navy photo)

In World War II, the light carriers helped bolster the air power of the Third Fleet and Fifth Fleet. Mostly, this was by adding a huge complement of fighters. According to “Aleutians, Gilberts, and Marshalls,” Volume VII in Samuel Eliot Morison’s “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II,” an Essex-class carrier usually carried 36 F6F Hellcats, 36 SBD Dauntless dive bombers, and 18 TBF Avenger torpedo bombers.

The usual air group for an Independence-class light carrier was 24 F6F Hellcats and 9 TBFs. Independence-class light carriers displaced 11,000 tons, compared to 30,000 for the Essex.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
USS Cowpens (CVL 25) with aircraft on the flight deck. (U.S. Navy photo)

What could be the light carrier of today?

Popular Mechanics looked at two options. One was essentially to use the America-class amphibious assault ship to operate about 20 F-35Bs from, along with MH-60R helicopters and V-22 Osprey tankers. The other option is to modify the America design to use catapults and arresting gear to operate planes like the F/A-18E/F and F-35C.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
The U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) returns to Huntington Ingalls Shipyard, Pascagoula, Mississippi (USA), after completing sea trials. (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Lawrence Grove)

Either way, these carriers would not have the capabilities of a supercarrier like USS Nimitz (CVN 68) or Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). The air groups would be smaller, and the light carriers would not likely have nuclear power.

However, the lighter carriers could handle a number of missions — including convoy escort and operations like those in Libya or Somalia, freeing up the supercarriers for major conflicts against a country like China or Russia.

Articles

A recruit’s opinion on the evolution of training tactics

Measured against today’s politically correct standards for training raw recruits, I must have been abused to the point of permanent psychologically scarring during basic training.


Only, that’s not how I remember it.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory

The definition of the word abuse seems now to be generationally interpreted. In my generation it meant ‘treat with cruelty or violence.’ Today it appears to mean disturbing another’s chi.  In fairness to today’s recruits, their feeling in boot camp is the same as mine was. The loss of personal freedoms, learning to respect authority, and being a part of a team can be disorientating concepts to many.

I’m not saying that the training of raw recruits then or now is better or worse. I am saying that the judicious application of power to totally control and mold a human being into an effective contributor to an organization is appropriate and far from abusive or cruel.

We’ve all seen folks, both draftee and enlistee, we were positive would never survive boot camp go on to stellar careers at the highest levels of the military because someone else was responsible for developing the drive the recruit wasn’t even aware they possessed.

Also read: This is what happens when your father was your drill instructor’s drill instructor

Yelling at someone who commits an error that could result in injury to themselves or others is neither cruel nor violent.

Having a foot unceremoniously planted in your butt when falling behind on the morning run was actually a motivational gesture. You might feel you’re going to die on the run, but you won’t fall behind again. The foot was embarrassing — not painful, cruel, or abusive. Anybody remember that handprint on their butt from the first jump at Benning? It wasn’t abuse. It gave you something else to think about besides freezing in the door.

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory
Sgt. Stephen Wills, a drill instructor from Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, instructs Marine enlistees to clean up their gear during a Recruiting Station Seattle pool function at the Yakima Training Center in Yakima, Wash., July 17, 2015. (U.S Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Reece Lodder)

In the final days of boot camp we had earned a post pass. We could only go to the PX, post theatre, or beer garden. After falling in formation wearing highly decorated Class ‘A’s (name tags and U.S. brass) we filed up by squad to sign for our passes.

During this process the platoon sergeant asked if anyone had a pencil. I did and ran it up to him, then returned to formation. When he had finished calling out the names to collect their passes and was folding his little OD green wooden table, I was still at attention.

As he began to walk away I said, “Excuse me, Staff Sgt. Johnson. I signed for a pass.”

He looked in the sign out book and responded, “No you didn’t, boy. Look.” I looked, and my name had been erased, possibly with my own pencil.

Cruel? It took me years to admit it was my mistake, but I got it. To this day I only use pencil on electronically scanned forms and crossword puzzles.

Related: 23 Photos of Drill Instructors terrifying the hell out of Marine recruits

I’m a product of the Greatest Generation. My dad, uncles, and neighbors had all served. We were raised on the stories of that era and had no illusions about what to expect in boot camp. We were all prepared to be treated as one rank below, and certainly less revered than the general’s dog.

But some fifty years later not a day goes by that I don’t call on and use those lessons imprinted on me in boot camp: Help those who need it but don’t facilitate weakness. Be part of something greater than myself. This life is not all about me. Spend any available time you have improving your position.

To all my “abusers”: you earned my respect and have my heartfelt thanks for making me the person I am today.

This article first appeared in The Havok Journal on 10MAR15.

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