New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that. - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

Many of us will collectively roll our eyes as we scroll our social media in January. Between the “New Year, New Me” posts and detailed resolutions our friends and family will be sharing, you may be over it. But rather than approaching your feed with a pessimistic and hardened heart, maybe a little bit of history will help you understand why people flock to do this every year.

New Year’s resolutions have been around a long time. Research has shown that the first resolutions can be traced 4,000 years past, to the ancient Babylonians. Back then they were said to have 12-day celebrations in honor of the new year, making promises to the gods in hopes that they would grant them favor throughout that year. These promises were serious too! The Babylonians felt that if they didn’t keep their promises and pay debts, they could fall out of favor. Much more serious than our failed commitments to going to the gym more often.

Julius Caesar was known for a lot of things but you may not be aware that it was he who constructed our traditionally recognized calendar, making January 1 the first day of the new year. He did this around 43 B.C. and felt like it made sense, with the word January coming from Janus, a two-faced God. The Romans believed that Janus looked backwards to the previous year and forward for the new. The Romans also began celebrating the New Year with promises to the gods along with some questionable sacrifices. Thankfully that practice went away, to the excitement of livestock everywhere.

Fast forward to 1740, the new year began to have some implications for Christians. The beginning of the year began to evolve into a way to think about ones past mistakes and resolving to do better in the future. There was even a special ceremony or service for this practice, something that many modern churches still do.

Although the root making resolutions have a strong religious foundation, it is definitely something now practiced widely by everyone in modern society. Around 45 percent of Americans make resolutions but only around 8 percent will actually follow through with them. Don’t let those odds discourage you, however. After the year-which-shall-not-be-named we all just experienced, a little hope and positivity is absolutely needed. Here are three simple ideas for obtainable resolutions to aspire to reach in 2021.

Give more grace

Do this not only for others but for yourself as well. The stressors of life and the ongoing pandemic didn’t go away with the flip of the calendar month, but how you approach them can. Instead of striving for perfection or certain hard-line expectations, look for ways to give grace when you or others come up short instead. We all deserve it.

Increase your generosity

This doesn’t mean to open your wallet – it refers to opening your heart instead. Look for ways to be kind or give your time to those in need. It will create moments of joy in your life and has been proven to support better overall health and well-being.

Don’t make crazy health resolutions

Add two more glasses of water to your day and resolve to spend 15 minutes outside moving in some way. If you decide to take this resolution further, that’s great! But if this is all you do – it’s huge. As a society we are notorious for too many lattes and not enough water, this is an obtainable goal to improve your health. Being outside and moving is attacking your physical and mental health at the same time. Doable!

History has taught us so many things. Although we no longer make resolutions to ensure our crops are successful, the intent and hope behind the New Year resolution hasn’t changed. Even when you see cringe-worthy resolutions on your social media feed, hope is still at the root. As we approach 2021 with the knowledge of that “other year” burned in our brains, let us do it with nothing but good vibes. We’ve had enough bad ones to last a lifetime.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Macron will bring a ‘Devil Dog’ Marines tribute to the White House

French President Emmanuel Macron said April 22, 2018, that he is bringing a living tribute to “Devil Dog” Marines who fell in the World War I battle of Belleau Wood to the White House as a symbol of the two nations’ enduring ties.

The oak sapling from the battle site will be presented to President Donald Trump in hopes that it will be planted in the White House garden, Macron said in an interview on the “Fox News Sunday” program from the Elysee Palace in Paris.


Macron arrives in the U.S. April 23, 2018, on a three-day visit that is expected to focus on the way forward in Syria following the April 13, 2018 missile strikes, and on France’s concern that Trump may pull the U.S. out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to halt Iran’s nuclear programs.

“Retreat? Hell, we just got here”

The battle of Bois de Belleau, or Belleau Wood, about 60 miles north of Paris near the Marne River in the Champagne region, has entered Marine Corps lore. It’s best known among Marines as the place where they were first called “Devil Dogs” for their fierce defense in June 1918, that blunted the German spring offensive.

A dispatch from the German front lines to higher headquarters described the Americans blocking their way and mounting counter-offensives as fighting like “Teufel Hunden,” or “Hounds of Hell.”

At one point, French forces moving to the rear to regroup urged the Marines to join them. The response from a Marine, attributed to either Capt. Lloyd W. Williams of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, or Maj. Frederic Wise, was, “Retreat? Hell, we just got here.”

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.
U.S. Marines in Belleau Wood (1918).
(Illustration by Georges Scott)

Once they consolidated their positions, the Marines would attack six times through mustard gas and withering machine-gun fire before the Germans were driven from the wood. An estimated 2,000 Marines were killed.

An official German report later described the Marines as “vigorous, self-confident, and remarkable marksmen.”

Army Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force on the Western Front, marveled at the tenacity of the “Devil Dogs” of Belleau Wood in a quote that has also become part of the Marine legend.

“The deadliest weapon in the world is a United States Marine and his rifle,” Pershing said.

He added that, “the battle of Belleau Wood was for the U.S. the biggest battle since Appomattox and the most considerable engagement American troops had ever had with a foreign enemy” to that time.

The oak sapling Macron will give to Trump was taken from a site near the so-called “Devil Dog Fountain,” where U.S. troops gathered after the battle of Belleau Wood. The fountain’s spout is in the shape of the head of a bull mastiff.

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.
(Photo by G.Garitan)

The gift of the sapling is not the first time Macron has sought to firm up relations with a world leader by playing to their affections for the armed forces and military pageantry.

During a state visit to China early 2018, Macron gave Chinese President Xi Jinping a horse from the elite French Republican Guard. Macron had remembered that Xi was impressed with his official escort of 104 horsemen during a visit to Paris in 2014.

July 2017, in Paris, Trump was similarly impressed by the military formations and fly-bys at the annual Bastille Day Parade. The parade in France was believed to have been a factor in Trump’s decision to order a military parade in Washington, D.C. on Veterans Day 2018.

Trumps, Macrons to dine at Mount Vernon

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.
President Donald Trump with President Emmanuel Macron.

On April 23, 2018, Macron and his wife, Brigitte, will join Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for a private dinner at the historic Mount Vernon, Virginia, estate of George Washington. Macron will also address Congress and attend an official state dinner at the White House.

Although they have had differences on climate change, tariffs, and Syria, Macron said he was committed to working with Trump and he sidestepped the possible repercussions from the long-running special counsel investigation swirling around the White House.

“I never wonder [about] that,” Macron said of the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. “I mean, I work with him. I work with him because both of us are very much at the service of our country on both sides,” Macron said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“Here, in this office, I’m not the one to judge and in certain way, to explain to your people what should be your president,” Macron said. “I’m here to deal with the president of the United States. And people of the United States elected Donald Trump.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Google Maps accidentally sparked a military invasion

Computer programming is a complex, detail-oriented skill that is extremely prone to human error. Oftentimes, those little errors are found and fixed before anyone even notices, but when a tech giant like Google makes even the slightest mistake, there are massive, real-world consequences.


Mapmaking is as painstaking a task as it is a political one. It’s easy when a border follows distinct geographical markings (such as the Rio Grande, which demarcates Texas to the north and Mexico to the south), but when lines are drawn based on nothing but territorial claims, there is almost always conflict. Borders on maps are created after both parties agree on where each side’s land ends. If they don’t agree and maps are created anyways (declaring one region, in part, belongs to another), you get conflicts, like that of Kashmir.

Today, many rely on Google Maps for a fairly accurate representation of the world. Years of research and the collection of billions of bytes of data has helped Google calculate where roads are, figure out which restaurants serve the best grub, and determine where borderlines are drawn. This is rarely an issue but, in October 2010, Nicaraguan troops invaded Costa Rica because Google Maps showed a region, which was indisputably Costa Rican, belonged to Nicaragua.

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.
(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Eden Pastora, former Sandinista commander turned politician, was in charge of dredging a river along the border. For the safety of the workers, the Nicaraguan military sent 50 troops for protection. The river was created and the armed troops entered the Costa Rican territory of Isla Calero unannounced. When pressed on the issue, Pastora responded that he was only following the map he picked up from Google.

Google apologized, corrected their mistake, and the world laughed — but the troops didn’t leave. In fact, the conflict was very heated.

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.
Costa Rica may not have a standing army, but their police force is serious AF. (Photo by Spc. Jaccob Hearn)

Costa Rica disbanded their military in 1948 following a bloody civil war, retaining only a small commando unit. The 50 Nicaraguan soldiers and 70 Costa Rican police officers stared each other down at Isla Calero for well over a month, each ready to fight over the land.

It wasn’t until Nov. 12, when the Organization of American States voted that the land did, in fact, belong to Costa Rica, that Pastora backed down. Five years later, Pastora watched from Nicaragua as the river was filled in with sand.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Meet the Irish American battalion that en masse defected to Mexico

A bit of far off Irish-American-Mexican history brings to light a lesser-known chapter of Irish military service – the time that 265 Irish service members defected.

Some called them heroes; others called them traitors. The Irish immigrants who joined the Army in the 1840s decided when the war broke out between the US and Mexico that they wanted none of it.


Right after the US annexed Texas in 1845, both Mexico and America sent military members to the newly created and shared border.

1845 America was a tumultuous place – Florida was admitted as a state, the Great Fire of Pittsburg destroyed much of the city, and Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, was published.

Thoreau embarked on his two-year experiment to live in the woods at Walden Pond, a huge fire destroyed lots of New York, and the US Naval Academy officially opened its doors. Johnny Appleseed died in 1845, and Edmonia Lewis died.

A lot was going on, no more so evident than within the US Army. In 1845, the Army was a hodgepodge of service personnel, with diverse backgrounds, much like it is today. Service members were from all over the world, especially from western European countries, all of which had distinct and robust Catholic population groups. Many immigrant service members were blatantly disrespected and discriminated against by “native-born Americans,” which led to widespread unrest and low morale. Adding to that was most of the immigrant soldiers were Catholic, outliers in the very protestant America of the time.

So back to the Irish battalion. No one is quite sure exactly how it happened. Still, most historians agree that the widespread abuse of immigrant personnel coupled with the very low troop commitment levels led to a huge percentage of the Army feeling invisible, disenfranchised, and without appropriate ways to voice their frustrations.

Much of the American public felt that the annexation of Texas was useless – an expansionist war was nothing the young country needed. One of the most vocal about the uselessness of the expansion was Abraham Lincoln, who was quoted as not surprised that the Army saw so many deserters during this time.

While the Army was struggling to hold rank, the Mexican military saw an opportunity to infiltrate and spread propaganda, which is exactly what they did.

Several Mexican Army generals sent messages targeted toward immigrant personnel stationed at the Texas border. These messages crossed the Rio Grande River. All held one core focus – that immigrant service members should abandon their American Army posts and join their Catholic brothers in arms in the Mexican military. The messages offered Mexican citizenship and huge land grants – as much as 320 acres for privates.

More than 5,000 US soldiers would desert their posts throughout the war, and more than 40,000 simply disappeared in Mexico.

The Irish defectors were known as the St. Patrick’s Battalion, and their Mexican brothers-in-arms called them “The Red Company” because so many of them had red hair and ruddy complexions.

The battalion’s flag showed a winged harp, three-leaf clovers, and the motto, “Irish till the end of time,” written in Gaelic. The battalion fought alongside the Mexican Army as part of a rolling rearguard that worked to defend against as the US military advanced further into Mexico.

In the final days of the final battle, over 60 deserters were captured, and fifty of them were executed. The Mexican Army pleaded for mercy and leniency, but only a handful of the Irish deserters were actually pardoned.

But, of those who were pardoned, it wasn’t as easy as just walking away. The men had to receive 50 lashes on their backs while being tied to trees in the plaza at Churubusco, and their faces were branded with “D” for deserter. To this day, the Irish battalion is honored every year in festivals throughout Mexico and Ireland.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time North Dakota seceded from the Union

After Tennessee seceded from the Union in June 1861, the Civil War began in earnest. It would be won by force just a few years later, in a war that tore the country apart — a war that Americans still haven’t forgotten. So when North Dakota governor William “Wild Bill” Langer declared North Dakota’s independence — in 1934 —  you have to wonder what he was thinking.


It’s likely he was thinking about anything that would get him out of going to a federal prison. Langer was just convicted of a felony and the state Supreme Court upheld a conviction that would remove him from the Governor’s office. His lieutenant governor, Ole Olson (yes, that’s really his name), took over.

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.
Wild Bill is sick of your sh*t.

Good thing the National Guard was already on the streets.

Langer was skimming money from government paychecks into an account run by the group that put him in the office of governor. But that’s not even what he was convicted for, which was conspiracy to violate an act of Congress. His jail sentence was longer than his time in office.

But the voters loved him anyway. Despite the charges and convictions, they voted for him.

Martial law had to be declared in North Dakota. Earle Sarles, adjutant general of the North Dakota National Guard and the man technically in charge of the entire state at that moment, basically decided, on the spot, who would be governor: Olson or Langer.

What no one except Langer loyalists knew at the time was that the governor drew up a “Declaration of Independence for the State of North Dakota” the night before Court’s decision. But true to the North Dakota Constitution (and the oath he took to wear a U.S. Army uniform), he supported the court ruling and backed Olson.

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.
Mic drop.

When the North Dakota National Guard was called up to forcibly remove him from the Capitol Building in Bismarck, Langer’s supporters will still marching and demonstrating the capital’s streets.

Langer would be exonerated for the crime in 1935 and successfully ran for U.S. Senate, being seated in 1941 — where he had to explain the Declaration of Independence to the Congress.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Union troops changed the words to ‘Dixie’ to make fun of the South

Making fun of the enemy is nothing new, especially for American troops. When U.S. troops like something, they’ll probably still come up with their own term for it. Even if they respect an enemy, they will still come up with a short, probably derogatory name for them. For American troops in the Civil War, many of which took the war very seriously (and rightly so), they would take any opportunity to denigrate the “Southern Way of Life.”

That started with the pop song “Dixie,” which became a de facto national anthem for the Confederates.


New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

But even Abe Lincoln loved the song. Why? It was written in New York for use in traveling shows.

“Dixie” was actually written by an Ohioan, destined for use among blackface performers in traveling minstrel shows throughout the United States. These shows were wildly popular before, during, and after the Civil War everywhere in the United States, and were usually based on the premise of showing African-Americans as slow, dumb, and sometimes prolifically horny. It’s supposed to be sung by black people who are depicted as preferring life in the South, rather than as free men in the North.

“Dixie” is one of the most enduring relics of these shows, still retaining popularity today, although without the connection to the minstrel shows of the time. It’s safe to say almost every Confederate troop knew the words to “Dixie,” as the song depicts an idyllic view of what life in the American South was like in the 1850s, around the time the song was written, with lyrics like:

Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton
Old times there are not forgotten
Look away! Look away!
Look away! Dixie Land!

Union troops who were dead-set on killing Confederates, eventually came up with some new lyrics for the song. Like a group of murderous Weird Al fans, the Northerners wanted to poke fun at their deadly enemy in the best way they knew how – a diss track. The Union lyrics are harsh and the tune to the song just as catchy.

“Away down South in the land of traitors
Rattlesnakes and alligators…
… Where cotton’s king and men are chattels,
Union boys will win the battles…
Each Dixie boy must understand
that he must mind his Uncle Sam…”

The Union version of “Dixie” rates somewhere between “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” on the list of All-Time Greatest Civil War Songs That Make You Want to March on Richmond.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The President is forbidden from going to the top of a major US monument

In 1967, a 77-year-old Dwight D. Eisenhower ascended to the top of the famed St. Louis Arch, the gateway to the West. It wasn’t a planned trip, but the former President decided to go visit it anyway. And he wanted to go to the top, something the Secret Service forbids Presidents, past and present, to do. But Ike was the one who signed off on the construction of the Arch in 1954 and besides – who was going to tell the Supreme Allied Commander “no?”


New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

In case you were wondering about the answer to that question, it’s “no one.”

But he was the only one and even Eisenhower, a former President by the time he ascended to the highest peak of the 630-foot archway, had to do some sneaky work to be able to get to the top over the objections of his contingent of bodyguards. Eisenhower’s visit to the Gateway Arch came after hours, so there were no other tourists around, and it wasn’t a scheduled part of his itinerary, so potential assassins wouldn’t ever have known he would be there. He took the famed tramway up the arch over the objections of the Secret Service.

While Ike isn’t the only President to overrule the objections of the those who protect him, he’s the only one who forced his way up the St. Louis Arch. By the time he came to visit the city on the Mississippi River, two more Presidents had occupied the Oval Office after his tenure. It was a pretty safe bet.

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

The view inside the top of the arch.

Getting to the top is actually a pretty cleverly designed tram that is part elevator and part Ferris wheel. But the top of the arch is a very small, cramped space that doesn’t make for a lot of room to maneuver or for a lot of people to spend any significant amount of time. It also keeps people relatively close together, which is a problem for a protective unit trying to keep people out of arms reach of the world’s most powerful person.

Despite the cramped space, some 160 people can fit in the top of the arch, and a complete trip to the top takes about 45 minutes on average. That’s a lot of time, space, and opportunity to give a would-be threat.

But in reality, the Leader of the Free World is actually the one in charge, and they can do whatever they want, but the USSS really doesn’t want the President up in the Arch.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The bittersweet story of the Christmas Truce of 1914

War stems from division. It happens when there are problems we just can’t seem to solve. War is seldom beautiful, but every now and then, a little light shines through. The Christmas Truce of 1914 was one of those rare moments. 

It all started with one of the ugliest wars in history. 

World War I began on July 28th, 1914, after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. It quickly escalated, pinning the Ottoman Empire, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria, known collectively as the Central Powers, against the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania and Japan, known as the Allied Powers. The two sides proceeded to engage in over three years of brutal trench warfare. The experience was hellish, with mass casualties on both sides. In total, over 16 million people lost their lives. 

In the midst of utter carnage, the opposing side often seemed evil. Yet, it wasn’t. It was war itself that was inhuman, not the men across the trenches. On Christmas Eve, 1914, soldiers on both sides did the unthinkable; they laid down their arms and sang. 

The renowned Christmas Truce that followed was unauthorized. 

In the earliest weeks of the war, forces on both sides were aggressive and angry. By December, they had seen enough death and destruction for a lifetime. They had initially believed the war would be over by Christmas and many of them longed for an end to the fighting. While Pope Benedict XV called for a temporary ceasefire for the holiday, none of the countries involved settled on any official agreement, so the exhausted soldiers took matters into their own hands. 

As Christmas approached, a sudden cold snap turned weeks of wet weather into an eerily beautiful winter landscape. On Christmas Eve at around 8:30 pm, the truce began. German soldiers began lighting their trenches and singing carols. Small Christmas trees dotted the trenches. Initially, the British were suspicious. One officer reported to headquarters that, “Compliments are being exchanged but am nevertheless taking all military precautions.” 

Soon, it became apparent that it wasn’t a trap. The Germans sang “Silent Night”, and the British responded with “The First Noel”.  A British soldier, Private Frederick Heath, reported that a Christmas greeting rang out through the darkness: “English soldier, English soldier, a merry Christmas, a merry Christmas!” 

Between the trenches, the war-battered no man’s land transformed. 

Cautious at first, scouts ventured out of the trenches and over the barbed wire that divided the two sides. There, they imparted a message: If you don’t fire at us, we won’t fire at you. Let us have peace, if just for a night. Spontaneous truces sprang up along the trench lines without anyone really knowing how they began. In addition to sharing songs and well-wishes, impromptu games ignited. The Germans claim to have won a soccer match against the British 3-2. Meals, drinks, and laughter were shared until dawn. 

The truce was imperfect, but miraculous nevertheless. 

Unsurprisingly, many officers were against any type of truce. Fraternizing with the enemy was frowned upon, and measures were taken to prevent it from ever happening again. It’s unclear how widespread the truce really was, but some evidence suggests the truce extended across much of the British-held trench line that extended across Belgium, but other reports suggest that the truce took place in sections, scattering pockets of peace and brotherhood throughout thickets of gunfire. 

If anything, that makes the night’s events even more striking. The soldiers who chose to shake hands with their enemies must have been afraid, but they chose to do it all the same. The next day, the war continued with just as much hostility and destruction as it had before, but the opposing forces had been humanized. A grain of respect had settled in. The surprising events that took place on December 24th, 1914 along those dark and bloodied trenches didn’t bring any lasting resolution, but to those who were there, the truce brought the greatest Christmas gift of all: Hope. 

The video below is just a reenactment (and an advertisement at that), but it’s a pretty moving reminder that Christmas spirit lives on, even in the darkest of places. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Western Union helped the US enter World War I

At the height of World War I, British intelligence provided the United States with a secret telegram sent from German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmerman to the government of Mexico. The telegram promised the Mexicans a military alliance if the United States entered the war against Germany. The Germans promised Mexico it would help them recover the American territories of Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico it lost in the Mexican-American War.

The interception of the telegram was one of the earliest big wins for signals intelligence. Maybe the Kaiser shouldn’t have sent it via Western Union.


New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

“Hopefully no one breaks this code STOP It would mean we lose the war STOP We’re paying by the word STOP”

The note from Zimmerman was sent to the German ambassador to Mexico, Heinrich von Eckardt, letting him know that the German high command intended to resume its policy of unrestricted submarine warfare in the coming days. This strategy, while effective at keeping the British Isles from getting its necessary supplies also had the adverse effect of killing innocent civilians from neutral countries – countries like the United States.

On May 7, 1915, this policy resulted in the sinking of the luxury liner RMS Lusitania, killing some 1,128 people. And 128 of those people were American civilians bound for England. The incident was illegal under international law and sparked widespread anti-German outrage in the U.S. You know relations are strained when Americans rename their food to sound less German.

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

“Sauerkraut” is still “Liberty Cabbage” to me.

The note read:

We intend to begin on the first of February unrestricted submarine warfare. We shall endeavor in spite of this to keep the United States of America neutral. In the event of this not succeeding, we make Mexico a proposal of alliance on the following basis: make war together, make peace together, generous financial support and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The settlement in detail is left to you. You will inform the President of the above most secretly as soon as the outbreak of war with the United States of America is certain, and add the suggestion that he should, on his own initiative, invite Japan to immediate adherence and at the same time mediate between Japan and ourselves. Please call the President’s attention to the fact that the ruthless employment of our submarines now offers the prospect of compelling England in a few months to make peace.
Signed, ZIMMERMANN

This wasn’t even the first time the Germans tried to incite the Mexicans against the U.S. There were at least five other occasions when the German Empire funded or assisted efforts to create tensions in North America. President Wilson even had to send U.S. troops to occupy Veracruz during his administration. What the Germans didn’t take into account was the fact that Mexico was already in the middle of its own civil war, Mexico didn’t stand a chance against the U.S., even then, there was already a peace agreement in place, and Mexico knew Germany couldn’t actually support it in any meaningful way.

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

“Mexico: We are with you. But not like… there. We have to be here. But good luck in your war with the US.”

The British sent the telegram to the U.S. Ambassador to Britain, who eventually got it to President Wilson. Wilson promptly gave it to the American media. When delivered to the American people, who were already anti-Mexican and anti-German, the result was explosive. To make matters worse, Zimmerman admitted the telegram was genuine in a speech to the Reichstag, and the Germans soon sunk two American merchant ships with u-boats. Three months later, in the face of American public opinion, Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

Remember It’s a Wonderful Life? The 1946 movie where an angel visits a man to convince him not to kill himself? The actor who portrayed the man was Jimmy Stewart, and he was pretty fresh from bombing missions over Nazi-occupied Europe when he played the part. He also remained in the Air Force Reserve until he retired as a brigadier general.


New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

Lt. Gen. Valin, Chief of Staff, French Air Force, awards the Croix De Guerre with Palm to Col. Jimmy Stewart for exceptional services in the liberation.

(U.S. Air Force)

Stewart was actually drafted into the Army Air Corps as an enlisted man in March 1941. It should be noted that he was already a prominent actor with a number of movies, mostly romantic comedies, under his belt. As an enlisted man, he took extension courses in order to attain his commission and got his lieutenant bars a month after the Pearl Harbor attacks.

While many people of Stewart’s fame could’ve gotten by on morale tours or some cush duty stateside, Stewart volunteered for flight training, earning him a pilot slot. Piloting aircraft was extremely dangerous in World War II, and Stewart was striving for a job more dangerous than rifleman on the ground.

After nine months as an instructor pilot, Stewart got a billet in a unit training up for deployment to England, the 703rd Bomb Squadron. They flew across the Atlantic in late 1943 in new B-24Hs and began raining Hell down on the Third Reich.

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

Maj. Jimmy Stewart confers with a B-24 crew member.

(U.S. Air Force)

Stewart briefed bomber pilots before missions he wouldn’t fly in, and many of the crews reportedly found it amusing to get their instructions from a famous actor, sort of like if Hugh Grant went through crew drills with you before your convoys.

Stewart flew 20 combat missions with the 703rd as the squadron hit oil, ammunition, and chemical plants as well as German air bases and other military positions. He was promoted up the ranks until, by war’s end, he was chief of staff of the 2nd Combat Wing.

But Stewart didn’t bow out of military service just because the war was over. He remained in the Army Reserve and then the Air Force Reserve when it was formed. In 1959, he was promoted to brigadier general. But he still had one deployment and combat flight left in him.

In 1966, he rode along in a bomber over North Vietnam as an observer. He retired in 1968.

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

Brig. Gen. James Stewart.

(U.S. Air Force)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Navy uses WWII-era ‘bean-bag drop’ for aircraft communication

One-hundred-ten degree heat radiated from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) as an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter swooped in and dropped a message resurrecting an 80-year-old aircraft-to-ship alternative communication method.

Historically, war tends to accelerate change and drives rapid developments in technology. Even with superior modern capabilities, the US Navy still keeps a foot in the old sailboat days and for good reason.

During the sea battles of WWII, US Navy pilots beat enemy eavesdropping by flying low and slow above the flight deck and dropping a weighted cloth container with a note inside. This alternative form of communication was termed a “bean-bag drop.”


During the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, Japan, a Douglas SBD Dauntless pilot spotted a Japanese patrol vessel approximately 50 miles ahead of USS Enterprise (CV 6). The pilot believed he had been seen by the Japanese and decided not to use his radio but flew his SBD over the Enterprise flight deck and dropped a bean-bag notifying the ship of the Japanese patrol boat ahead.

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

A US Navy Douglas SBD Dauntless drops a message container known as a “bean-bag” on the flight deck of USS Enterprise while crew members dart to catch the message to deliver it up to the ship’s bridge.

(Naval Aviation Museum)

A video posted by Archive.org shows actual video of a SBD rear gunner dropping a bean-bag down to the Enterprise flight deck that day and shows a sailor picking up the bean-bag, then running to the island to deliver it up to the bridge.

The bean-bag design progressed when USS Essex (CV 9) ran out of them and Navy pilot Lt. James “Barney” Barnitz was directed to provide replacements. Barnitz went to see the Essex Parachute Riggers and out of their innovation, the bean-bag was cut and sown into a more durable form.

Fast-forward 80 years to August 2019, when Boxer’s Paraloft shop was tasked to make a new bean-bag specifically for a helo-to-deck drop.

“I started with the original measurements of the bean-bag used on the USS Enterprise in 1942 and built this one to withstand the impact of a drop but also weighed down for an accurate drop,” said Aircrew Survival Equipmentman 1st Class Carlos R. Freireizurieta, who works in Boxer’s Paraloft shop.

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

Aircrew Survival Equipmentman 1st Class Carlos R. Freireizurieta sows together naugahyde and web materials that will be used as a message delivery container between aircraft and ship, Aug. 10, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Frank L. Andrews)

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

An actual message container called a “bean-bag” used to deliver messages from an aircraft to the ship during World War II.

(Naval Aviation Museum)

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

Aircrew Survival Equipmentman 1st Class Carlos R. Freireizurieta with a message container known as a “bean-bag” he designed and sowed together, Aug. 10, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Frank L. Andrews)

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

Naval Air Crew (Helicopter) 2nd Class Joe Swanso conducts a bean-bag drop exercise to communicate with amphibious assault ship USS Boxer, Aug. 4, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Caracci)

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

Naval Air Crew (Helicopter) 2nd Class Joe Swanso conducts a bean-bag drop exercise to communicate with amphibious assault ship USS Boxer, Aug. 4, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Caracci)

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

Naval Air Crew (Helicopter) 2nd Class Joe Swanso conducts a bean-bag drop exercise to communicate with amphibious assault ship USS Boxer, Aug. 4, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Caracci)

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Bradley Peterson runs to a bean-bag that was dropped on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer during an exercise to communicate with an MH-60S Sea Hawk, Aug. 4, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Caracci)

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Bradley Peterson runs to a bean-bag that was dropped on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer during an exercise to communicate with an MH-60S Sea Hawk, Aug. 4, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Caracci)

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Bradley Peterson runs with a bean-bag that was dropped on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer during an exercise to communicate with an MH-60S Sea Hawk, Aug. 4, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Caracci)

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Bradley Peterson runs with a bean-bag that was dropped on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer during an exercise to communicate with an MH-60S Sea Hawk, Aug. 4, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Caracci)

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Bradley Peterson runs with a bean-bag that was dropped on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer during an exercise to communicate with an MH-60S Sea Hawk, Aug. 4, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Caracci)

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Middle America used to be chock-full of pirates

That’s right, pirates. And not the pretty-boy, Johnny Depp kind of pirates, either. These were violent and calculating river pirates — wish-it-was-Deliverance river pirates — and they ruled the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers in the early part of the 19th century.


New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

Referred to as America’s first serial killers, the Harpe Brothers were a famous pirate clan led by two cousins (yes, cousins. As if Appalachian family trees aren’t difficult enough). Micajah “Big” Harpe and Wiley “Little” Harpe robbed and murdered innocent men, women, and children all along the rivers of Middle America. Micajah was said to be the brawn and Wiley the brains, though they were well-matched in viciousness. Both were known to prefer buckskins and even wore the scalps of their victims at their belts.

These buck-skinned freaks became a menace to all westward migration, but quickly fell to their own stupidity. In a drunken act of mutiny, they beheaded one of their own and attempted to collect the bounty. The cousins were immediately recognized, apprehended, and beheaded themselves.

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.
The Harpe Brothers could also fit in at any Cracker Barrel.

On the more frilly side of the pirate spectrum is the infamous Jean Lafitte. Lafitte also unburdened many boats of their heavy loads along the Mississippi River like the Harpe Brothers. However, he and his brother, Pierre, had a gentler style. Not that they weren’t pirates to the fullest, they just dressed better.

Like any true pirate, Jean Lafitte carried no allegiances to a country. Jean was of French descent but was offered British citizenship to betray the United States during the War of 1812. He helped General Andrew Jackson fend off the British during the 1815 Battle of New Orleans and later spied for the Spanish during the Mexican War of Independence.

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.
No one wants New Orleans to change. Ever.

Lafitte did all of these things out of pure self-interest, of course, and I can’t think of anything more pirate than that, matey.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A paratrooper supply clerk survived a combat jump with zero training

In the military, sometimes things just get lost in transit. Gear goes adrift, paperwork gets filed wrong, and soldiers with no training in parachuting from a perfectly good airplane end up getting thrown out of a perfectly good airplane. It was bound to happen, and frankly, we should be a little surprised it took so long.


On Feb. 22, 2000, U.S. Army Spc. Jeff Lewis made his first ever parachute jump from a C-130 aircraft at Fort Bragg, N.C. The only problem was that no one had ever trained Specialist Lewis on how to jump from an airplane with the Army. Lewis was with the 82nd Airborne, so his unit was correct, it just turns out he wasn’t a paratrooper. He was a supply clerk. The then-23-year-old never mentioned anything to the jumpmaster because he wanted to do what the Army expected him to do.

“The Army said I was airborne-qualified,” Lewis said. “I wasn’t going to question it. I had a job to do, and I had to believe in what I was doing.”

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

A Jumpmaster can be held responsible for any training accident.

Lewis did eventually go to jump school, becoming airborne qualified just a few weeks after jumping out the airplane door for the first time. He was also promoted in that timeframe. But Lewis didn’t go out the door entirely unprepared. He took the 82nd’s one-day refresher course for those soldiers who are already airborne-qualified, and it might have saved his life. After stepping out of the airplane on the wrong foot, his equipment apparently got tangled. He was able to open the canopy by kicking with his feet, as instructed in the class.

Even though the troopers were doing a static line jump, the jump was only half the instruction necessary. The other half is, of course, the landing. Paratroopers are trained to land safely using certain techniques that redistribute the energy from the force of their fall. Even with the chutes, they can hit the ground as fast as 15 miles per hour. The untrained or new paratroopers can snap their legs when landing incorrectly and taking the brunt of the fall.

New year, new you? Thank Caesar for that.

This could have been his first jump.

There’s a reason paratroopers train for weeks to learn to properly stick the landing. The chutes used by the Army aren’t like civilian chutes. They’re designed to get the trooper to the ground faster. While the Army could definitely afford safer, easier-to-use parachutes, the entire point of paratroopers is to get them on the ground and fighting as fast as possible. The more time they spend suspended in mid-air, the more opportunity enemy troops have to light them up.

In short, Lewis got lucky.