Oak Ridge, Tennessee, isn’t a secret anymore, but in 1942, Tennessee’s fifth largest town didn’t exist on a single map. Adding to the mystery – residents weren’t allowed to talk about it, either. So what was going on in Oak Ridge that was so important that the government needed to keep it top secret? Well, it turns out, a lot.
The History of Oak Ridge
Before it was the Atomic City, Oak Ridge was just a sleepy blip of a town in Tennessee. The earliest settlers to the region probably never thought it would the future home of the nuclear bomb. But that’s exactly what happened in WWII when the American government needed a place to conduct top secret atomic bomb research.
Nicknames like the City Behind the Fence and the Secret City were all deployed to keep the true nature of Oak Ridge a secret. Now it’s just a suburb of Knoxville, but Oak Ridge was a major nuclear development powerhouse during WWII.
Established in 1942, Oak Ridge was the production site for the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb. It has a pretty spooky origin story if you believe in that kind of thing. Legend has it that after his wife and daughter’s death, local resident John Hendrix started telling anyone who would listen that he saw visions. In one of these visions, Hendrix reportedly described a pretty accurate depiction of what Oak Ridge would come to be. Relatives and neighbors have all reported Hendrix saying that eventually Bear Creek Valley would be filled with buildings and factories with one mission to help win the “greatest war that will ever be.”
Hendrix’s visions even went so far as to describe where roads would be during the development of Oak Ridge.
Whether or not his “visions” have been embellished over the years will forever remain a mystery. But what we do know is the government chose Oak Ridge with care.
Location, location, location
As with all real estate, it’s location location location. And that’s exactly what Oak Ridge had to offer. Not only was it nestled deep in a valley, but there were also very few people who called the region home. That meant that the government bought the land super cheap. Adding to that, Oak Ridge is accessible by both road and land. Those are very important details when you’re trying to build the world’s deadliest bomb, which is exactly what happened with the Manhattan Project.
And since no one was living in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and those who did weren’t too keen on asking questions, the government set up shop without a lot of fanfare or fuss.
By 1943, the region was officially a military district making it off-limits to anyone without confirmed access. Cut off from the rest of the state and country, Oak Ridge really was a complete and total secret. At least it was until the end of WWII. Now it’s still a hotbed site for tech and scientific development – but there aren’t any top-secret projects … that we know of.
It was arguably worse than any 37 minutes of any other U.S. Navy defeat, including Pearl Harbor. At the Battle of Savo Island, Japan sank three American ships and killed over 1,000 U.S. sailors in addition to dooming an Australian ship and killing 84 Australian sailors while suffering 129 killed of their own.
The Australian HMAS Canberra burns off Guadalcanal after the Battle of Savo Island.
(U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)
While more people, 2,403, were killed in the Pearl Harbor attack, those losses were inflicted over about 2 hours and 27 minutes. And three ships were permanently lost at Pearl Harbor while four would be lost as a result of Savo Island. It would later earn the battle and the area the nickname “Ironbottom Sound.”
On Aug. 7, 1942, the U.S. fleet was guarding landing forces at Guadalcanal. Australian Coastwatchers spotted Japanese planes bearing down on the landing forces, and the Navy redeployed its screening ships and carrier aircraft to meet the Japanese threat. The landings were saved, and U.S. Adm. William Halsey later said, “The Coastwatchers saved Guadalcanal and Guadalcanal saved the Pacific.”
The next day, August 8, Japanese ships hid near Bougainville Island and launched reconnaissance planes which quickly spotted the American fleet at the Solomons. The American fleet was split into three locations, and the Japanese commander, Vice Adm. Gunichi Mikawa, was hopeful that he could destroy one group before the other two could assist it. He targeted the ships at Savo Island.
Now, it should be said that the American fleet had received some warning that Japanese ships were still in the area. A submarine and reconnaissance planes caught sight of the Japanese fleet, but their warnings came late and were misunderstood in the larger intelligence picture. Worse, when the commander of the screening force took his ship to report to his boss, he didn’t leave anyone officially in charge in his stead.
The fleet was ill-positioned to respond to an attack, and it was bearing down on them.
The USS Quincy is illuminated by Japanese searchlights during the Battle of Savo Island on August 9, 1942.
(U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)
The Japanese attack began at 1:42 a.m. The lookouts in the Japanese masts had already found and fixed a number of ships and fed the data to their fire control stations. Just as the first Japanese flares were about to burst into light, the American destroyer Patterson spotted them and sounded the alarm, “Warning! Warning! Strange ships entering harbor.” The Patterson pursued the Japanese column, getting some hits but failing to launch its torpedoes.
But the Japanese guns were already trained on their targets, and the fleet had made it past the outer pickets, allowing it to attack from vectors and spots America hadn’t anticipated. Japanese ships pumped rounds into American vessels from just a few thousand yards. They dropped torpedoes in the water, hitting American and Australian ships before the ships’ crews could even make it to their guns.
The captain of the Australian HMS Canberra was killed in this first salvo, and his ship was rendered dead in the water.
The USS Chicago was hit with a torpedo, losing nearly its entire bow while the gunners continued to send disciplined fire at two targets in the dark, one of which might have been a Japanese ship.
The Japanese ships began to pull away from this fight at 1:44, just two minutes after they had opened fire. They had suffered no serious hits or damage and had crippled two cruisers and damaged a destroyer. The fight so far had been hidden from the rest of the American fleet, and Japan turned itself toward the Northern Force.
The turn was ill-managed, and the rest of the fleet now knew a fight was happening, if not the details. So Japan could not count on the same success it had managed in the opening five minutes. But the Northern Force still didn’t know the details of the fight, and had no idea that the Japanese were now in two columns about to attack.
The USS Vincennes charged bravely into the Battle of Savo Island, but it was quickly targeted by Japanese forces and pummeled by two columns of assailants.
(U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)
The disorganized Japanese turn still left them well-positioned to launch their torpedoes and fire their guns.
The USS Vincennes, a heavy cruiser, sailed into the fray looking for a fight, finding it about 1:50. Remember, this is still only eight minutes after Japan fired its first rounds and torpedoes. And it did not go well for the Vincennes. It was still hard to tell which ships were friendly and which were foe. A gun team asked permission to fire on a Japanese searchlight, but the brass thought it might be an American ship.
Japanese cruisers slammed the Vincennes‘ port side with shells, breaking through the hull, setting an aircraft on fire, and creating fires belowdecks that interrupted firefighting equipment and threatened to set off the ship’s supply of depth charges, bombs, and other ordnance. More shells hit the bridge and main ship, and then torpedoes ripped through the port side followed just minutes later by a hit to starboard.
By 2:03, the ship was in flames and going down. The crew fled to the sea.
Around the same time Vincennes was bravely entering the fray, the cruiser USS Astoria spotted a Japanese ship and ordered its men to general quarters. But the first Japanese shells were already flying toward it, exploding as the men were still rushing to stations.
The Astoria commander made it to the bridge and was worried that his men were in an accidental fight with friendly forces. He ordered his ship to cease firing for vital minutes. It didn’t resume firing until 1:54.
The Japanese heavy cruiser Chokai kept sending rounds at the Astoria until the fifth salvo hit home, piercing the Astoria’s superstructure, midships, and then the bridge itself. The Astoria would hit the Chokai once before it was too damaged to keep fighting.
Meanwhile, the heavy cruiser USS Quincy was also under fire and would get the worst of it. Its commander also worried that it was suffering friendly fire, and the commander ordered his guns silent, and the ship lit up to identify itself. Japanese shells tore through an aircraft hanger and set a plane on fire. It was too hot for the crew to push overboard, and Japanese ships leaped on the chance to fire on a lit up target.
The Japanese heavy cruiser Kako in 1926. It was the only Japanese ship lost as a result of the raid on Savo Island, sank on August 10 as the Japanese fleet left the engagement area.
(U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)
Shells landed just short of the Quincy, then just long, and then began raining down on it. Japanese torpedoes set off the forward magazine. The ship’s captain, Capt. Samuel Moore, ordered the surviving gunners to “Give ’em Hell,” just moments before the bridge was hit by an exploding shell. As he lay dying, Moore ordered the ship beached, but another officer realized it was already lost and ordered it abandoned.
As the Quincy, Vincennes, and Astoria began sinking, the Japanese fleet called off the attack, beginning its withdrawal at 2:15. It had suffered no serious damage, could see that at least three U.S. ships were sinking, had rendered the Australian ship Canberra dead in the water (it would be scuttled the next morning), and had ensured the deaths of just over 1,000 American and Australian sailors.
America did achieve on a parting shot, though. While the Japanese fleet was able to avoid the air screen sent to find it August 9-10, the U.S. submarine S-38 spotted them on August 10, and managed to bring down the Japanese Kako with a torpedo.
Many are still struggling to determine the safest way to go back to school in the fall. But one suggestion to take the curriculum outdoors is compelling for some people—and the idea has an interesting history. A recent article from the New York Times highlights how, in 1907, two Rhode Island doctors, Ellen Stone and Mary Packard, implemented a plan that would let kids go to school during a major tuberculosis outbreak.
Following a trend that took wind in Germany, the doctors paved the way for open-air classrooms in the state. They converted a brick building into being more public health-conscious by installing large windows on each side and keeping them open for the whole day. Remarkably, none of the children became sick, although they did endure open-air classes during freezing New England winters. Shortly, 65 schools soon implemented a similar plan, or simply held classes outside within the first two years of Dr. Stone and Packard’s successful plan.
Regardless of your opinion on how, and if, schools should open up, the story does have compelling implications for what early education could one day look like, even post-pandemic. And that’s because, as The Times points out, studies have shown that many children might be more likely to pay attention to what they’re learning if they’re outside, particularly for science and gym classes. That makes sense, because who wouldn’t prefer to learn about photosynthesis outdoors, looking at flowers and trees with the sun shining down, compared to simply studying a chalkboard or textbook cooped up inside? And since kids should exercise anyway, why not make it into a game on the playground?
We know that it’s more difficult to transmit the coronavirus outside, and as schools, districts, and families struggle to figure out their plans for the fall, this history lesson about outdoor teaching might be worth noting?
War can be hell…and war can be absolute boredom. There are few better ways to pass the time than by playing cards. Anyone who served in the military and made it past basic training probably ended up in a game of cards with their fellow troops.
They’re easy to carry: small and lightweight, they fit into a rucksack, duffel bag, or Alice pack without having to sacrifice any piece of essential gear. Plus, they’re cheap. It just makes sense that the troops and playing cards would pair so well together.
Wartime decks have been used to help soldiers in the field learn about their enemies and allies, to identify aircraft, and even teach a little about American history. Even in the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, American forces used playing cards to identify the most wanted members of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Playing cards themselves can be traced back to 12th century China. Some scholars think they made their way to Europe through Italian traders. The cards (and maybe even the games) predate the United States. But Americans have their own love affair with cards, and the military is no different.
Early special decks were released depicting Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, and (John Quincy) Adams as the kings of the deck. By the time of the Civil War, playing cards were in every American camp, Union or Confederate.
Since troops in the Civil War spent a lot of time in camp and had easy access to decks, alcohol, and firearms, a cheater could make the game go very badly for himself. The war actually shaped the way playing cards are printed, so players could hold a tighter hand.
Another innovation of that era was the design on the backs of cards. Before then, most were made with plain backs, ones that were easy to mark and see through. The new back designs made short work of that problem.
In 1898, the Consolidated Playing Card Company created a cheap deck and poker chips for troops deploying to the Spanish-American War. For World War I, the U.S. Playing Card Company released special decks just for a few specialties of service in the Great War, namely Artillery, Navy, Air Corps, and Tank Corps. The German High Command in WWI considered the game so important to morale, they called the cards kartonnen wapens – cardboard weapons.
Many playing card factories converted to war production during World War II, but that certainly didn’t mean no decks were printed. The aforementioned cards used to identify aircraft, known as “spotter cards,” were essential to the war effort.
During the Vietnam War, playing card companies sent deployed soldiers and Marines special decks comprised of just the ace of spades, believing the Viet Cong considered the symbol to be a deadly serious omen.
Watch below as magician Justin Flom recounts the oft-told story of a Revolutionary War soldier and his deck of cards, which acts as his bible, calendar, and almanac. Be sure to watch til the end for a magician’s tribute to American troops overseas.
If you think Operation Inherent Resolve is a mission name that makes no sense, you’re not alone. The U.S. military operation against ISIS in Iraq and Syria was supposed to have a different name altogether. The Pentagon initially rejected OIR and only accepted it as a placeholder. Somehow it stuck, and that’s what we’re left with.
Strange, silly and absurd names shouldn’t be the standard for military operations. Or at least so said Winston Churchill back in 1943. In a WWII memo on the subject of mission names, Churchill said, “Do not suggest the character of the operation or disparage it in any way, and do not enable some widow or some mother to say her son was killed in an operation called ‘Bunnyhug’ or ‘Ballyhoo.'”
It seems that the military isn’t exactly following Churchill’s recommendation. There’s rarely a public explanation about mission names, but that doesn’t make them any more questionable. Here are a few of the most memorable mission names.
Operation All-American Tiger
Tigers are pretty amazing in their own right, but what would be more American than having an All-American tiger? That’s a question the brass asked themselves, apparently, in 2003, when they settled on this mission name during a November 2003 Iraq War mission. Operation All-American Tiger’s objective was to search and clear farms and villages around the Euphrates River in the Northern Iraqi town of Al-Qaim. Service members detained twelve people as a result, including a few who were on a “Most Wanted” list.
While it’s fun to think about what the military was considering when creating codenames for missions, this one is actually pretty easy to figure out. The nickname for the 82nd Airborne Division is “All American.” The Tiger Squadron of the 3rd Armored Cav assisted the 82nd on this mission.
Specifically, it was the 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment from the 82nd who worked with the Tigers. The 504th even have their own absurd nickname – The Devils in Baggy Pants – taken from a diary entry of a Wehrmacht officer in WWII.
Doesn’t this sound like a mission from the 1980s? It feels decidedly vintage, but Operation Beastmaster actually took place in 2006. OB cleared three neighborhoods in the Baghdad suburb of Ghazaliya, which itself was subject to a codename, albeit one that was far easier understood. Service members in IED Alley East, as Ghazaliya was known, worked together with the Iraqi Army to uncover weapons caches and a deposit of roadside bomb-creating supplies and tools. Operation Beastmaster also captured one high-ranking (and still unnamed) official, and the Army counted it as a complete win.
Operation Grizzly Forced Entry
In the summer of 2004, U.S. service members went on a counter-insurgency raid in Najaf, Iraq, a city south of Baghdad. The forced entry part of this code name is pretty self-explanatory, as service members were tasked with entering private homes to search for high-value targets who were suspected of attacking coalition forces.
Operation Power Geyser
This counterterrorism unit included 13,000 top secret service members who served as military security to support the 2005 inauguration of George W. Bush. Taken from a video game series, the name Power Geyser refers to a character who was able to blast the ground with his fist and create a field of explosive energy around him that sent his opponents flying. In real life, these elite troops carried top of the line weaponry and lurked in the shadows around the White House and the Capitol building while the inauguration took place.
These 2007 missions were efforts to make residential neighborhoods, areas with lots of traffic, and marketplaces safer for Iraqis to live and work during the American involvement of the Iraq war. Service members combed these areas looking for car bombs and IEDs with a decided effort to cut down on sectarian violence in the city. The codenames were pretty easy to figure out, proof that sometimes the most basic name is the best one.
Whoever was thinking up mission names during the Iraq War was definitely trying to keep the plans top secret to ensure the missions were successful. With names like All-American Tiger and Grizzly Forced Entry, someone was trying to make sure no one knew our military’s plans.
When the military adopted the V-22 tiltrotor aircraft in 2007, there were legions of naysayers who thought the military’s first tiltrotor was too unsafe and too expensive to be added to the fleet.
But while the V-22 did have a spotted history during development, it wasn’t the first military tiltrotor aircraft. A few such aircraft were in the early stages of development during World War II, and the U.S. Army bought a tiltrotor aircraft in 1956 — over 30 years before the first V-22 flew in 1989.
The Doak Model 16 was a vertical take-off and landing aircraft that used ducted tilt-rotors to generate forward thrust and — in the vertical flight mode — lift. Like the V-22, the Model 16 only rotated its rotors when transitioning between flight modes.
The Doak company spent years developing VTOL technologies before it sold a single Model 16 to the Army for further testing and development. For its part, the Army dubbed the Model 16 the VZ-4 and flew it for three years, evaluating its flight characteristics and the potential for full production and deployment.
Cobbled together with parts from other planes and using still experimental tiltrotor technologies, the VZ-4 had fairly impressive stats. It was capable of flying at 229 mph and had a 229-mile range.
But, the plane struggled with some “undesirable characteristics,” especially during the transitions between vertical and horizontal flight. The most problematic was a tendency for the nose of the aircraft to rise in relation to the tail during the switch between flight modes.
Ultimately, the Army passed on purchasing more of the planes and loaned its single Model 16 to NASA for continued tests. When NASA was finished with it, the aircraft was sent to the Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, Virginia.
Nowadays, the performance of the CV-22 and MV-22 Osprey has left little doubt that there’s a place in the military inventory for tiltrotor aircraft. The Ospreys can fly from patches of dirt or relatively small ships at sea that traditional planes could never operate from. And they can fly for over 1,000 miles without refueling, over twice the range of the CH-47 Chinook helicopter.
The battle for Shal Mountain, named Operation Rugged Sarak, went from October 8-15, 2011. Shal Mountain sat above Shal Valley and controlled two important supply routes, one vital to coalition forces for resupply and one critical to insurgent smuggling between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The insurgents controlled the mountain for years, but the men of Bastard Company, 2-27th Infantry Regiment, decided to finally take it from them after the insurgents used it to attack two convoys, killing one Bravo soldier in each of the attacks. The battle for the summit would rage for eight days.
Spc. Jeffrey A. Conn was the medic that responded to the second convoy attack as well as the medic on top of Shal Mountain during the fight for the summit. On the mountaintop, he would earn a Silver Star for saving the lives of at least nine U.S. and Afghan soldiers while also taking the lives of many insurgents — at least 12 in a single attack.
Conn began the climb up the mountain on Oct. 8 with the rest of first platoon. While a dozen men ran up the mountain carrying minimal gear to begin constructing an outpost that morning, Conn and the bulk of the American platoon arrived on Oct. 11 after fighting up the mountain with the platoon’s heavy weapons and special equipment. Americans on the mountaintop still only numbered 23.
The enemy had made multiple attempts to take the summit before the rest of the platoon arrived, but on the night of Oct. 11 they attacked hard to try and keep the new arrivals from digging in. Using the terrain to sneak up in the dark, insurgents closed to within five meters of the perimeter and began an attack that opened with 12 machine guns firing into the small base. RPGs and recoilless rifle rounds pelted the defenders as they took cover and attempted to return fire.
Conn climbed a Hesco barrier on the southern flank and began throwing grenades at enemy positions before initiating claymores positioned around the base. The platoon was ordered to collapse the perimeter. As Conn fell back, he saw RPGs striking the platoon’s Mk-19 fighting position, so he rushed to it and looked for wounded before moving to cover. Conn’s actions are credited with preventing the southern flank from collapsing and saving the lives of 30 Afghan and American defenders.
Enemy fire throughout the day had harassed the American forces, but the main effort to push the Americans from the mountaintop began in the late evening. Conn was nearly taken out in the opening salvo as RPGs and machine gun fire impacted within inches of him, according to his Silver Star citation. Conn moved first to the command and control position when he saw that the platoon’s radio was unmanned. He sent reports to the headquarters so they could coordinate the battle until he saw enemy fighters maneuvering their way into the outpost. Conn moved to a nearby 60mm mortar tube, put it in direct fire mode, and began engaging the fighters. He killed 12 of them.
On this day, another U.S. soldier struck two insurgents with a TOW missile, killing both of them. One was an Afghan commander whose death would become a rallying cry for the insurgents.
The following afternoon, the enemy launched its strongest attack of the battle after a funeral for the dead commander. Enemy elements managed to stage a base 100 meters from the OP, hiding in dips in the terrain. Enemy mortar and machine gun fire rained down onto the base. Two 82mm mortar rounds struck a fighting position on the northern flank, severely wounding five U.S. and three Afghan soldiers.
Conn rushed to the position from the opposite side of the OP, exposed to fire the entire way. He quickly stabilized the worst Afghan casualty. As the enemy focused on the new weak point in the flank and sniper fire pelted the ground near him, Conn engaged the assaulting forces with grenades before throwing smoke and pulling the casualties back to the casualty collection point. The casualty collection point gave little cover to the medic, but he stabilized his nine patients, the eight from the northern flank and another from elsewhere on the OP. All nine patients survived and Conn’s actions were again credited with preventing the collapse of a flank, saving the OP.
Late that evening, amid accurate sniper fire from a nearby mountain, an air ambulance tried to evacuate some of the wounded. The flight medic, Staff Sgt. Robert B. Cowdrey, approached the helicopter from the front while bringing the casualties to the bird and was struck by a rotor blade. Conn arrived on site first, stabilizing the other medic and recovering the five other wounded on the flight line. The helicopter had left the landing zone amid enemy fire, and Conn kept the injured soldier alive for thirty minutes while waiting for another Medevac. Staff Sgt. Cowdrey later died of his wounds.
After the fierce attacks of that day, every member of the platoon showed signs of traumatic brain injury.
On Oct. 14, first platoon was finally being relieved of their duties on the mountain, but the enemy wasn’t ready to let them go. While the platoon sergeant was supervising the removal of equipment down the mountain, the insurgents sent ten suicide bombers under machine gun and sniper cover fire against the OP.
Conn took fire inside his firing position, but still further exposed himself by climbing out of it to check on other members of the platoon. After making a circuit to treat the wounded in their positions, he moved to the mortar pit and assisted in firing 60mm rounds against enemy positions while fully exposed to the continuing sniper fire. When the enemy came within range, he again threw fragmentation grenades into the advancing forces.
Combined with M4 fire from the platoon sergeant, this effort killed the suicide bombers before they could breach the OP. The enemy survivors soon began retreating into Pakistan.
His wife, Pat, actually thought of it first, while watching Donald Trump on the Phil Donahue Show. The former President Nixon agreed with her enough to write Trump and let him know.
Daytime television talk shows weren’t always about who was the father of whose baby or giving a makeover to teen girls who used to be strippers. In the late 1980s, the shows weren’t always sensationalizing scandal. Shows like Phil Donahue’s actually talked in-depth about news and cultural phenomena that were worthy of the attention. One such phenomenon was the popularity of a real estate mogul in New York who was attracting headlines everywhere: Donald Trump.
He once debated mosh pits with Marilyn Manson.
In December, 1987, Donahue interviewed Trump on his show. Phil Donahue didn’t pull punches. From the get-go, he grilled Trump on his real estate management practices and the rumors associated with his “empire.” In the middle of the interview, Trump tells Donahue he’s able to be honest because he’s “not running for office,” after defending his policies – to the applause of a middle-class audience.
The look of surprise on Donahue’s face was clear, as he shouted “let’s hear it for the rich folks.” The debate over rent control continued for another ten minutes and the studio audience weren’t the only viewers impressed with the Donald’s performance, one viewer at home was also suitably impressed: Pat Nixon.
The former First Lady of the United States was so impressed with Trump’s responses to Donahue’s grilling that she told her husband, 37th President of the United States Richard Nixon. Nixon might have agreed with his wife, as he took the time to write to Trump:
I did not see the program, but Mrs. Nixon told me you were great on the Donahue show. As you can imagine, she is an expert on politics and she predicts that whenever you decide to run for office, you will be a winner!
The letter was stored away in the Nixon Presidential Library Archives until the author of a 2015 biography of Trump, called “Never Enough,” included it in the memoir of then-soon-to-be Presidential candidate Trump.
Trump’s interview on Donahue covered much more than rent control in New York City. His rhetoric was similar to the arguments he would come to use as a presidential candidate, including the idea of making American allies pay for the “services we are rendering” in providing for their defense.
Samuel Woodfill already had a lengthy career in the U.S. Army by the time the United States declared war on Germany in 1917. The son of a Mexican-American War and Civil War veteran, he enlisted in 1901 at the age of 18 and left his native Indiana.
After basic training, Pvt. Woodfill found himself assigned to the 11th Infantry Regiment stationed in the Philippines. He saw action in various campaigns against the rebellious Moros and earned accolades as a crack shot and for his “honest and faithful service.” In 1910, Woodfill left the Philippines for a number of duty stations. Over the next seven years, he would see service in Alaska, Kentucky, and on the Mexican border. But he would not see any more combat in that time.
Then, everything changed. America declared war on Germany. Woodfill, then a sergeant, attended an officer training course and received a temporary wartime rank of 2nd lieutenant. Soon after, he was given command of a machine gun company of the 60th Infantry Regiment, 5th Division. Finally, in April 1918 his unit sailed for France.
However, the 5th Division stayed in the rear until October 1918 when they were sent to the front to take part in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
Woodfill was leading his company in an attack near the village of Cunel when they came under heavy German machine gun fire from multiple positons. He ordered his company to take cover while he moved forward alone to scope out the situation.
The three German positions were well concealed in some bushes, an old barn, and a derelict church, respectively. Woodfill took aim at the machine gunner firing on his men in the church tower about 300 yards away. Unable to make out the gunner, he simply took aim at a position behind the muzzle flash and pulled the trigger. The gun fell silent. This was repeated four more times, as each German crewmember stepped forward to take their place on the gun.
Woodfill dropped another five-round clip in his Springfield and moved on to the next target. A single shot at the German in the barn put an end to the firing from that position.
He next maneuvered on a third machine gun position. In doing so, he took cover in a shell hole filled with lingering mustard gas. He approached to within ten yards of the position. Then, in rapid succession, he dispatched three of the crew members with his rifle. A fourth, a German officer, charged Woodfill and engaged him in hand-to-hand combat. He overcame the officer and killed him with a M1911 pistol.
With this line of machine guns silenced, Lt. Woodfill’s company continued their advance until they were again held up by a German machine gun nest. The officer once again raced forward to single-handedly attack the position. He killed the entire machine gun crew with his rifle before capturing three ammunition carriers from the position.
As the advance continued, Woodfill’s men again ran into murderous German machine gun fire. And once again their leader charged forward to handle the situation. Woodfill dispatched this crew with five shots from his rifle before drawing his pistol and charging the position to take on the remaining men. He killed one man with his pistol before grabbing a nearby pick axe and bludgeoning the other to death.
By this time, Woodfill was suffering heavily from exposure to mustard gas and was limping from a shrapnel wound. He was evacuated from the front lines and sent to Bordeaux to recover.
On Jan. 22, 1919, Woodfill was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions the previous fall. The next month, Gen. John Pershing personally presented the award to the young lieutenant.
In 1921, Gen. Pershing bestowed two more honors on Woodfill. When asked that year to name the outstanding American soldier of the Great War, Pershing surprised everyone by naming Lt. Samuel Woodfill, claiming he had always considered him “America’s Greatest Doughboy,” over the likes of Alvin York, Charles Wittlesey of the Lost Battalion, and even Eddie Rickenbacker.
Pershing then named Woodfill as a pallbearer, this time along with Alvin York, for the internment of the first Unknown Soldier.
The legendary soldier, having reverted to his pre-war enlisted status, retired from the Army as a Master Sergeant in 1923. However, he served his country again during World War II. Then commissioned a Major, he trained and inspired young officers as they prepared for the great challenges ahead.
Woodfill’s final service to his country was to once again act as a pallbearer, this time for his former commanding officer and supporter, Gen. Pershing. Woodfill himself passed away at the age of 68 in August 1951.
These days, Richard Marcinko is a business instructor, author, and motivational speaker. In his earlier years, “Demo Dick” was the United States’ premier counterterrorism operator. Marcinko enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1958 and eventually worked his way up to the rank of commander, graduated with degrees in international relations and political science, and earned 34 medals and citations, including a Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, and four Bronze Stars. But that’s just his military resume.
Even among the ranks of American special operators, Marcinko, his record, and his reputation are all exceptional — and it’s easy to see why. At 77, he is still training business executives as well as U.S. and foreign hostage rescue teams. He even worked as a consultant on the FOX television show 24. His memoir, Rogue Warrior, is a New York Times bestseller.
“I’m good at war,” Marcinko once told People Magazine. “Even in Vietnam, the system kept me from hunting and killing as many of the enemy as I would have liked.”
1. North Vietnam had a bounty on his head
As a platoon leader in Vietnam, Marcinko and his SEALs were so successful, the North Vietnamese Army took notice. His assault on Ilo Ilo Island was called the most successful SEAL operation in the Mekong Delta. During his second tour, Marcinko and SEAL Team Two teamed up with Army Special Forces during the Tet Offensive at Chau Doc. The SEALs rescued hospital personnel caught in the crossfire as an all-out urban brawl raged around them.
Because of Marcinko’s daring and success, the NVA placed a 50,000 piastre bounty on his head, payable to anyone who could prove they killed the SEAL leader. Obviously, they never paid out that bounty.
2. He was rejected by the Marine Corps
Marcinko joined the military at 18 but, surprisingly (to some), he didn’t first opt to join the Navy. His first stop was the Marine Corps, who rejected him outright because he did not graduate from high school. So Marcinko, who would leave as a Commander, enlisted in the Navy. He later became an officer after graduating from the Navy’s postgraduate school, earning his commission in 1965.
3. He designed the Navy’s counterterrorism operation
You know you’ve made it when they make a video game about your life story.
After the tragic failure of Operation Eagle Claw, the U.S. attempt to free hostages being held by students in Iran, the U.S. Navy and its special operations structure decided that they needed an overhaul. Marcinko was one of those who helped design the new system. His answer was the creation of SEAL Team Six.
4. He numbered his SEAL Team “Six” to fool the Russians
When he was creating the newest SEAL Team, the United States and Soviet Union were locked in the Cold War — and spies were everywhere. Not trusting that anyone would keep the creation of his new unit a secret, he numbered it SEAL Team Six in order fool the KGB into believing there were three more SEAL Teams they didn’t know about.
5. His job was to infiltrate bases — American bases
The Navy needed to know where their operational sensitivities were — where they were weakest. Even in the areas where security was thought tightest, the Navy was desperate to know if they could be infiltrated. So, Vice Admiral James Lyons tasked Marcinko to create another unit.
Marcinko created Naval Security Coordination Team OP-06D, also known as Red Cell, a unit of 13 men. Twelve came from SEAL Team Six and the other from Marine Force Recon. They were to break into secure areas, nuclear submarines, Navy ships, and even Air Force One. Red Cell was able to infiltrate and leave without any notice. The reason? Military personnel on duty were replaced by civilian contractor security guards.
Just like the A-Team, except real. And Marcinko is in command. And he’s the only one. And he killed a lot more people.
6. He spent 15 months in jail
Toward the end of his career, he was embroiled in what the Navy termed a “kickback scandal,” alleging that Marcinko conspired with an Arizona arms dealer to receive 0,000 for securing a government contract for hand grenades. Marcinko maintained that this charge was the result of a witch hunt, blowback for exposing so many vulnerabilities and embarrassing the Navy’s highest ranking officers. He served 15 months of a 21-month sentence.
According to a listing maintained by investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan 19 times from 2006 to his retirement from the Air Force Reserve in 2015. Senator Graham’s deployments were often coordinated with Congressional recesses – enabling him to balance his duties as a United States Senator with his reserve duties.
Graham would often head over as part of a Congressional delegation, spend one or two days as a civilian, then he’d stay behind and serve for about a week (sometimes more) as a Judge Advocate General in the United States Air Force Reserve.
In a release by his Presidential campaign in 2015 after a Washington Post hit piece, some details of Graham’s service in both Iraq and Afghanistan came to light. Army General David Petraeus and Marine General John Allen both noted that much of Graham’s work was done on detainee policy. Both a former Judge Advocate General and Deputy Judge Advocate General praised Graham’s service in the release.
The deployments came about because Senator Graham had to be transferred from an assignment to the Air Force’s Court of Criminal Appeals — an assignment given in 2003, according to a release from Senator Graham’s office — due to a claim made by an airman fighting charges of wrongfully using cocaine.
Senator Graham was also a veteran of Desert Storm prior to winning election to the House of Representatives in 1994. He was first elected to the Senate in 2002, replacing Strom Thurmond. Graham retired from the Air Force Reserve in 2015 as a colonel, shortly before running for President, ending a combined total of 33 years of active-duty, reserve, and National Guard service.
Think of all the parts of the U.S. government that can and should have a plan to keep working after a nuclear attack. The Department of Defense? Sure. Congress? Yup. FBI, NSA, and CIA? Yeah, they seem necessary in the aftermath. But there are two groups you may not have thought of who plan to dig in and get the job done: The IRS and the USPS.
Yeah, you’re almost certain to keep getting taxed after a nuclear attack, and you might even be getting notices through the mail (though, not if you were in the city that got hit).
But the IRS and USPS weren’t focused on that, and they were actually working with the Parks Service for a good reason: Those three agencies were key to a rebuilding plan.
If your city is hit by a hurricane or crippled by an earthquake, you’re evacuated to cities outside of the danger zone. But if multiple cities or dozens are hit with nuclear bombs, then there likely won’t be suitable infrastructure to support all the refugees in nearby cities. So, the plan was to move them to the national parks.
A role player pretends to be injured during Exercise Scarlet Response at Guardian Center, Georgia.
(U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Dylan Bowyer)
But what then? Hundreds of thousands of lives would be gone, and billions of dollars in buildings and infrastructure destroyed. Even in the midst of the grief, the government would have a job to do. There would be millions of people living in the parks, and it would fall to the USPS to process who had remained in the city, who had escaped, and who had died.
And that could include delivering notices of new tax plans. If only one or two cities were lost then, as crazy as it sounds, that would mean the IRS could get back to business as usual with few major changes. It would be horrible, but the American economy would shake itself off and get back up.
But a more extensive attack would’ve changed the way the U.S. worked for generations. There would be no guarantee that income and corporate taxes could cover the insane costs necessary to rebuild lost cities, decontaminate hundreds of square miles of terrain, and support the war being waged against the attacker.
So the Treasury Department had a plan to restart the economy and to help the IRS develop a new collection plan within 30 days of an attack. The new tax plan could be something as simple as a flat sales tax (congratulations, libertarians!) That would greatly simplify the IRS’s job, something that would be pretty necessary if their offices in Washington D.C. were hit.
And it would be necessary in a cash-based economy. Yes, cash-based. The plan was to slowly release stockpiled billion in cash until they could get back to printing money. In an odd twist of fate, that was mostly two-dollar bills. A 1970s printing run of the currency had failed to impress the public, so the government just used the unpopular bills to create their stockpile.
For better or worse, the grunts handle the main chunk of the fighting. These are your combat arms troops — infantry, scouts, tankers, artillerymen, etc.
The supply guys in the back can usually get a bit comfy knowing that they probably won’t get called to the front line — except in the case of total war when the front line is so decimated that everyone, back to front, needs to push into the fray.
To quantify the level of suck, we’ve ranked the following battles by a metric that measures the percentage of casualties in relation to troops present on the battlefield and total loss of life from both sides. Thankfully, for today’s troops, full-scale battles aren’t as catastrophic as they were before the advent of modern medicine.
6. Battle of Antietam (Civil War)
Fatality Rate: 3.22%
Starting things off is the single bloodiest day in American military history: Sept. 17, 1862, the Battle of Antietam. Within the span of 12 hours, around 25 percent Union troops and 31 percent of Confederate troops were wounded, captured, or killed. Six Generals died as a result of the battle along with 3,454 other troops.
The battle is considered a Union victory strategically and it paved the way for the Emancipation Proclamation, delivered just five days later. But, when the dust settled outside of Sharpsburg, Maryland, no one knew who won. If the Confederacy waited a few more hours, it could have gone in their favor, Lincoln would have never had the confidence to announce the Emancipation Proclamation, and the South would have had stronger European allies, thus drastically changing the course of the war.
5. Battle of Gettysburg (Civil War)
Fatality Rate: 4.75%
The three-day battle between Gen. Meade’s Army of the Potomac and Gen. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia would be remembered both as the turning point of the Civil War and for the enormous loss of life.
With between 46,000 and 51,000 casualties on both sides, the Battle of Gettysburg is the costliest battle in U.S. history. The fighting for the “Little Round Top” alone left nearly 1,750 dead.
4. Battle of Tuyuti (Paraguayan War)
Fatality Rate: 8.71%
The Paraguayan War became the bloodiest of all Latin American wars when Paraguay pushed its boundaries on all sides, unifying the previously-uneasy alliances between Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay.
While the entire war would cost Paraguay nearly 70 percent of its total adult male population, the Battle of Tuyuti cost the Paraguayans nearly their entire force in a failed surprise attack on the Triple Alliance encampment.
3. Battle of Okinawa (World War II)
Fatality Rate: 35.48%
The battles of the Pacific Theater finally culminated in one of the last major battles of WWII, which saw the deaths of 240,931 troops and Okinawan conscripts. While the American troops suffered over 82,000 casualties with 14,009 deaths, the Japanese lost up to 80% of their defense forces.
The reason for such a high Japanese death toll is two-fold: First, pitting untrained, conscripted Okinawan civilians against the battle-hardened American forces that fought through the Pacific isn’t exactly an even match. Second, the Japanese refused to surrender. After witnessing the horrors of Okinawa, mental fatigue was widespread among American GIs.
2. Battle of the Argonne Forest (World War I)
Fatality Rate: 39.48%
The final Allied offensive of World War I was also its bloodiest. For years, German troops pushed down the French and British troops, but they finally managed to stand up again with the aid of the Americans. When H-Hour finally began on Sept. 26th, the Allies expended more ammunition than both sides of the American Civil War – in just the first three hours.
The loss of life was astounding on both sides. 28,000 Germans, 26,277 Americans, and an estimated 70,000 French soldiers were on the push towards Sedan, France. French forces finally managed to recapture the Sedan railway hub in the final days. Then, it was announced that the Armistice was signed on Nov. 11th, 1918, bringing an end to the war.
1. Battle of Cannae (Second Punic War)
Fatality Rate: 53.42%
This battle is remembered throughout history for many reasons. Hannibal’s impressive march on a Roman Army twice as large, the first recorded use of the “Pincer movement,” but also the overwhelming defeat of that massive Roman army.
The scholar Polybius estimated that, of the 86,400 Romans who fought, only 770 Romans made it out alive. The Carthaginian forces managed to only lose 5,700 of their 50,000 and only 200 out of their 10,000 cavalrymen.