The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

Lieutenant Edward “Butch” O’Hare’s Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter carried about 30-40 seconds worth of ammunition. He was one of two Wildcats held in reserve as the rest of his squadron attacked a formation of Japanese bombers coming for the carrier USS Lexington. 

A similar plane to the one used by O'Hare.
A similar plane to the one used by O’Hare.

As the fighting in the Pacific raged on that day above the Lexington, radar screens picked up another formation coming for the carrier from the other end of the battlefield. Nine enemy bombers were on approach so, Butch O’Hare and his wingman made a beeline for the enemy.

When Thatch’s guns jammed, that left O’Hare as the sole fighter to take on a nine bomber formation. He would take down five of them and earn the Medal of Honor.

The USS Lexington was part of a task force on its way to raid the Japanese-held island of Rabaul on Fed. 20, 1942. The carrier launched its planes when it started picking up Japanese seaplanes on its radar screens. The naval aviators were soon fully engaged fighting bombers on their way to sink the Lexington. 

The first formation to appear were nine Mitsubishi G4M Betty Bombers, which the Americans quickly took on. As they pursued their quarry, Lt. O’Hare and Lt. Marion Dufilho held back with the carrier in case any other threats should appear. They didn’t have to wait long. Less than an hour after the first wave, another nine-plane formation appeared on the other side of the carrier.

Only Dufilho and O’Hare could engage the newcomers, and that’s exactly what they did. But Dufilho’s guns jammed. In an age before missiles, it made his presence useless in the defense of the ship. O’Hare would go in alone. 

Dropping in on the bombers from 1,500 feet above their formation, O’Hare came in guns blazing, even though he only had precious few seconds of ammunition. He started in on the formation’s right flank, taking two out immediately, but temporarily. He next came in on its left side, forcing one to abort his bombing run and shooting down another.

For his third pass, he hit the left side again, permanently taking down three more, including the enemy’s lead plane. On his fourth pass, the first two that had dropped out rejoined the formation and now O’Hare was out of ammunition. Four bombers were still on their way to the Lexington.

The four remaining Japanese Mitsubishi bombers dropped their ordnance, but luckily for the Americans, they all missed. Only two of them were able to return to base, the rest were destroyed, shot down or lost. O’Hare’s Wildcat had only one bullet hole in it. 

Only two U.S. Navy planes were lost that day and the Lexington successfully participated in the raid Rabaul. O’Hare became the first U.S. Navy flying ace of World War II and the first naval aviator to receive the Medal of Honor. 

Butch O'Hare
Lt. Butch O’Hare seated in the cockpit of his Grumman F4F “Wildcat” fighter, circa spring 1942. The plane is marked with five Japanese flags, representing the five enemy bombers he was credited with shooting down

O’Hare briefly trained new naval aviators in Hawaii before returning to combat duty in 1943. He would go on to earn the Navy Cross, two Distinguished Flying Crosses and a Purple Heart. But disaster struck during another Navy first. 

O’Hare led the Navy’s first fighter attack launched from a carrier at night. He was shot down fighting the Japanese at night and his plane was never found. In 1949, Chicago’s main international passenger airport was named in his honor. 

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This converted airliner was death for Allied convoys in the Atlantic

One of Nazi Germany’s most deadly weapons wasn’t really a weapon at all – at least not when it first took flight. However, it did eventually became a deadly foe; not for what it could drop, but for what it could see. It also set the pattern for two iconic planes of the Cold War.


The Focke-Wolf Fw 200 Condor began its life as an airliner for Lufthansa, according to aircraftaces.com. As a civilian transport, it generated some export orders to Denmark and Brazil. As an airliner, the Fw 200 held 26 passengers, and was able to fly from Berlin to New York non-stop.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission
Fw 200 as an airliner. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission
Fw 200 as a maritime patrol plane. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In World War II, the airliner versions were used as military transports by the Germans. But the real impact would come because the prototype for a reconnaissance version requested by the Imperial Japanese Navy. According to uboat.net, the Luftwaffe looked at the prototype, and requested that designer Kurt Tank make some changes.

What emerged was a plane that could fly for 14 hours, and carry 2,000 pounds of bombs. By February 1941 they were responsible for putting 363,000 tons of merchant shipping on the bottom of the Atlantic. That is the rough equivalent of four Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission
Two Fw 200 Condors parked. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

But the Condor’s real lethality wasn’t from what it dropped, it was from what it told the Germans — namely the locations of Allied convoys necessary to keep England in the war. That allowed Karl Donitz to vector in U-boat “wolfpacks” to attack the convoys some more.

Ultimately, when the British began to field catapult-armed merchantmen and eventually escort carriers, the Germans had the Condors avoid combat and just report the positions. By 1943, though, the Condor had been shifted to transport missions.

At the end of the war, the Fw 200 returned to the maritime strike role, carrying Hs 293 anti-ship missiles.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission
The ultimate legacy of the Fw 200 Condor: P-8A Poseidon aircraft No. 760 takes off from a Boeing facility in Seattle, Wash., for delivery to fleet operators in Jacksonville, Fla., marking the 20th overall production P-8A aircraft for the U.S. Navy.  (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Boeing Defense)

The Fw 200, even though it was on the losing side of World War II, was a ground-breaking concept. In the Cold War, two major maritime patrol aircraft used by Germany’s World War II enemies — the Lockheed P-3 Orion and the British Aerospace Nimrod — were based on airliners themselves (the Lockheed Electra and the de Havilland Comet). The Boeing P-8 Poseidon, replacing the Orion and Nimrod, is based on the Boeing 737.

The Condor has a long legacy – one that continues to this day.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Russia tried to join NATO

NATO, as we know it today, is a de facto bulwark against Russian (née Soviet) expansionism into Western Europe and potentially elsewhere. It must have come as a complete surprise when France, Great Britain, and the United States all received letters of intent from the Soviet Foreign Ministry about joining the alliance.

Against themselves.

Originally a political alliance in Western Europe when it was formed in 1949, NATO became a solid military alliance as well when the Korean War made the idea of Communist expansion by force all too real. The same year the Soviets detonated their first nuclear weapon, the West formed an alliance to neutralize that threat. But before the Soviet-dominated countries of Eastern Europe formed the Eastern Bloc in 1955, Russia made an attempt to join NATO.


The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

Guess who’s coming to dinner.

Longtime Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin finally died in 1953 and Nikita Khrushchev was the new communist sheriff in town. So in 1954, when Soviets sent the letters of intent to NATO members, there was a renewed spirit of easing tensions. The Soviets reasoned that the aggressive nature of the NATO alliance would be much less dangerous to world peace if their former anti-Hitler ally were allowed to be a member.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

Forgot about An-dre.

But in order to join the alliance, the Soviet Union would have to allow NATO to dictate its military planning and allow the basic tenets of democratic freedoms to bloom in all areas under its control. The debate about potentially allowing Russia to join reminded the member states that the alliance was formed to address threats to world peace when the UN couldn’t — usually because of Russia’s veto power on the Security Council.

Allowing the Russians to have a say in NATO affairs would neutralize NATO the way they neutralized the UN Security Council.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

Can’t blame them for trying.

NATO told the Russians exactly that when the alliance rejected Russia’s application for membership, urging it and other Soviet satellites to allow the UN to do its job in keeping the world secure. It was not an unexpected response for the USSR.

“Most likely, the organizers of the North Atlantic bloc will react negatively to this step of the Soviet government and will advance many different objections. In that event the governments of the three powers will have exposed themselves, once again, as the organizers of a military bloc against other states and it would strengthen the position of social forces conducting a struggle against the formation of the European Defense Community,” Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov wrote.

Nine days later, Russia and those satellites formed the Warsaw Pact, its Eastern Bloc counter-alliance. Europe was officially split for the next 40-plus years.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Fort Benning History: ‘Temporary’ during WWI

Today, Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia supports more than 120,000 active duty military, family, Reserves, retired military, and employees every day. The Army Infantry School, Army Armor School and the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation call Fort Benning their home. The installation has the ability to deploy forces ready for combat by air, rail and highway. So, all in all pretty badass as far as installations go. But Fort Benning’s history is a little more complicated than it might seem.

Students at fort benning
US Army (USA) students from the Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia (GA), board a US Air Force (USAF) C-141B Starlifter transport in columns, during what is for most of the troops, their first jump.

Its story begins in WWI

However, Fort Benning hasn’t always been such a powerhouse. In fact, Fort Benning’s history were pretty darn modest. Originally it was called Camp Benning because it resembled a camp more than an installation. It also wasn’t supposed to be around for that long. Monterey, California, and then Fort Sill, Oklahoma, were the original homes of what eventually became Fort Benning. It moved from Oklahoma to the east side of Columbus, Georgia in 1918 because Fort Sill was too crowded. That’s because WWI was raging and the military needed to grow – fast.

You could call Benning a camp and be right

The Infantry needed its own home separate from the Artillery School. So here’s when Fort Benning’s history really started. Camp Benning was born. Forget barracks and a DFAC – the original Camp Benning was more like camping than being in the Army. It was dirty, muddy, and there were no paved roads. Most Soldiers even lived in tents. When their families moved in, they moved right into the same tents as the Soldiers. It even got to the point where some Soldiers decided to build their own quarters so they wouldn’t have to live in tents anymore.

The little camp that could

Yet even living with their families, the soldiers were in the middle of full-on combat training. Talk about having divided attention. And speaking of, the government wasn’t super interested in improving the conditions either. The installation was supposed to be temporary so it’s possible that the earliest Camp Benning soldiers were the first to coin the phrase, “Embrace the suck.” (Just kidding. No one really knows where that apt phrase came from.)

Eventually, the government got wise and decided to establish a permanent installation at Camp Benning. You could say this is where Fort Benning’s history was born.

As anyone who’s had the pleasure of PCSing to Benning, it’s muggy, buggy and in the middle of nowhere. Talk about an ideal location for an installation. Four years after WWI ended, Camp Benning became what we all know and love as Fort Benning and legions of Army Soldiers have grit their teeth through the Georgia climate.

Despite the weather (or maybe because of it?) Fort Benning’s Soldiers have gone on to do really amazing things, like Dwight D. Eisenhower, who served at Benning as an XO.

Related: Proof that the Army continues to produce some of the best service members in the world. Check out this former Ranger who was just recognized by the Guinness Book of Records for most pull ups in 24 hours.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The ‘Pando Commandos’ were more intense than you’d think

For the 2017 Army-Navy Game, the Army’s jerseys celebrated the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), the predecessor to the current 10th Mountain Division. Even with the spotlight on one of the most versatile units of WWII, many people don’t understand the bad-assery of the “Pando Commandos.”


After witnessing ski-mounted Finnish soldiers successfully take on and destroy two Soviet tank divisions, founder of the National Ski Patrol, Charles Minot “Minnie” Dole saw for the need ski troops in the U.S. Army. After much convincing of the Department of Defense, the 10th Light Division (Alpine) was formed from the combinations of the 85th, 86th, and 87th Infantry Regiments assembled, 9,200ft above sea level, at Camp Hale in Pando, Colorado on July 13, 1943.

The goal here was to train a rugged, mountain soldier, acclimated to the harsh mountain tops of the Alps and the frigid north of Scandinavia. Soldiers needed to be trained in both skiing and ice climbing. The 10th Light Division (Alpine) was soon ready to fight and was re-designated as the as the 10th Mountain Division, complete with unique tab and official unit patch.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission
Because apparently you can’t use a cartoon panda holding a rifle on skis as your official heraldry. (Image via KnowYourMeme)

Meanwhile, the Germans had just set up defenses across the Alps, making travel from the south nearly impossible — a perfect task for the Pando Commandos.

The Germans at Riva Ridge on Mount Belvedere assumed that the near 1,500-ft vertical cliff would be impossible to scale and scarcely manned the position. The 10th Mountain, under the cover of night, blizzard, and complete silence, made the climb and assaulted the Germans as they slept. It was a complete success. The surprise attack grabbed the attention of Germans, who tried to make seven counterattacks to reclaim the peak. None were successful.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission
At the time, skiing was mostly a college thing. As a result, their division had more degrees and were smarter than anyone else — a fact most 10th Mountain guys would happily tell you today. (Image via Boston Globe)

Today, the legacy continues on as the 10th Mountain still trains in the icy hell known as Fort Drum. The high-altitude training is perfectly suited for the mountains of Afghanistan.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Liane Schmersahl)

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This is why ‘peaceful nukes’ ended in utter disappointment

When Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956, there were talks of creating a secondary canal. As U.S. and British officials were considering how it could be built, someone in the room must have said something along the lines of, “Why not nukes?”


No matter how it went down, something sparked the testing of Peaceful Nuclear Explosions (PNEs) and Operation Plowshare.

The codename “Operation Plowshare” comes from Isaiah 2:4: “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission
Proposed canal would have connected the Pacific to the Caribbean through Lake Nicaragua (Photo via Rotary Club)

The Suez Crisis ended after nine days and plans for a second canal were abandoned, but the idea of using nuclear warheads for non-military purposes stuck.

Between 1961 and 1973, twenty seven nuclear detonations were used for various purposes. Experiments were done to see if detonations could stimulate the flow of natural gas. They also helped with excavation for aquifers, highways, more canals, and an artificial harbor in Cape Thompson, Alaska, under Project Chariot.

Project Chariot was the most ambitious out of all of the tests. The idea was to detonate five hydrogen bombs to give the population of just over 320 a harbor. It was ultimately scraped — the severe risk and expense couldn’t be justified for how little potential it offered.

The United States didn’t followed through with any of the testing of PNEs, but they weren’t the only nation who played with nuclear experiments. The Soviet Union had their own version in the “Nuclear Explosions for the National Economy.”

The Soviets performed 239 tests between 1965 and 1988. One of the few tests that yielded positive results was the Chagan nuclear test (which created a 100,000 m3 lake that’s still radioactive to this day). Another was the sealing of the Urtabulak gas well that had been blowing for three years.

This was later cited as a possible alternative to sealing the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission
Geiger reading at Lake Chagan. For comparison, the center of the Fukushima disaster was 7.47 microsieverts per hour in 2011 (Photo via Wikimedia)

Peaceful Nuclear Explosions were regulated in 1974 by President Gerald R. Ford and then banned entirely by the multilateral Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty in 1996 by the United Nations. This treaty prohibits all nuclear explosions, peaceful or not.

Nuclear energy is still being researched, however, most notably in nuclear pulse propulsion for spacecrafts.

Check out the video below to learn more about Plowshare in a (very campy by today standards) 1960’s atomic science educational film.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0F6HQfzjvA

(YouTube, Tomorrow Always Comes)

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Air Force lost four nuclear bombs in a single crash

This Day In History: January 17, 1966

On this day in history, 1966, at around 10:30 a.m. a B-52G Bomber collided with a KC-135 Stratotanker, accidentally scattering its payload of four nuclear bombs, 70-kilotons each. Three of the bombs fell near the fishing village of Palomares, Spain, and the fourth landed in the Mediterranean Sea, taking a full 80 days to locate and recover.

The B-52G had been attempting to refuel from the KC-135, but came in too fast. Normally, if a collision might appear to be imminent, the boom operator on the refueling tanker is supposed to notify the other plane to break away immediately, which they will then do. However, in this case, for whatever reason, the boom operator said nothing, which ended up costing himself and the rest of the Stratotanker crew their lives as the B-52G collided with the refueling boom. This resulted in the KC-135’s fuel payload exploding and the B-52G breaking apart shortly thereafter. It also resulted in three of the seven aboard the B-52 bomber dying, with the other four managing to parachute to safety. One of them managed to make it to land, but three of them landed in the sea and were later picked up by fishing boats at sea.


Aside from losing the two aircraft and the destruction of four nuclear bombs valued at around billion each (according to the Secretary of Defense’ valuation at the time), the area around Palomares was also subjected to high levels of ionizing radiation. While the nuclear bombs didn’t detonate fully, the traditional explosives (the high explosive igniters) in the bombs did detonate with two of the bombs when they hit the ground. This resulted in their core radioactive materials being spread about in the air and contaminating an area around 1-2 square miles. The third bomb was found mostly in-tact in a river bed nearby.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

A B-52 Stratofortress approaches the refueling boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Zach Anderson)

The fourth was significantly harder to locate due to the fact that its parachute had deployed (the parachute tail plate was all that was initially found, which led them to believe it had deployed) and so they presumed it had landed somewhere in the Mediterranean. After 80 days of searching, it was finally located and, after a botched first attempt at recovery resulting in them losing it again for a time, it was successfully recovered. Interestingly, salvage rights for it were claimed by Simó Orts. This customarily grants the locator of the item 1-2% of the value of that which was found. Given that the bomb was valued at around billion, Orts asked for the lower 1% amount of million. It isn’t known how much he actually ended up getting, but the Air Force did eventually settle with him, paying him an undisclosed amount of money.

Incidentally, one of the divers who was working on finding and recovering the missing nuke, Carl Brashear, lost his leg when it was crushed in an accident during the search. Apart from being an important event for the unlucky Carl Brashear, this was also the inspiration for the movie “Men of Honor” starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Robert De Niro, and Charlize Theron.

Also of interest is that the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker line of aircraft has now been in service for 55 years. What’s even more impressive about these planes is that they are projected to still be fully operational up until around 2040, giving them a total service life of around 83 years, at which point they will be phased out in favor of the Boeing KC-46. These planes currently cost the U.S. government in maintenance and operations cost around – billion per year and rising every year as they age and maintenance costs go up.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

WATCH: Disabled missiles at Malmstrom AFB?

The year is 1967. The location is Montana’s Malmstrom Air Force Base. There, Captain Robert Salas was on duty with his Commander 60 feet underground in the missile launch bunker. They were in charge of 10 missiles. Each of these missiles contained an eight-ton nuclear weapon. Salas was in charge of launching the missiles if given the order, so it’s not like he was just clowning around. This was serious, and Cpt. Salas knew it.

UFOs are all fun and games until they happen to you

While his Commander took a nap in the early morning hours, Cpt. Salas stayed awake. That’s when the above-ground security guards contacted him about some strange lights they saw in the sky. At first, Salas thought it was a prank, so he laughed it off. But they rang him again 10 minutes later, and by then they were utterly terrified. 

Men discuss the disabled missiles
To this day, no one knows what happened to the disabled missiles.

The guard screamed at Salas into the phone about an oval-shaped, glowing red object about 40 feet in diameter above the front gate. It was moving in a jerky, strange way that the guard had never seen: quick short spurts, stopping and changing course abruptly, making sharp 90-degree turns, dropping then rising back up, and making no noise at all. 

A strange situation gets even stranger

Salas immediately wakes his Commander and informs him about the odd, frightening UFO situation going on above ground. Not moments later, all 10 missile lights inexplicably turn from green to red, an indication that they have been disabled. That meant the missiles were no longer launch-able, leaving the US compromised in the event of an attack. 

What would be going through your mind if this happened to you? Salas was thinking the same thing, that they were under attack. Desperate, they tried everything to get their missiles functioning again, but to no avail. 

And here’s what makes the whole thing even stranger, if you can believe it. A week earlier, another Malmstrom missile launch crew had reported the exact same thing. They described the same UFO with the same red lights and jerky movements, only to find their entire fleet of nuclear missiles disarmed moments later.

The case of the disabled missiles remains unsolved

The fact that it happened twice didn’t make Salas feel any better. He knew these missiles were the most sophisticated weapons they’d ever had, and now something strange and unknown had been able to disable them, just like that. Both of the UFO occurrences disarmed the weapons for almost 24 hours. 

To this day, no one knows what those UFOs were, how they shut down the missiles, or why they did it. Salas is convinced that the UFOs were extraterrestrial. Once the information was de-classified, he has been on a mission to foil the government cover-ups and help the public see that these events truly happen. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

How women served in the Navy and Marines during WWII

The United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was authorized by Congress and signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt on July 30, 1942. Like their female counterparts servicing in other branches of the military, the primary function of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was to release men for combat duty. The jobs available to them were also very similar. Members served in occupations classified as professional, semi-professional, clerical, skilled trades, services, and sales. While over 200 job categories were made available to members of the Women’s Reserve, over half of members worked in clerical positions. Only Caucasian and Native American Women were accepted into service, the Marine Corps barred African American and Japanese American women from its ranks.


At its height, the Women’s Reserve had recruited more than 17,000 members. As was discussed in Part I, the military used a variety of tactics to recruit female members. Films such as Lady Marines, were used to provide a look at the life of a female military recruit in an effort to make new recruits more comfortable with the process. The film, shot at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, follows a class of recruits from their arrival, to graduation, highlighting their training and job opportunities.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

The United States Navy also recognized the importance of allowing females to serve in their ranks. The United States Naval Reserve (WAVES), was established and signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt on July 30, 1942, the same day the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve. Women were accepted into the WAVES as commissioned officers as well as at the enlisted level in order to release men for sea duty. They served at 900 shore stations in the United States and included over 85,000 members. While primarily comprised of white women, 74 African-American women were allowed to serve during the program’s existence.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

The color film, WAVES at Work, highlights the variety of jobs made available to members of the WAVES. Women wanting to serve in the medical, clerical, communication, and culinary fields were able to do so as a member of the WAVES. One of the most interesting jobs highlighted in the film is that of the Air Controlman. Those serving in this capacity would direct planes and ground crews from a control tower at naval air stations.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

Both films, Lady Marines and WAVES at Work, touch on the values discussed in Part I femininity, benefits of joining the military, and the importance of the work needing done. These films also make it a point to highlight the opportunities made available to women in the military. Female recruits were provided with job training in non-traditional areas, training that was not widely available to their civilian counterparts . You can view both films in their entirety below.

This article originally appeared on The National Archives. Follow @USNatArchives on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The World War II commandos dedicated to Arctic operations

Britain formed a number of commando units in World War II that operated from Burma to India to Europe and even north of the Arctic Circle in Norway. The No. 14 (Arctic) Commando trained specifically to sink German ships, destroy infrastructure, and interrupt operations in order to cripple Axis efforts in the Atlantic.


The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

Austro-Hungarian ski patrol on the Italian front.

(Imperial War Museum)

The unit was formed after the success of Operation Gunnerside, a British-Norwegian commando operation that saw the destruction of equipment at a Nazi-held heavy water plant, ultimately delaying German creation of a nuclear bomb or reactor (The Germans were already leaning towards the reactor over the bomb and had limited material to pursue either).

But Gunnerside had also shown a shortage of suitable transportation and experienced personnel, so British leadership allowed members of the 12 Commando unit to form the ‘Fynn Force’ as well as to create an all new commando unit, 14 Commando, in 1942.

Troops were recruited from units with experience in cold climates, especially those who already knew how to ski and canoe. Yes, canoe. The unit was to be split into two, each specialized for certain operations. One group would specialize in transiting via skis, and the other would row in canoes.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

Commandos carry the wounded to landing ships.

(Imperial War Museum)

Canadians were in high demand for the unit, but British and Norwegian sailors and commandos joined as well. It was a job that required steady nerves. Most missions proposed for the Arctic commandos were obvious suicide missions. One raid scheduled for the winter of 1942-1943 called for a group of skiers to parachute in and destroy a viaduct critical for iron ore transportation.

The unit commander voted against the mission on the basis that the party would almost certainly not be able to escape, but was overruled because of the value of success even if the commandos were lost. Luckily for them, weather made the mission impossible.

But No. 14 Commando would get its chance to fight just south of Arctic Circle. Eight men were sent on a canoe raid against German ships in Operation Checkmate.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

The “Cockleshell Heroes,” another group of canoe raiders who sunk ships with explosives.

(Royal Marine Museum)

They went forward on a motorboat and then split up. Four men stayed with the boat while four men went forward in two canoes. The men in the canoes were able to plant a limpet mine against the hull of ships, sinking a German minesweeper before they escaped.

But the mission fell apart there. The men on the motorboat had been forced to move from the rendezvous point, and the quartets were forced to escape and evade separately. Neither group made it out. They were captured during a massive search involving German forces and Norwegian civilians.

Thanks to the new order from Hitler to kill all captured commandos, issued just months before in October 1942, all eight were sentenced to die. Seven were executed after forced labor in concentration camps while the other died of typhus.

The rest of No. 14 Commando was later absorbed into other units after the organization was disbanded.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A beloved Soldier and the tokens he kept

The “Old Soldier” has a basement full of history.

At the age of 88, he has to walk gingerly down the steps. Coming around a bend in the stairway, he points to a “Moran St.” sign encased behind glass in a wooden box.

“They named a street at Fort Meade after me, too, right there,” he says, almost in passing.

No big deal. There’s more to show below.


The basement is like a private museum — time capsules dating back to the Korean War hung and displayed everywhere. Pictures, plaques, trophies, statues, banners, posters, flags, awards, books, newspaper clippings, most of which are about him: Raymond Moran, a man whose career is stacked with achievement.

As a recruiter, Moran enlisted so many men and women that the U.S. Army Recruiting Command named its Hall of Fame after him. In 2017, he received a Lifetime Service Award. Yet Moran is so low-key that the ceremony took place at a local barbecue joint. He keeps the newspaper articles in several binders, so many that they might fill a whole wall if they were framed.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Raymond Moran, affectionately known as the “Old Soldier,” poses for a portrait on Fort Meade, Maryland, March 9, 2018.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

Near the bar, there’s even an M1 rifle, returned from Korea decades after the war. It was a Veterans Day gift from his eldest son, Ray. The M1 is the same style rifle the ‘Old Soldier’ carried in combat when he was a young infantryman.

“I never put one nail on the wall,” said Raymond Moran as he offered the private tour.

In fact, every memory was hung by a professional: his wife, Barbara, who spent a decade working at the museum on Fort Meade. The couple has been married 65 years, celebrating their wedding anniversary at home on Valentine’s Day.

Like his marriage, Moran devoted 65 faithful years serving and loving the Army. He spent 30 years on active duty as an infantryman and recruiter, living all over the world: Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Germany. The other 35 years came as a civilian recruiter for the U.S. Army Reserve.

When the Gulf War broke out, Moran was 61 and had been retired for 21 years, but he convinced the Army to allow him back to duty in uniform.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

Retired Sgt. Maj. Raymond Moran, affectionately known as the “Old Soldier,” flips through a book on the Korean War during a portrait session in his home in Odenton, Md., while sharing stories about his military commitment to the U.S. Army and the U.S. Army Reserve during 65 years of service both as an enlisted soldier and as a Department of the Army civilian.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

“You’ve got to help me put my uniform together. I’ve never worn these,” he told his son, Ray, holding a camouflage-patterned uniform, known as “battle dress.”

“He was in the old, starched, OG-107 green Vietnam uniforms from that era,” recalls his son, Ray, who was an Army Reserve soldier himself at the time. “So he’d never worn battle dress until he got recalled for Desert Storm.”

“The age cutoff was 63, and he was just a few months shy,” said his son, Ray. “He volunteered again later at age 74 when Operation Iraqi Freedom kicked off. The Army sent him a very nice, ‘Thanks, but not this time,’ letter.”

Moran served stateside during Desert Storm as a casualty escort sergeant major, a job with a heavy toll. One of his most difficult tasks was taking wedding rings off the bodies of soldiers after a scud missile attack killed 13 from an Army Reserve unit in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Moran had recruited soldiers into that unit, located less than 10 miles from his hometown of Latrobe.

“That was a perfect example of him giving himself to the remembrance of those soldiers,” said his younger brother, Jim Moran. “He put on his uniform, went to Dover (Air Force Base) and did one of the most difficult jobs in trying to show mercy and gratitude for these young men and women that lost their lives, and accompanied those bodies back to their hometown. People remember things like that.”

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

Retired Sgt. Maj. Raymond Moran, affectionately known as the “Old Soldier,” catches up friends during a welcome luncheon after a military ceremony hosted by the First Recruiting Brigade on Fort Meade, Md., March 9, 2018.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

Yet, Moran recalls his years with only gratitude and joy. His 65 years of total service are equivalent to three military careers.

“I loved it. Enjoyed every minute of it. Never complained at all any time that I served in uniform. It was just an honor for me to serve. And I have all of this as a result of it,” he says, pointing to the walls.

“All this” is more than military trinkets displayed on some walls. These objects point to the memories of people whose lives he touched. His brother and son said all those plaques and pictures are a reflection of the people Moran has helped, either through his recruiting years or otherwise.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

Retired Sgt. Maj. Raymond Moran, affectionately known as the “Old Soldier,” shakes the hand of a Soldier who recognizes him during a ceremony hosted by the First Recruiting Brigade on Fort Meade, Md., March 9, 2018.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

“He’d always help other people. I remember so many people would call Dad for assignments,” said Ray. “And he’d call buddies, guys he had worked with … It was crazy because Dad never did that for himself. Even if he had a lousy duty assignment, he would never ask for a better one. But when it came to everybody else, he was always pressing for the best.”

In the Army, he eventually became the sergeant major of the First Recruiting Brigade on Fort Meade, responsible for hundreds of recruiters across multiple states. When he retired, he humbly (and eagerly) accepted a civilian position as a GS-7, basically working at the lowest level of the recruiting food chain. He reported to a staff sergeant, a rank that was three grades below his retired rank. And yet, he never acted like the work was beneath him. Instead, he loved it. He recruited for the Army Reserve and found plenty of active duty recruits to pass onto others, which helped everyone else meet the recruiting numbers they needed.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

Retired Sgt. Maj. Raymond Moran, affectionately known as the “Old Soldier,” grabs his veteran cap from his son, Ray, as they head out the door to attend a ceremony on Fort Meade, Maryland, March 9, 2018.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

“Recruiting is something close to my heart. I have a lot of pride in the Army Reserve, so encouraging them to join was an easy job for me,” he said.

“He genuinely is that kind of person. Positive. Upbeat. I hope to someday love anything as much as that man loves the Army and Barbi,” said Sgt. Maj. Luther Legg, former recruiting command sergeant major and long-time friend of Moran.

“If you have something in your life you aspire to, if you can feel that much affection toward anything, then you should consider yourself blessed,” he said.

He, Barbara and their three children, Ray, Rich and Robbi — all grown into parents and some into grandparents by now — have lived in so many places during Moran’s time on active duty, but one town in particular is still a point of pride for the Old Soldier: Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

Retired Sgt. Maj. Raymond Moran, affectionately known as the “Old Soldier,” holds an honorary Korean War Memorial medal that he keeps on display in his home in Odenton, Maryland, Feb. 22, 2018.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

If anyone mentions Latrobe, he is quick to mention Arnold Palmer, the famed golfer whose smiling picture is in his basement — autographed and all. Palmer and Moran were high school friends, along with Fred Rogers, who was one year ahead of them.

“He never had any tattoos underneath his sweater,” Moran reminds others of Mister Rogers, dispelling the silly rumor, which had made its way around some internet circles.

As the basement tour continues, Moran jumps from one life event to another. Historical references spanning decades press against each other. Within minutes of mentioning high school (which he attended while the world was engaged in its second war), he jumps three-quarters of a century in time to another picture.

“Happy Veteran’s Day, Pap-Pap,” he reads from one inscribed portrait of a baby named Penelope, his great-granddaughter. “Kinda cute,” he says with a chuckle.

Then, another family picture. This time, a young soldier: Christopher, his grandson, served in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2007-2008. Moran had recruited him into the Army.

“And of course he got pinned with a (Combat Infantry Badge), and he was so proud because the first thing he wanted to show me was his CIB,” said Moran.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

An oversized Combat Infantry Badge hangs on the wall beneath a genuine M1 rifle in the basement of retired Sgt. Maj. Raymond Moran.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

He mentions his grandson’s CIB, because he, too, earned one in Korea.

In fact, there it is, hanging on the wall beneath the M1: An oversized replica of the award — a ribbon given specifically to infantrymen who engage in combat.

“That was pinned on me by my battalion commander in the Korean War … We were in mud up to our ankles in combat boots, and he told everyone, ‘Unbutton your top button on your field jacket. And then he came and pinned our CIB on … That day, it must have been at least 100 (of us). We were all lined up from one end to the other in a parade field. That was the only time we ever got together,” said Moran.

When the Korean War first broke out, Moran was a corporal serving in Japan on peacekeeping occupation duty. Then, the war brought him to the Korean peninsula. When he returned home to his parents in Latrobe, he was a 21-year-old master sergeant. He’d been promoted from E-4 to E-8 in one year.

“He got a lot of field promotions,” said his brother, Jim. “Which tells you that he saw a lot of action.”

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

A U.S. Army recruiting poster leans against the wall in the basement of Retired Sgt. Maj. Raymond Moran’s home in Odenton, Md., Feb. 22, 2018.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

Jim is 84 now. He was too young to serve in Korea, but their middle brother, Sam fought at the same time as Ray. The two brothers ran into each other several times during the war, even though they were assigned to different units. Ray was with the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division. Sam was assigned to the 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion in support of a British regiment known as the “Glorious Glosters.” During one encounter, they wrote a joint letter home to their parents. They missed two Christmases, which the Moran family refused to celebrate without them. Somehow, they returned home from across the world within a few hours of each other.

It’s hard to imagine Raymond Moran as a combat-fierce infantryman. Not because of his age, but because of his gentleness.

He’s an encourager, often saying to friends and family, “Good job. I’m real proud of you,” over the littlest things.

“Good job, Barbara, you remembered your medicine. You do such a great job,” he says for example.

“That was real nice of you. You take such good care of me,” he tells his sons and daughter repeatedly as they take turns visiting him on weekends.

Or, “Oh you’re right on time. I’m real proud of you,” he tells a visitor on their way out the door together.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

Various portraits — including that of famed golfer Arnold Palmer — hang on the basement wall of retired Sgt. Maj. Raymond Moran’s home in Odenton, Maryland, Feb. 22, 2018.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

When he says those things, his voice is not that of a dog owner training a puppy. It’s filled with genuine kindness. It’s more like the voice of his high school mate Mister Rogers making a neighbor feel welcome in his home.

When visitors leave his home, Moran stands on the front door waving a little American flag and salutes them goodbye.

“He’s always positive. He’s always upbeat … At first you think, ‘He’s a recruiter and he’s been a recruiter for years and years and years, so he’s taught to be that way because he wants to be positive around people when talking to them about joining the Army.’ But then you realize that he’s just like that. There’s no one left for him to convince to join the Army,” said Legg.

“I remember one sergeant major one time saying to me, ‘I’ve never heard your dad say a bad word about anybody,'” recalled his son, Ray. “There was one guy who was just like the worst person in the world. Somebody said something like, ‘I hate that son of a bitch.’ And Dad wouldn’t, just wouldn’t cross that line,” he said.

Ray remembers how his dad would give fatherly care and advice to all his soldiers.

“Dad kind of adopted (them) like a second son, or third son, or tenth son, at this point. He’s got so many,” he said.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

Wedding anniversary and Valentine’s Day cards sent by friends and family are on display in the home of Raymond and Barbara Moran in Odenton, Maryland, Feb. 22, 2018.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

He was a father and mentor to all who came in contact with him, and beyond.

“If you track (soldiers’) mentors back, somehow they all find their way back to Sergeant Major Moran. He may not have been your mentor, but there’s a good chance that he was your mentor’s mentor … I used to kid, he’s like the (game) ‘Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon.’ Eventually you find your way back to Sergeant Major Moran,” said Legg.

Moran earned his nickname in Vietnam because he called a lot troops “Ol’ Soldier” when he couldn’t remember their names. Eventually, the nickname stuck back on him, especially because he was older than most around him. Yet, long before Vietnam, Raymond was known as “Smiley Moran” because of his constant smile and infectious positive attitude.

“Dad used to tell a story when I was a kid that they were digging ditches or something in Korea, and Dad was whistling,” his son said. “The captain came over and said, ‘You’re Morale-Builder Moran.’ And everybody called him Smiley Moran after that.”

What made his cheerfulness unusual was that the Korean War was no place for smiling. The winters were so brutal that some soldiers recall their gravy freezing on their plates by the time they walked back to their foxholes from the chow line. Bodies of American soldiers — frozen stiff — were stacked by the truckload after China sent 200,000 troops to fight alongside the North Koreans against the Americans. The History Channel produced a documentary on the war, titled, “Our Time in Hell.” It features Moran, among several other soldiers who fought there. The images and video clips shown in that documentary don’t evoke any desire to smile, yet “Smiley Moran” managed to earn that nickname.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

Retired Sgt. Maj. Raymond Moran, affectionately known as the “Old Soldier,” leans in to kiss his wife, Barbara, of 65 years marriage at their home in Odenton, Md., Feb. 11, 2018.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

“I would (imagine) Ray was a smart fighter,” his brother, Jim, said. “He’s not one to have (made) many mistakes as a fighter. He was the one always looking to take advantage of the situation. To change the situation. To make it better for them … He was a thinking-man’s fighter.”

The Old Soldier himself talks very little of whatever combat he saw or hardships he experienced.

He’s proud of his service in Korea, summarized simply, “It was infantry. It was mud. It was hardship. Good buddies … The guys had each other’s backs. Got to know each other so well.”

He typically resorts to the same few anecdotes: seeing his brother in Korea on several chance encounters and coming home to hug his father. Yet not every story is offered as easily as his smile, nor found framed inside a picture. Some stories surface over the years in the most unexpected ways.

Like the time his son, Ray, accompanied him to receive an award in Texas in 2002 and a young sergeant major came up to him and said, “Hey! You’re Smiley Moran, aren’t you? … My dad says you saved his life.”

That was a story he’d never told his son before, and even when asked about it now, he treats it as if it was no big thing.

“I just patched him up. Did the best I could, the way they teach you in the Army,” he said, and that was it. He wouldn’t linger there any longer or brag about saving someone else’s life.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

A sign reading “Raymond loves Barbara” hangs on their front door as Barbara Moran heads out for a hair appointment before celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary married to retired Sgt. Maj. Raymond Moran.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

Another story that surfaced unexpectedly was after Vietnam, when he went for a haircut with Barbara. The barber nicked Raymond’s neck, but instead of a little trickle of blood, it shot off in gushes. Barbara was scared. She thought maybe the barber’s scissors had fallen out of his pocket and stabbed her husband in the neck.

They managed to stop the bleeding, and Raymond was fine, but the whole incident upset his wife.

“We’re not going back to that barber shop anymore,” Barbara told her husband.

But in his typical gentleman fashion, Raymond Moran took the blame away from the barber.

“No, no. Not his fault,” he said. “I didn’t tell him to be careful. I had a wound on my neck.”

The wound was from a helicopter crash in Vietnam. This was a shock to his wife because he had never mentioned it before. After all, Moran was a 41-year-old retention sergeant major in Vietnam, not the fighting infantryman he once was in Korea.

The crash happened in the spring of 1970. He recalls how a medic had to administer an injection to his scalp because of the profuse bleeding from his neck. The medic was freaked. He’d never given a shot in the scalp before.

“Do it anyway. You have to do it,” someone told him.

He injected Moran, stopped the bleeding, and they evacuated him.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

Though retired, Sgt. Maj. Raymond Moran, affectionately known as the “Old Soldier,” still has a recruiting office at Fort Meade, Maryland, filled with Army memorabilia.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

After the incident, Moran wanted to keep a memento to remember the man who helped save his life. So he gave him a “Mickey Mouse” bill — it was fake money used by soldiers during the war. Moran asked the medic to write his name so he could keep it to remember him. He also told him to write “New Hampshire” on the bill because that’s where the medic said he lived back home.

“I went to New Hampshire (later on) to look him up, and I could never find him, and I felt bad. But I still think of him, often, up in New Hampshire. He helped me,” Moran recalled now, years later.

Unfortunately that paper bill is gone, lost somewhere in a box or maybe slipped between the pages of a book. Moran had tried several times looking for that bill, but couldn’t retrieve it.

That’s how it happens. That’s how Moran has managed to collect so many mementos. But it’s usually Moran doing the helping, and the recipient sending him a token of appreciation in return. Barbara said there are even more boxes of items in a backroom of the basement they couldn’t fit on the walls. A few miles from their home, Moran still has an office at an Army Reserve center. He doesn’t go there often, but like his basement the walls of that office are plastered with reminders: autographed portraits of sergeants major and generals, coffee mugs from all corners of the Army, a rack full of challenge coins, pictures, banners, trophies, even the Korean flag draping from one corner of the room. And stacks of business cards.

That’s the one thing everyone else keeps as an Old Soldier memento: his business card. Even though he’s long retired, he keeps some at home and hands them to anyone who visits. Sometimes he will hand out a second or third business card.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

Retired Sgt. Maj. Raymond Moran, affectionately known as the “Old Soldier,” smiles at his wife before she goes for a nap at home in Odenton, Md., Jan. 18, 2018.

(Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret))

“No, this one is different, take it,” he’ll say. And sure enough, this time the business card has a different picture on the back. It’s a wedding photo of him and Barbara, dated 1953.

Nowadays, he doesn’t give out as many as he used to. At 88, he spends most of his days at home with Barbara, whom he calls his “wonderful Army wife.” But on the rare occasions he makes his way to Fort Meade, he’s like a local celebrity. soldiers at the gate recognize him and many stop him to take a picture together.

At home, a nurse visits daily to take care of Barbara and checks both of their temperatures and blood pressure in the morning while eating breakfast.

After she reads his vitals, Moran asked, “Is that good?”

“That’s very good. You’re strong and healthy.”

“Good,” he responded. “I guess I’ll re-enlist then.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This B-17 survived one of the most infamous mid-air collisions of WW2

There are many versions of All American’s journey — in some, the crew used “parts of the German fighter and their own parachute harnesses” to keep the B-17 Flying Fortress together. In others, she hobbles home to England from battle in Africa.

The legends circulate but the truth is just as mind-blowing — as the pictures can well attest.

The story begins, as all good war stories do, in the shit…


B17 All American ~ (Rev. 2a) (720p HD)

www.youtube.com

On Feb. 1, 1943, Lt. Kendrick R. Bragg and his crew from the 414th Bomb Squadron, 97th Bomb Group received orders to attack German-controlled seaports at Bizerte and Tunis, Tunisia from Biskra, Algeria. After a successful bombing run in spite of enemy flak, they proceeded to return to base when they were attacked by German Messerschmitt Me 109 fighters.

One of the fighters attacked the lead bomber while the other went for All American. Her crew fought off both attacks, firing at their own Me 109 with their nose turret and supporting the lead bomber with shots from the right side nose gun. The dual attack against the lead fighter took the enemy bird down, while the fighter attacking All American began evasive maneuvers.

According to the crew, they must have killed or incapacitated the pilot before he could complete his movement. The Messerschmitt tore through All American, ripping a jagged gash in the rear fuselage and tearing off the left horizontal stabilizer.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

“I rammed the controls forward in a violent attempt to avoid collision… I flinched as the fighter passed inches over my head and then I felt a slight thud like a coughing engine. I checked the engines and controls. The trim tabs were not working. I tried to level All American but she insisted on climbing. It was only by the pressure from knees and hands that I was able to hold her in anything like a straight line,” recalled Bragg.

Miraculously, All American was still airborne.

Her wingmen remained aloft, slowing to escort the injured bird through enemy territory.

“As we neared the field we fired three emergency flares, then we circled at 2000 feet while the other planes in our formation made their landings and cleared the runways… I lowered the landing gear and flaps to test the reaction of All American. They seemed to go reasonably well, considering,” Bragg recounted. “I made a long, careful approach to the strip with partial power until the front wheels touched the leveled earth and I could feel the grating as she dragged without a tail wheel along the desert sands. She came to a stop and I ordered the co-pilot to cut the engines. We were home.”

Articles

4 reasons the Aardvark and Switchblade could still kick ass today

In this day and age, the F-111 Aardvark and its larger variant, the FB-111 Switchblade, are often forgotten. That shouldn’t be the case. Here are four reasons that these planes could still kick a lot of ass.


1. Speed

The F-111 was fast – with a top speed of Mach 2.5, according to GlobalSecurity.org. The FB-111 was also capable of going fast, according to aviation historian Joe Baugher. Not just at high altitudes, but also on the deck. In fact, these planes were designed to deliver a knockout punch at treetop level.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission
A General Dynamics FB-111A Aardvark on display at the Barksdale Global Power Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base. This plane could fly over twice the speed of sound – and deliver 35,500 pounds of bombs. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

2. Payload

The B-2, B-1B, and B-52 get a lot of press for their huge payloads — anywhere from 51 to 84 Mk 82 500-pound bombs. But the F-111 and FB-111 could each carry 36 Mk 82s. That is nothing to sneeze at. During the Vietnam War, Baugher noted that four F-111s were delivering as many bombs as 20 F-4s.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission
A left side view of an F-111A dropping 24 Mark 82 low-drag bombs in-flight over a range on May 1, 1980. The aircraft was assigned to the 391st Tactical Fighter Squadron, 366th Tactical Fighter Wing. (USAF photo)

3. Range

Baugher notes that the FB-111 could fly over 2,500 miles with four AGM-69 Short-Range Attack Missiles and internal fuel. That is a long reach – without tying up tankers like the KC-135, KC-46, or KC-10. While the AGM-69 is no longer in service, imagine what sort of distant targets could be hit by a squadron of FB-111s carrying AGM-158 JASSMs based at Aviano Air Base in Italy.

The F-111F demonstrated this range in an operational context during Operation El Dorado Canyon, when 18 planes from the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing flew from bases in England around Spain to hit targets around Tripoli. Aviation historian Joe Baugher noted that the mission was about 6,400 miles — the longest fighter mission in history.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission
Ground crew prepares an F-111F of the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing for a retaliatory air strike on Libya. (USAF photo)

4. Accuracy

The F-111 was very capable with laser-guided bombs, but the planes could also deliver unguided bombs accurately. During Desert Storm, that the F-111Es from the 20th Fighter Wing carried out attacks with conventional “dumb” bombs — and suffered no combat losses doing so.

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission
A U.S. Air Force General Dynamics F-111F aircraft, equipped with an AN/AVQ-26 Pave Tack laser target designator, banking to the left over Loch Ness (UK). (USAF photo)

In short, the Aardvark and the Switchblade had a lot of life left when they were sent to the boneyard in the 1990s. One could imagine that with upgrades to carry JDAMs, AGM-154 JSOWs, and even the AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER systems, that these planes would certainly be a huge assets in today’s global hotspots.