This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own

Canadian sniper Pvt. Leo Major could have taken a ticket home after the Normandy invasions when he lost part of his vision to a phosphorous grenade blast or later that year when his back was broken in a mine strike. Instead, he stayed in theater and went on to single-handedly liberate a Dutch town from the Germans by convincing them that a massive Canadian attack was coming.


Major’s unit approached the town of Zolle in the Netherlands in April 1945 and asked for two volunteers to scout for enemy troops, an easy observe and report mission. Major and his buddy, Willy Arseneault, volunteered to go.

They were told to establish communications with the local Dutch resistance and warn them to take cover if possible, since the morning’s attack would open with heavy artillery and the Canadians wanted to limit civilian casualties.

Arseneault and Major moved forward but quickly ran into trouble. They were caught by a German roadblock and Arseneault was killed in the ensuing confrontation. Arseneault killed his attacker before he died and Major used a fallen soldier’s machine gun to kill two and chase off the rest.

 

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own
The German troops in Zwolle numbered in the hundreds but they were scared off by a single Canadian on a rampage. (Photo: German Bundesarchiv)

 

Major could have turned back at this point and reported the loss of his friend, or he could have carefully completed the mission and carried news of the German strength back to his command. Instead, he decided to go full commando and sow terror in the hearts of his enemies.

He captured a German driver and ordered his hostage to take him into a bar in Zwolle. There, Major found a German officer and told him that a massive Canadian attack was coming.

The Canadian then gave the German hostage his weapon back and sent him into the night on his own. As the rumor started to spread that Canadians were in the town and preparing a massive assault, Major went on a one-man rampage.

 

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own
A U.S. Army Ranger candidate fires the Carl Gustav submachine gun. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. David Shad)

 

He tossed grenades throughout the town, avoiding civilians and limiting damage to structures but sowing as much panic as possible. He also fired bursts from a submachine gun and, whenever he ran into Germans, he laid down as much hurt as possible.

At one point, he stumbled into a group of eight Germans and, despite being outnumbered, killed four of them and drove off the rest.

He also lit the local SS headquarters on fire.

Major’s campaign of terror had the intended effect. The German forces, convinced they were under assault by a well-prepared and possibly superior force, withdrew from the city. Hundreds of Germans are thought to have withdrawn from the town before dawn.

A group of Dutch citizens helped Major recover Arseneault’s body and the sniper returned to his unit to report that little or no enemy troops were present in Zwolle.

The Canadians marched into the town the next day and Major was recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He is the only Canadian to receive DCMs for two wars.

 

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own
A U.S. infantryman receives the Distinguished Conduct Medal from King George V. The DCM is second only to the Victoria Cross in British Valor Awards. (Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps)

He was nominated for a capturing 93 German troops in 1944 but refused it because he though Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery was too incompetent to award medals. But Major received the DCM for capturing Zwolle. In the Korean War he received another DCM after he and a team of snipers took a hill from Chinese troops and held it for three days.

He became an honorary citizen of Zwolle in 2005 and died in 2008. Soon after his death, Zwolle named a street after their Canadian liberator.

Articles

These were some of the ballsiest pilots of WWII, and their planes didn’t even have engines

In World War II, airborne units were really in their infancy. The Germans pioneered their use in combat, and the United States built perhaps the largest airborne force in the world, with five airborne divisions.


But these divisions had a problem. There weren’t many planes to transport them for large-scale airborne ops. Today, most transports used in airborne operations have rear ramps for loading cargo (like, jeeps and artillery). Back then, they didn’t.

The C-47 Skytrain was based on the DC-3 airliner. The C-46 Commado was also based on an airliner.

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own
A C-47 takes off, towing a Waco CG-4 glider during Operation Market Garden. (Imperial War Museum photo)

Yeah, paratroops could be dropped, but they could be scattered (thus creating the rule of the LGOPs). How would they drop the heavier equipment, and keep the crews together? The answer came with the development of gliders. Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union pioneered the use of them, but the U.S. and Great Britain built lots of them.

According to the National World War II Glider Pilots Association’s web site, the United States built over 13,000 CG-4A Waco gliders. Each of these gliders could carry 15 troops, or a Jeep and four paratroopers, a trailer, up to 5,000 pounds of supplies, an anti-tank gun plus operators, or a 75mm artillery piece and its crew.

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own
Troops with the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment load some heavy firepower onto a CG-4 glider. (US Army photo)

The U.S. also used British Horsa gliders to carry even larger groups of troops (up to 30 in a glider) or bigger amounts of supplies. Over 300 of these gliders were used on D-Day, one of those instances where the arsenal of democracy had to borrow a plane made by an ally.

About 6,500 glider pilots were trained during World War II, taking part in eight missions from Sicily to Luzon. In the 1950s, advancements in transport aircraft, both fixed-wing and rotary-wing, led to the glider units being deactivated in 1952. But the gliders helped deliver firepower, troops, and supplies during World War II – when that ability was needed.

The video below shows how gliders were used during the Normandy invasion.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time an F-22 pilot told the Iranian Air Force to go home

The opening few minutes of the movie Top Gun make for, arguably, one of the coolest aerial scenes ever caught on film. There’s a reason it’s the enduring air power movie of the 1980s. Too bad for the Air Force that Top Gun featured the Navy.

Except Air Force pilots do that sh*t in real life.


In 2013, two Iranian Air Force F-4 Phantoms moved to intercept an MQ-1 drone flying in international airspace near the Iranian border. The two IRIAF fighters were quickly shooed away by two F-22 Raptors who were flying in escort.

Except, they didn’t just get a warning message, they were Maverick-ed. That’s what I’m calling it now.

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own

How an F-22 Raptor intercepts a Russian-built bomber.

The two F-22 Raptors were escorting the drone because of an incident the previous year in which two Iranian Air Force Sukhoi Su-25 close air support craft attempted to shoot down a different Air Force MQ-1. In the Nov. 1, 2012, incident, the drone was 16 miles from Iran, but still in international airspace. Iran scrambled the two Su-25s to intercept the drone, which they did, using their onboard guns.

The fighters missed the drone, which captured the whole incident with its cameras. The drone returned to base, completely unharmed. Not surprising, considering the Su-25 isn’t designed for air-to-air combat.

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own

Iranian Air Force F-4 Phantom fighters.

The following year, another drone was being intercepted by Iranian aircraft. This time, however, it had serious firepower backing it up. The Iranians came at the drone with actual fighters, capable of downing an aircraft in mid-flight. The F-4 Phantom could bring what was considered serious firepower when it was first introduced – in the year 1960. These days, it’s a museum piece for the United States and most of its Western allies. Not so for the Iranians, who still have more than 40 of them in service. When the F-4s came up against the MQ-1, they probably expected an easy target. That didn’t happen.

One of the F-22 Raptor pilots flying escort for the drone flew up underneath the Iranian Phantoms. According to then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, the Raptor pilot checked out the armaments the Iranian planes were carrying, then pulled up on their left wing and radioed them.

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own

It wasn’t like this, but it could have been.

“He [the Raptor pilot] flew under their aircraft [the F-4s] to check out their weapons load without them knowing that he was there, and then pulled up on their left wing and then called them and said ‘you really ought to go home’,” Welsh said.

They did.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Mormons accidentally went to war with the US Army

The Army had its ups and downs in the Plains Wars of the mid-1800s. There’s no denying that. Say what you will about their performance, they never sought to destroy American settlements. But, due to a bizarre misunderstanding, the Mormons of the Utah Territory thought the U.S. Army was on the way to wipe out their burgeoning religion.


The United States enshrines the freedom of religion in its Constitution, but the idea of a new way of thinking about Christianity was pretty controversial in the early days of the Mormon Church. Today, we’re accustomed to the grand temples of the church, the missionaries, having Mormon friends, and maybe even sitting in our homes with two young church members, out to spread their good word. Early church members, however, were not so accepted.

Many were killed for their beliefs. The violence directed against the young church forced its members to leave their homes and build a new one in what was then called the Utah Territory to escape persecution in a place they thought no one else would want.

This left the membership more than a little skittish about visits from their countrymen.

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own

Especially Albert Sydney Johnston.

President James Buchanan rode into the White House in 1856 on a tide of anti-Mormon sentiment in the United States. Americans saw the kind of polygamy espoused by the Church of Latter-Day Saints in Utah as immoral and anathema to the Christian beliefs held by much of the nation – not to mention the threat of a theocracy state in the Union. Polygamy was put on par with slavery as an abomination that plagued the union.

Fearful that popular sovereignty, a means of compromise between states on the issue of slavery, would allow Utah to become a state with LDS teachings enshrined in its state constitution, mean that both Democrats and Republicans turned on the church and the Utah Territory.

In 1855, relations between the Army and the settlers of the Utah Territory reached a boiling point when 400 U.S. troops passing through to California ran afoul of the residents of Salt Lake City.

The New York Times reported that the soldiers were initially welcomed by Brigham Young and gave no indication that a fight was on the way. Instead, the fight was said to be instigated by a drunken Mormon who pushed a soldier during a Christmas celebration. A fight between the parties ensued until it devolved into an all-out brawl.

Fighting engulfed the scene and two Mormons were killed before officers and church leaders broke up the rioting. Word soon spread about the violence throughout the city and the soldiers had to abandon it, moving forty miles south of Salt Lake City.

So, the Mormons, who had already been chased out of Indiana, New York, Illinois, and elsewhere by almost everyone who wasn’t a Mormon were unnerved when they heard the rumor that the U.S. military was approaching their new home in the desert from the Oregon Territory.

Then, in 1857, natives from the Paiute tribe slaughtered a wagon train headed West to California. With white men among the raiding party, they convinced the settlers that Mormons cut a deal with the Paiutes to allow their safe passage, so long as they gave up their weapons. Once the men turned in their rifles, they were all slaughtered: men, women, and children.

This false flag attack was the last straw — and anti-Mormon sentiment had everyone back East believing the Mormons were absolutely responsible for the attack. The Army prepared to send a column of 1,500 seasoned cavalry troops to Salt Lake City. Mormon leader Brigham Young decided to evacuate the women and children, but he needed to buy time.

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own

Attacks from local Paiute Indians helped precipitate the conflict.

The Mormons began to refurbish their rifles and began to fashion melee weapons from farming equipment, determined to prevent the Army from entering Utah at all, let alone mounting an assault on Mormon settlements. They determined they would keep the Army out by inciting the Indians to attack the troops at a mountain pass, but it never came about.

While they were not able to keep the Army out indefinitely, they were able to harass the Army’s supply routes, keeping supplies and ammunition away from the beleaguered soldiers. The Mormons were able to steal up to 500 head of oxen in a single night as the Army marched on through snow, sleet, and freezing temperatures as low as 25 degrees below zero – which killed off much of the army’s other livestock, including cavalry horses.

This holding action prevented the Army from approaching Salt Lake City but was not enough to deter the well-supplied U.S. Army entirely. The Mormons feared they were going to be assaulted by the U.S. troops for their beliefs but, in reality, no one told them why the troops were coming or who sent them — the Mormons were just acting on past experience. Mormon militias responded to the Army’s movements in what is now known as Wyoming. There, they fought a number of skirmishes to a draw and local settlements saw their property destroyed. Eventually, the territory’s governor declared the Mormons in full rebellion.

Colonel Albert Sydney Johnston was promoted to brevet brigadier and allotted an additional 3,000 troops, bringing his strength up to more than 5,600 — a full one-third of the entire U.S. Army at the time. The stage was set for a full-scale invasion of the Utah Territory. The Colonel even wrote to the New York Times that he fully expected to have to ride to Salt Lake City and subdue the Mormons.

But cooler heads prevailed.

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own

One-third of the active duty Army would be like 15,000 soldiers invading Utah today.

A lobbyist acting on behalf of the Mormons in Washington was able to barter an end to the conflict with President Buchanan. As the tensions between the sides mounted, a financial panic swept the country and the President was eager to put the whole thing behind him. In exchange for peace, Brigham Young would give up governorship of the Utah Territory and all citizens of Utah would receive a blanket pardon.

Johnston still marched the Army through Salt Lake City but the Army took no action, instead moving to establish a presence 40 miles south. Despite capturing national attention, the whole incident would soon be overshadowed by the violence of “Bleeding Kansas” and the coming Civil War.

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This is what you need to know about the B-17 Flying Fortress

From World War II to today, Boeing products have been the backbone of America’s strategic bomber force. That long tradition got started, though, with the B-17 Flying Fortress, which was best known for flying the daylight bombing missions against Nazi Germany in World War II.


The ultimate form of the B-17 was the B-17G version, which had 13 .50-caliber machine guns, including a twin Bendex turret under the nose, twin turrets on the top, belly, and tail of the bomber, as well as five single machine guns, including two in the wait, two in the cheeks of the plane, and one for the radio operator.

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own
A U.S. Army Air Forces Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress flying through flak over a target. A hit by flak lead to the capture of Brigadier General Arthur Vanaman, placing ULTRA at risk. (U.S. Air Force photo)

With all that firepower and ammo, there was still enough room to carry a large bombload (up to 9,600 pounds). The B-17 also had a lot of reach, with a maximum range of 3,750 miles. With four 1,200-horsepower Wright Cyclone R-1820-97 engines, it could hit 287 miles per hour when running flat-out.

The Flying Fortress saw action from the start of the war — B-17s flying in to Hickam Field on Dec, 7, 1941 came under attack from the Japanese planes at Pearl Harbor. After that day, B-17 production was ramped up until 12,726 of all types were produced until May, 1945.

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own
Hickam Field, Hawaii, under attack Dec. 7, 1941. An Army B-17 Fortress is in the foreground. (Photo credit: National Archives)

Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that the B-17 cost $238,329 in 1943 and 1944 – when they B-17G was being mass-produced. Today, that would be about $3 million per plane – meaning that for the $94.6 million price of one F-35A, the Air Force could buy 31 B-17s!

Today, only 12 of the thousands of B-17s that were built are still airworthy – with another 27 either in museums or being restored. Among those being restored is the only surviving B-17D, “The Swoose,” as well as the famous “Memphis Belle.”

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Messerschmitt made micro cars after WWII

The Luftwaffe terrorized Europe during WWII. Blitzkrieg attacks by panzers and motorized infantry were supported by German fighters and bombers. Bearing the names of their designers, Junkers, Heinkel, and Messerschmitt became infamous among the Allied nations. Messerschmitt was best known for its fighter planes including the Luftwaffe’s primary fighter, the Bf 109, and the jet-powered Me 262. Although the company survived the war, it was barred from producing aircraft for ten years.

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was a fearsome fighter (Bundesarchiv)

The war left Germany in a poor state. Its economy was in shambles, infrastructure was badly damaged, and manufacturing was nearly nonexistent. As the country and the continent rebuilt, fears of roadway congestion weighed heavy on people’s minds. Coupled with the scarcity and high cost of resources, European engineers turned to a radical new automobile design: the micro car.

Fritz Fend was a former Luftwaffe aeronautical engineer and technical officer. In 1948, he began building invalid carriages for disabled people. He noticed that his most popular model, the gasoline-powered Fend Fitzler tricycle, was also being purchased by able-bodied people for personal transport. Fend concluded that a two-seater model would be even more popular and adapted his design. He struck a deal with Messerschmitt to produce his new micro car at their Regensburg factory.

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own
A 1959 FMR-made Messerschmitt KR200 (Public Domain)

In 1953, Messerschmitt introduced the Kabinenroller, or “Cabin Scooter.” Based on the Flitzer, the Kabinenroller featured a monocoque chassis and a bubble canopy. Contrary to popular belief and despite their design similarities, the Kabinenroller canopies were not surplus Messerschmitt fighter canopies. The Kabinenroller platform was used to make the Messerschmitt KR175, the more powerful KR200, and the KR201 roadster. In 1956, another German company named FMR took over Kabinenroller production from Messerschmitt. Although the KR series micro cars still bore the Messerschmitt name and logo, Fend later adapted the platform into a sports car that was badged FMR.

Introduced in 1958, the Tg500 featured the same monocoque chassis, tandem seating, and bubble canopy as the Kabinenroller tricycles. However, it was fitted with a larger engine for increased speed and four wheels for improved performance. Unofficially, the “Tg” stood for Tiger, a name that stuck with the car. Confusingly, the name “Tiger” was not only the name of the most feared German tank of WWII, but also the name of a post-war truck produced by former tank maker Krupp. Despite being manufactured by FMR, the micro car Tiger is sometimes referred to as the Messerschmitt Tiger, a name that can confuse even the most ardent of WWII enthusiasts.

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own
An advert for the KR175 and KR200 models (Messerschmitt)

Because three-wheeled cars could be driven with a more affordable motorcycle license, Kabinrollers were extremely popular in Britain where they still maintain a loyal following. Overall though, the Kabinenroller was not a commercial success. Today, Kabinenroller examples are novelties that can fetch tens of thousands of dollars depending on their condition.

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own
A Messerschmitt KR200-based record car (Wikimedia Commons)

Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

MIGHTY HISTORY

This tank-jet hybrid was used to put out oil fires set by Saddam’s retreating troops

“Big Wind” is a 92,600-pound beast made from a tank chassis and two turbojet engines that are powerful enough to blow out oil fires like candles on a birthday cake.


While it looks ridiculous and would be nearly useless in a tank fight, this modified military hardware fought some of the largest fires set by Saddam Hussein‘s withdrawing army in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

When oil wells are on fire, the pressure under the earth’s crust keeps the oil rushing to the surface until the well is capped. Crews can’t cap the well until the fire is put out.

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own
We’re talking about some big fires too. Photo: US Navy Lt. Steve Gozzo

“Big Wind” does this by interrupting the flow of oil into the air. A small crew moves the tank into position at 3 mph. The larger the fire, the closer the tank has to get. The largest fires burn at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and require the tank to pull within 30 feet.

Once there, the crew begins pumping water into the exhaust of the idling jet engines before ramping up the jet power. The result is a thick, fast-moving steam that cuts through the oil and smothers the fire. The fire, robbed of oxygen and separated from its fuel, quickly goes out. The “Big Wind” stays in position for another 20 minutes, spraying steam on the hot oil to cool it down.

Then, oil workers begin the dangerous job of capping the well.

See “Big Wind” in action in this video:

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the first battle of the Civil War was called the ‘picnic battle’

It took more than three months after the fall of Fort Sumter, South Carolina for Union and Confederate armies to meet on the battlefield. At Centreville, Virginia on July 21, 1861, groups of civilians, including women and children, joined U.S. Senators to watch the first battle of the Civil War. 

Many in the Union government thought the war would be a short one. The Union troops who fought the battle were mostly made up of new recruits on a 90-day enlistment. The Senators and the civilians packed lunches carried in picnic baskets to watch the grim melee. They had no idea the battle was not going to go as well as expected.

first battle civil war reenactor
Much like the soldiers in the real first battle of the CIvil War, this reenactor looks confused.

In all fairness, no one quite knew how the battle was going to develop. The southern forces were equally as inexperienced as the northern troops. The United States hadn’t seen a pitched battle since its 1846-1848 war with Mexico and that war never came home. The last time the United States saw a war on its own soil was during the War of 1812.

Even long-serving Senators would not realize the magnitude of watching a Civil War battle while trying to eat lunch until it was running them down on the battlefields. But after the fall of Fort Sumter, the American public demanded some kind of action from the U.S. government before the Confederate Congress convened in Richmond, Virginia for the first time. 

The Union’s plan to recapture the south was a mess from the start. Its most capable commander, Gen. Winfield Scott, created the “Anaconda Plan,” a strategy that would strangle the south by taking New Orleans while the U.S. Navy blockaded it from the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. But since Scott was 75 years old and unable to lead the Army himself, he was widely written off. The American press pushed for an assault on the Confederate capital, just 100 miles from Washington, DC. 

President Abraham Lincoln called on 75,000 volunteers to bolster the small, 15,000-strong U.S. Army, an act which forced the last four Confederate states to secede from the Union. Under mounting pressure from all sides the Federal troops had little to no time to train for combat. By July 1861, all 11 Confederate states had seceded and the stage was set for the two inexperienced armies to meet in battle for the first time. 

Even the already green Union Army was going into the battle with a lot going against it. Its commander, Irvin McDowell, had spent most of his career as a staff officer and was promoted three ranks in order to take command of the Union Army. To make matters worse, a Confederate spy ring in Washington had already informed the Confederate Army of the Union’s plan to move on Richmond. 

Across the battlefield from the Union Army and its picnickers, was a Confederate force led by Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, a veteran of the Mexican War, a skilled engineer, and a defensive mastermind. A number of Confederate forces met at Manassas Junction to bolster the Confederates and by the time the two armies met, they were equally matched in number. Fighting began in earnest in the early morning hours of July 21st.

The Union forces saw some initial successes, and before noon the Union had forced the rebels into a disorderly retreat to nearby Henry House Hill. But the south’s superior, experienced leadership reformed the rebel line and by 3pm, the rebels had pushed the Union forces back from the hill and captured a significant number of their artillery pieces. 

By 4pm, the Union was in full retreat and the army itself was falling apart. The lunching civilians were suddenly overrun by Union soldiers retreating from the battlefield, some who had dropped their weapons and bolted. The roads were clogged with wagons, horses, and soldiers who were warning the onlookers to beat a retreat themselves. Many prominent U.S. Senators were almost captured by the Confederate Army.

They, and likely the remnants of the Federal Army, were saved by the south’s own inexperience. The commanders themselves didn’t know whether or not to pursue the fleeing enemy. By the time they were finished squabbling, it was too late. 

What everyone did come to realize was that the Civil War was much more serious than previously believed and the battles yet to be fought were not occasions watch over picnic lunches.

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These are the only father-son pairs to receive Medals of Honor

At only two times in American history have father-son pairs both earned Medals of Honor. One pair was based in the Civil War and then World War II combat, and the other pair in the Spanish-American War and World War I combat. All four would make their last names famous for generations to come.


This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own
Arthur MacArthur earned his fame rushing the Confederate defenses on Missionary Ridge. (Images: Public domain; Graphic: WATM)

 

Arthur MacArthur receives the medal for actions in 1863

First Lt. Arthur MacArthur was only 18 and an adjutant in the 24th Wisconsin Infantry when the regiment was arrayed against stiff defenses on Missionary Ridge in Tennessee near the border with Georgia. The Confederates had used this position to harass and attack Union forces for some time, and it was the last great barrier to the invasion of Georgia.

But the Confederate forces had a line of rifle pits at the base of ridge and trenches and other defenses at the top. The Union attack was ordered against the ridge, and confused orders led to a successful melee in the pits, but then a sporadic and faltering attack up toward the trenches.

It was during this attack up that MacArthur saw the Regimental color bearer go down, and he leaped forward to get the colors back up so the men would continue attacking. He was wounded twice while rushing the colors up the hill, but he still planted the flag and then fought to defend it, effectively leading an attack that took the ridge as well as the land 2.5 miles past it in a single day. He was awarded the Medal of Honor, promoted to major, and later took command of the regiment.

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own
Gen. Douglas MacArthur returns to the Philippines in World War II. (Public domain)

 

Douglas MacArthur defends the Philippines until all is lost

Arthur would retire as a lieutenant general, but one of his sons would eclipse him in valor awards and rank. Douglas MacArthur was already a full general, and the recipient of seven Silver Stars and three Distinguished Service Crosses when Japan invaded the Philippines in December 1941.

It was quickly apparent that Japan would have the upper hand, but Douglas was at least as tenacious as his father. He had his men establish defensive line after defensive line, conducting a controlled withdrawal that soaked the ground in blood for every inch they gave up. Eventually, he was forced to pull back to the Bataan Peninsula, allowing his men to defend themselves in more mountainous terrain, but also cutting off further escape and giving up the cities.

This whole time, Gen. MacArthur was often at the front, often under enemy fire. But his calmness under fierce attacks helped his men keep their cool in their desperate defense. It was only after President Franklin D. Roosevelt was forced to order the general off of the islands on February 22, 1942, to prevent his capture that Douglas withdrew. And he did so with a promise to return. He would receive the Medal of Honor in April for his tenacity, but his men would suffer a death march.

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own
Col. Theodore Roosevelt as the commander of the Rough Riders. (Public domain)

 

Teddy Roosevelt leads the Rough Riders up San Juan Hill

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt campaigned hard for war with Spain, and when the U.S. declared that war in April 1898, he wasn’t about to leave the fighting to everyone else. But, he knew the war might be short and that he was not yet ready to command a regiment. So he agitated for the creation of the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, but he used his connections to be the second-ranking officer, not the commander.

He got his wish and was brought into the Volunteer Army as a lieutenant colonel and sent to Cuba, but only 8 of the 12 companies were able to get space on the ships, and none of their horses were brought over. Still, they performed well and, on July 1, 1898, were sent against the defenses on San Juan Hill at Santiago de Cuba. By this point, Roosevelt had been promoted to commander.

The attack plan said they must move slow, but the unit was coming under heavy fire, and Roosevelt felt the battle would be lost to attrition before it could take the heights. So he rushed his men forward in a series of bursts despite the fierce defense, and they succeeded. He posthumously received the Medal of Honor for these actions in 2001.

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own
At left, Maj. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., he would later serve in World War II as a brigadier general and earn the Medal of Honor. (Library of Congress)

 

His son, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., would never attain the presidency like his father did, but he would fight in World Wars I and II. He earned the Distinguished Service Cross and two Silver Stars in World War I, and then came back into service in World War II as an almost 60-year-old man. But still, he earned another two Silver Stars in combat in North Africa near one of his own sons (who also earned a Silver Star, there).

In the preparations for D-Day, he pushed repeatedly for permission to go ashore with the first wave, but his division commander kept denying it on the basis of the brigadier’s rank and age. So, Roosevelt, Jr., wrote to his distant cousin, then-President Franklin Roosevelt. Before the reply came back, the division commander finally relented and gave Roosevelt, Jr., permission, certain he would never see him again.

The 4th Infantry Division, like nearly everyone else that day, landed out of position, but they were lucky to have their deputy commanding general there to take charge. Roosevelt, Jr., personally led infantry waves into position under fire multiple times while walking with a cane. His re-making of the division landing plan was credited with keeping Omaha Beach open, and the commanding general gave his compliments when he landed with a later wave.

Roosevelt Jr. was nominated for promotion to major general, the Medal of Honor, and command of the 90th Infantry Division, but he died of a heart attack just hours before Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called to give him the news. The medal was awarded posthumously.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This US Navy hero trolled the enemy in the most amazing way possible

It’s not a historical secret that Stephen Decatur had balls of steel. Not literally, of course, but given his fighting record, I can see how you might think that’s possible. There’s a reason America still names houses, schools, streets, and ships after the seaborne legend.

All that and he had a sense of humor too.


This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own

Hilarious.

(Naval History and Heritage Command)

The man who would become arguably the most legendary sailor ever to sail in the United States Navy was the youngest man ever to reach the rank of Captain. He was a stunning military leader and may have personally led the rise in prestige of the U.S. Navy’s ships and sailors in the eyes of its European counterparts. He cut his teeth as a young officer in the Quasi-War with France, where he helped take down 25 enemy ships in a matter of months.

In the First Barbary War, Decatur led a shore party who raided Tripoli’s harbor to burn the captured USS Philadelphia and deny her to the enemy. The raid was successful, and Decatur and crew returned to their ship without losing a single man. The famous British Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson called it “the most bold and daring act of the age.”

By the time the War of 1812 came around, Capt. Decatur was in command of the USS United States, the ship on which President Adams commissioned him a lieutenant and started his career.

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own

Decatur then took the fight to the British in engagement after engagement.

(Wikimedia Commons)

But upon taking command of a squadron led by the USS President during the war, Decatur suffered some bad luck. After taking numerous British prizes, including the HMS Macedonian and HMS Guerriere, the President under Decatur’s command ran aground in foul weather during a confrontation with the British West Indies Squadron. Decatur was defeated aboard President and was captured and paroled to New York City until the end of the war. By then, his name was as feared on the high seas as Lord Nelson’s was for England. Maybe that’s why President Madison sent Decatur to Gibraltar to negotiate with the Barbary Pirates to end the Second Barbary War.

Decatur was sent to “conquer the enemy into peace” as chief negotiator and enforce that peace with a squadron of American ships. The ships he chose were the perfect troll to an enemy already fearful of his name. Decatur chose to depart from New York in command of the USS Guerriere, Macedonian, Constellation, Ontario, Flambeau, Spark, Spitfire, and Torch.

Commodore Decatur was off to negotiate peace only with ships he’d famously captured at sea from Britain.

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own

[Laughs in Navy]

(Naval History and Heritage Command)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Puerto Ricans gained US citizenship just in time to be drafted for World War I

In 2017, Puerto Ricans battled economic hardship and the lasting effects of Hurricane Maria at home as they celebrated 100 years of American citizenship. On March 2, 1917, the Jones-Shafroth Act was passed by Congress, making the island a U.S. territory and guaranteeing citizenship to all Puerto Ricans born after April 25, 1898. With citizenship came all the requirements of citizenship: serving on juries, paying taxes, and being drafted for military service.

Just in time for World War I.


This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own

Welcome to the party, pal.

It was just twenty years after the United States usurped the island’s Spanish rulers in the Spanish-American War and annexed Puerto Rico as a territory of the United States. By the end of the United States’ participation in World War I, the Selective Service Act would draft some 2.8 million men, sending an estimated 10,000 troops to France every day. The U.S. Army had come a long way from the third-rate militia it was before the war. To meet the requirements of becoming a great, global power, it needed the manpower of one.

American territories, which at the time included Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, and others, were exempt from the draft. The legislature of Puerto Rico immediately asked Congress to extend conscription to American territories – namely Puerto Rico. But this was purely at the request of the Puerto Ricans.

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own

Puerto Rican Cpl. Ricardo LaFontaine in 1917.

In all, some 236,000 Puerto Ricans from the island signed up for selective service for a potential draft notice. Of those, 18,000 would go on to serve in the war. But they weren’t always welcome. African-American Puerto Ricans, like many minorities in the U.S., weren’t entirely welcome and ended up in segregated units. For those Puerto Ricans not of African descent, they would be assigned to some regular units in the U.S. military. Still, President Wilson, in the face of discouragement from the War Department, created a Puerto Rican Division.

A full 70 percent of those Puerto Ricans who signed up for service in World War I were rejected for no other reason than the War Department didn’t know what to do with them in a segregated Army. Despite this, there has long been a conspiracy theory that held Puerto Rico was only granted citizenship so they could fight in the war. If that were true, the U.S. would have sent a lot more Puerto Ricans than it did.

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 tools that helped America win WWII

There is supposedly a famous quote from Dwight Eisenhower about his “Four Tools for Victory” in World War II, but that quote has been hard to pin down exactly. Several variations exist that include six of the seven tools listed below. The M1 Garand also made the list because, as Gen. George Patton said, “the M1 rifle is the greatest battle implement ever devised.”


1. The Jeep

 

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own
An SAS jeep manned by Sergeant Schofield and Trooper Jeavons of 1st SAS near Geilenkirchen, Germany, on November 18, 1944. (Photo: British Army Sgt. Hewitt)

While the origins of the name “Jeep” may be up for debate, the rugged-dependable-go-anywhere nature of the Jeep is not.

The Jeep – quite literally – became the workhorse of the American military as it replaced horses in everything from cavalry units to supply trains. Field-expedient improvements made the Jeep capable of just about any mission the GI’s could dream up for it.

Jeeps were so ubiquitous in the European theatre that the Germans thought each American was issued their own. Famed sports car designer Enzo Ferrari described the Jeep as “America’s only real sports car.”

Without the Jeep’s rugged dependability and offensive capabilities, winning the war would have been much more difficult for the Allies.

2. The C-47

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own
Paratroopers ride in C-47 Skytrains en route to Le Muy for Operation Dragoon on Aug. 15, 1944. Photo: US Air Force

 

While American bombers surely wrought havoc on the Axis powers, it is the C-47, the beloved “Gooney Bird,” that is always cited as a Tool for Victory.

This probably has to do with the fact that the C-47’s flew everywhere and did everything.

C-47’s kept the Allies supplied by flying “the Hump” over the Himalayas, they evacuated wounded soldiers from near the front lines, and they flew over occupied territory to drop Allied paratroopers behind enemy lines.

3. The Bazooka

 

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own
Two soldiers in the 82nd Airborne load and aim a bazooka at a German vehicle on road in France, 1944. U.S. Army photo

 

The Bazooka, or official Rocket Launcher, M1, was a man-portable, recoilless, anti-tank weapon.

Not only did the Bazooka pack more punch than any other man-portable weapon, it was also versatile. With the development of different warheads, the Bazooka could be an anti-tank weapon, a bunker buster, or an anti-personnel weapon. One inspired pilot even attached them to his scout plane to fight German tanks.

The weapon’s versatility and combat prowess caught the eye of Gen. Eisenhower and it is generally listed as one of his four Tools for Victory.

4. The Higgins Boat

 

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own
Troops in an LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. (Photo: Public Domain)

 

The Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP), or simply the Higgins Boat, is easily one of the most important tools on this list.

“Higgins is the man who won the war for us,” Eisenhower said. If it hadn’t been for his boats, “the whole strategy of the war would have been different.” The boat’s shallow draft and full-size ramp allowed it to carry 36 fully loaded infantrymen, a Jeep, and a squad, or up to 8,000 pounds of cargo directly onto the beaches under assault.

It could then quickly turn around and repeat the procedure as necessary. The LCVP was at every single American amphibious assault throughout the war.

5. The Sherman Tank

 

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own
Sherman tanks in the European theater of operations WWII (Photo: Public Domain)

 

The M4 Sherman tank was far from the best tank fielded in World War II. In fact, it was often outmatched by the much stronger German tanks. But the Sherman had a few things that made it such a formidable weapon.

The simplicity of production of the Sherman, and the lack of destruction of American factories, combined with a strong repair and refit program, meant there were always plenty of Shermans. This translated on the battlefield into numerical superiority, which allowed the Allies to simply overwhelm German armored units that had little means of replenishment.

Continuous improvements throughout its service life also continued to make the Sherman a formidable foe for enemy tanks.

6. The M1 Garand

 

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own
The .30 firearm was so successful, it found a home with U.S. troops and their allies into the Vietnam war. (Photo: Public Domain)

It is well known how Patton felt about the M1 Garand, but what else was it about the rifle that made it a Tool for Victory?

For one, while most of the world’s armies were still using bolt-action rifles, the M1 could deliver eight rounds of .30-06 as fast as a man could pull the trigger. This gave the American rifleman a serious advantage over his foes.

The weapon was also extremely accurate, rugged, and dependable. The M1 was so effective, in fact, that it significantly changed infantry tactics. The M1 rifle saw heavy combat on all fronts and was a vital tool for the American infantry in winning the war.

7. The Atomic Bomb

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own
Atomic Cloud over Nagasaki. (Credits: Wikimedia Commons)

 

The incredible destructive power of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was undeniable.

With just two missions over Japan, the Allies were able to secure the unconditional surrender of the Japanese. This ended World War II.

But there was more to it than just victory. The atomic bombs ending the war meant countless American lives saved from not having to invade Japan. The United States anticipated some 500,000 casualties from the invasion that never came and created Purple Heart medals accordingly.

Thanks to the atomic bombs, those medals have supplied U.S. forces ever since.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This commander cleared a minefield with his trench knife to save his men

George Lafayette Mabry, Jr. was already a hero cited twice for bravery when, on Nov. 20, 1944, he led his troops out of a minefield using only a trench knife, killed three Germans and captured six, and then took the high ground on the enemy’s flank with his battalion.


Mabry was an Army major when his battalion was sent into the brutal Hurtgen Forest. Dense trees limited visibility and prevented American armor from getting close to many positions. German artillery and mortars were pre-targeted on avenues of approach the Americans were expected to take while trench lines, obstacles, and fortifications protected German infantry and artillerymen.

The commander of Mabry’s battalion, Lt. Col. Langdon A. Jackson, Jr., led his men against a German position in the forest for two days only to see the men cut down by overlapping fields of fire before they could make it through the minefields or pass the wire obstructions. Jackson eventually argued with the regimental commander against another attack until he was relieved of his command.

2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment needed someone to take the reins and Mabry stepped up. He asked the regimental commander for a day to reorganize his men and incorporate replacement soldiers. Then he led his battalion, still at only 60 percent strength, against the German positions.

The initial assault by Mabry and his men was stopped by a German machine gun nest that backed them into a minefield. Knowing his men were dead if they didn’t move, Mabry personally moved into the danger area and figured out that the mines were lying under depressions in the snow. Using his trench knife, he began removing the mines to open a route for the battalion.

He then led the scouts forward and came upon a concertina wire trap with explosives on it. The men cut the wire and disconnected the explosives before again moving forward. Mabry spotted three enemies in foxholes and took them prisoner using his bayonet.

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own
US medics evacuate a casualty through the thick, European woods. Photo: US Army

 

2nd Battalion was still in dire straits, facing a series of three log bunkers on the with machine guns on the high ground. Mabry again moved to the front and began the assault ahead of his men.

He kicked open the first bunker and found it empty, but the second one was filled with nine Germans. Mabry killed one with the butt of his rifle before bayoneting another. His scouts finally caught up with him and helped him subdue the rest.

The group then charged the third bunker while under small arms fire. Mabry broke into the fortification and led six new prisoners out at bayonet point.

With the bunkers emptied, he and his men occupied them before conducting one last assault through 300 yards of hostile terrain and machine gun fire before taking the top of the hill. From the hilltop, the battalion was able to threaten the enemy’s flanks and guarantee the regiment a firm foothold for further attacks.

Mabry was promoted to lieutenant colonel a short time later and received a Medal of Honor for his actions in the forest. He went on to serve in the Korean and Vietnam wars as well as in the Panama Canal Zone. He retired as a major general in 1975 and died in 1990.

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