One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan

When we think of the largest tank battles in military history, we probably think of epic slugfests like the World War II Battle of Kursk between the Soviet Union and Hitler’s Germany. More recently, we might look to the Battle of 73 Easting during the Gulf War.

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan
An Iraqi Type 69 main battle tank burns after an attack by the 1st United Kingdom Armored Division during Operation Desert Storm.

The battles between India and Pakistan often get overlooked in the minds of even the most hardcore tank fans, but some of history’s most hardcore fighting happened between the two former British possessions. 

In fact, the two have been fighting ever since the British withdrew from India and Pakistan. The first war happened pretty much immediately, as the two countries squared off over who would control the areas of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947. The first war didn’t really settle anything, so they were back at it nearly 20 years later. 

Just before India launched a full-scale invasion of Kashmir in 1965, Pakistan sent thousands of soldiers into the area dressed as locals. The Indians found out somehow and retaliated with almost its entire army, which included more than 180 Centurion tanks, 340 Sherman tanks, and an estimated 700,000 infantry, not to mention its air forces. 

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan
The hull of an M4A1 Sherman tank destroyed in the Indo-Pakistani war.

Knowing the war lasted a little less than a month, one might think that India sent in an overwhelming force to push Pakistan out of Kashmir for good. They would be wrong. Pakistan was already prepared for the war their intended insurgency might cause. Both sides made significant gains in the first few weeks of fighting, aiming at different goals. 

A few days before a United Nations ceasefire forced an end to the fighting, the two sides met at Chawinda in the Punjab area of Pakistan. India was attempting to counter the Pakistani advance into Kashmir. The Indians sent an entire Corps into the area near Chawinda with an estimated 150,000 infantry and 260 tanks. Initially, the Indians annihilated an enemy infantry regiment and pushed the Pakistani forces back to Chawinda. 

Outnumbered by a margin of around ten to one, the Pakistanis dug in at Chawinda. With repeated losses to the Indians at Phillora and Asal Uttar in an attempt to divert the Indians away from Chawinda, things looked pretty bleak for the Pakistani defenders. 

But despite repeated Indian attacks on Chawinda, the Pakistanis held out long enough for reinforcements to arrive. When the Indian Army launched its major assault on Chawinda on September 18, 1965, the Pakistanis’ strength had grown to 132 tanks and 50,000 defenders. They were still outnumbered but they repelled the Indians.

In fact, the Indian attack was so unsuccessful, and they took such heavy losses trying it, that they were forced to withdraw from Chawinda and both sides stopped their offensive plans. When the United Nations-brokered ceasefire came, both India and Pakistan were so bloodied and bruised, the ceasefire was welcome news. 

Pakistan lost 60 tanks defending Chawinda, nearly half of its force there. India lost almost the same ratio of tanks, an estimated 100 or more. When all was said and done, the Battle of Chawinda was the largest tank on tank battle since the World War II Battle of Kursk. 

India withdrew from Chawinda on September 19, and the ceasefire went into effect on the 22nd. The 1965 war ended on September 23, probably to the relief of both sides. The war didn’t change much of anything, except ceding a little bit of Pakistani territory to India. Even that was returned just ten years later, when the Soviet Union mediated a peace agreement between the two in Tashkent.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 5 native tribes most feared by the US Army

Though they’re often overlooked by military historians – not Native historians, mind you – the Plains Wars of the post-Civil War era saw some of the most brutal fighting between the American government and the native tribes fighting for their way of life. Eventually, the U.S. government was determined to move the native people to reservations. Those who did not sell their land were moved by force.


The fighting on the Plains saw the Battle of Little Bighorn, the massacre at Wounded Knee, and the Sand Creek Massacre, just to name some of the bloodiest moments. The fighting West of the Mississippi claimed countless lives, not to mention the end of the traditional ways for many Native Americans. Still, some fought back, with varying degrees of success.

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan

Kiowa Warriors at Fort Sill, 1872.

Kiowa

An ally of the dreaded Comanche, the Kiowa were usually at war with anyone the Comanche went to war with, including the US Army. For 50 years, the Kiowa moved from the central United States westward to join the Comanche in raiding and trading from the American Southwest into Mexico, killing thousands. Even after most of the Kiowa moved to reservations in 1877, many warrior bands remained loose on the American frontier.

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan

A Cheyenne “Dog Soldier”

Cheyenne

As more settlers rushed to the Rocky Mountains area, the area began to fill up with heavily-armed militias who would raid neighboring Arapaho and Cheyenne tribal settlements. In response, the Cheyenne began to fight back, forming different kinds of warrior bands, including the now-famous Dog Soldiers – warriors who would hold their ground, no matter what came at them. The Dog Soldiers rallied Cheyenne and Arapaho tribesmen together to wreak havoc on the Colorado ranching industry.

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan

Sitting Bull, pictured, was one of the Sioux’s most famous leaders.

Sioux

The Sioux were not the first tribe to fight the U.S. government, and they weren’t the last, but they might be the most famous. The Sioux produced some of the most notable names and places in all the Indian Wars, including Little Bighorn, Custer’s Last Stand, Red Cloud, Sitting Bull, and Crazy Horse, to name a few.

When the Army came upon bands of Sioux warriors, they didn’t know if they would just be fighting the handful of warriors they saw or if another 5,000 to 7,000 were waiting somewhere they couldn’t see.

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan

Geronimo and three other Apache warriors.

Apache

If there’s one thing the Union and Confederate Armies could agree on, it was fighting the Apache tribes. In the early days of the Civil War, Confederate forces took on Apaches in the West before transferring to the actual Civil War they were needed to fight.

Clans of Apache rarely gathered in great numbers. They only did so in order to gather their forces to hit the U.S. Army in large formations. The US Army hated the Apaches so much, they would fight any sized organization they happened to come across, fearful of them massing numbers to form a war party. It took more than 20 years of concerted effort to end the Apache resistance.

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan

“Manifest Destiny? Never heard of her.”

Comanche

The Comanches not only stymied the Army’s effort to contain or destroy them, but they also took down other Native tribes, eradicating them or driving them out of their traditional lands. The reason the Spanish Empire stopped expanding northward was because they were stopped by Comanches. The Texan Republic stopped expanding westward because of Comanches. The United States frontier actually receded because of the Comanches.

By the end of the 1860s, the men who won the Civil War for the Union were now running the country and President Grant, Commander of the U.S. Army William Tecumseh Sherman, and Gen. Philip Sheridan were determined to end the Comanche threat, finally subduing them with overwhelming force in 1875.

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That time the entire Dutch naval fleet was captured by French dudes on horses

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan


In the winter of 1795, a French cavalry regiment captured 14 Dutch ships and 850 guns without a fight. How’d they do it? They simply trotted across the ice. Universally regarded as one of the strangest victories in the history of warfare, the Battle of Texel is the only documented occurrence of a “naval” skirmish between warships and cavalry.

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan
Capture of the Dutch fleet by the French hussars, Léon Morel-Fatio | Public Domain

Why were the French at war with the Dutch?

By 1792, Revolutionary France was looking to pick a fight with Europe’s monarchist powers. On 20 April, the Legislative Assembly declared war against the King of Bohemia and Hungary (meaning the Hapsburg Empire). Their plan worked. They ignited a twenty-three year conflict between France and the rest of the continent. In January 1795, the French Revolutionary Army invaded the Dutch Republic. They were met with little resistance.

What went down during the battle?

The winter of 1794-5 was particularly brutal. Stationed near the village of den Helder, the Dutch fleet was immobilized when the Zuiderzee bay froze overnight. It didn’t take long for the French commander to take stock of the situation—all the calvary had to do was gallop across the ice. The Dutch admiral was left with the embarrassing task of surrendering his ships to a handful of soldiers on horseback. A.G.M. Macdonell describes the French advance in his book Napoleon and his Marshals:

The ragged men carried the Three Colours and sang the terrible song of Marseilles from Fleurus to the Rhine, and captured the fortresses of Flanders and the fortresses of Holland and Brabant…and entered Antwerp and Rotterdam and the Hague, and thundered on their horses across the ice to capture with naked swords the battlefleet of Holland.”

What happened afterwards?

The United Provinces of the Netherlands became the Batavian Republic. The French puppet state lasted until 1806, when it was replaced by the Kingdom of Holland after Napoleon decided to put his brother Louis on the throne.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Drury Wood: Experienced test pilot

Before an aircraft is approved for mass production, it needs to pass inspection. The aircraft must get off the ground successfully, endure changing conditions while in flight, and remain workable until returning to the ground. Marine Corps test pilot Major Drury Wood Jr., considered these factors when he flew experimental and modified aircraft.

Captivated by flight after a ride in a Ford Tri-Motor, Wood enlisted in the Navy Flight Program on Dec. 8, 1942. In February 1943, he attended training in Georgia. In Flight School, he learned to fly fighter planes in preparation for aerial combat against Japan.


After graduating in April 1944, Wood was sent to California where he flew Vought Corsair planes. He soon became a replacement pilot on the USS Bennington, for which he flew bombing missions in Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands in Japan. Wood was also among the first pilots to bomb Tokyo in the aftermath of the 1942 Doolittle Raid. For his service during the war, Wood received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

When the war ended, Wood transferred to Marine Fighter Squadron 225 in North Carolina, where he was part of a demonstration team. He also worked as a Forward Air Controller before being sent to Memphis, Tenn., to the Aviation Electronics Officers School.

After leaving the service, Wood worked as an operations officer at Camp Pendleton, Calif. He was soon called back up to active duty, and deployed to Korea in September 1950. There, he fought in the Battle of Incheon, and his squadron supported the Marine infantry divisions into battle against the Chinese in North Korea at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in November.

In 1952, Wood attended the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School in Maryland. Upon graduating, he served there as a flight instructor and operations officer. Wood also worked with future astronaut Alan Shepard and taught John Glenn, who later became the first American to orbit the Earth.

In 1955, Wood accepted an offer from the Douglas Aircraft Company to work as a test pilot. He transferred to reserve status and then went to Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California. Wood worked with noted fighter pilots Chuck Yeager and Bud Anderson while at Edwards and tested multiple new planes.

Wood left the Douglas Aircraft Company when they began to focus more on missile testing than planes. He worked for the Northrop Grumman Corporation and the Army Test and Evaluation Center for two years before receiving an offer to fly as a test pilot for the Dornier Aircraft company in Munich, Germany, in 1964.

Wood was the only pilot to test or fly the DO 31, a military vertical and short take-off and landing transport with ten engines. He also maintains five still-standing world records in flight. He later received the German Distinguished Service Cross for his work with Dornier. Wood estimated that he flew over 150 different kinds of planes by the end of his military and test pilot career.

After returning from Germany, Wood attended Sonoma State University in California and earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and urban planning. He later became president of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, which hosted the Mercury astronauts when they were awarded the Kincheloe Award for professional accomplishment in the field of test piloting. Wood also worked in an antique store, where a conversation with an Army colonel convinced him to finish his military career, so he joined the California National Guard.

Late life

When he retired from active service, Wood became active in Veterans’ organizations such as The Chosin Few and attended reunions with members of his Korean fighter squadron. He was also a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society and the Pioneers of Naval Aviation Association.

Wood was inducted into the Oregon Aviation Hall of Honor at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in 2015 and honored on the Wall of Honor at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. He died on Sept. 9, 2019. He was 95.

We honor his service.

Several of the details for this story were sourced from the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, Wood’s obituary, and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This plane carried out the mission that inspired the ‘Star Wars’ trench run

In 1977, Star Wars took the country — and the world — by storm. One of its most iconic scenes was the trench run, during which X-Wing and Y-Wing fighters defy the odds to put proton torpedoes down a thermal exhaust port, running a gauntlet of Imperial fighters and gun emplacements to do so. Well, that scene wasn’t exactly original.

That’s right, folks. George Lucas lifted that scene from a 1954 movie, The Dam Busters — and if you’ve seen them both, it’s painfully obvious. Some dialogue from the classic film was lifted nearly word-for-word and put directly into Star Wars.


www.youtube.com

 

But the 1954 film that Lucas cribbed from portrayed an actual mission flown by real bombers.

That bomber was the Avro Lancaster. The Lancaster was RAF Bomber Command’s primary bomber in the latter part of World War II. The Lancaster entered service in 1942, had a crew of seven, packed a total of eight .303-caliber machine guns for self-defense, and could haul a lot of bombs — up to 22,000 pounds of high-explosive candygrams. These included special bombs, including the anti-dam bomb developed by Barnes Wallis, and earthquake bombs.

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan
An Avro Lancaster during the filming of ‘The Dam Busters’
(Photo by RuthAS)

 

Outside of the 1943 “Dam Busters” mission that inspired the 1954 film that later inspired George Lucas, the Lancaster takes credit for sinking the German Bismarck-class battleship Tirpitz and for hitting a number of heavy fortifications. But it wasn’t all gloom and doom — the plane was also used to drop food to civilians in German-occupied territory.

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan
22,000 pounds of fun
(Imperial War Museum)

 

The Avro Lancaster had a top speed of 275 miles per hour and a maximum range of 2,529 miles. Almost 7,400 of these planes were produced. They saw action over Germany but, in 1948, the Lancaster also took part in the Berlin Airlift, turning back Josef Stalin’s effort to get the Western Allies to abandon West Berlin.

Learn more about this British bombing workhorse in the video below.

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Why pigeons were once the best form of battlefield communication

Pigeons are one of the most annoying and disgusting parts of living in a city these days. But did you know that those winged rats were once well-decorated war heroes?


The World Wars had dramatically increased the pace of technological advancement and gave rise to early forms quick communication, such as radio and telephone. But radio was easily intercepted and telephone wires were obvious to the enemy. Pigeons, on the other hand, had a surprising 95 percent efficiency and could carry longer-form messages than those sent by telegraph.

Communications between squads and battalions were typically delivered by a runner — a troop that moved across the battlefield carrying a message. For higher level communications, signal troops would write messages on tiny pieces of paper that would then be rolled up and attached to pigeons. Pigeons have natural magnetoreceptors and an instinct to return home, both of which they use to send a message on its way.

These birds can travel great distances in a (relatively) short amount of time. Princess the Pigeon, for example, managed a 500-mile flight during World War II when she carried vital information about the British troops fighting in Crete to RAF in Alexandria, Egypt.

 

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan
Not all pigeons in England are terrible. (Imperial War Museum)

 

Pigeons weren’t just sent as messengers. As early as World War I, innovators attached cameras to the birds who would then fly about the battlefield as the camera automatically snapped photographs.

As you’d expect, most photos came out terribly but, on occasion, you’d get a photo that would prove the idea wasn’t as terrible as it sounds.

 

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan
(Imperial War Museum)

The most well-known story of the war pigeons is that of Cher Ami (which translates to “dear friend” from French). On October 3, 1918, 195 American troops of the Lost Battalion were trapped behind enemy lines. Their position was surrounded on every side by German forces. To make matters worse, American artillery had started raining down on their position. Maj. Whittlesey affixed a message to Cher Ami and let her lose.

The message read, “We are along the road parallel to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heaven’s sake, stop it.”

Cher Ami was spotted by the Germans and shot down. Despite her wounds, she managed to take flight again and complete her 25-mile journey in just 25 minutes. She did this after taking a bullet to the chest, being blinded in one eye, and nearly losing the leg to which her crucial message was attached. Thanks to Cher Ami, all 195 men survived.

She was patched up and sent back home to the U.S. by Gen. “Black Jack” Pershing himself.

 

Feature image: Imperial War Museum

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This is why it’s actually illegal to shoot at pilots who’ve bailed out

Okay, you’re relieving some stress by playing some video games and you just downed an enemy plane.


The pilot bails out.

You’ve got him in your sights — one less bad guy to deal with later, right?

Wrong.

According to the law of war, it is a crime to gun down a pilot who’s bailed out of his plane. While the video game world might give some allowances on this, in the real world it’s a major no-no.

Field Manual 27-10, “The Law Of Land Warfare,” says that a pilot who has bailed out of his plane is a non-combatant. That’s different from a paratrooper who’s notionally armed on his way down and is technically engaged in combat while under canopy.

 

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan
Don’t do it Fritz! (Photo from Wikimedia Commons).

 

Here is the exact quote: “The law of war does not prohibit firing upon paratroops or other persons who are or appear to be bound upon hostile missions while such persons are descending by parachute. Persons other than those mentioned in the preceding sentence who are descending by parachute from disabled aircraft may not be fired upon.”

This was formalized in 1977, in Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions.

But even before all that legalese was codified in the Geneva Conventions, some militaries had already adopted a similar code of conduct. During World War II, the Nazis — whose crimes against humanity were legion — generally forbade its pilots from shooting downed enemy airmen.

One German commander, famously told his pilots, “You are fighter pilots first, last, always. If I ever hear of any of you shooting at someone in a parachute, I’ll shoot you myself.” Even Hermann Goering found potential orders from Hitler to carry out such acts as distasteful, approving of Adolf Galland’s characterization of such an act as “murder.”

On the American side, General Dwight D. Eisenhower issued orders that shooting at enemy aircrew who had bailed out as forbidden.

 

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan
These guys are fair game. (Photo by Elena Baladelli/US Army)

Pilots on the Japanese side had no such hesitation, partially stemming from a code that viewed surrender as dishonorable. Many Allied airmen in the Pacific found that bailing out from a crippled plane was sometimes like going from the frying pan into the fire.

One airman, though, was able to shoot a Japanese pilot trying to machine gun him with his M1911!

In short, if you’re even playing a video game and you’re tempted to shoot at the folks who bailed out, don’t do it.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Paul A. Yost, Jr., later a Commandant of the Coast Guard, was leading a group of 13 swift boats during the insertion of Navy Underwater Demolition Team-13 and some Vietnamese marines when his column came under attack from a Viet Cong ambush that managed to heavily damage multiple boats, kill American and Vietnamese troops, and isolate the last boat.


 

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan
(Photo: Naval War College Museum)

When Yost found out that his last boat was trapped in the kill zone and his other ships weren’t in shape to recover it, he took his command boat and one other back into the kill zone to rescue the sailors who were still under attack.

The 13-boat movement was part of Operation Silver Mace II, which was put into action to break up Viet Cong operations in that section of Vietnam. The boats were to drop off the ground forces and then provide support from the river. The first five boats reached the insertion points for their marines and completed their mission without incident.

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan
(Photo: Naval War College Museum)

The other eight boats continued upriver. When they went to drop off their marines, a U.S. Marine major assigned as an advisor went to Yost and asked that the Vietnamese marines be dropped another mile upriver because the going was hard and no Viet Cong activity had been spotted. Yost agreed.

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan
Riverine craft make their way up a narrow river in Vietnam. PCF-23 was one of the craft involved in Operation Silver Mace II. (Photo: Naval War College Museum)

Just to be safe, Yost ordered the two Seawolf attack helicopters assigned to him be launched. They were based on a ship 15 minutes away, meaning they would arrive as the boats got to the more dangerous parts of the river.

But Yost’s superior, Navy Capt. Roy Hoffman, ordered the helicopters to sit tight, possibly to ensure that they wouldn’t run out of fuel before they were needed. Yost wasn’t told of the change.

A short time later, everything went sideways. The eight boats were proceeding upriver when PCF-5, the lead boat, was suddenly hit with a claymore mine from the riverbank. More claymores, rockets, and machine gun fire rained down on the boats.

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan
(Photo: Naval War College Museum)

Yost was in the second boat and ordered it to push through the kill zone, and the rest of the column followed.

The rear boat, PCF-43, was the slowest and needed maintenance, according to then-Lt. j.g. Virgil A. Erwin III — a boat commander during the operations. In addition to its maintenance issues, it was weighed down with 800 pounds of explosives, 10 UDTs, and all of their gear.

That boat was unable to keep up with the rest of the column as they pushed through the kill zone, and it was left as the sole target for a few fatal seconds during the ambush. The corpsman on board was hit with a rocket and killed just before another rocket struck the cabin, killing the boat commander and severely wounding the two others in the cabin.

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan
(Photo: Naval War College Museum)

The boat ran out of control and beached itself, hard, on a mudbank. It hit so hard that it slid most of the way out of the water, leaving the engine’s water intake above the waterline and making it impossible for the boat to propel itself back off.

As the engine overheated, the UDT members jumped from the boat and established a defensive perimeter behind it, using the wreck as cover from the Viet Cong fire coming from a mere 20 feet away.

The closest boat, PCF-38, attempted to assist PCF-43, but their steering gear was damaged and they were forced to head back upriver. Once they reached the lead perimeter, they alerted Yost to the state of PCF-43.

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan
(Photo: Naval War College Museum)

Yost took his craft, PCF-31, and the former lead boat, PCF-5, back downriver. Once they reached the ambush site, 5 and 31 began pouring .50-cal. rounds into the jungle and forced the Viet Cong fighters to take cover. As 5 kept the fire up, Yost and 31 pulled up to the stricken 43 and began evacuating the wounded and dead.

The two crafts escaped with 15 survivors and the bodies of the two men killed in action.

Just a few hours later, PCF-43 exploded. The most likely cause was that the engines, which typically were cooled by water flowing through the engine for propulsion, had overheated and set fire to the leaking fuel. The fuel ignited the explosives and the whole thing burned hot until the boat itself exploded.

Yost was later awarded the Silver Star for his part in the fight. In 1986, he became the 18th Commandant of the Coast Guard.

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This is why the Navy wears bell bottoms, and it’s not for fashion

The Navy dress uniform — also known as “cracker jacks” — is one of the most iconic symbols in the military today. You can spot a Navy sailor from a mile away after they don the familiar dressing.


Every piece of the uniform from head-to-toe has some symbolic or practical use — and the famous bell bottoms are no different.

During the ’60s and ’70s, bell bottoms were all the rage in fashion culture as men and women of all ages walked the streets with the popular look.

Related: This is why sailors have 13 buttons on their trousers

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan
A girl in the 1970s sporting some fashionable bell buttons near a beach. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

But the fad didn’t make its debut on a famous red carpet or in an elegant fashion show — it’s the brilliant invention of the U.S. Navy.

Although no one has been officially accredited with inventing the bell bottom trouser, the flared out look was introduced for sailors to wear in 1817. The new design was made to allow the young men who washed down the ship’s deck to roll their pant legs up above their knees to protect the material.

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan
Young sailors aboard a ship play tug-of-war in their classic bell bottoms. (Source: Pinterest)

This modification also improved the time it took to take them off when the sailors needed to abandon ship in a moments notice. The trousers also doubled as a life preserver by knotting the pant legs.

Also Read: This is why some Marines wear the ‘French Fourragere,’ and some don’t

Years later in 1901, the Navy authorized the first use of denim jumpers commonly known as “dungarees.” This new fabric was approved to be worn by both officers and enlisted personnel.

The dungarees also featured the unique bell bottom look and are considered iconic in their own right.

What’s your favorite Navy uniform? Comment below. And don’t forget to submit your photos in the comment section wearing your dress uniform.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Important events during the Cuban Missile Crisis

Hold onto your hats — we’re about to dive deep into a micro-portion of U.S. history. The Cuban Missile Crisis is undoubtedly an important part of American warfare knowledge. But now, with hindsight in our favor, we can look back and consider the situation with ease. The fact of the matter is, that when it took place, it was a terrifying time for all involved. The public was scared, and government officials worked round-the-clock to ease tensions of nuclear war.

Take a look at these important events and how they helped channel current events of the time. 

First things first, what was the Cuban Missle Crisis? 

The Cuban Missile Crisis took place in October of 1962, when the Societ Union placed nuclear missiles in Cuba. The fear of weapons sitting just 90 miles from U.S. boarders led to nationwide panic, and the launch of a Naval blockade of Cuba. The general public feared of a nuclear war. The event took place over 13 days and was dissolved when sitting president, John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev reached an agreement. The U.S. would not invade Cuba (secretly, JFK also agreed to remove missiles from Turkey), and the Soviet Union would remove missiles from Cuba.

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan
Adlai Stevenson shows missiles to UN Security Council with David Parker standing. (Public Domain)
  • The addition of missiles to Cuba was widely fueled by the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961. The event convinced Fidel Castro that a U.S. invasion was imminent, and it strengthened his position with the Soviet Union.
  • The U.S. learned about the missiles from aerial photos taken by a Lockheed U-2. Fearing that such planes would be shot down, it took a high-altitude pass over the country but was still able to take images.
  • We almost launched nuclear weapons. On October 27th, 12 Navy ships found a Soviet Submarine outside of Cuba and began dropping explosives that would force it to surface. Not having had communication in days, the Soviet submarine was unaware if the war had begun or not. Soviet protocol required agreement by three onboard officers in order to launch a nuclear weapon. The Submarine’s captain wanted to respond with a nuclear torpedo, however, another member, officer Vasili Arkhipov would not consent. The submarine surfaced and torpedo exchange was avoided. It’s widely agreed that having done so would have started a nuclear war. 
  • In the event of a nuclear war, it was estimated that there would have been 200 million deaths — 100 million each of Americans and Soviets. This number was found by the Belfer Center at Harvard. 
  • Before enacting a trade embargo with Cuba in 1962, JFK obtained more than 12,000 Cuban cigars.
  • The end of the crisis also ended Khrushchev’s political reign. The Soviets disliked backing down from an event they say their leader initiated. Khrushchev held office for two more years, but the event is said to have weakened his power and trust from the people.
  • Castro wasn’t consulted in the treaty. It’s worth noting that Khrushchev alone made the deal with JFK. This weakened the relationship between Cuba and the Soviets, with Casto angered he hadn’t been involved.
  • Because of the crisis, the White House added a phone line that went directly to the Kremlin, a fortified city in Moscow and where the Soviet party kept its headquarters. Today, the access operates by lightning-fast email/chat and is called Washington–Moscow Direct Communications Link. In popular culture, it’s known as “the red telephone.”
  • It was the only time the U.S. has been at DEFCON 2 — that’s Defense Readiness Condition. DEFCON 2 means the country is ready for nuclear war and can deploy and engage armed forces within six hours.

Featured image: An S-75 Dvina with V-750V 1D missile (NATO SA-2 Guideline) on a launcher. An installation similar to this one shot down Major Anderson’s U-2 over Cuba. (Wikipedia)

MIGHTY HISTORY

The true history of the Medal of Honor

The nation’s highest medal for valor under enemy fire dates back over 150 years and has been awarded to well over 3,000 men and one woman in honor of heroic acts, including everything from stealing enemy trains to braving machine gun fire to pull comrades to safety.

This is the true history of the Medal of Honor.


One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan

Army Pvt. Jacob Parrott was one of Andrew’s Raiders and the first recipient of the Medal of Honor. Most of the other soldiers on the raid were eventually awarded the medal.

(Illustration by William Pittenger, Library of Congress)

The idea of creating a new medal for valor got its legs when Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles suggested to Iowa Senator James Grimes that he author legislation to create such an accolade. The idea was that such an honor would increase morale among the sailors and Marines serving in a navy fractured by a burgeoning civil war. Grimes’s bill was introduced on Dec. 9, 1861, and quickly gained support.

The bill quickly made it through Congress and President Abraham Lincoln signed it into law on December 21. At the time, the president was authorized to award 200 medals to Navy and Marine Corps enlisted personnel. It would be another seven months, July 1862, before Army enlisted personnel were authorized to receive the medal — but another 2,000 medals were authorized at that time.

The first medal to be awarded went to a soldier, Army Pvt. Jacob Parrott, one of Andrews’ Raiders who stole a locomotive in Big Shanty, Georgia, and took the train on a 87-mile raid across Confederate territory in April, 1862. Parrott received the Medal first, but nearly all Army personnel on the raid eventually received it. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton presented the first six.

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan

The Navy was the first service authorized to present Medals of Honor, but the Army beat them to the punch. Still, hundreds of medals were awarded to deserving sailors for actions taken during the conflict, including this one presented to William Pelham for actions on the USS Hartford in 1864.

(Naval History and Heritage Command)

Although Andrews’ Raiders were among the first to receive the Medal of Honor, they were not the first persons to earn it. Recommendations for the award trickled in for actions taken earlier.

The earliest action that would earn an Army Medal of Honor took place in February, 1861, when assistant Army surgeon Bernard Irwin rescued 60 soldiers from a larger Apache force with only 14 men. The first naval action to earn the medal took place in October, 1862, when sailor John Williams stayed at his position on the USS Commodore Perry when it was under heavy fire while steaming down the Blackwater River and firing on Confederate batteries.

In 1863, the medal was made permanent and the rules were broadened to allow its award to Army officers. Soon after, in 1864, a former slave named Robert Blake became the first Black American to receive the Medal of Honor when he replaced a powder boy who was killed by a Confederate shell, running powder boxes to artillery crews while under fire.

In 1865, the first and only award of the of the Medal of Honor to a woman occurred. Dr. Mary E. Walker had served in the Union Army during the war and requested a commission. President Andrew Johnson refused but ordered that she be awarded a Medal of Honor in recognition of her bravery and service under fire even though she had served as a civilian and was ineligible.

Seven years later, the Civil War had ended but campaigns against Native Americans were being fought in earnest. It was during these Indian Wars that William “Buffalo Bill” Cody also received the medal despite being technically ineligible.

The medals for Walker and Cody were rescinded in 1917 but later reinstated. Walker’s was reinstated in 1977, Cody’s in 1989.

It’s sometimes noted that the Civil War-standard for the Medal of Honor was lower than the standard applied during World Wars I and II and more modern conflicts. The change in requirements began in 1876 after a surge of recommendations poured in following the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Additional recommendations came from the Legion of Honor, a group led by Medal of Honor recipients that would later become the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. In 1897, President William McKinley adopted new, higher standards that would later be applied during World War I.

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan

Air Force Capt. Jay Zeamer received a Medal of Honor of the Gillespie design featuring a blue ribbon with 13 stars, the word valor, and a wreath of laurels.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

While Civil War and Indian Wars-era Medals of Honor featured designs that incorporated a red, white, and blue ribbon and multiple clasps, in 1904, Medal of Honor recipient and Gen. George Gillespie introduced a new design with a blue ribbon carrying 13 stars. It also added a laurel wreath around the iconic star, added the word “VALOR” to the medal, and made a number of other, smaller design changes.

All Medal of Honor designs approved after 1904 are an evolution of this design.

In 1915, the Navy broadened its rules for the medal so that naval officers, like their Army counterparts, were eligible. In 1918, additional rules for the Army Medal of Honor required that the valorous action take place in conflict with an enemy, that the recommended awardee be a person serving in the Army, and that the medal be presented within three years of the valorous act.

Another change during World War I was that the Medal of Honor was officially placed as the highest medal for valor. While it had always been one of the top awards, it was previously uncertain if the Medal of Honor always outranked service crosses, distinguished service medals, and the Silver Star. In July 1918, the relative tiers of each medal were established, officially putting the Medal of Honor on top.

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan

U.S. Coast Guardsman Douglas Munro and his compatriots work to protect U.S. Marines on the beaches of Guadalcanal during a withdrawal under fire from Japanese soldiers.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

The other military services would later adopt similar restrictions.

The only award of the Medal of Honor to a Coast Guardsman took place during World War II after Signalman First Class Douglas Munro braved Japanese machine gun fire to rescue Marines and sailors during the Battle of Guadalcanal. He was shot in the head during the engagement and died soon after returning to U.S. lines.

Because no Coast Guard version of the medal had ever been designed, Munro’s family was presented the Navy version. A 1963 law allowed for a Coast Guard design but no design has been approved and no medals of such a design have ever been made.

The Air Force made its own design for the medal in 1956 and it was officially adopted in 1965. Prior to that, airmen received the Army award.

Today, there are three approved versions of the Medal of Honor, one for each the Army, the Air Force, and the naval services.

To date, the medal has been presented to nearly 3,500 people.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Remembering the USS Indianapolis (CA 35) on its 75th Anniversary

In the first minutes of July 30, 1945, two torpedoes fired from Japanese submarine I-58 struck the starboard side of USS Indianapolis (CA 35). One ripped off the ship’s bow, followed by another that hit crew berthing areas and knocked out communications.

In the dead of night, chaos ensued. It took only 12 minutes for the decorated warship that had carried President Roosevelt in the interwar years and earned ten battle stars for its World War II service up to that point to begin a descent to the bottom of the Philippine Sea.

Around 300 crew died in the initial blasts and went down with the ship. Between 800 and 900 men went into the water.


Indianapolis had completed a top-secret delivery of atomic bomb components to Tinian, an island in the Northern Marianas, days earlier. Unbeknownst to crew at the time, this mission would in the weeks to come contribute to the end of the war.

At the time of its sinking, the ship was returning unescorted to the Philippines to prepare for the invasion of mainland Japan and to resume its role as flagship of Admiral Raymond Spruance and the Fifth Fleet. Damage prevented transmission of a distress signal and misunderstood directives led to the Navy not reporting the ship’s failure to arrive.

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan

Shortly after completing a top-secret delivery of atomic bomb components to Tinian, the USS Indianapolis was struck by torpedo and sank 75 years ago today.

Surviving Sailors and Marines were adrift for four days before the pilot of a U.S. Navy Lockheed PV-1 twin-engine patrol bomber located them. It was by pure chance that, on the afternoon of August 2, that the bomber spotted an oil slick while adjusting an antenna.

A massive air and surface rescue operation ensued that night and through the following day. Out of 1,195 crew, 316 survived the ordeal; four additional Sailors died shortly after rescue.

The survivors faced incomprehensible misery. Some found themselves scattered miles apart in seven different groups. Some were fortunate to have gone in the water near rafts and floating rations. Others, including the largest group of around 400 men, had nothing but life vests and floater nets. Men suffered from exposure, dehydration, attacks by hallucinating shipmates, exhaustion, hypothermia, and sharks.

Hallucinations were contagious as many dived underwater thinking that they were entering their ship to drink ice cold milk, only to guzzle sea water and initiate a horrible death. Others swam off alone to reach hotels or imaginary islands. Crew supported each other as best they could, some at the expense of their own lives. The captain of the ship’s Marine detachment swam himself to death circling his group to keep them together. The crew’s beloved chaplain succumbed to exhaustion after providing days of last rites to dying shipmates. Rescue crews had to fire at sharks feeding on the dead with rifles in order to recover bThe crew that went down with the ship or died in the water are memorialized on the Walls of the Missing in the American Battle Monuments Commission’s Manila American Cemetery. At last count, fifty survivors rest at NCA locations. Interments at Riverside National Cemetery in California and Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minnesota contain the largest groups of these Veterans.

The few remaining Indianapolis survivors, now in their 90s, will be celebrated at a virtual 75th anniversary reunion this July. A Congressional Gold Medal has been struck for the event.

On this anniversary, we reflect on the service and experience of Indianapolis‘s final crew, give thanks to those still with us, and remember those who passed. Their ordeal compelled the Navy to make safety improvements, such as mandatory movement reports and improved lifesaving equipment and training – all of which undoubtedly saved the lives of countless Sailors and Marines. Additionally, their successful final mission hastened the end of World War II.odies for identification and a proper burial at sea.

Today

The crew that went down with the ship or died in the water are memorialized on the Walls of the Missing in the American Battle Monuments Commission’s Manila American Cemetery. At last count, fifty survivors rest at NCA locations. Interments at Riverside National Cemetery in California and Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minnesota contain the largest groups of these Veterans.

The few remaining Indianapolis survivors, now in their 90s, will be celebrated at a virtual 75th anniversary reunion this July. A Congressional Gold Medal has been struck for the event.

On this anniversary, we reflect on the service and experience of Indianapolis‘s final crew, give thanks to those still with us, and remember those who passed. Their ordeal compelled the Navy to make safety improvements, such as mandatory movement reports and improved lifesaving equipment and training – all of which undoubtedly saved the lives of countless Sailors and Marines. Additionally, their successful final mission hastened the end of World War II.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

The Soviet Union used a massive plane to spread Twitter-like propaganda

The Soviet-built Tupolev ANT-20 – also known as the Maxim Gorky – was the largest aircraft in the world while it flew. First taking off in 1934, it was an eight-engine flying machine the size of a Boeing 747 at a time when companies were still producing biplanes. 

It was also both a literal and figurative propaganda machine.

The ANT-20 was designed by the legendary Soviet aeronautical engineer Andrei Tupolev, based on the all-metal designs of another legend in the name of aircraft design, Hugo Junkers. The Soviet Union nicknamed it “Maxim Gorky” in honor of the 40th anniversary of the author’s work. 

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan
It was a fitting moniker. Gorky was a a proponent of the Marxist movement (Wikimedia Commons)

In the 1930s, the Soviet Union was still a young country though it had high hopes for the future. Premier Joseph Stalin was firmly entrenched in power in Moscow by this time and the USSR itself was undergoing a massive plan of forced, rapid industrialization. 

These advancements came at a price, with the government seizing grain harvests to pay for the work of upgrading the country. People were dying by the millions in collectivized farms, forced relocations, famines and the now-infamous Soviet gulag system. But outside of the USSR, the hunger was downplayed in the world press, and no one outside of the country knew what was really happening.

With this in mind, Stalin wanted to take the disinformation and propaganda campaign further while showing off the progress being made by the country’s scientists and military. Aviation was a natural arena for this effort. The ANT-20 was built at a time when people worldwide were crazy about achievements in the air made by people like Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart, or for stories about breaking aviation records.

The Maxim Gorky was the Soviet Union’s self-aggrandizing answer to a world swept up in the love of aircraft, and Stalin was the grandfather of the Soviet aviation industry. The enormous plane was made just for propaganda purposes and even carried its own printing press aboard the plane. 

The Soviets’ plan was to fly the massive machine around the USSR as a victory lap for the achievements made by the country’s communist state.

One of the world’s largest-ever tank battles was between India and Pakistan
“Sure, you guys are starving… but check out this siiiiiick airplane!” (Wikimedia Commons)

Plans called for propaganda statements created aboard the Maxim Gorky to be transmitted to news agencies in a way that we would recognize today as almost Twitter-like. The Soviets also wanted to be able to project messages onto clouds as the plane pumped out 10,000 copies of any newspaper it might want to print. It wouldn’t be limited to messages projected onto the clouds, either. It could show reels of films as it flew from a projection room in the fuselage. 

On top of written and visual messaging, the plane also had the capability of playing music and news broadcasts to the populations below, for nearly four square miles. 

The plan to spread the Soviet Union’s message through this monster of an aircraft worked like a charm. It flew missions back and forth across the massive expanse of land controlled by the USSR. It even visited far-flung areas of the country, and people wanted to see it. They often waited for hours and days in the freezing cold just to get a glimpse of the ANT-20. 

For a population of people that were – just 20 years or so prior – serfs tied to the land, the Maxim Gorky was proof that the new communist government was bringing progress to the people of such a massive yet backward country. 

Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

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