This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948

On a cold afternoon in early January, 1948, control tower operators at Godman Army Airfield in Fort Knox, Kentucky, became aware of the presence of a mysterious object floating in the skies of the base. Reports from nearby highway patrol officers who also saw the UFO were enough to prove to the controllers that they weren’t just seeing things.


After a number of senior officers, including the base’s commanding officer, were called up to the tower in an attempt to make sense of what they were seeing, though none were able to actually clarify what exactly they saw through their binoculars. Military personnel at bases in southern Ohio were also able to see the UFO, which remained hovering over a spot before descending to the earth and the rapidly rising out of sight.

Around the same time of the UFO sighting, a four-ship flight of F-51 Mustangs led by Capt. Thomas Mantell of the Kentucky Air National Guard were on their way to Godman. Mantell, a decorated former Army Air Corps transport pilot with combat time during D-Day in 1944, was notified by the control tower about the UFO, and was soon ordered to fly over and identify the peculiar floating object.

 

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948
An overhead view of Godman Army Air Field near where the UFO was spotted (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

 

Three of the four Mustangs in the flight banked towards the UFO, while one returned to base thanks to a low fuel readout. Pushing their throttles forward, the three F-51 pilots with Mantell in the lead raced to the object.

And within a matter of minutes, the situation began to worsen considerably.

One F-51 had to break off the pursuit, due to low oxygen levels. The second remaining F-51 pilot from the flight was also unable to continue with the chase, ending his run at 22,500 ft before returning to base. Mantell doggedly carried onwards, punching through the clouds.

Controllers attempted to communicate with the 25-year-old fighter pilot, but to no avail. Mantell’s Mustang was last seen in a death spiral, dropping from the clouds like a rock until it impacted earth, shattering into pieces. The young captain was killed on impact, his wristwatch stopped at precisely the time of his demise.

The Air Force’s investigation into the incident was immediate. The UFO had disappeared, and a fighter pilot had been killed — the general public was already frenzied at the prospect of malignant extraterrestrials from other worlds attacking the one they lived in.

 

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948
A Skyhook balloon in flight in 1957 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

 

Initially, investigators theorized that Mantell was killed “trying to reach the planet Venus.” As crazy as that sounds, the theory held some weight. F-51 pilots had been fooled into thinking that the planet Venus, unusually bright in the night sky at that time of year, was a UFO and had given chase just weeks prior to the Mantell incident.

Though this was the official explanation after Mantell’s crash, astronomers at the Ohio State University disproved this hypothesis in the years after, as the sky was still too bright and hazy in the day for Venus to be clearly observed and followed by the four F-51s of the Kentucky air guard.

A second, more plausible theory, was put forward. Mantell might have actually been pursuing a Navy Skyhook weather balloon. At the time, the Skyhook was part of a highly-classified observation program which neither Mantell and his fellow F-51 pilots nor the Godman airfield controllers would have been read into.

The shape, size and general look of a Skyhook with sunlight glinting off its surfaces would have been similar to what the controllers and pilots saw that fateful day in 1948. Mantell’s loss was partially blamed on his inexperience with the Mustang, though he had accumulated over 2,000 flight hours during his service as a military pilot.

His unwillingness to give up chasing the UFO, even when faced with the potential for oxygen deprivation and starvation in the unpressurized cockpit, caused the pilot to black out after experiencing hypoxia. Only one F-51 in his flight was equipped with an oxygen system – Mantell’s lacked such gear. His Mustang then fell back to earth without him in control.

As plausible as the official statement on Mantell’s untimely passing was, the general public took what happened with a massive air of suspicion. Details on the F-51’s crash didn’t add up, and the fact that the UFO was visible from other military bases and surrounded locales and roadways led many to believe that it was part of a government cover-up.

Though the Air Force’s official explanation for the Mantell incident has remained unchanged over the years, many still question it today, and have since viewed the service’s mad dash to come up with answers as a sign of the military hiding the existence of alien life forms.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the pilot who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima doesn’t have a grave

When Paul Tibbets died in January 2007, he had been retired from the Air Force since 1966. He was never forgotten, however, and never would be. He was the man who dropped the first atomic weapon used in combat against an enemy city. But instead of being interred at home or at Arlington National Cemetery with all his brothers in arms, he was cremated and his ashes spread across the English Channel.


This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948

Tibbets in his later years.

It wasn’t that Tibbets wasn’t proud of his service. At the time of the Hiroshima bombing, he was one of the youngest, but most experienced pilots in the Army Air Forces. He proudly named his airplane Enola Gay after his beloved mother. He even re-enacted the bombing in a B-29 during a 1976 Texas air show and denounced the Smithsonian’s exhibition of the actual plane when it debuted because of the exhibition’s focus on the suffering of the Japanese people, and not the brutality of the Japanese military.

His family was also a proud military family. His grandson is an Air Force Academy graduate who came up flying B-2 Spirit bombers. But when he died at age 92, he requested cremation with no headstone – and no funeral, military honors or not.

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948

Paul Tibbets Jr., left, and his grandson, then-Capt. Paul Tibbets IV, fly the last flyable B-29 Superfortress, ‘Fifi,’ in Midland, Texas.

The elder Tibbets was concerned that any grave or headstone he left behind would become ground zero for anti-nuclear weapons protests, anti-war protesters, or a place for any other kind of revision historian to make a stand against what he saw as the right history. Instead of that, he opted to be cremated and his ashes spread across the English Channel, where he had flown so often during the war.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the battle of Dunkirk — by the numbers

Everyone knows the basic story about the “Miracle of Dunkirk,” during which trapped British troops were evacuated from the French coastal city. But how much do you really know of this miraculous nine-day operation?


Granted, Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece “Dunkirk” made over $500 million, but it told just a tiny snippet of the tale. What makes the miracle of Dunkirk so impressive are the numbers of people the operation moved out of France.

The evacuation had become necessary because German tanks had attacked through the Ardennes forest – which Allied planners had assumed was impassable terrain for tanks.

There’s a lesson in that, but that is for another time. As a result of the disastrous way the Battle of France unfolded, about 800,000 Nazis had roughly 400,000 British and French troops trapped with their backs to the English Channel, with the safe haven of England being 22 miles away.

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948
The crew of a fishing boat retrieves British troops off Dunkirk. (US Army image)

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered a maritime evacuation, thinking that perhaps 45,000 troops could be pulled out. However, many British civilians brought their boats, and an armada of over 700 vessels, ranging from warships to rowboats was soon heading for the pocket.

They faced a devastating gauntlet. During the nine-day evacuation, Nazi planes dropped 45,000 bombs. That came down to roughly one bomb every 17.5 seconds. The Royal Air Force sent 16 squadrons of Supermarine Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes to cover the evacuation. In 2,739 fighter sorties, they shot down as many as 240 Nazi planes.

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948
The British Army evacuation from Dunkirk (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

The Nazis managed to kill 68,000 troops who were holding the line, along with nine destroyers (six British, three French) and over 200 of the smaller vessels carrying out the evacuation. But that armada – citizens of a free country rising up to meet the call – managed to evacuate 338,226 troops — a figure far higher than the optimistic hopes of 45,000.

You can see a video about this evacuation below.

YouTube, World War Wings

MIGHTY HISTORY

A communist soldier made a daring escape through the Berlin Wall in an APC

May Day was a big deal in East Germany. As a matter of fact, it was a big deal in all of the Communist Eastern Bloc countries during the Cold War era. It was, after all, a day for celebrating workers around the world. Since Communist countries were supposed to be a worker’s paradise, it stands to reason they would take a day off from shooting dissenters and waiting in lines to watch a few parades.

And those parades were lit.

It was because everyone was preparing for May Day that Wolfgang Engels was able to escape from East Germany.


This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948

The wall began construction in 1961.

Engels was born in 1943 in Düsseldorf, Germany (what would have been West Germany just a few years later), but his Communist mother took him to East Germany after the end of World War II. As a young man, he was drafted into the Army of the new German Democratic Republic, what we know as East Germany.

The young soldier was a believer in the new ideology as a young man. He called his upbringing “thorough” and “socialist” and noted his mother even worked for the Stasi. It wasn’t until much later in his service that someone managed to convince him that things were not all they were made out to be.

But one of his first assignments as a newly-minted East German was to help build the Berlin Wall.

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948

A Soviet-built East German BTR-152, like the one Wolfgang Engels drove through the Berlin Wall.

He soon felt terrible about what the wall became. Not just the barrier between the Iron Curtain and Freedom, but a symbol of the ideological struggle of the Cold War — and he was on the wrong side. The GDR was not the Germany he thought he knew.

After two years, the pressure was getting to him. Suddenly, well before his defection, he was accused of trying to cross the border illegally. He and two friends were looking for a concert in a cafe near the border wall. The group was found and unable to explain, to the guards’ satisfaction, what they were doing and so they were manhandled and mistreated. It drove the reality of East Germany home to him.

In reality, the thought of crossing the wall hadn’t occurred to him until his East German superiors put the idea in his head. But attempting to flee came with a stiff fine, two years’ jail time, and maybe even a bullet to the head. Still he remained determined — and even asked random passersby to come with him, but no one took him up on the offer.

His plan to escape was simple enough. He would steal an armored personnel carrier, drive to the most famous wall in the world (at the time at least), and then drive right through it. That’s exactly what he did, but it was nice of him to stop a couple of times and ask if anyone wanted to come.

The armored personnel carrier came from the preparations being made for the upcoming May Day parade. It was a BTR-152. A six wheeled, Soviet-built vehicle whose top could open upward, luckily for Wolfgang Engels. When the workmen went off to lunch, Engels started up his new vehicle, garnering little notice in a military-run city.

He had roughly 100 meters — the length of a football field — to gather enough velocity to crash through a single layer of cinder blocks less than ten feet high. Unfortunately, Engels’ APC didn’t fully penetrate the Berlin Wall and he was soon stuck in his vehicle — and stuck in the wall. East German border guards began to open fire on the BTR-152 and Wolfgang Engels. He decided it was time to book it.

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948

He left the relative safety of the vehicle and tried to climb away. Ensnared in barbed wire, he was shot at close range while attempting to flee. Twice — once in the back and once in the hand. The second bullet tore through his body, in then out.

Luckily for him, West German police officers from a nearby watchtower fired back at the Eastern border guards, providing much-needed cover and time for Engels. But really, it was time enough for a group of revelers at a nearby bar to come out and help pull him out of the wire and into the freedom of the West. They formed a human ladder, freed him from the wire, and brought him over. They carried his unconscious body back to the bar, closing up the blinds.

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948

“I came to on top of the counter,” he says. “When I turned my head and saw all the Western brands of liquor on the shelf, I knew that I had made it.”

He ordered a cognac.

Wolfgang Engels was sent by ambulance to a nearby hospital where he recovered from a collapsed lung for three weeks.

He wouldn’t see his mother again until 1990, after the fall of the wall. He learned the East Germans were planning to abduct him and charge him with desertion before the wall fell. As for the soldier who shot him, Engels is just grateful he didn’t turn his AK-47 on automatic.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Chinese ‘Rambo’ fought the government so they couldn’t take his house

In America, we call it “eminent domain.” In China, they call it a Wednesday. Or whatever day the government comes and decides to take your house so they can build a freeway across what used to be your living room.

Yang Youde was a 56-year-old rice farmer who one day got the word that the government wanted to develop the land on which his farm stood. He wasn’t having it. He’d heard the stories about other regular people being forced off their land. Yang wasn’t about to become a victim.


China farmer takes a stand

www.youtube.com

Before the Chinese government and the hired agents of the land developers could force him out, he set out to create a system of defenses that would keep them in fear of coming onto his property. Using old stovepipes and fireworks, he built a real-life cannon that could fire rockets up to 100 yards.

“My goal isn’t to hurt anyone, I just want to solve my problem,” Yang told al-Jazeera. “If I get hounded out, I’m left with nothing. What’s my future except to steal, rob, or beg?

In February 2010, they came for him determined to violently force him away. He fired rockets at 30 crews until he ran out of ammo. After a physical altercation, the local police stepped in and forced the developers to come back some other time.

Yang made more ammo. And a giant watchtower. He also converted a push cart into a mobile rocket launcher.

From that high vantagepoint, he was able to hold off 100 demolition crew workers. This time, when the police came, they came for Yang.

Yang was offered the U.S. equivalent of ,000 for his Wuhan-adjacent farm. But he had a nice parcel of land with a fishpond on it. He knew he couldn’t fight the government forever, but he wanted at least a fair price. After all, his contract for the land didn’t run out for another 19 years.

And he said the Chinese government’s compensation policies entitled him to five times the offered amount. The old farmer had been growing watermelons and cotton on the land for some 40 years.

When all was said and done, Chinese state media reported that Yang was offered upward of 0,000 for his land, which he eventually agreed to. According to al-Jazeera, Yang was also held in jail for 51 days and tortured for his famous stand.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Navy veteran recounts island-hopping in the Pacific after D-Day

Julius Shoulars is 94 and resides in a cozy second-floor apartment in a Virginia Beach retirement community.

During an oral-history interview, he recounted his service in the US Navy as a coxswain during WWII with the 7th Naval Beach Battalion during the D-Day invasions. He later went island hopping in the Pacific aboard an attack transport and returned to Norfolk after serving in both theaters of war.

He started off with, “Well, I got a letter from Uncle Sam saying to report to Richmond.” It was 1943, and the Maury High School graduate reported for screening.


While seated in a room with other recruits, he recalled that, “they asked for 30 volunteers for the Navy and I raised my hand. In the Navy, you get three square meals, a clean bed to sleep in and water to take a shower each day.”

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948

Julius Shoulars, a 94-year-old US Navy veteran, recalls his service during WWII as a coxswain who took part in the D-Day invasion and fought across the Pacific.

(US Navy photo by Max Lonzanida)

Training took him to Camp Sampson, New York and Camp Bradford, Virginia. Bradford was on the Chesapeake Bay, and he recalled mustering at the commandeered Nansemond Hotel in the Ocean View section of Norfolk.

At Bradford, “we were assigned to an experimental outfit called a Naval Beach Battalion. We were issued paratrooper boots, Army jackets, Army pants, Army helmets, and Navy underwear.”

His parents resided in Norfolk, and he visited often. With a smile, he recalled that a friend of his had joined the Army, and left his girlfriend, Ruby back in Norfolk. He was instructed not to talk to her, “but by hell I did. You had to be a fool not to.” This blossomed into a relationship that endured.

By January 1944, they crossed the Atlantic. In England, he recounted, “you know the phrase over here, over paid and over sexed. I think somebody made that up.”

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948

An LCM landing craft, manned by the US Coast Guard, evacuating US casualties from the invasion beaches, brings them to a transport for treatment on D-Day in Normandy, France June 6, 1944.

(U.S. Coast Guard Collection in the U.S. National Archives)

At the “end of May 1944, we were transported to ships taking part in the invasion. We headed out on the 6th aboard anything that would float, even fishing boats from England.”

On the morning of June 6th, 1944 at H-hour, troops hit the “blood red” beaches of Normandy, in an operation that liberated Europe.

While crossing the English Channel, he recalled that, “some of the men were happy, some were anxious, some were sad, some were scared to death. I felt it was going to happen, and there was nothing I could do, so why cry or be joyful; just take it.”

His unit was attached to the 29th Infantry Division, who took Omaha Beach on June 6-7, 1944. Nearly a month was spent there directing landing craft, clearing obstacles, moving supplies, and clearing and burying the dead; a solemn task he recalled with tears in his eyes.

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948

Shoulars, seated, recalls his service as a coxswain assigned to the 7th Naval Beach Battalion, which went ashore during D-Day in June 1944.

(US Navy photo by Max Lonzanida)

His unit headed stateside, and a period of leave was spent in Norfolk with his parents and girlfriend, before joining the crew of the newly commissioned USS Karnes (APA-175) on the West Coast.

He served 18 months on the Karnes, “island hopping” in the Pacific for a total of 76,750 miles. This took him to Pearl Harbor, Midway, Guam, Tinian, Okinawa, Eniwetok Atoll, Ulithi, Subic Bay and Lingayen Gulf, Philippines, among other ports of call while transporting cargo, evacuating the wounded, and transporting service members.

After the Japanese surrendered, the Karnes made its way back to San Francisco. He boarded a train back to Norfolk and was discharged. One of the first things he did was get married, and “eat a 30-cent hamburger at Doumars.”

Doumars on Monticello Avenue was where he first met Ruby. They didn’t want to get married during the war, for fear of making Ruby a widow. They got married upon his return home and spent 66 years together before she passed in 2013.

As for the friend who instructed him not to talk to her, Julius recalled that, “well, me and him never spoke again.”

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

Articles

This is how the Alamo Scouts became the first Special Forces

General Walter Krueger needed the most up-to-date intelligence against a strong and lethal opponent. For the U.S. Army fighting the Japanese in WWII, good intel could avert a catastrophe and save thousands of lives. Given the nature of the war, it would be a dangerous job.


Krueger sought volunteers who would go deep behind enemy lines to get troop strengths, numbers, and unit types, as well as information about their locations and destinations.

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948
An Alamo Scout in camouflage training. (U.S. Army photo)

To be an Alamo Scout required problem-solving skills and quick-thinking. It demanded physical strength – not necessarily athleticism, but the ability to withstand the rigors of long marches and missions. And of course, it required observation skills, land navigation, and cover and concealment. Anyone who expressed a burning desire to “kill Japs” was turned away.

The Scouts’ rigorous training center at Kalo Kalo on Fergusson Island, New Guinea also served as a base of operations. After six weeks of intense training, 700 men dwindled down to 138, who formed 6- to 7-man fire teams. There were no prescribed uniforms and they didn’t pay much attention to rank.

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948
General Douglas MacArthur meets representatives of different American Indian tribes in the Alamo Scouts, representing the Pima, Pawnee, Chitimacha, and Navajo. (U.S. Army photo)

What started as an elite recon mission soon became an intelligence asset that could coordinate large-scale guerrilla operations in the Philippines. Alamo Scouts could move 30 or 40 miles in a day with little rest or food.

Their first mission came in February 1944: to get intel on the Japanese on Los Negros in the Admiralty Islands. No one knew if there was a Japanese presence there; it was presumed to be evacuated. An Alamo Scout team was landed by a PBY Catalina. Once there, they had 48 hours before the 1st Cavalry Division landed.

Alamo Scouts came to within 15 feet of Japanese lines on Los Negros. Not only were the Japanese there, they were well-fed and well-armed–an estimated 5,000 troops remained in garrison. After a few close calls with unknowing Japanese fighters, the Scout teams were able to report enemy numbers to the invading forces, who successfully overtook the island.

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948
The Alamo Scouts Team who infiltrated Los Negros (U.S. Army photo)

The invasions of Madang, Wewak, Sarmi, Biak, Noemfoor, Sansapor, and Japen Island were all subsequently preceded by recon operations conducted by Scout teams. They also liberated 66 Dutch POWs from their prison camp on New Guinea.

Their most famous feat was their recon and support for the 6th Rangers during the raid on the Cabanatuan POW Camp in the Philippines in 1945. The two Army units, along with Filipino partisans, liberated 511 prisoners and captured 84 Japanese POWs.

To get the most accurate information, Alamo Scouts approached to within a hundred yards of the camp’s fence dressed as Filipino rice farmers. The recon operation was never discovered.

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948
The Alamo Scouts after the raid on Cabanatuan. (U.S. Army photo)

Alamo Scouts were also to be used preceding the Allied invasion of the Japanese Home Islands, but the unconditional surrender of all Japanese forces in 1945 ended their reconnaissance mission. They were added to the occupation Army and then disbanded later that year.

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948
(U.S. Army photo)

Over their careers, the Alamo Scouts performed 106 missions deep in enemy territory over 1,482 days of sustained combat. Not one was ever killed or captured, though two were wounded in the Cabanatuan Raid. In 1988, the Alamo Scouts were added to the U.S. Army’s Special Forces lineage and its veterans were acknowledged with the Special Forces tab.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why the rank of General of the Armies was only given twice in US history

General of the Armies is a rank so high up in the strata of power that only two people in the history of the United States have ever attained it. Keep in mind: This is not General of the Army, it’s plural — all the Armies. Today, it is the equivalent of a six-star general with autonomous authority equal to the Admiral of the Navy, but senior to General of the Army, General of the Air Force, and Fleet Admiral.

How did one attain this an honor and the right to exercise complete control over our Armed Forces? Historically, you either win the War to End All Wars like John Pershing or be George Washington.


This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948

How do you find the guy who went to West Point in a bar? Don’t worry, he’ll tell you.

John J. Pershing graduated West Point in 1886 and was assigned to the 6th Cavalry. In 1890, he went on campaign against the Ghost Dance movement in the Dakota Territory before becoming an instructor of military science at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, a year later. He earned a law degree while teaching there in 1893 and became a tactics instructor at West Point in 1897.

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948

Here is a quick timeline of his military career:

  • 1898 — Pershing returned to service in the Spanish-American War in Cuba as an ordinance officer.
  • 1899 (June) — Pershing was promoted to adjutant general in charge of the Bureau of Insular Affairs.
  • 1899 (November) — Pershing deployed to the Philippines in command of the department of Mindanao.
  • 1901 — Pershing campaigned against the Moros for two years.
  • 1905 — Pershing deployed to Japan as a military attache to the U.S. Embassy.
  • 1906 — Pershing is promoted from captain to brigadier general and returns to the Philippines as the governor of the Moro Province.
  • 1917 — Pershing becomes the commander of the U.S.-Mexican Border.
  • 1917 (April) — U.S. declares war on Germany.
  • 1917 (June) — Pershing is sent to France to gather a ‘General Organization Report’ used to create an Army of one million by 1918 and three million by 1919. US Army strength is 84,000 at the time.
  • 1918 — Pershing concentrates an army almost entirely independent of the allies on the Western Front.
This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948

Don’t talk to me or my son ever again.

The allies strongly advised that the U.S. troops replenish their failing armies instead of marshaling our own in WWI. Allowing this to come to pass meant Americans would be used as cannon fodder during enemy attacks. Pershing strongly defended the idea of keeping the U.S. Army whole, regardless of the desperation of our European allies. The U.S. War Council gave into allied pressure and recommended the amalgamation of U.S. troops into other armies.

Pershing ignored the recommendation. He refused to sacrifice American lives and left the allies to suck it up. It was akin, as he put it, to…

“Pouring new wine into old bottles.” – John J. Pershing
This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948

You’re all boots to me.

In 1919, recognizing his achievements and victory after World War I, Pershing became the first person to be promoted to General of the Armies. His insignia became four gold stars but, because of bureaucracy, they were not recognized as an official rank for years. He held this rank for the rest of his career. According to the U.S. Army Center of Military History,

Pershing then retired from the United States Army on September 13, 1924, and retained his rank on the U.S. Army retirement rolls until his death in 1948.”

Years later, in 1976, Congress decided that it was inappropriate that General George Washington was outranked by four- and five-star generals in the nation’s history. Washington retired as a lieutenant ‘three-star’ general and was subsequently out ranked officers of the Civil War, WWI, and WWII, including General Pershing. Something had to be done. America could not allow George Washington to be out ranked — that’s borderline blasphemy — so they did something about it.

On March 13, 1978, Lieutenant General Washington was promoted to General of the Armies, effective July 4th, 1976.

Here’s the text of his posthumous, legislative promotion:

“Whereas Lieutenant General George Washington of Virginia commanded our armies throughout and to the successful termination of our Revolutionary War; Whereas Lieutenant General George Washington presided over the convention that formulated our Constitution; Whereas Lieutenant General George Washington twice served as President of the United States of America; and Whereas it is considered fitting and proper that no officer of the United States Army should outrank Lieutenant General George Washington on the Army list; Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That(a) for purposes of subsection (b) of this section only, the grade of General of the Armies of the United States is established, such grade to have rank and precedence over all other grades of the Army, past or present.(b) The President is authorized and requested to appoint George Washington posthumously to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States, such appointment to take effect on July 4, 1976.”
MIGHTY HISTORY

US troops in Australia got lucky thanks to rationing

While no one was keeping good track of exactly how often troops got laid in World War II, historians studying tensions between U.S. and Australian soldiers in northern Australia have noted that rationing, combined with differences in pay and uniform design, gave at least the impression that U.S. soldiers were getting a leg up in romance down under.


This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948

Men of USS Northampton and USS Salt Lake City were welcomed when their ships visited Brisbane.

(Australian War Memorial)

First, let us say that there’s no appearance that anyone was doing this on purpose so Americans could bring adorable wallababies back home after the war. But a series of decisions and facts combined to make a perfect storm.

Number one: U.S. troops were sent to help defend Australia from Japanese incursions, necessarily putting them in proximity with Australian civilians, including the female ones they were most likely to pursue romantically.

Number two: U.S. troops were paid much better than their Australian counterparts with privates collecting about three times as much if they flew Ol’ Glory instead of whatever Australia calls their flag.

Number three: U.S. troops had access to Post Exchanges that sold items, like pantyhose, at low prices that weren’t available at any price to an Australian soldier (unless the Aussie bought it from an American). And, U.S. rationing of alcohol and other consumables was generally done on a unit-per-time scheme, such as two drinks per day, while Australian troops could consume a set amount at a very specific time, like X number of drinks during this specific hour.

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948
U.S. military police outside the Central Hotel, Brisbane.

All of this combined meant that an Australian soldier who wanted to woo a woman could invite her out to a date, but had to be careful about costs. They could invite her to drinks, but the couple could only drink for a very limited period at a specific place. And he could give her a gift, but typically just items that were available in the Australian civilian market.

An American soldier, on the other hand, could spend more money, could get more alcohol in a more flexible way, and could purchase gifts made of silk or nylon that would otherwise be nearly impossible for the woman to procure.

Believe it or not, historians think this might have been the cause of some of the tensions between U.S. and Australian troops in World War II. If you’ve never heard about those tensions, whoa boy. This’ll be fun.

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948

U.S. troops disembark at New Britain in December 1943 where they worked with Australian troops.

(Harold George Dick, Australian Government)

U.S. and Australian troops had such a fraught relationship that the military dedicated multimedia efforts to trying to keep them tied together, putting out comics, pamphlets, and other short materials to try to bridge the gap between them. Slang translation guides were released, and U.S. troops were told how key Australia was to Allied victory.

Japan, meanwhile, knew about some of the tensions and released propaganda with an opposite message: U.S. troops are there to steal your women and destroy your culture. Kick them out or risk the unmaking of your society.

On at least one occasion, this tension erupted into violence. The “Battle of Brisbane” was a riot in that Australian city that raged for two days between U.S. troops and Australian troops and civilians. A number of the Australian complaints during the riot are listed above, including the presence of the American PX mentioned above.

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948

U.S. and Australian troops celebrate 100 years of “Mateship” in 2018.

(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

One person died, and at least 18 were seriously wounded. Rioters in some places beat U.S. soldiers to the point of hospitalization, and U.S. military police fired weapons at a crowd at one point, injuring eight and killing one. We won’t go through the whole thing here (Blake Stilwell already did a good job of it last year), but it’s a good example of the tensions between the forces overflowing.

But of course, Australian and American soldiers were able to get along when it counted, especially when they were deployed too far forward to fight over women. U.S. and Australian troops fought near each other during landings in North Africa and Sicily as well as in Europe. The bulk of Australian service was in the Pacific, and U.S. fought hand-in-hand with Australia against Japan at the Solomons, Borneo, and other areas.

And now, Australian soldiers have the same access to nylons that the U.S. does, so it’s probably not an issue anymore.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This War Bride’s advice? ‘Be courageous.’

 An estimated 300,000 “war brides,” as they were known, left home to make the intrepid voyage to the United States after falling in love with American soldiers who were stationed abroad during World War II. There were so many that the United States passed a series of War Brides Acts in 1945 and 1946. This legislation provided them with an immigration pathway that didn’t previously exist under the Immigration Act of 1924, which imposed quotas on immigrants based on their nation of origin and strategically excluded or limited immigration from certain parts of the world, particularly Asia.

Equipped with little but a feeling and a sense of promise, war brides left everything that was familiar behind to forge a new identity in the United States. Many spoke little to no English upon their arrival in the country, and they were introduced to post-war American culture through specially designed curricula and communities. To this day, organizations for war brides in the United States provide networks for military spouses and their children, helping them keep their heritage alive and share their experiences of their adopted home.

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II on September 2, 2020, We Are The Mighty is proud to collaborate with Babbel, the new way to learn a foreign language. Babbel conducted interviews with surviving war brides as much of the world endured lockdown. Many of these women are now in their 80s and 90s, and their oral histories celebrate the challenges and successes of adapting to a new culture and language, as well as reflect on the leap of faith they all took to travel across the world to an unknown country. Spoiler alert: there are few regrets.

War Brides is a 5 part series.

Emilia Zecchino

I was born in Bari, Italy. Times were slow during the depression, and I had a very complicated life. When I was a little girl, my dad was in the army, and he was sent to Ethiopia. In 1935, he brought the whole family over there, so I lived in Ethiopia for about five years, and I returned to Bari right in the middle of World War II.

Before the war, I loved to read a lot. I used to love going to school. But my father was a prisoner of war for six years, and while we were in Ethiopia, we lost everything. We were in a concentration camp. And by the time we got back to Italy, it was 1943, and things were very different from when we left.

The war had changed everything in Bari. I remember running because of all the bombings. Until the British and American armies came to Italy to set us free, things were very hard.

I met my husband in a very exceptional way. My husband was of Italian descent, and he had gone to America when he was a young boy, but he still had family in Italy.

He contracted a disease while serving America in the Pacific War, and he had to go back to the veterans hospital in America. While there, his mother, who was in Italy, became very sick. It took him 20 days by boat, but by the time he reached his family, his mother had already passed away. He stayed in Italy with his family for a few months.

During this time, I had found a job with the American army in a rank called the USO Shows, which brought in celebrities to perform for the troops. There was an office in Bari, and they needed a typist. I was only 17 years old, and I did not speak English, but I could read it. They convinced me I did not have to speak to anyone, just type. So I copied the words.

My husband passed our door and saw me, and he said he wanted to see more of me. He waited until the end of the day, and then he called me. He called after me in Italian, and I said “Yes, what can I do for you?” He asked me how to get to the station, explaining he was new in town. I tried to explain, but decided to walk him there. And that’s how we met.

As we started talking, we found out we had quite a few things in common. He was born in the same town as my father, and he knew some family there. Actually, my father’s cousin was my husband’s doctor!

That day we met, we felt a special attraction for each other. When we fell in love, it was as simple as that. He had to go back to the Veterans Affairs hospital in America, so we planned to get married after he returned to Italy. But he ended up staying in the hospital for almost a year. By that time, his finances were low, and he told me he did not think he could return to Italy. But he told me there was a way I could come to America as one of the war brides, and we could get married in America.

It took a lot of thinking on my part. But you know, I thought it was meant to be, so I said, “Okay, I’ll try.” My parents were not pleased about it, but I wanted to marry him. They put up a good fight because we did not know anyone in America. How could they let their 19-year-old daughter go alone to a strange country? I had to do a lot of convincing, but I was in love with him and he was in love with me.

I arrived in New York Harbor in 1947. I had seen lots of movies where the city was portrayed as such a prominent and beautiful place to live. I had no idea what skyscrapers looked like in real life, but when I saw them, it was really extraordinary. Everyone was so friendly and kind when I arrived. I felt very much at home. My husband opened a grocery store soon after, and he put me behind the counter. That’s when I realized that I had to learn English. We had all kinds of people come through the door: Black, white, young, old, Italian — every nation! I didn’t know how to speak English, and they all helped me. We all got along beautifully.

I remember someone told me about an area called Little Italy, where they had bookstores filled with books that would teach me languages. I read them every day and I made a point of practicing my English, even though I made a lot of mistakes at first. I sometimes made very stupid mistakes! Some people laughed at me, but I laughed with them. I asked them to correct me when I made mistakes, because that’s the way I learned.

After a couple of years of only speaking English with my husband, I knew how to speak well. I loved the language. English is beautiful. I remember reading Joseph Conrad. I found some of the phrases he used so attractive. Once I started reading in English, I felt like part of the environment. I was not a stranger any longer. The sooner you learn the language, the more you feel at home. I wanted to assimilate into the American lifestyle.

One of the biggest differences that struck me was that in Italy, if there was ever something special happening, you would get a mob arriving. Everyone would fight to get to the front of the line, whereas Americans used to line up for hours — there was no pushing, no shoving, no nothing.

The one thing I miss about Bari is the food, because everything is very organic. They still do things the old way, and you can’t replicate that in America. And the wines that they grow in the Bari regions, where the fruits are picked straight from the tree — you can’t make them here.

I went back to Bari almost 10 years ago with my daughter for the first time. I couldn’t go back sooner because of the business, the children, and my husband being in and out of the hospital.

It was very emotional because it did not look the way I remembered. It was all completely different, but the food and the restaurants have stayed the same. But it felt so normal to be there. You never lose your birthright, and I was so happy to see my cousins.

I didn’t teach my children Italian, and that was one mistake I made. I wanted to learn how to speak English, so I never spoke Italian to them. I brought my whole family to America, though. My mother raised my oldest son, and only spoke Italian to him, so when he went to kindergarten he couldn’t speak English! The nuns called me and said, “You cannot leave this boy here. He’s crying all the time. He doesn’t understand us.” So he stayed at home, and I had to teach him English.

For people considering moving to a different country or culture, I would say to be courageous, because you never know what you’re going to encounter. If they are fortunate like me, they will find a beautiful place to call home. My husband was a good provider. I had no problems. We just had to work hard. You’ll have to assimilate with the people wherever you’re going. If you want to keep your ways, then you’re always going to feel like a stranger.

Part I: Alice Lawson

Part II: Nina Edillo

MIGHTY HISTORY

Paul Allen found the first carrier the US lost in WWII

While the converted collier, USS Langley, was America’s first aircraft carrier, it wasn’t America’s first fleet carrier. That honor goes to the converted battlecruiser, USS Lexington.


Under the terms laid out in the 1923 Washington Naval Treaty, a naval arms control accord, the United States had the right to convert two of six planned battlecruisers into aircraft carriers. The Lexington and her sister ship, USS Saratoga, were selected and effectively saved from the scrapheap for this role. The Lexington was commissioned in 1927 and, over the next 14 years, she served in the peacetime Navy.

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948
One of the explosions that doomed USS Lexington during the Battle of the Coral Sea. (US Navy photo)

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Lexington took part in the abortive effort to relieve Wake Island. She then took part in various hit-and-run attacks on Japanese bases in the Marshalls until she went to the South Pacific to ward off a Japanese thrust towards Port Moresby. During the Battle of the Coral Sea, Lexington’s planes helped to sink the Japanese carrier Shoho, but on May 8, she came under attack.

The Lexington was struck by two torpedoes at least one bomb. The ship’s crew worked hard to keep the vessel afloat. The ship’s Damage Control Officer, Commander Howard R. Healy, suggested to the captain that if he were to take additional torpedo hits, “it would be as well to take them on the starboard side.” Healy would die in the process of controlling the extensive damage done.

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948
The Lexington’s crew prepares to abandon ship before she was scuttled by torpedoes from the destroyer USS Phelps

A series of internal explosions would force the United States to scuttle the Lexington, making her the first fleet carrier America lost in WWII. She went down in the Coral Sea in 1942, but not before the Japanese were turned back, suffering a strategic defeat.

Earlier this week, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen announced on Facebook that he found the Lexington. See this heroic vessel, whose sacrifice saved Port Moresby, in the video below.

 


MIGHTY HISTORY

This soldier waited 150 years to receive the Medal of Honor

During the Civil War, the Medal of Honor didn’t carry the same weight it does among US troops these days. When it was first conceived in 1861, American troops getting medals for any reason was a new thing, even if it was for “personal valor.” More than 1,500 were awarded throughout the war. By 1917, however, the Medal of Honor achieved the status it was intended to carry in the first place, and 910 of those were rescinded to officially elevate the award. Since then, individual medals have been awarded, often long after the action for which they were won.

That’s how Alonzo Cushing was awarded his Medal of Honor for bravery before the enemy at the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg. It was presented to him by President Obama in 2014.


This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948

Every photo of Cushing looks like he is ready to personally end some Confederate lives.

Major Alonzo Cushing was a Union artillery officer who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point just a few short weeks after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter. By the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, Cushing was still a lieutenant in experience, but earned the rank of brevet major for his role at the recent Battle of Chancellorsville, in Virginia. The heavy toll the Union took during that battle must have weighed heavily on Cushing because he gave no ground to the enemy as long as he could still stand. He was also a veteran of Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. By then, he knew how important his role was.

On the last day of the three-day Battle of Gettysburg, the artillery battery commander was wounded three separate times. First, shrapnel from an exploding shell tore through his shoulder. This was not enough to deter Cushing. Even after his second wound, which cut through his lower abdomen and literally spilled his guts, he stayed at his post, holding them in. It was the third injury that would silence him forever. He was ordered to fall to the rear. Instead, he ordered his guns to move closer and moved with them.

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948

The Gettysburg Cyclorama, 1883.

(Paul Dominique Philippoteaux)

Cushing defied orders to abandon his position on Cemetery Ridge at the critical point in the battle. The massive bombardment of Cemetery Ridge that cut into Alonzo Cushing preceded a full frontal infantry assault that came to be known as “Pickett’s Charge.” The Confederate attack on the Union position at Cemetery Ridge was as close as the Confederate Army would ever get to defeating the Union, losing more than half the men who made the charge.

Also killed was Brevet Maj. Cushing. Because of his previous wounds, Cushing could no longer yell loud enough to be heard by the men under his command. His First Sergeant literally picked him up and repeated his orders to the men. As he gave orders, the 22-year-old Cushing was hit in the mouth by an enemy bullet and was killed. His gallantry in combat earned him the permanent rank of Lt. Col. and a burial at his beloved West Point’s cemetery.

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948

If looks could kill, Cushing’s is an 1841 Howitzer.

Just as Cushing’s First Sergeant wrote to his family about his bravery in battle, the Wisconsin native became the subject of a letter-writing campaign more than 100-plus years later. Residents of Wisconsin were more concerned with recognizing one of their favorite sons for his valor. It wasn’t until 2014 that Congress was finally able to act and the President was able to concur.

“His part of our larger American story — one that continues today,” the President said. “The spirit, the courage, the determination that he demonstrated lives on in our brave men and women in uniform who this very day are serving and making sure that they are defending the freedoms that Alonzo helped to preserve. And it’s incumbent on all of us as Americans to uphold the values that they fight for, and to continue to honor their service long after they leave the battlefield – for decades, even centuries to come.”

This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948

President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Honor to 1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing for his gallantry during combat at Gettysburg July 3, 1863. Receiving the medal at the White House ceremony, Nov. 6, 2014, is Helen Loring Ensign, Cushing’s first cousin, twice removed.

Accepting Cushing’s Medal of Honor was a distant first cousin of the young officer. Also present was Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh and 94-year-old historian Margaret Zerwekh. It was Zerwekh’s constant lobbying that made Cushing’s award a reality.

At 151 years, it was the longest wait of any Medal of Honor Recipient to receive the award.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Nazis developed a ‘wonder weapon’ that the Allies couldn’t stop and changed the face of future wars

On the morning of September 8, 1944, a massive explosion rocked the southeastern outskirts of recently liberated Paris. The blast killed six people and wounded 36 more. Nearly eight hours later, two more explosions occurred in London, killing three people and wounding 17.

One of the explosions in London left a crater 30 feet wide and 8 feet deep. The site was closed to the public, and censors barred journalists from reporting on it. The blast was blamed on a faulty gas main and quickly hushed up.


Hundreds of explosions in the following weeks forced the British to admit the truth. The Germans had launched a horrifying new type of weapon at France and England: the V-2, the first guided ballistic missile in history.

For almost a year, more than 3,000 V-2s would be launched at civilian and military targets in Belgium, Britain, France, and the Netherlands.

A vengeance weapon

Development of the V-2 started in 1934. The German Wehrmacht had a keen interest in rockets, and some of Germany’s best engineers were tasked by the military to create this new “Wunderwaffe” or “wonder weapon.”

The missile had its first successful test flight in October 1942. Traveling over 118 miles and reaching an altitude of 277,200 feet, or 52.5 miles, it was the first rocket to reach the edge of space.

The project was repeatedly downgraded and upgraded during the war, but in 1943 it became one of the largest weapons projects of the Third Reich.

Hitler, angry at the destruction Allied bombing was causing in Germany, wanted to strike Allied cities in revenge. The missile became the second in Hitler’s series of “Vergeltungswaffen,” or “vengeance weapons,” and was designated V-2.

About 6,000 V-2 rockets were built. They were intended to be launched from hardened complexes similar to modern missile silos, but Allied bombing and advances on the ground forced the Germans to rely on mobile launch platforms.

V-2s were much more complex and larger than their predecessor, the V-1. They were about 46 feet tall and were equipped with a 2,000-pound amatol warhead at the tip. They also had a range of 200 miles.

After launch, the missile rose over 50 miles into the air and reached a speed of over 3,000 mph, enabling most to reach their targets in just five minutes. V-2s were so fast that they could hit their targets at up to 1,790 mph.

A program of death and destruction

Their speed and operational ceiling made them impossible to intercept, and Allied attempts to jam the V-2’s guidance system were useless, as the missile did not use radio guidance. (Its guidance system was an innovation in its own right; gyroscopes and an analog computer in it constantly tracked and adjusted its course to a preprogrammed destination.)

Up to 100 V-2s were launched each day, and they wreaked havoc on Allied cities. Over 2,700 people were killed by the missiles in Britain alone.

One V-2 struck a packed cinema in the Belgian port city of Antwerp, killing 567 people, including 296 Allied soldiers — the deadliest strike from a single piece of aerial ordnance in the European theater.

There is no complete official toll, but it is estimated that V-2 attacks killed anywhere from 5,000 to 9,000 people. Together, V-1 and V-2 attacks caused over 30,000 civilian casualties and left hundreds of thousands homeless.

That number does not include the deaths of 10,000 to 20,000 people who were used as slave labor in V-2 construction at the underground Mittelwerk factory and various concentration camps.

Desperate to stop the strikes, the Allies launched Operation Crossbow — a series of operations and bombing campaigns aimed at destroying the V-weapon program. The Allies were aware of the V-2 as early as 1943 and even managed to obtain V-2 parts with the assistance of the Polish Home Army.

A lasting legacy

In the end, the V-2, like many of Nazi Germany’s so-called wonder weapons, was too little, too late. Though the civilian body count was high, it was smaller than that caused by other weapons.

Moreover, V-2s did almost no significant damage to military targets, and by 1944 the Allied war machine was just too large for Germany to fight off.

The Wehrmacht spent so much money and resources on the V-2 for such minimal military gain that Freeman Dyson, a Royal Air Force analyst during the war, later likened it to “a policy of unilateral disarmament.”

But the V-2 left a lasting legacy. Combined with the advent of nuclear weapons, it proved that the most important weapons of the future would be ballistic missiles.

The Soviets and the Western Allies scrambled to collect as much of the V-2 program as possible when the war ended, and some of the earliest ballistic missiles on both sides of the Cold War were essentially copies of the V-2.

Many scientists from the V-2 program, including its leader, Wernher von Braun, were also directly involved in the US space program, ultimately helping NASA land on the moon in 1969.

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

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