How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

During the launch of Operation Market Garden, a young Nelson Bryant and thousands of fellow paratroopers from the 82d Airborne parachuted into occupied Holland in an attempt to dislodge its Nazi occupiers. Bryant, wounded in a previous mission, took shrapnel to the leg as he fell to Earth. After landing, he began freeing himself from his harness. Under fire from nearby German positions, he was forced to cut it off.

Without thinking, he dropped his knife as he scrambled for cover. It seemed to be lost forever — but it was actually only 73 years.


“There were some Germans shooting at me from about 150 yards away, and they were getting damn close,” he told the local Martha’s Vineyard newspaper, the Vineyard Gazette. “As near as I can tell, what happened was I was pretty excited, and a little upset. I remember I cut some of my clothes I was so nervous. I cut out of the harness. What I think I did, I simply forgot my knife and left it there on the ground in its sheath.”
How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

An American paratrooper makes a hard landing in a Dutch field during the airborne phase of Operation Market Garden, September, 1944.

More than 40,000 paratroopers from the 101st and 82d Airborne divisions were dropped into Holland to support Market Garden in 1944. The 82d was supposed to capture and defend the heights over Groesbeek, outside the city of Nijmegen. They were successful in taking the position, but were forced to defend the area from repeated, powerful German counterattacks.

The 82d was also tasked with dropping on either side of the Nijmegen Bridge to hit the bridge’s defenders from both sides and keep it operational for use by Allied forces. Unfortunately, as was the story with Market Garden, things did not go as planned. The entire strike force was dropped to the south of the bridge and would have to assault it from one side, during the day.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

After D-Day in Normandy, in June, 1944, Nelson Bryant reluctantly strikes a pose.

(Nelson Bryant)

The fighting men of the U.S. Army is the stuff of legend in Groesbeek. One day in 2017, 56-year-old André Duijghuisen was looking through his father’s attic when he came across a very different kind of knife. There was clearly something extraordinary about it. It was still in its sheath – and carved into that sheath was a name, “Bryant.”

Duijghuisen did some digging and found a Bryant registered with the 82d Airbone, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He found that this Bryant not only survived the war but later became a reporter, and even wrote for the New York Times. Most importantly, he was still alive.

Bryant almost didn’t make to Holland at all.

Nelson Bryant was a student at Dartmouth College in 1943. As a college man, he was exempt from the draft but seeing so many friends and peers go over to fight the Nazis inspired him. He volunteered to join the Army. Unhappy with his stateside supply job, he soon volunteered for the 82d Airborne. He arrived in England just in time to jump into Hitler’s Fortress Europe in the wee hours before the D-Day landings.

It was there, during a reconnaissance mission, that he was shot in the chest by a .50-caliber bullet.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Nelson Bryant)

“I heard machine gun fire, the next thing I know, bam,” said Mr. Bryant. “It went in the front, came out the back, 50 caliber. I thought, is this it? I could hear distant gunfire, I could hear cows mooing in the pasture.”

Bryant laid in a hedgerow for four days before making it back to a field hospital in Wales. He worked to recuperate there, first walking on his own, then running. When he found out the 82d was making another jump into occupied Europe, he asked doctors if he would be able to go with them. They thought he was nuts. He wasn’t crazy, he was just determined to finish what he started. Not even a hospital could hold him back.

“When no one was looking, I got my clothes and put them on, walked out of the hospital, and thumbed rides on U.S. military vehicles back to Nottingham, England, and got there a week before we made the jump into Holland,” he said.
How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

Duijghuisen reached out to Bryant and told him that he had his “bayonet” and asked if he would like it returned.

“He said bayonet, and I knew something was wrong because I knew the gun I carried you couldn’t use a bayonet,” Bryant said of the exchange. “Then I realized I was talking to a civilian and he wouldn’t know a bayonet from a trench knife. When he said there was a leather sheath, that was a clue.”

At 56, Duijghusen wasn’t even born during World War II, but the legacy of the men who liberated Holland is still important to the people there.

“The name on the bayonet, it made, for me, something personal,” said Duijghuisen before making the visit to Martha’s Vineyard. “Because of what he did in 1944, and because we are now living in a free world. I think a lot about that. He fought in Holland for our freedom. I’m very excited about that, it will be nice to see him.”

Duijghuisen and his wife traveled to see Bryant in 2017, 73 years after the old veteran jumped into Holland, just to return the trench knife Bryant used to free himself while helping free the Netherlands.

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part seven

Da Lat, Vietnam
April, 2017

My “one night in Da Lat” was a pleasant reprieve from the war and normal combat operations that we had been conducting. I’d heard of the city, but never believed all of the stories I’d heard. Stories about the beautiful architecture, the green and lush gardens, cool weather, and about the graceful people — certainly a Shangri-La such as this couldn’t exist in the Vietnam I’d come to know. But low and behold, it did.


In stark contrast to what I had come to expect, this beautiful city, now grown into a true metropolitan area filling much more of the mountain encircled bowl, represented a softer, subtler side of Vietnam.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

Not found in Da Lat were the loud bars and crowds of rowdy people. In their place were quiet enclaves where people would meet, have a drink, and talk in a quiet atmosphere. Here couples and families would stroll down the wide boulevards and enjoy the fragrant air and quiet neighborhoods. Also included was the central market area where you could find virtually anything you needed, from sweaters to shoes to fast food.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years
How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

40 years later and none of that has changed in Da Lat, it’s only gotten bigger and it was a pleasure to see that the city and people were as I remembered them.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

Follow Richard Rice’s 10-part journey:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The Seahawks just made Thanksgiving for troops who can’t go home

Washington State is big on the U.S. military. It’s a major part of their economy and culture. More than 69,000 troops are on active duty in the state, many of those in the Seattle-Tacoma area. With those troops are more than 90,000 dependent family members who make their living in Washington.

The Seattle Seahawks consistently recognize the importance of the local military community, and that’s exactly why they wanted give its members a Thanksgiving holiday they’ll never forget.


Troops and families in Washington State face the same hardships as troops stationed anywhere. Some are unable to go home and be with their families during the holiday. And some families are missing an essential element to their holiday celebrations – a deployed loved one.

But the Seattle area has something that other big cities don’t: the Seattle Seahawks. Few NFL teams are as committed to making an impact on the community that sustains them as Seattle’s local NFL team. For them, and the state in which they live, the military is hugely important.

Recently, the Seahawks invited a large group of military personnel and their families to their home, Seattle’s CenturyLink Field. They wanted to show their appreciation to the families for their sacrifices while giving them a thoughtful Thanksgiving meal —complete with all the trimmings, of course.

Seahawks’ rookie linebacker, Shaquem Griffin, and cornerback Shaquill Griffin, twin brothers, led the family effort to get more than a hundred service members to join them in celebrating the holiday. The team served a meal to their guests and they all spent time getting to know one another throughout the day.

Of course, no Thanksgiving Day celebration would complete without a little touch football – and the Seahawks were more than happy to toss a ball around.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(USAA)

It wasn’t just the current members of the Seahawks family who joined military families. For local Seahawks fans, the event was also a blast from the past, featuring the Seahawks’ Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent, who spent his entire 14-season career in Seattle and is regularly listed among the NFL’s top all-time wideouts.

Also visiting the families was Kenny Easly, Seattle’s Hall of Fame strong safety, who is considered one of the Seahawks’ all-time greatest players.

“It’s really cool to talk to the players one-on-one and get to know them as a person,” one soldier told USAA. That sentiment was repeated by Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

The players and families got closer than expected.

(USAA)

“It’s pulling at the heartstrings,” Baldwin said. “Being able to be around them [military and their families], spend some time with them, eat some food, just like their families would back home.”

The Seahawks want the military all to know how grateful they are for everything service members sacrifice, especially during the holidays.

“Everybody that’s serving our country, we appreciate you guys so much,” Shaquill Griffin said. “I’m not just saying it to say it, but it’s an honor.”
MIGHTY HISTORY

This failed nuclear engine might be able to power your city

During the Cold War, the Air Force and the Atomic Energy Commission (which was later folded into the Nuclear Regulatory Commission) set out to create an all-new nuclear reactor that not only would be more efficient than the reactors we have today, but would propel aircraft in flight for up to 15,000 miles without stopping.


That would’ve allowed for a bomber that could fly from California to Moscow and back with enough miles left to grab ice cream in Greenland on the way home.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years
The Air Force’s experimental nuclear reactor is flown in an NB-36 airplane. (Photo: Convair)

Starting in 1946, the Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion program aimed to make the idea a reality. A physicist named Alvin Weinberg helped lead the reactor development. Though he had previously invented and championed the liquid-water reactor that provides almost all nuclear power today, he thought LWRs were wrong for the airplane.

The LWRs are kept relatively cool at 572 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s hot, but not hot enough to superheat air for jet engines. The LWR design is also less efficient, relying on solid fuels which can only be about 3 percent consumed before the fuel must be changed out.

Instead, Weinberg turned to a design that got kicked around during the Manhattan Project, the molten salt reactor, or “MSR.”

In an MSR, the nuclear material is dissolved into superheated salts. They’re heated so high that they become a liquid, then that heat is maintained because of the continuing nuclear reaction inside the molten salts.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years
The Heat Transfer Reactor Experiment-3 was the option selected by the Aircraft Reactor Propulsion Program to turn reactor power into jet propulsion for an aircraft. (Photo: U.S. Department of Energy)

 

In the Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion program’s final design, air traveled through a compressor and then through the reactor, picking up the reactor’s heat. The immense heat of the reactor, generally about 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit, caused the air to rapidly expand and jet out the back of the plane, generating thrust.

The Air Force did fly with a different reactor on a modified B-36 bomber, but only to test the plane’s nuclear shielding for protecting the crew. During the tests, it was still powered by conventional jet engines.

President John F. Kennedy’s administration canceled the nuclear aircraft program in 1961 and sent the funds to the space race. But some scientists want to bring the reactor back, this time as a powerplant on the Earth’s surface for the generation of electricity.

Molten-salt reactors are much more efficient than LWRs and typically produce waste that is more stable and takes less time to become safe for handling — we’re talking hundreds of years instead of thousands.

And while the MSR in the B-36 was fueled by uranium, future MSRs could use thorium, a more stable fuel that is also very plentiful. Thorium is present in nearly any sample of dirt on the planet and is commonly extracted in rare Earth mining and discarded as waste. Or, MSRs could use uranium depleted in LWRs.

Either way, a bunch of waste products could be converted into plentiful energy thanks to a failed nuclear engine from the Cold War. Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works is teasing a nuclear fusion reactor. If it works, it could fulfill the 15,000-mile promise of the Aircraft Reactor Propulsion Program.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Nylon: the reason we won World War II — and started shaving our legs

True story.

In fact, nylon would earn the moniker “the fiber that won the war.” Let’s talk about how.

In the 1930s, the United States imported four-fifths of the world’s silk — and 90% of it came from Japan. 75-80% of that was used for women’s hosiery — specifically, silk stockings.

Because, as hemlines grew shorter, the need to cover scandalous lady skin with something — anything — grew larger, but we won’t get into that now. Suffice it to say that American women were wearing silk stockings. Unfortunately, they didn’t stretch, they were delicate and ripped easily, and they often required an extra garment, like a garter belt, to hold them up.


Enter Harvard-trained scientist, Wallace H. Carothers, hired by E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company to conduct research on synthetic materials and polyblends. In 1939, Carothers invented Fiber 6-6, or what would become known as Nylon.

DuPont astutely recognized the economic value of Nylon as a silk replacement and concentrated on manufacturing nylon stockings. Within three hours of their experimental debut, 4,000 pairs of nylon stockings sold out. Later that year, they were displayed at the New York World’s Fair. The next year, 4 million pairs of brown nylons sold out within two days, making a total sales figure of million.

In 1941, the company sold million worth of nylon yarn — that’s nearly 0 million today. In just two years, DuPont earned 30% of the women’s hosiery market.

But all of that was about to change.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

Used stockings were repurposed into war materials.

(Franklin D. Roosevelt Library)

Because stockings weren’t the only thing made of silk. Military parachutes and rope were also made from the Japanese import. After the Pearl Harbor attack, the United States went to war against Japan and, suddenly, the production of nylon was diverted for military use.

It was used to make glider tow ropes, aircraft fuel tanks, flak jackets, shoelaces, mosquito netting, hammocks, and, yes, parachutes.

Eventually, even the flag planted on the moon by Neil Armstrong would be made of nylon!

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

Buzz Aldrin salutes Old Glory ON THE MOON.

(Photo by Neil Mother F*cking Armstrong ON THE MOON, people.)

This is because nylon is a thermoplastic polymer that is strong, tough, and durable. It is more resistant to sunlight and weathering than organic fabrics are and, because it is synthetic, it’s resistant to molds, insects, and fungi. It’s also waterproof and quick to dry.

By utilizing it during World War II, we were better-equipped than our enemies and more able to weather difficult conditions.

Back home, women missed their stockings. At the time, they were made with a bold seam up the back. After experiencing nylon stockings, women didn’t want to go back to silk, so they did the next best thing: they shaved their legs, carefully applied a “liquid silk stocking” (otherwise known as paint), and lined the backs of their legs with a trompe l’oeil seam.

A bold, new revolution was happening: leg hair removal to replicate the appearance of stockings. After the war, the trend continued to spread, inflamed by the beauty industry’s marketing.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

Beauty standards: poisoning women’s bodies since the invention of paint…

After 1942, the only stockings available were those sold before the war or bought on the black market. One entrepreneurial thief made 0,000 off stockings produced from a diverted nylon shipment.

Which is very messed up — everyone in America was coming together to support the war effort, including women!

In fact, it was Adeline Gray — a woman — who made the first jump by a human with a nylon parachute. The Pioneer Parachute Company of Manchester, working in concert with the DuPont company, developed a parachute made of material that combined “compactness with lightness, resiliency, and strength.”

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

Girl crush.

(Oxford Historical Society)

On June 6, 1942, 24-year-old Gray was the only licensed female parachute jumper in Connecticut. Her jump, performed before a group of Army officials, was a success.

During the D-Day invasion, airborne troops jumped with nylon parachutes while the stealth Waco gliders were quietly towed by nylon ropes. Nylon’s strength, elasticity, weight, and resistance to mildew came through when we needed it the most.


After the war, nylon stockings made a resurgence. On one occasion, 40,000 people lined up for a mile to compete for 13,000 pairs of stockings. They remained standard in the industry, and still to this day “nylons” are synonymous with “pantyhose” or tights. In many fields, they are required for women — including the military. If a female wears a skirt, she must wear stockings or hose underneath.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of October 5th

This week, airmen all over the world are finally able to don their super cool, super high-speed OCPs. Meanwhile, the Army has just one more year of ACUs before they have to be completely switched to the same pattern. Airmen are loving it, but soldiers have been reacting with a near-unanimous “are you f*cking kidding me?”

The airmen love it because they’re no longer in those ridiculous, tiger-stripe uniform. Soldiers hate it because, well, they’re cramping our style. If the Air Force starts claiming they were a part of the Army during the Pinks & Greens era to get in on that perfect getup (instead of that flight attendant costume), then we might have a problem.

What were we talking about again? Oh, yeah. Enjoy these memes.


How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Meme via PNN)

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Meme via Dysfunctional Veterans)

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Meme by Inkfidel)

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Meme via Shammers United)

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Articles

The British soldier who used German air raids to become a serial killer

The bravery and resilience of most who survived the Luftwaffe attacks during Germany’s World War II Blitz over London is beyond reproach. But let’s face it, some people are a–holes. Gordon Cummins is one of those.


How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years
Photo: Youtube

For the duration of the Blitz, the city’s populace was forced to shelter in darkness. Blackout curtains were placed over windows, smoking outside was banned in parts of the city, and the electricity was sometimes shut off to ensure no light could escape to provide German bombers a target.

For criminals with absolutely no patriotism or scruples, this was an ideal opportunity. Cummins was a Royal Air Force pilot in training in London in Feb. 1942 when something went sideways in his head and he began killing women in the blacked-out city.

The first victim was discovered on the morning of Feb. 9 in an air raid shelter in the West End area. Evelyn Hamilton was found gagged with a scarf and strangled to death. Her handbag and all her money were also stolen.

The very next day another woman was discovered. Evelyn Oatley was a prostitute and former chorus girl found in her apartment, nude, strangled, and viciously slashed across her abdomen with a can opener which was left at the scene.

Investigators didn’t find a new victim on Feb. 11, but any relief was short-lived as they found two on Feb. 13. Margaret Lowe had been missing since Feb. 10. Like Oatley, she was a prostitute and was discovered mostly nude, gruesomely mutilated, and thoroughly strangled.

The other victim found on Feb. 13 was Doris Jouannet. Jouannet was an elderly woman and prostitute. When her husband came home in the morning, he tried to enter their flat but it was barricaded from the inside. He called the police, who forced their way in to find Jouannet mostly nude, slashed with a razor, and dead from strangulation.

The London press knew of the murders and panic descended upon the city. Since three of the victims were prostitutes, it was assumed that group were the most at risk from “The Blackout Ripper.” While the blackouts protected most of the city from the worst of the German raids, it left the ladies of the night completely unprotected from Cummins.

Forced to continue earning a living, the women pressed on with their work. On Feb. 14, Cummins approached Greta Hayward and attempted to murder her in an alley, but as she was succumbing to his strangulation, a delivery boy happened by. He startled Cummins, who fled, accidentally dropping his gas mask as he ran.

Later that night, Cummins attempted to attack another prostitute, Kathleen Mulcahy. He solicited Mulcahy and followed her to her flat. When he attempted to kill her, she fought him off so hard and raised such a ruckus that he again had to flee into the night, this time dropping his belt. Oddly, he left an extra £5 because he may have been a serial killer, but he was also a good tipper.

Cummin’s gas mask was marked with the pilot’s serial number, so investigators proceeded to his lodging where they arrested the him. Cummins maintained his claims of innocence, but investigators found a number of mementos including a watch, a cigarette case, stockings from each victim, and more.

Cummins was tried for the murder of Evelyn Oatley on Apr. 27 and given the death penalty. Rather than try him for his other murders and attempted murders, the state executed him on Jun. 25. In a darkly humorous twist, he was executed during a German air raid.

(h/t Cracked podcast)

MIGHTY TRENDING

New agreement with Israel shows Russia’s dominance in Syria

Russia has offered to keep pro-Iranian forces in Syria about 100 kilometers from the border with Israel as part of an agreement with the United States and Israel to help guarantee Israel’s security, media are reporting.

A Russian delegation headed by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the suggestion while meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on July 23, 2018, Israeli television and western media reported, citing Israeli officials.


As he has in the past, Netanyahu demanded during the meeting that all Iranian fighters and their allies be removed from Syrian soil in the long term, media said. He also insisted that Iran should remove all long-range missiles and its air-defense system from the country, media said.

But Israeli media did not characterize Netanyahu’s response as a rejection of the Russian plan to keep Iranian military advisers and pro-Iranian fighters, including Lebanon’s Hizballah militia, at a substantial distance from Israel as Syrian troops reassert control in the border region.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

However, Reuters cited an Israeli official as saying that, while Russia was “committed” to its offer, Netanyahu rejected it and told Lavrov: “We will not allow the Iranians to establish themselves even 100 kilometers from the border” because Iran has long-range missiles that can reach Israel from Syria.

Reuters said Israel previously rejected a Russian proposal to keep Iranian forces about 80 kilometers from the frontier.

Russian officials did not immediately comment on Netanyahu’s meeting with Lavrov and the chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, General Valery Gerasimov.

Before the meeting, Netanyahu thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump for their agreement at their summit in Helsinki in July 2018 to work together to safeguard the security of Israel.

“I appreciated the words that were spoken by President Putin together with President Trump regarding the security of Israel during the recent summit,” Netanyahu said.

But with regard to Iran, an avowed enemy of the Jewish state, Netanyahu said: “Israel will continue to act against any attempt by Iran and its proxies to entrench militarily in Syria.”

Netanyahu said the Russia delegation came to Israel on short notice at Putin’s request to discuss the situation in Syria, where the Syrian Army has been rapidly reasserting control over rebel-held areas of the southwest near Israel’s border under surrender agreements brokered by Russia.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

Russian President Vladimir Putin and United States President Donald Trump

As a condition of accepting the return of the Syrian Army to the border region, Netanyahu said Israel was demanding strict adherence to a 1974 disengagement deal that created a buffer zone patrolled by UN forces between Syria and Israel.

Syria and Israel fought two wars over their shared border, in 1967 and 1973, leading to Israel’s seizure of the Golan Heights in what was Syria’s Quneitra province. The Israeli occupation has never been recognized internationally.

While Israel and the United States have been pressuring Russia to limit Iranian influence in Syria, Moscow contends that it has little influence on the tight relationship between Syria and Iran, and it would be unrealistic to expect Iran to fully withdraw from the country.

Russia and Iran have backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government throughout the war, which started with a crackdown on protests in 2011 and is estimated to have killed more than 400,000 people and displaced 11 million others.

Russia stepped up its military support in 2015, starting a campaign of air strikes and boosting its presence on the ground in a move that helped turn the tide of the conflict in Assad’s favor.

Iranian leaders have dismissed U.S. and Israeli calls to leave country, saying that will happen only when Assad asks Iran to go.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The little cruiser with a battleship’s guns

It first entered Navy service in February, 1895, with some doubters mocking its excessive armament while Americans hoped that its speed, steel, and guns would allow it to survive while outnumbered if under heavy attack. Instead, the small but mighty USS Olympia slaughtered an enemy fleet, bombarded shores, and escorted convoys during its 27-year career.


How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

The USS Olympia, a fast cruiser with heavy armament.

(U.S. Navy)

In the late 1800s, the U.S. Navy wrestled with what the service should do and what ships it needed for the 1900s. The battle of the Merrimack and Monitor decisively proved that wooden ships were on their way out, but the rise of steel ships showed that the iron vessels made in earnest during and after the Civil War wouldn’t survive either.

Meanwhile, sails were the efficient and cheap method of propelling a ship, but it was clear that steam gave commanders more flexibility and more options in combat.

And the Navy needed ships to secure American shores even as a constrained budgets made ship-building tough. Some presidents were already looking at using the Navy for power projection as well.

So, the Navy had to decide whether it should have lots of cheap ships, lots of coastal defenses, steam or sail power, all while keeping power projection a feasible option.

USS OLYMPIA “The Ship”

www.youtube.com

The Navy figured out a plan address all the changes and requirements: A new fleet of steel vessels that relied on steam power but still had masts for sails for long voyages when the winds were favorable. Because the U.S. couldn’t spend as much on ship hulls as potential European attackers, each ship would be heavily armed and as fast as possible.

This resulted in cruisers that could hopefully run ahead of enemy fleets, pelting the lead of the enemy ship with shot after shot while staying out of range of the rest of the enemy fleet. (Video game players do this today against powerful enemies and call it, “kiting.”)

A jewel of this new fleet was C-6, an armored cruiser scheduled to first float in 1892 and commission a few years later. This ship would become the USS Olympia, named for the capital of America’s newest state at the time, Washington.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

The USS Olympia in front of a column of cruisers circa 1900.

(Francis Christian Muller)

The Olympia fit all the qualifications of the new naval plan. It could steam at over 21 knots while most of its potential enemies topped out at 18. It had four 8-inch guns, two in a single turret forward and two in a turret aft. These big guns were the primary armament, but the ship also had ten 5-inch guns. A few years after launch, it also got Gatling guns and sidearms for potential boarding parties.

Some naval observers around the world critiqued the design, saying that it was either an overarmed cruiser or a too-tiny battleship. But these heavily armed cruisers were designed for their own mission, and they could outrun attackers while picking them off with their larger guns.

The defensive war Olympia was ostensibly designed for never came, though. Instead, it was sent to the Pacific where it became the flagship of Commodore George Dewey before the USS Maine, a larger and even better armed ship, blew up in Havana Harbor. While the explosion was later found to have likely been caused by an ammo handling accident or an overheated bulkhead that touched gunpowder stores, the U.S. blamed it on a Spanish attack at the time.

In response to the Maine’s destruction, Dewey and his squadron were sent to Manila Bay to attack the Spanish fleet there. The hope was that the ships, protected by steel and heavily armed, could rush past the guns of the Spanish coastal defenses and engage the Spanish fleet with the large guns.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

The USS Olympia leads the attack against the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Manila.

(Murat Halstead, 1898)

Dewey sent his fleet towards the bay in two columns steaming behind the USS Olympia. Dewey was holding his fire until sunlight and reconnaissance revealed the enemy fleet, even though this allowed shore gunners to try to spot and hit the American ships in the darkness. A sudden fire on the revenue cutter exposed it, and a cruiser and the cutter were forced to return fire.

But the rest of the fleet held its fire until Dewey saw the fleet, crept in range, and got the angles right. Spanish rounds were raining against the steel hulls of the American ships, and gunners crouched behind the paltry armor and prayed for safety until Dewey, on the Olympia, calmly told the ship’s captain, “You may fire when ready, Mr. Gridley.”

The American fleet opened up and slaughtered the decrepit Spanish fleet, sinking all vessels and capturing the port in mere hours. America now owned the capital of the Philippines and would get the islands in the peace treaty that came later. Nine Americans had been wounded while the fleet had killed 161 Spanish fighters and wounded 210.

The Olympia and Dewey became famous, and the ship went on to serve in World War I as a convoy escort. And, in 1918, Olympia bombarded the shore during an amphibious assault at Murmansk in the Russian Civil War.

But the era of the Dreadnought had come, and in the years following World War I, it became clear that the Olympia was no longer enough ship to compete with enemy combatants. And America, flush with prestige after World War I and possessing overseas colonies from the Spanish-American War, had the money to build a larger, more powerful fleet.

In 1922, Olympia was decommissioned, and the hull was slated for the scrap heap, but activists pushed for the ship to be turned into a museum. It took decades of wrangling before Philadelphia donors got the money to return Olympia to the 1898 configuration and moored the ship in the city’s waterfront in 1958.

Since then, the ship has hosted visitors who wanted to walk the weathered boards of its deck or see the steam engines that made its speed possible. The Flagship Olympia Foundation is trying to raise the money necessary to dry dock and overhaul the ship. It’s already been on the water since 1892, and could have decades more in it after repairs.

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Crazy kings: Why was Henry the 8th so weird?

According to Disney, princes are the most charming, handsome men in all the land. Historically, that’s far from the truth. Royal families were typically pretty obsessed with power. No matter how much they had, they wanted more, and they wanted to keep it. One way to do that was by keeping it in the family; AKA, they slept with their cousins. Back then, incest wasn’t so taboo. Marriages between uncles and nieces and other close relations happened frequently.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t just power that was passed down to future generations. Genetic disorders that were uncommon among the general population were condensed in royal bloodlines to the point that sickness was as much of a royal inheritance as wealth. The result? A ton of really weird royals, including the infamous Henry the 8th who was known for his paranoia and tyrannical behavior. Keep scrolling to discover all the strange effects that inbreeding had on the royal families of yesteryear.


The Habsburg Jaw

The German-Austrian Habsburg family had an empire encompassing everything from Portugal to Transylvania, partially because they married strategically to consolidate their bloodline. Because of their rampant incest, the Habsburgs accidentally created their own trademark facial deformities, collectively known as the Habsburg jaw. Those who inherited the deformity typically had oversized jaws and lower lips, long noses, and large tongues. It was most prevalent in male monarchs, with female family members experiencing fewer external deformities. Charles II had such a severe case that he had trouble speaking and frequently drooled…yikes.

Hemophilia

For most people, cuts and bruises are no big deal. For those with hemophilia, a scraped knee can turn serious. Hemophilia is a rare blood disorder in which your body doesn’t produce enough clotting factor. When someone with hemophilia starts to bleed, they don’t stop. The disease is recessive, so it’s very uncommon; both of your parents must carry the gene for you to develop symptoms. Unfortunately, it was easy for inbred royals to produce unfortunate gene combinations.

Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Consort Albert, both carried the gene for hemophilia, as they were first cousins. Their son, Leopold, struggled with the disease until it eventually killed him when he was only 31. Hemophilia was passed down to Russian Czar Nicholas II’s family. His son and heir, Alexei, suffered from hemophilia, inherited from his great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. Even in the early 1900s, the life expectancy of someone with hemophilia was only about 13 years.

Hydrocephalus

Spanish royalty was particularly prone to the genetic condition of hydrocephalus, in which fluid builds up deep in the brain. The extra fluid puts pressure on the brain and spinal cord, causing everything from mild symptoms to death. It occurs most frequently in infants, which was often the case in inbred royalty. The royal children who suffered from it were born with abnormally large heads and often suffered from growth delays, malnourishment, muscular atrophy, poor balance, and seizures.

Hydrocephalus also affected British royalty, including Prince William, the oldest surviving child of Queen Anne and Prince Consort George of Denmark. The two royals were cousins, and they were so genetically similar that they struggled to reproduce any healthy offspring, losing 17 children to genetic disease. You’d think they’d figure it out after the first few, but they were determined to produce an heir. Prince William made it until age 11, when he died of hydrocephalus combined with a bacterial infection.

Limb malformations

Royal inbreeding existed before the European monarchy was even a thing. Ancient Egyptians practiced marriage within the royal family with the intent of keeping their bloodline pure, and it backfired big time. King Tutenkhamen, AKA King Tut, was one of Egypts most famous pharaohs, but he was a bit of a genetic mess. Modern-day studies showed that he had a cleft palate, a club foot, and a strangely elongated skull. Some researchers believe King Tut’s mother wasn’t really Queen Nefertiti, but King Akhenaten’s sister. Sibling-sibling inbreeding tends to have severe effects, giving poor King Tut a compromised immune system that led to his eventual death.

Infertility

King Charles II married twice, yet he never successfully fathered an heir. Like many other royals, he struggled with fertility, likely the result of his inbred heritage. Queen Anne, the first monarch of Great Britain, was a great ruler, but not so great at producing healthy children. Only one of 18 of her offspring made it past their toddler years, with eight miscarried and five stillborn. Considering the great pressure to produce heirs to inherit the throne, infertility caused a great deal of royal strife. In some ways, however, it was a boon. Since Charles II never had children, his laundry list of genetic issues, including the infamous Habsburg jaw, died with him.

Learning disabilities

Speaking of Charles II, he didn’t say a word until he was four and didn’t learn how to walk until he was eight. He was the child of Philip IV of Spain and Mariana of Austria, who were uncle and niece. His family’s long history of inbreeding was so severe that he was more severely inbred than he would have been had his parents been siblings. While inbreeding doesn’t automatically lower intelligence, it does make it more likely to inherit recessive genes linked to low IQ and cognitive disabilities, resulting in a royal family with just as many mental challenges as physical ones.

Mental Illness

George III was King of England at the time of the American Revolution, and many wonder if his mental illness had something to do with his failure as a ruler. Another member of Queen Victoria’s highly inbred family, George III was known for his manic episodes and nickname of “The Mad King”. Initially, historians believed that he had porphyria, a chronic liver disease that results in bouts of madness and causes bluish urine. Today, it’s believed that George III actually suffered from bipolar disorder, causing his sudden manic episodes and rash decision making.

Other royals suffered from mental illness as well, including Queen Maria the Pious. She was so obsessively devout that when her church’s confessor died, she screamed for hours about how she would be damned without him. She shared a doctor with King George III, who employed all kinds of strange and ineffective treatments, like ice baths and taking laxatives.

Joanna of Castile, also known as Joanna the Mad, also struggled with irrational behavior and uncontrollable moods. Like most women, she was furious when she discovered her husband’s mistress. Unlike most people, she proceeded to stab her in the face. She remained obsessed with her husband after his infidelity, however. She loved him so much that she slept beside him even after he died. You read that right. She snuggled a corpse. M’kay then.

Monarchs have a reputation for reckless, harsh, and sometimes cruel behavior. Is it possible that many of their worst deeds were tied to inbred insanity? Totally. Does that make their tyrannical reign any less terrifying? Not even a little bit. While their stories are fascinating to read about, let’s keep the inbreeding and dictatorships in the history books, okay? Okay.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These were the UK’s massive “earthquake bombs”

The Second World War saw the creation, fielding, and use of some of the most powerful weapons. From massive battleships armed with guns that will never again be matched in size to the atom bomb, these weapons were built to cause shock and awe and bring about destruction like we’ve never seen. England’s legendary “earthquake bombs,” or seismic bombs, were one such invention.

Barnes Wallis was an engineering graduate of the University of London and an incredibly creative mind. Well known for his bouncing bomb of Dambusters fame, Wallis was an integral part of British and Allied war machine programs, churning out improvements in aircraft and munitions design. He came up with the concept of the earthquake bomb in the early years of the War.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

These bombs arose out of a need to hit “hardened” targets — reinforced structures designed to withstand heavy bombardment — and underground installations. Before the deployment of the earthquake bomb, these targets were, in theory, impenetrable.

Wallis took their impregnability as a challenge.


At the time, area bombing was the prevailing method employed by Allied forces to hit German targets in the European Theater. Large cells of bombers would drop hundreds, if not thousands, of bombs with the hope that at least a few would hit their mark. This did little to destroy or even inflict damage upon hardened targets.

Instead, Wallis hypothesized that the ideal way to take out these structures and military installations was with an accurate, concentrated attack using a smaller number of extremely powerful munitions.

Speed and momentum would be the new bomb’s method of penetration. Extremely heavy and built with an armored casing and guiding fins, once dropped from its bomber, the munition would reach near-supersonic speeds as it hurtled toward the ground. This force would be more than enough to punch through the layers of thick concrete used by German military engineers to protect their facilities.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

After boring through the ceiling of its target, the seismic bomb would fall as far as its momentum would take it. Only then would it detonate, giving whoever was inside or nearby a glimpse of utter hell. Aircrew who dropped these bombs reported that, at first, it looked as though the bomb merely punched a hole in the target. Within seconds, entire targets seemed to crumple in on themselves and fall into a sinkhole.

When the seismic bomb detonated deep within its target, the shock waves from the gargantuan warhead didn’t just obliterate anything nearby, it destabilized entire structures, shaking and moving the very earth beneath them, destroying and collapsing their foundations. Soon, a new term for these weapons would surface — “bunker busters.”

The Royal Air Force fielded two types of seismic bombs over the course of the Second World War — the Tallboy and the Grand Slam. Both were used against submarine pens, factories, and underground German bunkers to great effect. The US Army Air Force followed suit not too long after with similar bombs of their own. Tallboys were famously used to disable and sink the legendary Bismarck‘s sister battleship, the Tirpitz, in 1944.

MIGHTY CULTURE

VA cures 100,000 vets from Hepatitis C

VA will soon mark 100,000 veterans cured of hepatitis C. This is exciting news and puts VA on track to eliminate hepatitis C in all eligible veterans enrolled in VA care who are willing and able to be treated.

Building on this success, VA takes on another important issue during Hepatitis Awareness Month: making sure all veterans experiencing homelessness are vaccinated for hepatitis A.

Recently, there have been multiple large outbreaks of hepatitis A among people who are homeless and people who use injection drugs across the U.S. Currently, there is a large outbreak in Tennessee and Kentucky that has affected well over 5,000 people across the two states with 60 deaths reported thus far.


Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, advising that all individuals experiencing homelessness be vaccinated against hepatitis A.

Given that individuals experiencing homelessness may also be at increased risk of exposure to hepatitis B, VA recommends vaccination for those with risk factors against both hepatitis A and B, as appropriate.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

3D illustration of the Liver.

During Hepatitis Awareness Month, the HIV, Hepatitis, and Related Conditions Programs, the Homeless Programs, and the National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention are collaborating to raise awareness on this issue.

We are collaborating with leadership and frontline providers to ensure all identified veterans who are homeless, non-immune and unvaccinated for hepatitis A and those at risk of HBV exposure are offered vaccination, as appropriate, at their next VA appointment.

Veterans who are interested in either hepatitis A or B vaccination may ask their VA provider for more information.

Hepatitis Testing Day (May 19) is a great reminder to check in with your provider about hepatitis C testing and treatment as well.

Learn more about hepatitis on the VA’s Viral Hepatitis website.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The most muscular unit in the Marine Corps is accepting applications

If you can squat more than 300 pounds — and then do it again nine more times — the Marine Corps may have an elite job for you.

The Corps is accepting applications to join its legendary cadre of body bearers, a small unit of roughly a dozen men headquartered at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., whose primary responsibility is to carry the caskets of Marines to their final resting place.

According to a Marine Corps administrative message, the service is looking for Marines who “possess a high degree of maturity, leadership, judgment and professionalism, as well as physical stamina and strength.” To be eligible, Marines must be male, between 70 and 76 inches tall, in the rank of corporal or below, and able to serve 30 months following check-in to ceremonial drill school.


The physical strength requirements are truly daunting. Marines must be able to conduct 10 repetitions of the following exercises:

  • Bench press 225 lbs.
  • Military press (a variant on the overhead press) 135 lbs.
  • Straight bar curl 115 lbs.
  • Squad 315 lbs.
How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

Body bearers from the Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. (8th and I), help conduct military funeral honors with funeral escort for Col. Werner Frederick Rebstock in Section 12 of Arlington National Cemetery on Nov. 13, 2019.

(U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser/Arlington National Cemetery)

Those selected to join the Body Bearers Section can expect to train for up to a year before they’re considered ready to participate in military funerals. Once they join the section, body bearers participate in the funerals of Marines, Marine veterans and family members at Arlington National Cemetery and military cemeteries in the National Capital Region; they may also be asked to travel across the country to conduct funeral honors for former presidents and other senior dignitaries.

There’s no room for error; the word “flawless” is used no fewer than four times on the Body Bearers Section web page. And while other services use eight body bearers to carry coffins, the Marine Corps uses only six.

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

Marine Corps Body Bearers carry the body of Maj. Gen. Warren R. Johnson Sr. inside the Memorial Chapel at Fort Meyer.

(Photo by Cpl. Bobby J. Yarbrough)

“This billet is not for everyone. Marine Corps Body Bearers serve as a tangible, physical manifestation of the institution that our fallen brothers and sisters have poured their hearts and souls into fortifying,” the page reads. “As such, the mental, emotional, and physical toll this responsibility exacts from the Body Bearers as well as Ceremonial Drill School students is immense. That being said, the honor and pride the Body Bearer Section takes in caring for Marines the way they do is one of the most gratifying experiences of their lives.”

In addition to all the strength requirements, Marines must meet conventional height and weight standards and maintain first-class scores on their physical fitness and combat fitness tests. While the job was once reserved for infantry Marines, it’s now open to all military occupational specialties in the Corps.

Troops who meet eligibility requirements and are interested in the opportunity should contact Company B, Marine Barracks Washington, D.C.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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