4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference - We Are The Mighty
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4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

In the brief period of time since their inception the American paratrooper has seen combat and spearheaded assaults all over the world.


Despite their usefulness, however, there have still been numerous times when paratroopers were not used in which they could have had a significant impact on the battle. These are four of those battles:

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference
U.S. paratroopers awaiting orders to jump. (Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps, 1942)

1. The Battle of Bastogne

In December 1944 the Germans launched a massive offensive into the Ardennes forest that would come to be known as the Battle of the Bulge.

As the situation deteriorated, Gen. Eisenhower decided to commit his strategic reserves, primarily the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, in an attempt to blunt the German attack. In the ensuing melee, the 82nd helped hold back the Germans at Elsenborn Ridge while the 101st became encircled holding Bastogne.

The effort to relieve the 101st fell to Patton’s Third Army to drive through the Germans and reach Bastogne.

However, Eisenhower had one remaining airborne division in reserve in England.

On Dec. 23, the same day Pathfinders landed in Bastogne to guide in supply drops, the 17th Airborne Division flew to France in order to join Third Army in its counter-offensive.

A more decisive move would have been to have the paratroopers of the 17th jump into the perimeter of Bastogne in order to shore up the lines and bring much needed relief to the beleaguered paratroopers of the 101st. This tactic had been used to great effect during Operation Avalanche in Sicily in which 82nd paratroopers reinforced the Allied beachhead at Salerno.

This would have then allowed the defenders to affect a breakout towards friendly lines or to go on an offensive of their own to drive the Germans back and break the siege.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference
Waves of paratroopers fill the skies during a combat exercise. (U.S. Army)

2. The Landing at Inchon

On Sept. 15, 1950, Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s forces as part of Operation Chromite assaulted the beaches and harbor of Inchon — then well behind enemy lines.

In a coordinated effort with the forces encircled at Pusan, the United Nations forces delivered a striking blow against the North Koreans driving them back towards the 38th Parallel and recapturing Seoul.

The attack was a textbook amphibious assault comparable to those undertaken in Europe during World War II in which paratroopers spearheaded an assault followed by seaborne infantry. However, MacArthur had been in command in the Pacific and thus had utilized airborne forces much differently. His assault plan did not include the use of paratroopers.

Though only the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team was available, they could have been put to good use.

Their first order of business could have been the seizure of Kimpo Airfield, a task not completed until Sept. 18 by a battalion of Marines. The early capture of the airfield would have allowed American fighters a forward base sooner and would have allowed follow-on forces to be flown in.

Other elements of the 187th could have also been used to cut off the forces retreating from Pusan. Though the UN was able to eliminate nearly half of the 70,000 North Koreans in the South, the other half was able to regroup in North Korea.

Had paratroopers been employed they could have potentially stopped more — if not all — from reaching North Korea, leaving the communists with virtually no military.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference
(U.S. Army paratroopers conduct an airborne operation on Oct. 20, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez)

3. The Siege of Khe Sanh

Just before the launch of the Tet Offensive in January 1968, the North Vietnamese attacked and laid siege to the Khe Sanh Combat Base.

Though they held their positions in the hills around the base and the base itself, they were soon cut off from ground support and resupply when Route 9 was closed. The Marines in and around the combat base — mostly the 26th Marine Regiment as well as 1st Battalion, 9th Marines — held out against the North Vietnamese for 11 weeks before finally being relieved by elements of the 1st Cavalry Division as part of Operation Pegasus.

However, the 82nd Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade was alerted and deployed to Vietnam in early February 1968 in order to shore up defenses against the Tet Offensive.

The brigade could have instead been dropped into the Khe Sanh Combat Base in order to strengthen the defenses there and improve the offensive capabilities of the defenders. The paratroopers could have been used to seek out the NVA artillery that continually pounded the base and silenced it. This would also have freed up other units that were instead used to break the siege.

Furthermore, the paratroopers would have brought with them valuable assets such as artillery, engineers, and intelligence that would have improved the fighting ability of the defenders.  

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference
A Paratrooper from the 173rd Airborne Brigade prepares to land. In the background, a C-130 Hercules. (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Paolo Bovo)

4. Operation Iraqi Freedom

Although there was one large and several smaller airborne operations during the invasion of Iraq the role of paratroopers in the initial assault should have been much greater. Another operation, a likely jump by the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne and the 3rd Ranger Battalion onto Saddam International Airport, was scrapped after an overzealous journalist revealed the plan on public television.

However, there were many other targets of opportunity and uses for the available paratroopers. Much like the Rangers’ seizure of H-1 Airbase in Western Iraq, the paratroopers of the 2nd Brigade could have opened an airhead just north of Baghdad with an airborne assault of Balad Air Base.

Reminiscent of WWII operations in Europe, they could have cleared the way for the 3rd Infantry Division and 1st Marine Division as they made their way toward Baghdad. The seizure of key infrastructure was vital to keep Saddam from repeating his scorched earth retreat from 1991.

This could have been more quickly facilitated if paratroopers had been employed. With air superiority from the beginning, the possibilities for airborne assaults were great though unfortunately under-utilized.

When the paratroopers did enter the fight they proved their mettle when they earned a Presidential Unit Citation for their actions at As Samawah.

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That time the British developed a chicken heated nuclear bomb

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference


Imagine it’s 1957 and you’re a high-ranking official with the British Army, responsible for keeping the West free from Soviet aggression. At your disposal you have a great arsenal, both conventional and nuclear, as well as teams of brilliant scientists at the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment constantly proposing ideas for new, more effective weapons.

One of your areas of greatest strategic concern is the possibility that the Soviet Union might make inroads sufficiently into Western Europe to bring its advanced rockets and bombs within range of the British Isles. Recall that during World War II, Germany bombed the snot out of Britain with tens of thousands of bombs dropped from Luftwaffe aircraft, as well as more than 10,000 long-range V-1 and V-2 cruise and ballistic missiles shot from sites in France and the Netherlands.

Deciding that the best way to keep the Soviets from your doorstep is a scorched earth policy, to “deny occupation of the area to an enemy for an appreciable time,” you choose from all your options that blowing any invaded areas in West Germany to smithereens using nuclear weapons is the best alternative.  After all, this not only destroys enemy troops and denies them access to valuable infrastructure, but also makes the area around the explosion uninhabitable for some time after.

Not content to rely on gravity bombs or missiles, your crack team concludes that nuclear landmines (that could either be placed on the surface, buried or even submerged in rivers and lakes) are the way to go.

You settle on a 16,000 pound tub that resembles an enormous boiler from the outside, but inside hosts a large nuclear warhead and two firing units, with the design partially based on your country’s first operation nuke- the Blue Danube. With a predicted yield of ten kilotons, each bomb would create an estimated crater of 375 feet across for a surface blast and 640 feet if detonated 35 feet below ground. Versatile, the device could either be detonated by timer (capable of being set as far as eight days in advance), directly with a wire from up to 3 miles away, or simply detonated automatically if any of several anti-tampering devices were activated.

Sold!

This is exactly what happened. In July of 1957, the British Army Council order 10 of these so-called Blue Peacock nuclear landmines. However, the designers of the bomb foresaw a problem. The bomb’s sensitive components had to be kept at a certain temperature, far above the average of mid-Europe in winter. They also had to be kept at that temperature for potentially several days after an invasion and subsequent deployment of the nuclear mines.

At this point the boy-wonders floated a couple of options for warming the device. By far the most interesting proposal was to place a coop filled with chickens and seed inside the bomb before deploying it. The chickens could survive in such conditions for at least a week- plenty of time for enemy troops to approach after the nuke was deployed. And, critically, the chicken’s body heat would maintain the proper temperature, while the coop itself would (hopefully) keep them from pecking at the delicate equipment inside.

Perhaps realizing how absolutely ridiculous the chicken idea is (although not the only viable bird-brained bomb idea to come out of this era- see: WWII Files: Pigeon-Guided Missiles and Surprisingly Effective Bat Bombs), or, more likely, realizing the risks of nuclear fallout on neighboring, allied populations (and political fallout once West Germany realized what the British had done to their homeland, invaded or not), in February of 1958, the MoD Weapons Policy Committee scrapped the project.

However, two inert prototypes were retained, and one still exists today, although the public remained blissfully unaware of it until 2004, when Operation Blue Peacock was declassified and included in a National Archives exhibition. Given that the exhibit opened on April 1st and a critical suggested component of the nuclear mines was chickens, more than a few people thought that Blue Peacock was an elaborate joke – forcing the National Archives to put out an official statement that while “it does seem like an April Fool . . . it most certainly is not. The Civil Service does not do jokes.”

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MIGHTY HISTORY

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

From the court-martial of Billy Mitchell to Robin Olds’ mustache, U.S. Air Force history is filled with examples of Airmen thumbing their nose at authority. So of course what started as a way to identify friendly units in mid-air in World War I quickly evolved into a way of thumbing one’s nose at military uniformity and authority. The unintended consequence of that effort is a gallery of beauty and style — a lasting legacy in the minds of generations to come.


4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

This art form is as old as powered flight. In the context of war, crews created designs to immortalize their hometowns, their wives and sweethearts back home, to earn themselves a name in the minds of their enemies, or provide some kind of psychological protection from death, among other motifs.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

 

Some things were universal. “Mors ab alto” is Latin for “Death from above.” And then some art was based entirely on the record of the plane. Like the B-29 Superfortress Bockscar, below, who dropped the atomic bomb dubbed Fat Man on Nagasaki, Japan, and whose nose art depicts a train boxcar nuking Nagasaki.

 

Nose art was also a great way to build esprit de corps with the crew and maintainers around a plane, as seen in this photo of the crew of Waddy’s Wagon recreating their own nose art.

 

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

Of course, a list of the best WWII nose art would not be complete without the pin-ups.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

Nose art wasn’t all sexy women and bombs, though. Some crews used their nose to (deservedly) brag.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

Don Gentile, World War II Eagle Squadron member and the first ace to beat Eddie Rickenbacker’s WWI dogfighting record, flew a P-51B famously called Shangri-La, which featured a bird wearing boxing gloves.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

And sometimes, when your war record is long enough, it’s okay to let the world know you’re watching the clock.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

Popular cartoons were also featured on World War II-era planes. Walt Disney famously looked the other way (in terms of copyright infringement) for much of the art done in the name of winning the war, notably on bomber jackets and nose art. The RAF’s Ian Gleed flew a Supermarine Spitfire featuring Geppetto’s cat Figaro.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

American pilot and Doolittle Raider Ted Lawson flew a B-25 Mitchell Bomber over Tokyo called the Ruptured Duck, an image of an angry, sweating Donald Duck wearing pilot headphones in front of crossed crutches.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

Next time you watch Dumbo with your kids, remember that Dumbo dropped ordnance on Japan and was said to be fairly accurate.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

Bomb icons depicted the number of missions flown over the enemy. For some icons weren’t enough. Thumper here took the war personally and marked the name of each city it bombed.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

 

Nose art was also used to complain (as all troops do) as a way to deal with the monotony of deployed life, the lack of supplies, and/or the frustrations of the crew to keep their bird flying, as seen by Malfunction Sired by Ford.

Or it was used to brag that they could keep their girl in the air, with whatever they had lying around.

 

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

Some crews definitely brought their A-game to the art form, like the crew of this B-29 Superfortress.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

Others tried, but were ultimately (and obviously) better suited to fighting the war than designing the nose of their B-24 Liberator.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

The award for all-around best nose-art in World War II has to go to the RAF’s James Archibald Findlay MacLachlan, who lost an arm to a combat injury early in the war and thus had to fly with a prosthetic limb. His fighter plane’s nose depicted the hand from his own amputated arm making the “V for Victory” sign.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

Now: 6 of the most badass US military test pilots of all time

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The Military Took These Incredible Photos In Just One Week-Long Period

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE

F-16 Fighting Falcons taxi down the runway March 3, 2015, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The F-16s are assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron at Eielson AFB. Aggressor pilots returned after completing a mobile training team exercise.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference
Photo: Senior Airman Peter Reft/USAF

Pilots in an F-15E Strike Eagle receive fuel from a New Hampshire Air National Guard KC-135R Stratotanker March 17, 2015, over North Carolina. The pilots and F-15E aircraft are from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference
Photo: Airman Ashlyn J. Correia/USAF

NAVY

Sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) heave line during an underway replenishment and ammunition onload with the Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8). Theodore Roosevelt deployed from Norfolk and will execute a homeport shift to San Diego at the conclusion of deployment.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Anthony Hopkins/USN

EAST CHINA SEA (March 17, 2015) Sailors assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU) taxi an AV-8B Harrier assigned to Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 238.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Matthew Dickinson/USN

ARMY

Army paratroopers, assigned to 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, sit in the door of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter as it lifts off. The airborne operation held March 19, 2015 at Grafenwoehr, Germany, is the final preparation for the unit before they conduct multinational exercises across Europe.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference
Photo: 2nd Lt. Steven Siberski/US Army

Bach, a military working dog, takes down an Army military policeman during a demonstration at Fort Sill, Okla., March 12, 2015. The demonstration showed how Fort Sill’s K9 Unit assists with searches for narcotics, explosives and assists in apprehending suspects.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference
Photo: Marie Berberea/US Army

MARINE CORPS

Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unitconduct a daytime boat operation exercise using Combat Rubber Raiding Crafts as part of amphibious integration training aboard the USS Green Bay, at sea, March 11, 2015. The Marines and sailors are currently conducting their spring patrol of the Asia-Pacific region.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference
Photo: Gunnery Sgt. Ismael Pena/USMC

Marines with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit conduct a nighttime boat operation exercise using a Combat Rubber Raiding Craft as part of amphibious integration training aboard the USS Green Bay, at sea, March 11, 2015. The Marines and sailors are currently conducting their spring patrol of the Asia-Pacific region.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference
Photo: Gunnery Sgt. Ismael Pena/USMC

COAST GUARD

Petty Officer 1st Class Denis Butierries holds his son Jacob so he can get a view of Honolulu Harbor during a tour of the Coast Guard Cutter Rush Dec. 23. 2014. Six-year-old Jacob was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy when he was four months old and was given between four months and one year to live. His longtime wish was to see the Rush where his grandfather served as the engineering officer.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference
Photo: Chief Petty Officer Kurt Fredrickson/USCG

Coast Guard Station Golden Gate lifeboat crews conduct surf training in Sausalito, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014. The crews train in high surf to ensure they are prepared to respond to any maritime emergency during rough weather conditions.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference
Photo: Petty Officer 3rd Class Loumania Stewart/USCG

NOW: This Is What It Was Like To Feel Zero G Aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’

AND: Meet The Marine Veteran Who’s Going To Be Star Wars’ Next Villian

OR WATCH: The Most Evil Weapons Ever Created

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It’s all out gorilla warfare in the trailer for ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’

“War for the Planet of the Apes” — the sequel to the sequel to the second remake of the Charlton Heston sci-fi classic — picks up the saga of ape freedom fighter Caesar (Andy Serkis), as he and his army of super-smart, genetically-modified apes seek to turn what’s left of the United States into their own banana republic.


As in 2014’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” humanity is on the retreat as the ape army gains ground, and the last armed resistance against the simian conquerors appears to be in the hands of a ruthless — and mostly shirtless — Colonel (Woody Harrelson).

While Caesar’s voiceover in the trailer makes it clear that the apes never wanted war, they’re determined to defend themselves at all cost. Even if it means armageddon.

‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ swings into theaters everywhere on July 14, 2017.

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MIGHTY HISTORY

How the soldiers of Outpost Harry decimated an entire Chinese Division

By the summer of 1953, the Korean War had raged on for three years. The back and forth maneuvers up and down the peninsula had given way to a stalemate known as the Battle of the Outposts.


All along the 38th Parallel, the belligerents attacked one another’s outposts in the hopes of affecting a breakthrough. Blocking the Communist forces from driving straight on Seoul through the Cheorwon Valley, in an area known as the “Iron Triangle,” were three lonely outposts: Tom, Dick, and Harry.

Outpost Harry was situated on a hilltop in front of the Main Line of Resistance and opposite a Chinese position known as Star Hill. Being so far out in front meant that resupply was difficult and always under enemy observation. Harry’s 1,280-foot elevation did nothing to help matters.

On the night of June 10, 1953, as negotiations to end the war took place just over 50 miles away, elements of the Chinese 74th Division attacked in force. The task of defending the outpost that night fell on K Company, 15th Infantry Regiment. Having spent the previous days improving their defenses and sighting in weapons, they were given the order to hold at all costs.

The attack began with a bombardment by mortars, rockets, and artillery. Suddenly the outpost was illuminated by enemy flares. Bugles and whistles sounded and over 3,600 Chinese soldiers rushed toward the outpost. The Americans rained fire down on the advancing Chinese. They exploded 55 gallon drums of Napalm in the midst of the attackers and blasted them with artillery. They were able to repulse two determined waves before the Chinese made it to the trenches and engaged in hand-to-hand combat. The Chinese were overrunning the outpost.

Lt. Sam Buck, Forward Observer from the 39th Artillery Battalion, was in the Command Post on Harry when it was overrun by the Chinese. As Chinese grenades exploded in the bunker and his comrades were wounded, he continued to resist, dropping any Chinese that came through the door with a burst from his carbine. Eventually wounded and unable to continue firing, he played dead while the Chinese occupied the bunker. The fighting was so intense, one of his last actions before being evacuated later that night was to put the Company Commander’s eyeball back in its socket.

With the defense of the outpost in peril the defenders were rallied by Sgt. Ola Mize. Throughout the attack Mize moved about the outpost tending to wounded, resupplying ammunition, and killing numerous enemies. Three times he was knocked down by explosions and three times he continued his mission. For his actions he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Eventually artillery strikes called right on top of the outpost, along with reinforcements from C and E Companies, drove the Chinese out of the trenches. A diversionary attack by F Company, 65th Infantry Regiment also helped in clearing the area. The next morning only a handful of the original defenders were still in fighting shape. K Company was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for their gallantry at the outpost.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference
A United States Army artillery crew fires a 105-millimeter howitzer against North Korean Communist positions during a battle in the Republic of Korea. AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM

B Company, 15th Infantry Regiment relieved K Company and took up the defense of Harry on June 11. Again darkness fell, and the Chinese began bombarding the American positions. Advancing through their own artillery barrage, the Chinese were able to gain the trenches once again. The defenders threw back several attacks before being reinforced by B Company, 5th Regimental Combat Team. Together the two companies defeated a second Chinese regiment in as many nights. B Company, 15th Infantry was awarded the regiment’s second Presidential Unit Citation.

The next night it was A Company, 5th Regimental Combat Team’s turn on the outpost, and once again the Chinese sent a reinforced regiment against the American position. As before, the Chinese advanced through both their own artillery and the Americans’ before entering the trenches where bitter hand-to-hand combat took place. The 15th Infantry Regiment sent L Company to reinforce and drive out the Chinese while another unit of tanks and infantry assaulted through the valley in a diversionary attack. For their actions in the defense, A Company, 5th RCT was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation.

The following night, June 13, was relatively quiet. The main action was against a Chinese screening force that attempted to recover their dead from the area around the outpost.

On the night of June 14, a small Chinese force was able to close in on the trenches through their own artillery barrage and attack G Company, 15th Infantry from the rear of the outpost. Reinforcements from E Company, 15th Infantry and a diversionary attack by elements of the 65th Infantry drove the Chinese from the outpost once again.

The next two nights were quiet on the outpost and allowed for some much needed repairs. Men from the Sparta Battalion of the Greek Expeditionary Force were also brought into the area to reinforce the depleted and beleaguered defenders. The Chinese used this time to cobble together what was left of the 74th Division for one more attack on the outpost.

That attack came on the night of June 17. The Chinese threw everything they had left in one last desperate attempt to dislodge the defenders of Outpost Harry. That night the men of P Company, Sparta Battalion, bore the brunt of the Chinese attack. Friendly artillery pounded the slopes around the trenches while the Greeks threw back wave after wave of communist attackers. N Company, Sparta Battalion reinforced their brothers and drove off the Chinese. The 74th Division retreated from the area, combat ineffective after the battle with U.N. Forces. P Company was awarded the American Presidential Unit Citation for holding Outpost Harry the final night.

In total there were five Presidential Unit Citations given for action at Outpost Harry, as well as one Medal of Honor and numerous other personal awards for valor. Just over a month later the armistice was signed, and the defense of Outpost Harry was crucial in ensuring a favorable agreement.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 ‘dumb’ military tactics that actually worked

“If it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid,” is how the old saying goes. Though it isn’t said much anymore, the meaning behind it still rings true – and has for generations. A tactic that seems so stupid can be useful to the right mind. It can goad an enemy into losing focus and abandoning caution. These tactics can be used to influence an enemy’s thoughts and actions. It can even change the future for millions.

So don’t be so quick to judge.


4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

Napoleon at Austerlitz

In the beginning of the 19th Century, Napoleon was making his presence known across Europe. The end of the old order was at hand as “The Little Corporal” from Corsica took control of the French and dominated the armies and rulers of Europe. But the social order wasn’t the only thing he upended. Napoleon upended the entire doctrine warfare, how battles were fought, forever. Nothing is more obvious than his win at Austerlitz, where a seemingly rookie mistake was the key to victory.

As Napoleon fielded the French to take on a superior Russian-Austrian force outside of Vienna, things looked bleak, and the French were widely expected to lose and be forced to flee Austria. With every passing day, Napoleon’s enemies became stronger. To goad them into a fight in the place of his choosing, he occupied the heights overlooking the town of Austerlitz, basic military strategy since the days of Sun-Tzu. As the combined enemy army approached, they saw the French abandon those heights. The battle was on, and Napoleon used the heights as a psych-out. Once the French took the heights in combat, the battle was over for the Russian-Austrian allies, and Napoleon was Master of Europe.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

Israeli independence

When the state of Israel was proclaimed in 1948, it was a jubilant day for the Jewish people – and no one else in the region. The Jews of the new nation of Israel were immediately surrounded on all sides by Arab enemies with superior numbers, technology, money, and basically anything else you might need to win a protracted war for independence. What the Israelis had going for them was a ton of World War II veterans and a lot of cunning brainpower. So even when they had to make bombing runs in single-engine prop planes, they managed to win the day even if they didn’t have bombs.

As an advancing Arab army approached Tel Aviv, the Jewish forces in the area were at a loss on how to repel them. They had no bombs to support the Israeli troops in the region, and even if they did, they had no bombers to fly them. They needed an equalizer. Someone with combat experience in WWII remembered that seltzer bottles tend to whistle like bombs when dropped from a height. When full of seltzer, they also explode with a loud bang. So that’s what the nascent IAF used. The Arabs didn’t really have seltzer or those old-timey bottles used to spray it, so they really thought they were being bombed – and disbursed.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

The army led by a zombie

Some people are just so necessary for success you can’t afford to let them go. Unfortunately for Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar and the people of Valencia, one such person was missing when Muslim armies from Morocco were marching their way. They must have gotten wind that Rodrigo was no longer with the army of Valencia, which was true. Rodrigo was no longer among those defenders because Rodrigo was also no longer among the living. Since the Christian knight had never lost a battle, his reputation alone was enough to keep invaders at bay.

Luckily for Rodrigo – whom you might know better as El Cid – he had a pretty cunning wife, Jimena. Jimena ordered El Cid’s dead, decomposing body be fully armored and dressed, then lashed to his horse. Jimena then told the army to make a valiant last cavalry charge to break the siege, with El Cid at the head. When the Muslims saw the Spaniards coming at them with El Cid at the head of the attack, they immediately broke ranks and tried to flee but were cut down by the Spanish defenders.

Strong men marry strong women. Remember that.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

Island-hopping to fight another day

In 1942, things looked really bad for the allied naval forces in the Pacific. The December 1941 attack on the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor came at the same time of a half dozen other surprise Japanese attacks throughout the region. Attempts to hit the Japanese back at the Java Sea and the Sunda Straits were met with abject failure. After the Japanese Empire captured the Dutch East Indies, the Navy was limping pretty bad. Hong Kong, Malaya, Burma, and more had all fallen to the mighty Japanese initiative. As all allied ships were ordered to retreat to Australia, one was somehow left behind.

That was the HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen, a Dutch minesweeper which was separated after the attacks on the East Indies. Armed with one three-inch gun and two 20mm cannons, the minesweeper was no match for any of the Japanese warships floating around the islands. In order to stay undetected, the Dutch covered the ship in foliage and painted the hull the color of rocks. They moored the ship near islands by day and moved only by night – and it worked. She not only made it to Australia, she survived the war.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

(Laughs in Mongol)

Mongols think differently

For much of the Western World in the Middle Ages, a retreat was not a good thing. If a cavalry force appears routed, it might lead to the infantry breaking ranks and running. Even the most orderly of retreats was considered as an option only at the last possible moments. That was not how the Mongols under Genghis Khan thought of a retreat. A retreat was a tactic to be used like any other tactic.

There are many examples of the use of a feigned retreat in this history of the Mongol conquests. The reason for this is because it worked. It worked really really well. Troops from China to Poland would be locked in a life-or-death struggle against the Mongol hordes when suddenly the Mongols would turn tail and run, their spirit to fight seemingly broken. As a chorus of cheers went up from the exhausted defenders, they would inevitably give chase to the invaders – only to watch as the retreating Mongols turn again, in full force, and on ground that supports them.

The defenders would then be slaughtered to a man.

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This Marine legend went from the beaches of Iwo Jima to the fields of the Negro League

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference


The Rev. Dr. William “Bill” Greason’s voice echoed from the curved white ceiling of Bethel Baptist Church. Direct and robustly musical, Greason’s message pulsed around his congregation.

“I didn’t buy this breath,” he said. “Somebody gave it to me.”

Greason, 90, still measures in at a lanky 5’10” and, other than a smattering of grey, resembles his 1948 Birmingham Black Barons rookie card. His eyes retain their youthful charm and twinkle with wisdom and humor.

He is slow to talk about himself and his accomplishments, but his story is one that begs to be told.

The tale of Bill Greason begins long before he was scouted as a baseball wunderkind by the Negro American League, and contains more substance than a beefy ERA.

Greason was born in 1924 and grew up in Atlanta, Ga., on Auburn Avenue, across the street from playmate Martin Luther King, Jr. Auburn Avenue, also known as Sweet Auburn, was a historically black neighborhood deep in the heart of the segregated South.

Greason explained that he and his four siblings were aware of racial inequality, but were not defined by their circumstances or overcome by anger.

“My parents taught us ‘you are somebody,’ Greason said. “Don’t let anybody make you feel that you’re not. If anybody doesn’t like the color of your skin, tell them to talk to God. But your character — that’s on you.”

Greason’s character and sense of identity fortified him when he joined the Armed Forces in 1943 after graduating from high school.

In the midst of World War II, Greason was called to enlist and serve among the first black Marine recruits, The Montford Point Marines. These exceptional men had been denied access to full democratic freedom at home and were prepared to die for their country, yet Greason and his comrades continued to experience prejudice from their white counterparts during service.

“We were told in the beginning that we weren’t wanted in there,” Greason said. “So we had to prove ourselves.”

This is exactly what they did. In what became one of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War, Greason and fellow Marines took to the shores of Iwo Jima, Japan to win a decisive victory for the United States, despite heavy casualties.

On Nov. 23, 2011, President Barack Obama signed legislation to award a collective Congressional Gold Medal to the Montford Point Marines, the highest civilian honor.

“As the Congressional Gold Medal for the Montford Point Marines is issued, it is a special privilege to extend our fullest appreciation to Reverend William Greason and salute his exceptional life and service to his community and his country,” said U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus in a tribute to Greason in 2012.

“Surviving the island,” Greason said, “was a miracle that had an everlasting impact.”

“When I was on the island of Iwo Jima, with the Marines dying all around and two of my best friends were killed, I promised the Lord that if he saved me, if I was able to get off that island, anything He wanted me to do I would do it,” he said.

Greason left Iwo Jima unscathed, but memories of the island remain with him and he is eager to share their lessons.

“It taught you something about life and how precious it is,” Greason said. “You don’t want to destroy anybody — you want to help wherever you can.”

After occupational duty in Japan for 13 months, Greason returned stateside with a rekindled passion for life and a new talent: baseball.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

Most of the literature on Greason’s remarkable baseball career concerns itself with statistics: his 3.61 ERA and 193 strikeouts in 1953, the pennant he led the Black Barons to in ’48, his snappy curving fastball and his nickname, “Double Duty,” earned for his workhorse mentality on the mound and at the plate.

The numbers provide a chill, sterile glance — a press box view — of a history won in grit, nerve and determination.

When the undefeated Black Barons suffered their only loss to the Asheville Blues at the hands of 24-year-old Greason in 1948, player-manager Lorenzo “Piper” Davis was in the process of scouring the Negro League for raw talent to add to his unrivaled team. Recruiting Greason was a no- brainer.

Black players in America’s favorite pastime had a special burden according to Greason.

“We were blessed to be part of this great history of Negro League Baseball,” he said. “Wherever we would go and play, they recognized us as being gentlemen.”

The Birmingham Black Barons and other Negro League teams seemed to understand that baseball, unlike other sports at the time, held national significance. They stepped up to bat and they represented not only themselves, but also the hope of equality for their entire race.

“We were taught to retain and maintain our dignity,” Greason said. “We didn’t disgrace our parents. We didn’t disgrace the people we worked for. We didn’t disgrace the city.”

1948 proved to be the last year of the Negro League World Series, and though the Barons lost the championship in the final hour to the Homestead Grays, Greason’s physical talent and emotional maturity preceded him.

He pitched two years in the Mexican League (1950–1951); eight in the minors (1952–1959), as the first black player for the Oklahoma City Indians; and five years in the winter leagues (1951; 1954- 1958), where he notably played against Fidel Castro in Havana, Cuba.

After Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, there was a major decline in support for the Negro Leagues. As the players were scouted into minor and major leagues, fans followed, ultimately sealing the Negro League’s fate.

In 1954, after returning from serving in the Korean War, Greason was scouted by the St. Louis Cardinals as the team’s first black pitcher. He was honored September 2014 with a Living Legend Award.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

“It was a blessing in disguise,” Greason said. “It gave our players opportunity to earn more money in ‘organized ball’ as they called it.”

It is the entrepreneurial spirit of the Negro League players that Ora Jerald, executive director of the American Negro League Baseball Association, is striving to inspire in Birmingham youth.

Along with Greason and other Black Barons legends, Jerald established the legacy initiative Project HELP (History Entrepreneurs Leadership Program).

What started out as baseball camps and demonstrations developed into a pointed effort to prepare economically compromised children for brighter futures.

“The spirit of entrepreneurship and leadership is very much a part of the overall history of the Negro Leagues,” Jerald said. “And the legacy then is to make sure that something profound is left in the lives and hearts of the children.”

Jerald explained that the historical impact of Greason’s life has helped inspire children beyond the baseball diamond.

“We’ve developed something that we think — entrepreneurship and leadership, certainly — is reflective of what the Negro League baseball history stands for and what it represented at the time when Greason was at his peak as a player,” Jerald said.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference
In addition to Project HELP, Greason, in collaboration with members of his congregation at Bethel Baptist, has curated a museum depicting not only his life in baseball: uniforms, trophies and awards, but also the lives of outstanding community members, including Michael Holt.

“We want our community to see that your circumstances don’t define who you are,” said Holt, who spent 31 years in government service as the assistant director for Homeland Security.

The Rev. William “Bill” Greason Museum of Legends is currently open to the public and is most easily accessed on Sundays after church at Bethel Baptist.

When asked what he wishes his legacy to be, Greason smiles and says, “Humility. The way up is down. It’s a paradox. Popularity wanes, but character is retained.”

Wise words from a man with much to be proud of.

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Market Magazine.

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Medal Of Honor Hero Kyle Carpenter Just Gave An Inspiring Speech That Everyone Should Read

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference


Former Marine Cpl. Kyle Carpenter gave a powerful speech to his fellow veterans of the Battle of Marjah recently that everyone should take the time to read.

Also Read: 4 Reasons Why Going To War Gives Veterans An Edge Over Their Civilian Peers 

Carpenter, who received the Medal of Honor last year for jumping on a grenade to save his friend’s life during the battle, told his fellow Marines that “it’s your medal” at a reunion on the five-year anniversary of Operation Moshtarak last week at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

“With this short amount of time I have to speak to you tonight, I couldn’t possibly sum up the historical battle of Marjah,” Carpenter said in his speech, according to a transcription from Hope Hodge Seck of Marine Corps Times. “I am comforted, though, by the fact that the men in this room don’t need a summary because you were right there beside me. You felt the incredible heat of a 100 percent humidity day and the cool waters of a muddy canal. You felt the weight of 100 pounds of gear, ammo and water at your back, the weight of knowing as Marines we are and forever will be the first line of defense for our loved ones, our nation and above all, freedom.”

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference
Kyle Carpenter and Nick Eufrazio

The Battle of Marjah involved 15,000 American, Afghan, Canadian, British, and French troops in the largest joint operation up to that point in the Afghan war. The effort to wrestle the key town of Marjah from the Taliban took NATO forces nearly 10 months, according to ABC News.

“I stand here today extremely proud of you all. I’m proud of the job you did in the face of what most cannot even fathom. I am more than honored to call you friends, fellow Marines and brothers,” Carpenter said. “You stand as an example for others and for what’s best for not only our nation but the rest of the world.”

In his speech, Carpenter did not reference his incredible example from Nov. 21, 2010, when he jumped on a grenade while providing rooftop security at a small outpost. “I only remember a few moments after I got hit,” Carpenter told me previously when I interviewed him for Business Insider. “But nothing before.”

He was severely wounded — as was his friend Lance Cpl. Nick Eufrazio — but both survived. While Carpenter lost his right eye and took shrapnel throughout his face and lower body, his recovery has been nothing short of remarkable.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference
Photo: The White House

Carpenter continued (via Marine Times):

Be proud of who you are. Be proud of what you did in that country. You are alive today and have been blessed with this opportunity of life. Don’t waste it. Live a life worth living, full of meaning and purpose, and one that will make the fallen who are looking down on us proud.

Marines, I’m proud to have worn the same uniform as you.

Never forget that when no one else would raise their right hand, you did. You sacrificed and became part of our nation’s history and our Marine Corps legacy for taking part in the historical battleground of Marjah. Thank you so much. I really do appreciate it.

Marine Corps Times has the full speech. It’s definitely worth a read.

NOW: This Hero Saved Six Soldiers From A Burning Vehicle While He Was Drenched In Fuel 

OR: 10 Photos That Capture The Military Experience 

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Today in military history: The Red Baron is killed in action

On April 21, 1918, the Red Baron was killed in action.

Manfred von Richthofen, known to allies and enemies as the Red Baron, was a dog-fighting legend in a time when planes were made of wood, fabric, and aluminum.

After joining the German army as a cavalryman, the Barron quickly switched to the Imperial Air Service in 1915, and took to the skies over the western front by 1916.

Between 1916 and 1918, the Red Baron downed 80 enemy aircraft, easily surpassing all flying-ace records of the time.

While many Ace pilots of the era were known for risky and aggressive aerial acrobatics, the Baron was a patient tactician and expert marksman. He preferred to dive upon his enemies from above, often with the sun at his back. His two most famous aircraft, the Albatros D.III and Fokker Dr. I, were painted bright red to honor his old cavalry regiment. 

On April 21st, while hunting British observation aircraft, the Red Baron and his squadron ventured deep into Allied French territory. They quickly got into a tussle with an Allied squadron, and the Baron began to stalk a Canadian Air Force plane.

In the heat of the chase, the Baron flew too low to the ground, and was fired upon from below. Sources differ on who fired the shot, but the kill is often credited to an Australian machine gunner using a Vickers gun. 

The Baron was struck in the chest by a single .303 bullet. Even as he died, he still managed to make a rough landing. By most accounts, his plane was barely even damaged.

He was buried by Allied forces with full military honors.

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This movie about an Iraq War troop based on an acclaimed book is a surefire Oscar contender

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference


It’s never too early to start up Oscar talk, and after watching the trailer for “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” you’ll know what I mean.

Director Ang Lee’s (“Life of Pi,” “Brokeback Mountain”) latest movie looks at the victory tour of 19-year-old soldier Billy Lynn after an intense tour in Iraq. The film shows what really happened over there through flashbacks and contrasts that with the perception of Billy and his squad back home.

It’s based on the universally praised 2012 novel of the same name by Ben Fountain, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. For that and Ang Lee’s name alone, it’s sure to get a lot of attention.

Shot in 3D, the movie is certain to be visually stunning. But it also looks like it has the emotional weight to carry it to award season.

The film stars Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Vin Diesel, Steve Martin, and newcomer Joe Alwyn as Billy Lynn.

Watch the trailer below. The movie opens in November.

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This amazing use of nuclear technology will blow your mind

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference
Image: Lockheed Martin


Imagine a plane that could stay aloft with unlimited range and endurance without refueling. That’s exactly what Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division claims it could develop within ten years.

The makers of some of the most famous military aircraft—the SR-71 Blackbird, U-2 spy plane, and F-117 Nighthawk—are developing a reactor to harness nuclear fusion, the process that powers the sun.

Related: These re the 9 fastest piloted planes in the world

Nuclear technology for power is not a new concept; we’ve been doing it for decades through fission. Fission occurs when an atom is split into smaller fragments, creating small explosions resulting in the release of heat energy. Fusion, on the other hand, is the process by which gas is heated up and separated into its ions and electrons. When the ions get hot enough, they can overcome their mutual repulsion and collide, fusing together, hence its name — fusion. When this happens, the energy released is three to four times more than that of a fission reaction, according to Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin aims to mimic the fusion process within a small magnetic container designed to release its hundreds of millions of degrees of heat in a controlled fashion. These devices will be small enough to be used on planes and other vehicles.

Its compact size is the reason for which the engineers and scientists at Lockheed Martin believe they can achieve this technology so quickly. A small device size allows them to test and fail quickly under budget.

In this video Tom McGuire, a research engineer and scientist at Lockheed Martin explains how they plan to bottle the power of the sun within a decade:

LockheedMartinVideos, YouTube

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Indian military unit fought for the Nazis

During World War II, the military force aiming to install an Aryan master race over the world found potentially unlikely allies on the subcontinent of India where thousands of soldiers joined the “Free Indian Legion,” fighting on behalf of the Nazis against the Allied Powers from the China-Burma-India Theater to the Atlantic Wall on D-Day.


Hitler’s Indian Regiment

www.youtube.com

Hitler’s Indian Regiment

India was a British colony during World War II that sent millions of loyal subjects to fight on behalf of King George VI, but the relationship between Britain and India was strained—to say the least—when the war started. India had been agitating for independence from the East India Company and then the British Crown for about a century.

Indian troops serving Great Britain fought valiantly and earned top awards for heroism in the battle against the Axis Powers, but not all Indian leaders thought the fight against fascism should trump the fight for Indian independence. Much like American patriots in the 1770s capitalized on Britain’s fighting with France, some Indian leaders thought Britain’s war with Germany was the perfect time to break away from the crown.

And the Nazis were happy to help. When they began to take Indian troops prisoner in Africa, they offered those men German uniforms, weapons, and training if they would take up arms against the British. The first 27, all seen as potential officers, were pulled out of German POW camps and sent to Germany for training in 1941. These were soon followed by thousands of others to fill out the ranks.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

Let’s all agree that, regardless of motives or other accomplishments in your life, the photo of you shaking Hitler’s hand will never look good.

(Public domain)

An Indian independence leader, Subhas Chandra Bose, helped start the legion and got serious concessions from Germany on how the troops would be trained, deployed, equipped, paid, and more. Basically, the agreement was that the unit would be trained, paid, and equipped at the same level as any normal German unit.

But, the Indian troops could not be deployed like normal German units. The agreement that formed the unit would limit it to combat deployments focused on overthrowing British control of India. So Germany had to fund the unit like any German force, but they could only use it for Indian independence.

But still, the trade-off was seen as worthwhile by Germany as it struggled with how it would one day root British forces out of the jungles of Asia. This worry would prove well-founded when Britain and India began sending “Chindits” into the jungles to break the logistics chains and defensive lines of Japanese forces.

4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

Soldiers with the Free Indian Legion fight side-by-side with other German soldiers in World War II.

(German Federal Archives)

So the Indian Legion was formed and given a distinctive badge of a leaping tiger. But, in direct contradiction of the agreement, Indian Legion troops would go on to serve almost exclusively in Europe during the war. This wasn’t some dastardly Nazi plot though. It was simply the reality of the battlefield.

Savvy World War II buffs will remember that, while the Axis Powers were triumphantly marching across much of the world in 1941 when the legion was first recruited, it was suffering serious setbacks just a year later.

While the Indian Legion was going through initial recruitment, organization, and training, America joined the war, Polish and French resistance gained strength against Nazi occupiers, England turned back the German tide in the Battle of Britain, and America began limiting and then defeating Japan in the Pacific.

Italy, meanwhile, crumbled under the Allied assault like it was an Olive Garden.

So the Indian Legion, still in Europe for training, was sent to the Netherlands and France to get experience guarding coasts in 1943 until Germany was ready to invade through either the Soviet Union or the Middle East into India. Some Indian Legion members were still on the French coast when the Allies launched the 1944 Operation Overlord, the invasion of Fortress Europe through France.

The Indian Legion saw some combat there, but was quickly pulled from the front lines as the men complained that they would likely be executed as traitors if captured by British forces. The legion continued operations across Nazi-occupied France and Belgium and maintained some presence on the Atlantic Wall.

It suffered a few casualties against French forces, but saw little combat overall until the last of its troops deployed in France were sent to join brethren already in Italy. It was there, in Italy, that the Indian Legion surrendered to the Allies. Indian Legion members generally opted to surrender to American and French forces, but they were handed over to British and Indian forces quickly after capture.

The Indian political climate after the war had little appetite for prosecuting Indians who had worked, albeit with the Nazis, for independence. And most of the soldiers who faced court-martial saw their charges dropped or commuted.

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