This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest

On June 6, 1944, the free men of the world joined together to liberate Europe from the clutches of Hitler. One of these men was 23-year-old Jim “Pee Wee” Martin. A paratrooper in G Company, 3rd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Martin was one of the original 101st Airborne troopers who went through jump school at Camp Toccoa, Georgia. It was during his airborne training that Martin received the nickname “Pee Wee” for his small stature. He went on to fight with the Screaming Eagles in Normandy, Operation Market Garden, and the Battle of the Bulge. During WWII, he earned the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. In April 2021, Martin celebrated his 100th birthday with a massive jump fest near his hometown of Xenia, Ohio.

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest
Jim “Pee Wee” Martin in his Army uniform

One of the last surviving “Toccoa Men”, Martin’s birthday is April 29. To facilitate the festivities, his birthday celebration was held over the weekend from April 23-25. Distinguished guests in attendance included Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Engler of the 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment. Other 101st Airborne veterans, all of whom are over 90, showed up to celebrate their brother in arms’ birthday.

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest
Reenactors drop from restored WWII planes during the birthday celebration (U.S. Army)

The Commemorative Air Force also supported the festivities with restored WWII planes. Using two Douglas C-47 Skytrains and a C-53 Skytrooper, the CAF conducted a flyover and mass parachute drop with reenactors on all three days. After the main drop, tandem parachuting was opened to the public as well.

On the evening of April 24, Martin was presented with multiple gifts and awards. Notably, the city of Xenia declared April 29 as Jim “Pee Wee” Martin Day in honor of his WWII service. Martin also served as an advisor on Band of Brothers, the HBO miniseries that made the 101st Airborne a household name.

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest
Representatives of the 101st Airborne came out to celebrate Martin’s birthday (U.S. Army)

Despite the weekend of festivities dedicated to him, Martin remains humble. He places emphasis on the achievements of his unit. “The Airborne, that patch got you any place you wanted to go and you didn’t have to lie or anything like that,” Martin said. “All you had to do is see that patch and people knew what you’d been doing. I’m very proud of the service that we did, and it’s not an individual thing about me; it’s what the unit did. I don’t go off of individuals.”

Martin also shared words of wisdom with the new generation of 101st troopers. “My advice is go in there, work hard, do everything right, don’t make any missteps, and remember this: all of us older guys are looking to you.”

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (left) greets Jim “Pee Wee” Martin (second from the right) a happy birthday (U.S. Army)

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Google Maps accidentally sparked a military invasion

Computer programming is a complex, detail-oriented skill that is extremely prone to human error. Oftentimes, those little errors are found and fixed before anyone even notices, but when a tech giant like Google makes even the slightest mistake, there are massive, real-world consequences.


Mapmaking is as painstaking a task as it is a political one. It’s easy when a border follows distinct geographical markings (such as the Rio Grande, which demarcates Texas to the north and Mexico to the south), but when lines are drawn based on nothing but territorial claims, there is almost always conflict. Borders on maps are created after both parties agree on where each side’s land ends. If they don’t agree and maps are created anyways (declaring one region, in part, belongs to another), you get conflicts, like that of Kashmir.

Today, many rely on Google Maps for a fairly accurate representation of the world. Years of research and the collection of billions of bytes of data has helped Google calculate where roads are, figure out which restaurants serve the best grub, and determine where borderlines are drawn. This is rarely an issue but, in October 2010, Nicaraguan troops invaded Costa Rica because Google Maps showed a region, which was indisputably Costa Rican, belonged to Nicaragua.

 

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest
(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Eden Pastora, former Sandinista commander turned politician, was in charge of dredging a river along the border. For the safety of the workers, the Nicaraguan military sent 50 troops for protection. The river was created and the armed troops entered the Costa Rican territory of Isla Calero unannounced. When pressed on the issue, Pastora responded that he was only following the map he picked up from Google.

Google apologized, corrected their mistake, and the world laughed — but the troops didn’t leave. In fact, the conflict was very heated.

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest
Costa Rica may not have a standing army, but their police force is serious AF. (Photo by Spc. Jaccob Hearn)

 

Costa Rica disbanded their military in 1948 following a bloody civil war, retaining only a small commando unit. The 50 Nicaraguan soldiers and 70 Costa Rican police officers stared each other down at Isla Calero for well over a month, each ready to fight over the land.

It wasn’t until Nov. 12, when the Organization of American States voted that the land did, in fact, belong to Costa Rica, that Pastora backed down. Five years later, Pastora watched from Nicaragua as the river was filled in with sand.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This 50-year-old jet is the starting point for great fighter pilots

For more than 50 years, the Northrop T-38 Talon has been the principal supersonic jet trainer used by the U.S. Air Force. The twin jet-powered aircraft, which has tandem-seats for the instructor and student pilot, is the world’s first supersonic trainer.

Air Education and Training Command is the primary user of the T-38 for joint specialized undergraduate pilot training. Air Combat Command and the Air Force Materiel Command also use the T-38A in various roles.

Its design features swept wings, a streamlined fuselage and tricycle landing gear with a steerable nose wheel. Critical components can be easily accessed for maintenance and the aircraft boasts an exceptional safety record.


More T-38s have been produced than any other jet trainer and have been used by the U.S. Navy, NASA, and many foreign air forces in addition to the Air Force.

More than 1,100 were delivered to the Air Force between 1961 and 1972 when production ended.

Development

In 1953, Northrop Corporation engineers envisioned developing a small twin-engine “hot-rod” fighter. It would be decidedly different from the majority of early jet designs, which tended towards large, single and heavy engines.

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest

A Northrop YT-38-5-NO 58-1191 in flight over Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., 10 April 1959.

(US Air Force photo)

The N-156 project began in 1954 with the goal of producing small, agile fighters that could operate from the decks of the Navy’s smallest escort carriers. That market disappeared as the Navy focused on large carriers. However, Northrop continued development with the goal of selling the lightweight fighter to allied air forces.

Then, in the mid-1950s the Air Force issued a General Operating Requirement for a supersonic trainer. Northrop entered a modified N-156 and won the competition, receiving an order for three prototypes, the first of which, designated YT-38, flew in April 1959. The first production T-38 Talons were delivered to the Air Force in 1961. By the time production ended in 1972, 1,187 T-38s had been built.

Deployment

AETC utilized the T-38A to train Air Force pilots that would eventually fly diverse operational aircraft, such as the F-4 Phantom II, the SR-71, the KC-135 and the B-52 in the 1960’s and 70’s. At the same time, the AT-38B variant was equipped with a gun sight and practice bomb dispenser specifically for weapons training.

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest

A T-38 Talon flies in formation, with the B-2 Spirit of South Carolina, during a training mission over Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Feb. 20, 2014.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

In 2001, most T-38As and T-38Bs were being converted to the T-38C, with its “glass cockpit” of integrated avionics, head-up display and electronic “no drop bomb” scoring system, which has prepared student pilots for flying everything from the A-10 to the B-2 to the F-22.

Advanced JSUPT students fly the T-38C in aerobatics, formation, night, instrument, and cross-country navigation training.
Test pilots and flight test engineers are trained in T-38s at the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

AFMC uses the T-38 to test experimental equipment, such as electrical and weapon systems.

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest

Two T-38 chase planes follow Space Shuttle Columbia as it lands at Northrop Strip in White Sands, NM, ending its mission STS-3.

(NASA photo)

Pilots from most NATO countries train in the T-38 at Sheppard AFB, Texas, through the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program.

NASA uses T-38 aircraft as trainers for astronauts and as observation and chase planes on programs such as the Space Shuttle.

Did you know?

  • In 1962, the T-38 set absolute time-to-climb records for 3,000, 6,000, 9,000 and 12,000 meters, beating the records for those altitudes set by the F-104 in December 1958.
  • A fighter version of the N-156 was eventually selected for the U.S. Military Assistance Program for deployment in allied air forces. It was produced as the F-5 Freedom Fighter, with the F-5G advanced single-engine variant later renamed the F-20 Tigershark.
  • Although upgrades are expected to extend the T-38C’s service life past 2020, the Air Force has launched the T-X Program and is engaged in a prototype competition to replace it.
  • In response to the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, from 1974 to 1983, the U.S. Air Force flight demonstration team, the Thunderbirds, adopted the T-38 Talon, which used far less fuel than the F-4 Phantom.
This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest

The USAF Thunderbirds, T-38A “Talon” aircraft, fly in formation in this autographed picture dating back to 1977.

(US Air Force photo)

General characteristics

  • Primary Function: Advanced jet pilot trainer
  • Builder: Northrop Corp.
  • Power Plant: Two General Electric J85-GE-5 turbojet engines with afterburners
  • Thrust: 2,050 pounds dry thrust; 2,900 with afterburners
  • Thrust (with PMP): 2,200 pounds dry thrust; 3,300 with afterburners
  • Length: 46 feet, 4 inches (14 meters)
  • Height: 12 feet, 10 inches (3.8 meters)
  • Wingspan: 25 feet, 3 inches (7.6 meters)
  • Speed: 812 mph (Mach 1.08 at sea level)
  • Ceiling: Above 55,000 feet (16,764 meters)
  • Maximum Takeoff Weight: 12,093 pounds (5,485 kilograms)
  • Range: 1,093 miles
  • Armament: T-38A/C: none; AT-38B: provisions for practice bomb dispenser
  • Unit Cost: 6,000 (1961 constant dollars)
  • Crew: Two, student and instructor
  • Date Deployed: March 1961
  • Inventory: Active force, 546; ANG, 0; Reserve 0

Source: AF.mil

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

Articles

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again

During the famed and perilous evacuation of Dunkirk in World War II, brave pilots, sailors, and citizens fought tooth and nail to rescue soldiers trapped on the French beach from the German Luftwaffe as it attempted to wipe them out.


One of the pilots, Squadron Leader Geoffrey Stephenson, was shot down in a Spitfire MK1 N3200 on May 26, 1940, the opening hours of Operation Dynamo. Stephenson spent most of the war as a prisoner of the Germans, eventually staying at the famous Colditz Castle after numerous escape attempts from other prisons.

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest
A Spitfire Mk. 1A flies in 1937. (Photo: Royal Air Force)

But his aircraft, hit through the radiator and with other damage to the body, was left on the beach near Calais, France. The Spitfire plane became a popular photo destination for German soldiers who would often take small parts of the aircraft with them as souvenirs.

By the time the Allies liberated Calais in 1944, no one was too worried about digging what scrap remained out of the beach. And so the plane continued to sit, slowly becoming more and more buried by the mud and sand on the beach.

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest
The restored Spitfire Mk. 1A taxis to the runway at an air show in England. (Photo: YouTube/Imperial War Museums)

It wasn’t until 1986, over 40 years after the war ended, that the plane was recovered — and it wasn’t until the new millennium that someone decided to actually restore the old bird.

Thomas Kaplan, an American investor and philanthropist, backed the 14-year restoration project and gifted the plane, now back in flying condition, to the Imperial War Museum.

Now the plane is housed at the same hangar on the same base that it flew from that fateful day in 1940, but it has a much different mission. It serves as a flying history exhibit for the museum, soaring over air shows and allowing visitors to hear what the original Spitfires sounded like in combat.

Learn more about the history of the plane and see it in flight in the video below:

MIGHTY HISTORY

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history

Although its opening was originally delayed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the National Museum of the United States Army in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, houses historic Army artifacts like an M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle from the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, General Grant’s Forage Cap from the Civil War and an M4 Sherman tank from WWII. However, this Sherman is a rather special one. Its name is Cobra King and it holds the distinct honor of being the first tank to break through to the beleaguered 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.

Cobra King served with the 37th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division during WWII and fought through France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, and into Czechoslovakia. Unlike regular Sherman tanks, Cobra King is an M4A3E2 “Jumbo” experimental variant. Classified as Assault Tanks, Jumbos were equipped with thicker armor than standard Shermans and were often re-armed with high-velocity 76mm M1 main guns (although Cobra King retained its factory short-barrel 75mm M3 gun during the Battle of the Bulge). The extra armor slowed the tanks down by 3-4 mph. Jumbos also featured duckbill-style extended end connectors fitted to the outside edges of their tracks for added weight-bearing and stability.


This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest
An M4A3E2 Sherman Jumbo on display in Belgium bearing 37th Tank Battalion markings (Photo Credit: Public Domain)

Cobra King’s name follows the tank corps tradition of naming vehicles by the company’s designation; Cobra King belonged to the 37th Tank Battalion’s C Company. According to Army historian Patrick Jennings, Cobra King had been knocked out of action in France in November 1944. The tank was repaired and returned to action in Luxembourg. There, tank commander Charles Trover was killed by a sniper on December 23 as he stood in Cobra King’s turret. Trover was replaced by Lt. Charles Boggess who commanded Cobra King during the Battle of the Bulge.

Along with Boggess, Cobra King was crewed by driver Pvt. Hubert Smith, assistant driver/bow gunner Pvt. Harold Hafner, loader Pvt. James Murphy and gunner Cpl. Milton Dickerman. The five men led General Patton’s 3rd Army’s relief of Bastogne on December 26. Driving at full speed and sweeping the road ahead with gunfire, Cobra King made a 5-mile push through intense German resistance toward Bastogne. “I used the 75 like it was a machine gun,” Dickerman recalled. “Murphy was plenty busy throwing in shells. We shot 21 rounds in a few minutes and I don’t know how much machine gun stuff.”

Cobra King came across a team of U.S. combat engineers assaulting a pillbox. The tankers were wary of the engineers since German troops had been infiltrating U.S. lines dressed in American uniforms. Finally, one of the engineers approached Cobra King, stuck his hand out to Boggess and said, “Glad to see you.” The engineers were Americans and part of Able Company, 326th Airborne Engineer Battalion, 101st Airborne Division. Together, Cobra King and the engineers destroyed the pillbox. The link-up marked the end of the German siege of Bastogne. For its relief of the city and the 101st, the 37th Tank Battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

After six weeks in Bastogne waiting for a German counterattack, Cobra King and the 4th Armored Division rejoined the push into Germany. During this time, Cobra King became just another Sherman in the column of armor. Through February and March, the division broke through the Siegfried Line to the Kyll River and battled its way to the Rhine. On April 1, they crossed the Werra River and then crossed the Saale River 11 days later. The division continued to chase the Germans east and crossed into Pisek, Czechoslovakia in early May. After V-E Day on May 7, the division assumed occupation duties in Landshut, Germany until its inactivation the next year.

Cobra King remained in Germany while the 37th Tank Battalion was reactivated in 1951 and re-assigned to the 4th Armored Division in 1953 at Fort Hood, Texas. The 37th would later return to Europe; the division’s 1958 yearbook featured a picture of Cobra King (yet unidentified) on display at McKee Barracks in Crailsheim, Germany. In 1971, the 4th was inactivated and redesignated the 1st Armored Division. In 1994, Crailsheim was closed and all the units posted there, along with Cobra King, were relocated to Vilseck. The 1st was later relocated to Bad Kreuznach, but Cobra King stayed behind.

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest
Cobra King had to be refitted with a 75mm gun during its restoration (Photo by Don Moriarty)

Cobra King stood in silent vigil at Vilseck as an anonymous display tank. Jennings credits Cobra King’s discovery to Army Chaplain Keith Goode, who suspected that the display tank might be the famous Cobra King. Army historians in Germany and the U.S. confirmed his suspicion after extensive research and the tank was shipped back to the states in 2009. Though the interior was damaged beyond repair by years of weather exposure, the exterior was given a full restoration at Fort Knox, Kentucky before Cobra King was put into storage at Fort Benning, Georgia. In 2017, the tank was trucked up to Fort Belvoir amidst the construction of the Army Museum. When the museum does open, Cobra King will proudly stand on display as “FIRST IN BASTOGNE”.

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest
Cobra King is emplaced on its foundation (Credit National Museum of the U.S. Army)
Articles

The first Medal of Honor in modern Army aviation history came in Vietnam

On January 21, 1968, North Vietnam achieved an impossible feat. With its Viet Cong counterparts, it managed to launch a large-scale, coordinated assault on American and South Vietnamese military bases and cities across South Vietnam, and they caught their capitalist enemy completely by surprise. 

Nowhere was this surprise felt stronger by the Americans and South Vietnamese than in the ancient city of Hue, which was situated near the demilitarized zone between North and South. The communists caught the city completely unprepared. The U.S. response in its wake was so piecemeal because military planners couldn’t believe they could capture the city. 

When a division of North Vietnamese soldiers attacked the city in the early morning hours, the defenses were minimal. Much of the force from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) was away for the Tet holiday. No matter what the remaining forces could muster, it would not be enough to repel the communists. 

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest
Marines patrolling the streets in Hue after Tet Offensive (U.S. Army)

The Americans, at first, didn’t fare much better. United States Marines responded with a counterattack but had no idea what they were actually walking into. In fact, in the immediate aftermath, almost no one in the U.S. Army command knew the extent of the losses or of the enemy’s real strength in the city. 

But those inside the city knew. Defenders of a small Military Assistance Command – Vietnam compound and a South Vietnamese Army Base were under heavy assault from the Viet Cong and had taken many casualties. Inside of Hue, they were fighting for their lives. The enemy quickly took control of the old citadel and were assaulting the ARVN base. 

U.S. troops in an American UH-1 Huey helicopter were shot down over the ARVN installation. Once on the ground, they were surrounded by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers. Luckily for them Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Ferguson was flying nearby in a Huey of his own. 

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest
U.S. Army

The Americans knew Hue was under attack. While they may not have known yet the full scope of the situation, they knew it was bad. Ferguson was advised not to try to assist the survivors of the crash but he wasn’t going to let them just die. 

He immediately disregarded his resupply mission and made his way to Hue, where he also started taking anti-aircraft fire. He took his bird on a low-level flight along the Perfume River at maximum airspeed as he flew to the city and found the isolated ARVN compound where the remains of the downed helicopter still lay. 

Under heavy small arms fire, he landed his aircraft in a space so tight it was almost impossible to operate the helicopter. The bird kicked up a storm cloud of dust as it landed and CWO Ferguson began to jettison everything aboard the airship that wasn’t necessary or nailed down. 

As they loaded the wounded and exhausted survivors of the crash, the Huey began to take an enormous amount of small arms and mortar fire, nearly crippling it where it sat. Somehow, though, Ferguson skillfully got the ship airborne in spite of the damage and flew it and the survivors to safety. He flew back at the same speed and altitude at which he came in, taking even more damage to the aircraft. 

His swift decision and cool head under fire saved the lives of five fellow soldiers, safely returning them to Phu Bai.

On Flag Day, 1969, Frederick Ferguson was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Richard Nixon. It was the first one presented to an Army aviator in the Vietnam War. That was far from the end for Ferguson, though. Over the course of his career he was awarded two Silver Stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star Medal, and 39 Air Medals. He is even one of a handful of Americans to appear on a postage stamp while still living.  

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Thomas Jefferson famously edited his Bible based on believability

We’ve all read things that we considered to be unbelievable — but how often do you take the effort to alter the entire book? That’s exactly what Thomas Jefferson is to have famously done, not with just any book, but the Bible. In fact, he created an entire version himself — 84 pages that have been dubbed the Jefferson Bible. Today, it’s on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. 

Jefferson created his form of the Bible toward the end of his life, after being deeply affected by Enlightenment. At the end of the 18th century, he and other founding fathers were influenced by this intellectual movement, which stressed natural-born rights and focusing on those that had been denied by England and their king. 

Thus, Enlightenment caused Jefferson to explore natural rights listed in the Bible, particularly focusing on believability. He also had become accustomed to a deity, in which he believed that God was a supreme being, but did not interfere with everyday life. Therefore, passages of interference had to go. 

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest
An image of the Jefferson Bible being restored at the Smithsonian.

With passages that Jefferson thought to be untrue or elaborated, he decided to edit them out altogether. The former president did this by using a knife and cutting passages directly off the page. He then filled holes with additional passages about Jesus and his teachings. 

Notably, Jefferson removed any and all sections that talked about seemingly supernatural happenings. Any miracles, such as walking on water, turning water into wine, healing efforts and resurrection were all removed by Jefferson. Essentially, if a story was thought to be too far fetched, or if it did not match with his Enlightenment theories, it was removed.  

Replacement passages were in many languages, including English, Greek, Latin and French, and pieced together in his red leather casing. Two books were created: The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth was made in 1804, but no copies of this were ever found, and The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, completed in 1820. However, despite spending hours on this project, Jefferson kept the final version — and the entire process — to himself. He only used it when completely alone and to read in silence. 

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest
An interior shot where Jefferson added phrases to his Bible.

This is said to have been for two reasons. One, editing the Bible — especially with a knife — would have been quite the scandal. Scholars state that, had it been discovered at the time, “it likely would have become one of the most controversial and influential religious works of early American history.”

The other reason Jefferson kept his Biblical work a secret was due to personal beliefs. He thought religion was something to be kept quiet and should not be discussed in public. He wrote to this fact in 1813, a text that was later found with his edited book. After his death, the Jefferson Bible was discovered and studied immensely by religious and history scholars alike. The Smithsonian purchased the Jefferson Bible in 1895 from Jefferson’s great-grandaughter, Carolina Randolph for $400 (about $13,000 in 2021 dollars). At that time the contents were announced and are available today in the public domain.

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

You may have noticed a select few Marines and sailors walking around in their uniforms with a green rope wrapped around their left arm — it’s not just for decoration.


That green rope is called a “French Fourragere,” and it was awarded to the members of the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments for their heroic actions during the Battle of Belleau Wood from the French government in WWI.

This rite of passage extends to Marines who serve in those respected units today to commemorate their brothers in that historic battle.

The Fourragere is authorized on all service uniforms, and dress coats or jackets where medals or ribbons are prescribed.

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest

During the bloody summer months of 1918, the Marines and the Germans fiercely fought one another just northwest of the Paris-to-Metz road. For weeks, German Gen. Erich Ludendorff had his troops attack U.S. forces with artillery, machine guns, and deadly gas.

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest

Although the Marines sustained thousands of casualties during the skirmish, the infantrymen charged their opposition through the wooded area with fixed bayonets.

It’s reported the French urged the Marines to turn back, but the grunts proceeded onward frequently engaging the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.

By June 26, 1918, the war-hardened Marines confirmed that they secured the woods from German forces and took many prisoners.

And the French Fourragere reminds Leathernecks in this storied units of their World War I bravery.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The ‘Jedburghs’ were the best anti-Nazi commandos of WWII

In World War II, months before D-Day, a loudspeaker on military bases played a short recruitment message. The few men who answered it would become heroes after tackling one of the deadliest and most complicated missions of D-Day.


This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest

Jedburghs train on an obstacle course in World War II.

(Office of Strategic Services)

The loudspeaker message went:

Wanted: Volunteers for immediate overseas assignment. Knowledge of French or another European language preferred; Willingness and ability to qualify as a parachutist necessary; Likelihood of a dangerous mission guaranteed.

Men who volunteered had a chance to be selected for a Jedburgh Team. The teams typically featured a mix of Canadian, British, French, and American troops, but they were tiny, typically with two to four members. So, obviously, there was just one man of each nationality in each team.

So, that was one reason that knowledge of European languages was preferred, the other was that these tiny teams would fight directly alongside resistance forces in Nazi-occupied Europe, mostly in France but also in the Netherlands and Belgium. Their motto summed up the mission well: “Surprise, kill, and vanish.”

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest

Jedburgh team members in World War II.

(via CIA.gov)

Very few people were selected. A post-war accounting put the number at 276 of which 83 were Americans. There were also 90 British and 103 French troops. The most typical team size was three, but all teams were required to have at least a commander and a radio operator.

The most common third member was an officer from the country in which the team was deployed. So, French members rounded out teams in France, Dutch in the Netherlands, and Belgian in Belgium.

The Jedburghs trained hard and wanted to go into Europe two to six weeks before the D-Day invasion, but Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower restricted the Jedburgh insertions until June 5, 1944—the night before D-Day—so the sudden presence of international troops wouldn’t clue in the Nazis to the coming invasion.

So, on June 5, the teams began their insertions, and these few hundred men brought lots of extra weapons with them and rallied the resistance fighters of Europe. The Jedburghs and their allies fought far ahead of the invasion forces, in some cases taking and holding key infrastructure that the rest of the Allied forces wouldn’t reach for weeks.

The Jedburghs severed Nazi supply and reinforcement lines, and they protected key infrastructure like bridges that would be needed by the tanks and trucks of the invasion force. As volume two of the OSS War Report says:

Will well-trained, capable radio operators, the Jedburghs represented, wherever they were, a strong radio link between FFI (French Forces of the Interior) leaders and other Allied groups in the field, such as the SAS (Special Air Services) and headquarters in London … Besides the all-important task of making available … arms and supplies to the resistance and preparing landing and dropping fields, they acted as translators and interpreters, assisting in surrender arrangements, helped lead sabotage and ambush operations, provided intelligence on resistance and enemy strength and other information as well, and worked to coordinate separate resistance forces under a unified command.
This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest

Members of the Jedburgh teams prepare to insert via parachute in World War II.

(US Army Signal Corps via CIA.gov)

And yes, the rest of the Allied forces saw and appreciated these efforts. While the Jedburghs complained after the invasion that they wished they were allowed to insert earlier and do more, Allied commanders were just grateful that so many resistance members were well-armed and organized, breaking up Nazi forces and tying up German units, and that so much infrastructure survived the Wehrmacht’s destruction efforts.

The Jedburghs were broken up, but some special operation units are spiritual successors to the Jedburghs. For instance, the Army’s first operation Special Forces group, the 10th Special Forces Group, was commanded by Col. Aaron Bank, a former Jedburgh. And one of the Special Forces’ primary missions is to deploy overseas, train up and help arm indigenous forces, and then fight alongside them.

But at least ODAs typically have 12 members. Jedburghs were running around in a Three’s Company configuration, slaughtering Nazis with just their closest friends to rely on.

Fun side note: The name Jedburgh was selected because it was the name of a town near where the men trained and where Scots had conducted guerilla operations against England in the 1100s.

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The British re-cut Nazi propaganda to make these soldiers dance

You all know flossing, right? The sort of ridiculous, little dance that became a meme with kids and then went into Fortnight and now you can’t go to a ball game without seeing a bunch of people on the Jumbotron acting like they’re running a towel between their legs? Well, the 1930s had their own dance craze like that called the Lambeth Walk. And after a Nazi party member decried it in 1939 as “Jewish mischief and animalistic hopping,” a British video editor got to work.


 

The Lambeth Walk has a simple history, but like six things in it are named “Lambeth,” so we’re going to take this slowly. There’s an area of London named Lambeth which has a street named Lambeth Road running through it. Lambeth Walk is a side street off of Lambeth Road. And all of it was very working-class back in the day. So, Lambeth=blue collar.

Three Englishmen made a musical named Me and My Girl about a Cockney boy from Lambeth who inherits an earldom. It’s a real fish-out-of-water laugh riot with a cocky Cockney boy showing a bunch of stodgy aristocrats how to have fun. Think Titanic but with less Kate Winslet and more singing.

And one of the most popular songs from the musical was “The Lambeth Walk.” It was named after the side street mentioned before, and the lyrics and dance are all about how guys from Lambeth like to strut their stuff. The actual dance from the musical is five minutes long, but was cut down and became a nationwide dance craze.

The King and Queen were down with the whole dance, Europe thought it was a sweet distraction from all the civil wars and growing tensions between rival royalties, and the Nazis thought it was some Jewish plot.

Yeah, the Nazis were some real killjoys. (Turns out, lots of murderers sort of suck socially.)

A prominent Nazi came out and gave that earlier quote about Jewish mischief. Then World War II started in late 1939, and British propaganda got to start taking the piss out of Germany publicly. Charles A. Ridley of the British Ministry of Information went to Nazi Germany’s top propaganda film and started cutting it up.

Triumph of the Will was a 1934 video showing off the Third Reich, and it included a lot of video of Nazis marching and Hitler gesticulating. Ridley spliced, copied, and reversed frames of the video until he had a bunch of Nazi soldiers doing a passable Lambeth Walk.

Goebbels and other Nazi officials were not amused, but the anti-Nazi world was. It got played in newsreels and cinemas around the world. And Danish commandos forced their way into cinemas and played a version of the video titled “Swinging the Lambeth Walk.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Nazis had a super creepy breeding program

It may seem like attempted genocide on an international scale would have been enough for the Nazis and their dreams of racial purity. But they were proactive ethno-nationalists who were just as interested in extra-marital breeding and kidnapping as they were in mass murder. That interest led to Lebensborn, a literal Aryan breeding program.


As the Nazis cemented power in Germany in the 1930s, they instituted a series of discriminatory policies against the Jewish, Roma, and other peoples deemed immoral or undesirable by the Third Reich. On December 12, 1935, Germany instituted the Nuremberg Laws that banned intermarriage between most Germans and Jewish people. But Lebensborn was enacted in secret the same day.

The program was led by Heinrich Himmler himself. Women were recruited from the Band of German Maidens, the female wing of the Hitler Youth. (Yes, the Nazis filled their breeding roster with their version of Girl Scouts.) Women and girls who wanted to participate had to prove their racial purity going back three generations.

The “studs” of the program were primarily officers recruited from the SS and the Wehrmacht. Again, they were partnered with young women who had just made it out of the Fascist Girl Scouts. And the officers were typically partnered with multiple girls/women, sleeping with them at a time scheduled to match their peak ovulation.

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest

A German officer with a baby at a Lebensborn Society.

(German Federal Archives)

Women could join the program whether they were wed or unwed, though Himmler stopped advertising that fact after the Germans protested the immorality of babies being bred out of wedlock.

The babies born to the mothers were quickly weened and placed in the care of the SS. Many would be adopted out to German families, but others would live in special Lebensborn houses. There were at least 26 of these spread across Nazi-occupied Europe. An estimated 20,000 children were born to Lebensborn women.

But as creepy as all of that is, there was an even darker side to the program. Potentially hundreds of thousands of children deemed “racially pure” were kidnapped from countries conquered by the Nazis and sent to Lebensborn houses where they were indoctrinated to be German and then adopted out.

Children who refused to believe that they were abandoned by their parents or who refused to identify as German were beaten. If they continued to resist, they were sent to concentration camps and eventually killed.

The Allies found the evidence of these crimes as they liberated Europe, same as the discovery of concentration camps. On May 1, 1945, 300 children were discovered—alive but abandoned—in the town of Steinhoering. When the relatives of a kidnapped child could be identified, Allied personnel sought to reunite them with their family.

But the Germans had destroyed much of the paper trail as the Allies advanced, and many children were too brainwashed to leave their adopted families. A 1946 estimate put the number of children kidnapped at 250,000. Only 10 percent—25,000—were successfully reunited.

All of this led to a terrible legacy. Hundreds of children born or kidnapped into Lebensborn only discovered their heritage as adults. For their childhoods, they either had gaps in the knowledge of their family or else were fed lies about who their fathers were.

And, unsurprisingly, there is no sign that the breeding program led to genetically superior people. The children born of these “racially pure” unions often had blond hair and blue eyes, but there wasn’t anything remarkable about them — certainly nothing that would justify such a despicable practice by the Nazis.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How German beer kept Afghanistan out of World War I

The First World War brought a level of destruction that the world had never seen before. At the start of the war, only the French, Russians, English, and Italians stood against the Germans, Austro-Hungarians, and the Ottomans with their respective territories/colonies/provinces each filing in under their protectorate states. Every corner of the world was forced to take sides, officially or otherwise.

Neutral nations would be asked politically at first, but were quickly strong-armed into supporting one side or the other. This same fate could have befallen Afghans — who were distrusting of British India to the East and the Allied Russians to the north — if the negotiations hadn’t gone spectacularly wrong.


This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest

Too easy, right? This is only the “Graveyard of Empires” we’re talking about here.

In September, 1915, the Germans saw in opportunity in exploiting the Afghan tribes’ strategic advantage against the Allied troops that had left British India to fight in Europe. Persia had been officially neutral, but swung sides depending on who was more in control (Note: This was before the Turkish Invasion of Persia, which would eventually solidify their anti-Ottoman stance). If Afghanistan would join the Ottomans, the Persians would certainly follow. After all, the Afghan people hated the British and most of the ruling parties. All that stood in the way of a Central Powers-controlled Middle East and a wide-open causeway through India was a hesitant Amir Habibullah Khan, then the leader of Afghanistan.

The Ottomans leveraged much religious control over their fellow Muslim nations. Grassroots protests ran rampant in British-controlled India. Things were at a tipping point and all it would take was some sweet talking by a Bavarian officer, Oscar Niedermayer, on official orders from the Kaiser to go win them over. On paper, the plan was flawless.

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest
Mahendra Pratap, centre, with (left to right) Maulavi Barkatullah, Werner Otto von Hentig, Kazim Bey, and Walter Röhr. Kabul, 1916

Don’t worry. Niedermayer maybe won’t screw things up just yet.

Niedermayer and his team traveled to Constantinople to meet up with their Turkish counterparts. Despite being in friendly territory, the mission was to be highly covert — one that, if compromised, could end in death for everyone involved. Yet, when the Turks showed up to the Pera Palace Hotel, they found the Germans sh*tfaced drunk, openly telling everyone that they’re going on an Afghanistan Expedition. Understandably, the Turks said, “f*ck it” and left, unwilling to be part of a botched mission that would have them executed if gone poorly due to the actions of some drunken idiots.

After the disaster in Constantinople, Berlin sent in Prussian diplomat, Werner-Otto von Hentig, to join in. Von Hentig was a consummate professional and had brought with him Raja Mahendra Pratap, an Indian royal who wanted to take control back from the British, to aid in negotiations. Niedermayer took great offense to this and constantly butted heads with von Hentig.

The combined teams finally reached Kabul to start negotiations anew.

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest
(U.S. Navy)

And celebrate they did. In only the truest of German manners.

Von Hentig and Pratap made friends with the Afghan ruler. Meanwhile, Afghan print media started stirring up anti-British sentiment. Months went by and negotiations continued. The war had started to cripple the Allies and Russia was on the verge of collapse after the “Great Retreat.”

In December, Amir Habibullah Khan ordered the drafting of treaty of friendship to establish an agreement between Afghanistan and Germany. By April 1916, things were looking good for the Central Powers. The enemy was getting weaker and they were inches away from gaining a strategic ally. They would, of course, celebrate.

The details of the event are still hazy, but it’s widely assumed that they got sh*tfaced once again — this time, in a Muslim country that strictly forbade alcohol. This turned into strong condemnation from Afghan leadership — even those who once supported their cause.

The Niedermayer–von Hentig Expedition was sent packing. Soon after, Persia was invaded by the Turks, which gave rise to a hard-line hatred of the Central Powers. As history shows, the Central Powers lost WWI. Amir Habibullah Khan was assassinated after the war’s conclusion by an anti-British coup that lead into the Third Anglo-Afghan War — which was lost in spectacular fashion.

All of history as we know it may have been rewritten were it not for one fateful night.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How a single photograph allowed the Japanese emperor to stay in power

On September 2nd, 1945, the foreign affairs delegation of the Japanese Empire boarded the USS Missouri and signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender under the guidance of Emperor Hirohito, finally putting an end to bloodiest war mankind has ever seen. From that moment on, the world and Japan could start to rebuild.

The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki forced Japan into an unconditional surrender, accepting all terms stated by the Potsdam Declaration. Among other stipulations, the terms of surrender meant that Japan must give up all lands outside of the mainland unless allowed by the Allied Forces, disarm their military, remove all obstacles to building a democratic society, and eliminate, for all time, “the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest.”

Despite those terms, it was Emperor Hirohito who vowed to maintain the peace — which was met with much disdain by many Americans and Japanese alike, with the exception of General Douglas MacArthur.


This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest

This photo.

(U.S. Army Photo by Lt. Gaetano Faillace)

The International Military Tribunal for the Far East was set up and those responsible for the many war crimes committed were brought to justice. Prime Ministers Tojo, Hirota, Koiso, and twenty-three others were all found guilty of Class-A war crimes and sentenced to execution. Another 5,700 would be tried for Class-B and -C war crimes. Hirohito and the other members of the Japanese Imperial family were simply exonerated at the request of Gen. MacArthur.

Gen. MacArthur knew that Japanese culture was very intertwined with the throne. Since the Japanese throne was willing to cooperate fully, America was able to turn its eyes to the burgeoning communist threat lurking in Asia. This plan could only work, however, if the people of Japan believed the Emperor when he said that peace between the two nations had been achieved.

With the announcement of that newly struck peace came a photo that was taken by Gen. MacArthur’s personal photographer, Lt. Gaetano Faillace that captured the General and the Emperor’s first meeting on September 27th, 1945.

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest

As devastating as the nuclear bombs were, the firebombings of Tokyo and the rest of Japan were just as bad.

The Japanese press was reluctant to run the photo, but the Americans insisted. At this point in Japanese history, the people had just fought and died for the Emperor because they saw him as having incarnate divinity. Suddenly, some occupying force stepped in and showed the people a picture of their 5′ 5″ Emperor next to a 6-foot-tall American general.

General MacArthur knew the significance of the photo. The Japanese people knew the significance of the photo. And yetEmperor Hirohito gave his blessing for it to be published — affirming his commitment to bringing peace and rebuilding Japan at the expense of the height comparison.

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest

It humanized him and would allow him to stay as head of state well into the 80s.

Calls for Hirohito’s abdication were growing among the Imperial family. While most would call for Hirohito’s son (and current Emperor), Akihito, to assume the throne when of age, other family members scrambled to make cases sit on the throne themselves. Their claim was that Hirohito was, in fact, not divine if he drove the Empire into the ground. Many of those claimants could have spelled ruin for MacArthur’s rebuilding process as some harbored a strong hatred for America.

So, the Humanity Declaration was given on New Year’s Day, 1946. In it, the Emperor stated in front of his entire people that the emperor was not divine and that the Japanese people were no more superior than any other people. MacArthur was pleased because it meant that Japan would move more towards more democratization.

The declaration, in essence, meant that Emperor Hirohito went from being a divine imperial sovereign to a regular constitutional monarch.

Emperor Hirohito formalized the 1947 Constitution of Japan — officially an amendment to the Meiji Constitution — and stripped himself almost entirely of political control. In the following years, Hirohito’s commitment to Japan led to restructuring and the entering of an era called the Japanese Economic Miracle. Japan became the world’s second largest economy by the time of Hirohito’s death on January 7th, 1989.

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