These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor

December 7, 1941 is a date which will live in infamy. The Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor took the lives of 2,403 Americans, wounded 1,178, and served as the catalyst for America’s entry into WWII. Multiple factors like Japanese misinformation, American focus on the war in Europe, and the fact that the attack took place on a Sunday contributed to the high loss of American life that day. Despite the surprise nature of the attack and the low state of readiness of American military forces in Hawaii, American servicemen fought back valiantly. With the sky littered with Japanese aircraft, American aviators did their best to get airborne and repel the attack. Though 14 Army Air Corps pilots tried to take off, most were shot down as they taxied. However, a few of them managed to get airborne and take the fight to the skies.

2nd Lt George Welch and 2nd Lt. Kenneth Taylor spent the evening of December 6th at the Wheeler Field officers club and an all-night poker game. The next morning, as the two men discussed the idea of an early morning swim, they were alerted to the attack by the sound of distant gunfire and explosions. Miles away from their airfield at Haleiwa, they phoned ahead to have their Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk fighters fueled and armed before they hopped into Taylor’s Buick and raced toward the fighting. Reaching speeds of 100mph on their dash to the airfield, the two men were attacked by Japanese planes who attempted to strafe them on the ground.

These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor
2nd Lt. Kenneth Taylor (left) and 2nd Lt. George Welch (U.S. Air Force)

When they reached the airfield, their P-40s were only partially loaded with ammunition. Despite this, and with Taylor still wearing his tuxedo pants from the night before, the two men took off. They engaged a formation of Nakajima B5N2 Kate torpedo bombers and shot down two each. However, one of Welch’s .30-caliber guns jammed and Taylor was hit in the arm and leg by a tail gunner, and the two returned to the airfield.

As they refueled and rearmed, their mission was debated. “We had to argue with some of the ground crew,” Welch recalled. “They wanted us to disperse the airplanes and we wanted to fight.” As their planes were refitted and Taylor was advised to remain grounded to have his wounds treated, a second wave of Japanese planes appeared. With Welch’s jammed gun still not cleared and Taylor refusing medical treatment, the two men took off again. Soon after, Taylor caught the attention of a flight of Mitsubish A6M2 Zero fighters. Welch managed to shoot one of the Zeros off of Taylor’s tail before pursuing an Aichi D3A Val dive bomber out to sea and shooting it down.

Welch and Taylor are officially credited with six kills during the attack on Pearl Harbor. “We went down and got in the traffic pattern and shot down several planes there,” Taylor recalled. “I know for certain I shot down two planes or perhaps more; I don’t know.” Taylor later appeared before Congress to testify during an investigation into the attack.

These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor
Welch and Taylor after receiving their Distinguished Service Cross medals (U.S. Army)

For their actions, Welch and Taylor both received the Distinguished Service Cross. Though General Henry “Hap” Arnold recommended both men for the Medal of Honor, the honor was denied by their commanding officer because they had taken off without permission.

The other three aviators who managed to take off, 1st Lt. Lewis Sanders, 2nd Lt. Philip Rasmussen (who was still in his pajamas), and 2nd Lt. Gordon Sterling, were at a slight disadvantage compared to Welch and Taylor. Though their Curtiss P-36 Hawk fighters were very similar to Welch and Taylor’s P-40s, the P-36 had a less powerful radial engine. Still, the three men managed to get airborne. “We climbed to 9,000 feet and spotted Japanese ‘Val’ dive bombers,” Rasmussen recounted in a 2002 interview. “We dived to attack them.” Sanders is credited with one enemy aircraft kill. Sadly, after this initial attack, Sterling was shot down and drowned after getting out of his plane.

These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor
The Curtiss P-36A at the National Museum of the United States Air Force depicts a pajama-clad Rasmussen (U.S. Air Force)

Rasmussen, who witnessed Sterling’s death, charged his guns only to have them malfunction and begin firing on their own. In an incredible stroke of luck, a Japanese plane flew into the uncontrolled burst of fire and exploded. Rasmussen got his guns back under control and, after shaking two Zeros off his tail, managed to score one more kill. That was when he felt his aircraft get hit.

“There was a lot of noise,” Rasmussen recalled. “He shot my canopy off.” Rasmussen’s P-36 had lost its hydraulics and tail wheel. Nursing his badly damaged plane back to the airfield, he managed to land without his brakes, rudder, or tail wheel. It was later discovered that two 20mm cannon shells had lodged themselves in the bulky radio behind the pilot’s seat which saved Rasmussen’s life.

2nd Lt. John Dains, 2nd Lt. Harry Brown, and 2nd Lt. Malcolm Moore also managed to get airborne at Pearl Harbor. Moore did not score any kills during the attack and Dains’ suspected kill remains unconfirmed. Brown, however, is credited with the final American kill of the attack.

Of the 29 Japanese planes shot down at Pearl Harbor, these men were responsible for 10. Though America’s war in the Pacific began with a badly bloodied nose, men like Welch, Taylor, Sanders, Rasmussen, and Brown gave the Japanese a taste of what was to come.

MIGHTY HISTORY

It was a veteran soldier who perfected the ultimate bank robbery

If there’s anything people know about troops and veterans, it’s that they’re disciplined and more often than not, they plan things very well. It should come as a surprise to no one that the gangster who perfected the bank heist was a soldier who did his due diligence.


It might also surprise no one that the same soldier decided to end it all in a blaze of glory while surrounded by people trying to shoot him.

These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor

You can thank former Prussian soldier Herman Lamm for all the great bank robbery movies, gangster shows, and heist flicks you’ve ever seen in your life. The legend of Robin Hood-like, gun-toting gangster robbing banks and speeding away from the cops in a hail of bullets? That’s Lamm too. Machine Gun Kelly, John Dillinger, and Bonnie and Clyde owe their successes to Lamm. Known as the “father of modern bank robbery” Hamm pioneered the idea of conducting the heist in the same style as a military operation.

Lamm was born in the German Empire and later joined the Prussian Army before emigrating to the United States, where he began to rob and steal. Instead of being your average stick-up thief, he adapted the tactics and psychology he was taught by the Prussian Army to his crimes. The effect became legendary.

These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor

John Dillinger has Lamm to thank for his bank robbery style.

In what would later be dubbed “the Lamm Technique,” he would watch a bank, its guards, and its employees. People in his gang would map the layouts of the banks in various ways, posing as reporters or other outsider professions. He even meticulously planned his getaways, which cars to use, and cased out what routes to take at which times in the day. For the first time, it seemed, each member of the gang was assigned a specific role in the heist, hiring a race car driver to drive the getaway car.

Most importantly, he drilled his men on the action. He practiced and timed every action with every member of the gang to ensure the most German-level efficiency of the heist.

These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor

The movie “Heat” and other heist movies have Lamm to thank for their success.

Lamm was not as flashy as the gangsters of the era who decided to make a show of their heists, so history doesn’t remember him as fondly as his contemporaries. He died in his final bank heist, surrounded by armed cops, all trying to get a piece of history’s most efficient thief. But Lamm didn’t give them the satisfaction, ending his own life instead of getting gunned down by Indiana cops.

Articles

The 5 most underrated commanders in military history

It’s hard not to focus on the giants of military history, whether they are remembered for their skill on the battlefield or just remembered because their oversized personality made it hard for us to forget. 

The George S. Pattons, Napoleon Bonapartes and Qin Shi Huangs of the world get remembered for their uncanny ability and long lists of great quotes to go along with the lists of their accomplishments.

Then there are the silent professionals of the world’s collective military history, those who are critical to shaping the world order but are somehow lost to history. Being a total badass doesn’t mean you have to have a big mouth to go with it. Some would argue that these are the biggest badasses of all. 

1. Hannibal Barca

In most high school history classes, Hannibal gets treated like some grade-B historical footnote. After covering Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps, the curriculum moves right on to the Roman Empire. But mighty Rome was almost smothered in its cradle by Hannibal, who spent much of his career absolutely wrecking Roman armies and occupying their cities for 15 years. 

Real history buffs know the truth about Hannibal, who was able to beat Roman asses with his smaller, less-equipped force that was far from home and supplies. At Cannae, he tricked the Romans into fighting so hard and fast they exposed their own flanks. Then he annihilated 70,000 “superior” Roman troops.

Hannibal was Rome’s Voledmort, in that just saying his name on the Italian Peninsula was enough to create rage and fear. Hannibal would escape retribution in Italy when Rome finally turned the tide against Carthage. After Hannibal and Carthage’s final defeat, Hannibal’s spectre was so great, the Romans built statues of him in their own cities to celebrate defeating such a vaunted enemy.

These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor
If that’s not respect for the enemy, we don’t know what is… (Wikimedia Commons)

2. Alexander Suvorov

It’s a pretty big deal to be a major military mind in Europe at a time when Europe was just packed to the brim with major military minds. In the 18th century, it seems like all Europe wanted to do was fight big wars. Russia’s secret weapon in this melee was Alexander Suvorov, a lifelong soldier and officer.

Suvorov commanded troops who crushed Poles, Turks, Prussians, Italians and Frenchmen alike. For 40-plus years, he was the real jewel in the Imperial Russian crown, absolutely trouncing armies while outnumbered and outgunned. Even when his enemies had him surrounded and outnumbered in the Swiss Alps, Suvorov managed to inflict maximum pain while losing minimal men. 

These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor
Suvorov Crossing the Alps in 1799 by Vasily Surikov (Wikimedia Commons)

Even after he was fired by Tsar Paul I (who was really just jealous), all of anti-Napoleon Europe demanded he be reinstated. The Tsar took him back and promoted him in time for Suvorov to wipe out all of Napoleon’s gains in Europe while the Emperor was off in Egypt. Suvorov ultimately died of fatigue and old age in Saint Petersburg, exhausted from a lifetime of kicking ass. 

3. George Henry Thomas

Civil War history buffs like to argue about Lee versus Grant, Sherman versus Jackson, and whoever versus whomever but when it comes down to real history, there’s one Civil War standout above all others: the Rock of Chickamauga, the master strategist, George Henry Thomas. 

His troops were disciplined, his movements deliberate and his record untarnished. While everyone is arguing about Civil War generals, remember that George Henry Thomas never lost a fight. He gave the Union one of its first victories, saved the Union Army of the Cumberland from utter destruction, and crushed Confederate General John Bell Hood’s army entirely out of existence. 

The only reason he isn’t as remembered or celebrated today is because he cared more about his privacy than winning any kind of credit.

These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor
General Thomas is not here to impress you. (Library of Congress)

4. Khalid ibn al-Walid 

Al-Walid started his career opposed to the Muslim armies of the prophet Muhammed. Al-Walid was instrumental in delivering the Islamic armies’ only early defeat at the Battle of Uhud. But the prophet was smart enough to know that if he couldn’t beat Khalid ibn al-Walid, he should convert him. After becoming a Muslim, he served under the prophet and two subsequent caliphs, spreading Islam throughout the Middle East. A simple field commander for one of the Arabian Peninsula’s Arab tribes was suddenly called “The Sword of God” by the prophet. 

For nearly a decade, Arab Muslim forces under al-Walid curb-stomped everyone in their path, from Arabia to Persia to modern-day Iraq. He took down some of the rock star names of the Ancient World, including the Sasanids and the Byzantines, never losing a battle to either. Al-Walid was so successful, the Caliph Umar was worried that al-Walid’s fame might eclipse his own. Without al-Walid, Islam might never have left Arabia. 

5. Zeng Guofan

These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor
Wikimedia Commons

By the time the American Civil war broke out, China had been embroiled in a civil war of its own for more than a decade. It would be the deadliest civil war in world history, killing between 20 and 30 million people. Though the Taiping rebels didn’t capture much of the Qing Dynasty’s territory, they wouldn’t be completely wiped out for almost 30 years.

Unlike the Union Army’s strong central government, Qing China was a wreck. Its economy never totally recovered from the Opium Wars, corruption was rampant, and supplies were hard to come by. Its army was in shambles, unable to recapture Taiping Territory or even stop the rebel advance – until a civil servant named Zeng Guofan was ordered to create a military unit. 

He created the Xiang Army, and by using respect and discipline (uncommon in the military at the time) his unit became the most effective battlefield unit in the country. His leadership turned the tide of the entire war, stopped the rebels and captured their capital. 


Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 awesome missions you didn’t know were done by the Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard has always been the little agency that could.


It’s the only U.S. military branch that isn’t a permanent member of the Department of Defense, it’s constantly the last in line for the budget (it is one of the agencies with lots of money on the chopping block in President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal), and it’s constantly getting made fun of by the other services.

But the Coast Guard steps up and performs when called upon. While many of its finest moments happened when you would most expect — like when it received praise for its actions after Hurricane Katrina or when it rescued sailors trapped on the tankers Pendleton and Fort Mercer — it should also be known for its role in frontline operations against terrorism at home and all enemies deployed.

Yeah, the Coast Guard fights terrorists and deploys, especially when it’s tied up in missions like these:

1. Evacuating and securing key ports during emergencies

These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor
(Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell)

Believe it or not, it’s the Coast Guard that is most likely to save American citizens in a sudden attack. After the attacks on 9/11, the Coast Guard led a boatlift in New York that, in numerical terms, was larger than the evacuation at Dunkirk.

The U.S. Coast Guard also fields the Maritime Security Response Team, which responds to terrorist attacks that are imminent or in progress in an American port or waterway. In 2014, they practiced securing ferries with dirty bombs onboard in New York, one of the world’s busiest ports.

2. Respond to chemical, biological, nuclear, and other threats

These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor
(Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Eggers)

Of course, the Coast Guard doesn’t just field the emergency calls for terror attacks. When law enforcement and intelligence agencies get word of possible threats, they can call the Maritime Safety and Security Teams. These guys specialize in securing American and friendly ports that are at heightened risk of attack.

The MSSTs work to prevent the successful completion of an attack, but they can also respond to attacks in progress like they did in Boston in 2013 after the marathon bombings.

3. Capturing and occupying captured oil rigs at sea

These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor
A Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team works with the FBI to secure a vessel during a training exercise. (Photo: courtesy U.S. Coast Guard)

One of the largest special operations in history took place on March 21, 2003, when Navy SEALs and Polish special operators seized Iraq’s oil platforms at the same time that other forces took land-based sections of Iraq’s oil infrastructure.

The often unsung heroes of that operation are the soldiers and Coast Guardsmen who gave the SEALs the ride and provided the gun platforms that supported the operation from the water. The Coast Guard sent eight 25-foot boats to the platforms and provided the defensive positions that allowed the U.S. to hold the platforms after the SEALs captured them.

The 60 Coast Guardsmen held the platforms and 41 prisoners of war for months despite severe storms that damaged boats and tore equipment—  including food and fresh water — from where it was stored. At one point, they had to fire flares to deter an attack by circling Iranian speedboats.

4. Landing U.S. soldiers and Marines at D-Day, Guadalcanal, and hundreds of other places

These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor

Did anyone think it odd that the Coast Guard would be in charge of landing and supporting operators hitting oil rigs in a carefully synchronized operation? It’s a little unusual, but only because they’re used to hitting beaches and rivers.

During World War II, Coast Guardsmen piloted many of the landing craft at key fights like the invasions of Normandy and the Philippines. The only member of the Coast Guard to receive the Medal of Honor conducted his heroic action while rescuing Marines under fire at Guadalcanal.

The U.S. Coast Guard also took part in riverine and coastal warfare in Vietnam. All of this was, of course, before they took part in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

MIGHTY TRENDING

That time a Marine general led a fictional Iran against the US military – and won

In 2002, the U.S. military tapped Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper to lead the red opposing forces of the most expensive, expansive military exercise in history. He was put in command of an inferior Middle Eastern-inspired military force. His mission was to go against the full might of the American armed forces. In the first two days, he sank an entire carrier battle group.


The exercise was called Millennium Challenge 2002. It was designed by the Joint Forces Command over the course of two years. It had 13,500 participants, numerous live and simulated training sites, and was supposed to pit an Iran-like Middle Eastern country against the U.S. military, which would be fielding advanced technology it didn’t plan to implement until five years later.

The war game would begin with a forced-entry exercise that included the 82nd Airborne and the 1st Marine Division.

When the Blue Forces issued a surrender ultimatum, Van Riper, commanding the Red Forces, turned them down. Since the Bush Doctrine of the period included preemptive strikes against perceived enemies, Van Riper knew the Blue Forces would be cominfor him. And they did.

But the three-star general didn’t spend 41 years in the Marine Corps by being timid. As soon as the Navy was beyond the point of no return, he hit them and hit them hard. Missiles from land-based units, civilian boats, and low-flying planes tore through the fleet as explosive-ladened speedboats decimated the Navy using suicide tactics. His code to initiate the attack was a coded message sent from the minarets of mosques at the call to prayer.

In less than ten minutes, the whole thing was over and Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper was victorious.

 

These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor
Office of Naval Intelligence

How did 19 ships and some 20,000 U.S. troops end up at the bottom of the Persian Gulf? It started with the OPFOR leadership.
Van Riper was the epitome of the salty Marine Corps general officer. He was a 41-year veteran, both enlisted and commissioned, serving everywhere from Vietnam to Desert Storm. Van Riper attended the Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School, The College of Naval Command and Staff, Army War College, and the Army’s Airborne and Ranger Schools.

These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor
U.S. Marine Corps photo

 

In fact, the three-star general had been retired for some five years by the time he led the Red Forces of Millennium Challenge. He was an old-school Marine capable of some old-school tactics and has insisted that technology cannot replace
human intuition and study of the basic nature of war, which he called a “terrible, uncertain, chaotic, bloody business.”

When
Van Riper told the story of Millennium Challenge to journalist Malcolm Gladwell, he said the Blue Forces were stuck in their own mode of thinking. Their vastly superior technology included advanced intelligence matrices and an Operational Net Assessment that told them where the OPFOR vulnerabilities were and what Van Riper was most likely to do next out of a range of possible scenarios. They relied heavily on that. When the Blue took out Red’s microwave towers and fiber optics, they expected his forces to use satellite and cell phones that could be monitored.

Not a chance. Van Riper instead used motorcycle couriers, messages hidden in prayers, and even coded lighting systems on his airfields — tactics employed during World War II.

“I struck first,” he said in “
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” written by Gladwell in 2005. “We did all the calculations on how many cruise missiles their ships could handle, so we simply launched more than that.”

In fact, Van Riper hated the kind of analytical decision making the Blue Forces were doing. He believed it took far too long. His resistance plan included ways of getting his people to make good decisions using rapid cognition and analog but reliable communications.

The other commanders involved called foul, complaining that a real OPFOR would never use the tactics Van Riper used — except Van Riper’s flotilla used boats and explosives like those used against the USS Cole in 2000.

 

These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor
US Navy photo

“And I said ‘nobody would have thought that anyone would fly an airliner into the World Trade Center,'”
Van Riper said in reply. “But nobody [in the exercise] seemed interested.”

In the end, the Blue Forces were all respawned and Van Riper was prevented from making moves to counter the Blue Forces’ landing. He had no radar and wasn’t allowed to shoot down incoming aircraft he would have otherwise accurately targeted. The rest of the exercise was scripted to let the Blue Force land and win.
Van Riper walked out when he realized his commands were being ignored by the exercise planners. The fix was in.

The three-star wrote a 21-page critique of the exercise that was immediately classified. Van Riper spoke out against the rigged game anyway.

“Nothing was learned from this,”
he told the Guardian in 2002. “A culture not willing to think hard and test itself does not augur well for the future.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This battle shows Canadians are almost unbeatable when fighting a battle together

Here in the United States, we often like to joke about our kind-hearted affable neighbors to the north. Often we see them as gregarious and fun, never threatening. But those of us who read history books or have fought alongside our Canadian brothers and sisters know a different side of Canadian Forces.

That side is not to be trifled with. 

When the United Kingdom declared war on Germany during World War I, Canada came along with it, whether it wanted to or not. That’s just how the Canadian government worked in tandem with the British Crown back then. 

Britain was lucky to have the Canadians on its side and nowhere was that more apparent than at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. 

In April 1917, three German divisions met 4 divisions of the Canadian Corps in the Pas-De-Calais region of northern France. The Canadians were trying to draw the Germans away from a larger French offensive further south down the front lines. 

Their main target was Vimy Ridge, high ground that would protect other elements of Entente forces from taking heavy enfilading fire. The Germans would put up a stiff resistance but what they didn’t know was about to hurt them: this was the first time that all four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force were fighting together with one objective.

The ridge itself was a heavily fortified, seven kilometer (4.3 miles for you American types) ridge that held what the Candians called a “commanding view” of the British and Canadian forces. To take it required weeks of specialized training, not just in attacking the high ground, but also in special roles required by individual troops. 

These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor
The Canadians attacked the high ground for three days – and won. (Library and Archives of Canada)

Artillery pounded the German defenders for a full week before the battle was launched on Apr. 9, and 1,000 pieces of artillery would provide a moving blanket of fire to keep the Germans under cover.

Over three days, 15,000 Canadians overwhelmed the Germans in the face of trenchworks, dugouts, and machine gun nests. They rolled the Germans back further than they’d ever been since the start of the war in 1914. The Canadians captured more prisoners and more artillery guns than any allied offensive in the war up until that point. 

One Canadian General at Vimy Ridge called the battle “a birth of a nation.”

Today, the site of the battle is memorialized forever, as France gave the land to the government of Canada. On that land stands a tall, white marble monument to the more than 3,500 Canadians who died there and the 7,000 who were wounded. 

The surrounding lawn, well-manicured, still carries a taste of the terrible dangers posed by unexploded bombs and mines leftover from the war, even 100 years later. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Chernobyl Disaster happened 32 years ago

Ukraine is marking the 32nd anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster on April 26, 2018, with a memorial service and a series of events in remembrance of the world’s worst-ever civilian nuclear accident.

In neighboring Belarus, an opposition-organized event will also be held to commemorate the disaster.


In Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, hundreds of people marched at midnight to the Memorial Hill of Chernobyl Heroes where they laid flowers and lit candles. At 1 a.m. on April 26, 2018, an Orthodox service and a prayer to commemorate Chernobyl victims were performed at the site.

President Petro Poroshenko, on April 26, 2018, wrote on Facebook that Chernobyl “will forever remain an open wound for us.”

“Today, we have to do everything to prevent a repetition of that tragedy… the Chernobyl zone must now become a place of new technologies, a territory of changes,” Poroshenko wrote.

In Belarus, the opposition plans to hold a march in Minsk known as the “Chernobyl Path” later on April 26, 2018.

The march has been held in the Belarusian capital since 1988 to commemorate the disaster in neighboring Ukraine, which also contaminated large swaths of territory in Belarus.

An explosion on April 26, 1986, blew the roof off the building housing a nuclear reactor and spewed a cloud of radioactive material high into the air — drifting across Ukraine’s borders into Russia, Belarus, and across large parts of Europe.

These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor

About 30 people died in the immediate aftermath and thousands more are feared to have died in the years that followed from the effects of the disaster — mainly exposure to radiation.

On April 25, 2018, the Vienna-based UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation said that around 20,000 thyroid cancer cases were registered between 1991 and 2015 in the area surrounding the reactor, which takes in all of Ukraine and Belarus, as well parts of Russia.

The UN scientists said that since the accident, 1-in-4 thyroid cancer cases have been caused by radiation in the region.

In November 2016, a huge arch was placed over the stricken reactor to prevent further leaks of radiation. The project — funded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development — cost $1.6 billion.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This WWII beer run was the greatest of all time

It took sixty five years for one member of the 101st Airborne Division Screaming Eagles to learn that his actions during the Battle of Bastogne were legendary, but not for heroism or bravery. It all started with a simple request for a beer – and the greatest beer run the world will ever see.


Vincent Speranza, Vince to all that know him, had joined the Army right after graduating high school in 1943 and was assigned to Company H, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne as a replacement soldier while the unit recovered from Operation Market-Garden.

Related video:

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Shortly after training, Vince found himself in a foxhole in the middle of Bastogne, Belgium – cold, short on supplies, food, and ammunition. And surrounded by German troops.

These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor
A roadblock is set up with 30 caliber heavy machine gun, and a tank destroyer is ready for action near Bastogne, Belgium, Dec. 10, 1944.

“The first eight days we got pounded” by German artillery, he recalled. “But this was the 101st. They could not get past (us). They never set one foot in Bastogne.”

On the second day, his friend Joe Willis took shrapnel to both legs and was pulled back to a makeshift combat hospital inside a mostly destroyed church. Vince tracked him down and asked if there was anything he could do for his friend.

The answer was simple – Joe wanted a beer.

Also Read: This is how British pilots made beer runs for troops in Normandy

Vince told him it was impossible. The 101st was surrounded by Germans with no supplies coming in, they were taking artillery fire every day, and the town had been bombarded. But Joe wanted a beer.

Moving through the town, Vince, from blown-out tavern to blown-out tavern, went searching until serendipity hit. At the third tavern he hit, Vince pulled on a tap and beer came flowing out. He filled his helmet – the same one used as a makeshift shovel and Porta Potty in the foxhole – with all the beer he could handle and returned to the hospital.

These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor
Vincent Speranza with some bottles of Airborne Beer. (Photo from GI Jobs.)

Mission accomplished. Vince poured beer for Joe and some of those around him. When the beer ran out, they asked him to go for more.

As he returned to the hospital, Vince was confronted by a Major who demanded to know what he was doing.

“Giving aid and comfort to the wounded,” was the paratrooper’s simple answer.

These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor
Airborne Beer in action. (Photo from GI Jobs.)

An ass-chewing about the dangers of giving beer to men with gut and chest wounds lead to Vince putting his helmet back on his head, beer pouring down his uniform, and heading out.

While that could have been the end of it, the story continues 65 years later, when Vince returned to Bastogne for an anniversary celebration and learned that his epic beer run had been turned into Airborne beer, typically drunk out of a ceramic mug in the shape of a helmet.

Hear the story from the Airborne legend himself:

(Erminio Modesti | YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Elvis’ time in the Army scared the hell out of the communists

A sense of dread washed over the youth in 1958 when The King of Rock and Roll got his draft papers. Elvis Presley was told by Uncle Sam that he’d have to join in the Army and, graciously, he accepted his fate. The higher-ups knew exactly who they had standing in formation, but Presley didn’t accept any special treatment — he chose to just be a regular guy.

His service to the United States Army wasn’t particularly special. He got orders to West Germany, crawled in the exact same muck as the rest of the Joes, and was essentially no different than any other cavalry scout in his unit. He honorably served his two-year obligation before returning to the life of a rockstar.

But that’s just what happened on our side of the Iron Curtain. The East Germans and the Soviet Union were on the verge of going to war because the guy who sang Jailhouse Rock was on their doorstep.


These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor

Because obviously Elvis’ dance moves were the only reason people would ever consider escaping a communist dictatorship. Obviously.

(Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.)

The idea that a man of Presley’s fame and fortune would give it all up for patriotism didn’t make any sense to the communists. He was the perfect embodiment of all things Western and he just happened to show up at their doorstep. Something, in their mind, had to be up.

Their conclusion was that the United States had Elvis singing and dancing so close to the border in order to cause young communists to leap the border to go see him in concert.

To the East German defense minister, Willi Stoph, Elvis and his rock music were “means of seduction to make the youth ripe for atomic war.” The East Germany Communist Party leader, Walter Ulbricht, even said in an address to the people that it was “not enough to reject the capitalist decadence with words, to … speak out against the ecstatic ‘singing’ of someone like Presley. We have to offer something better.”

Lipsi – der ddr-tanz / the gdr-dance

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The communists needed a secret weapon of their own to counter Elvis’ sultry hip movements. So, they came up with the Lipsi, a dance that was, uh… Let’s just say the communist-approved version of the waltz that was aimed towards youngsters never caught on because, well…

These pilots fought back at Pearl Harbor

Keep in mind, he was, basically, just a private being told to move rocks because his commander told him so.

(National Archives)

Then came another public relations nightmare for the Soviets. Elvis was voluntold into a working party responsible for moving the Steinfurth WWI Memorial off-post and back into the neighboring community. Presley and his platoon simply relocated the memorial, but were heavily photographed throughout — because he was Elvis.

The West Germans were enamored because The King was honoring their people’s legacy. The Soviets feared that his “good will” would draw East German youth away from communism. The Soviets insisted that Presley’s involvement was part of a greater, sinister plot and doubled down on their anti-Elvis stance.

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All hail the King, baby!

(National Archives)

After the monument was rededicated and the Lipsi failed to take off, the East German youth actually started to listen to the music of the guy that the government feared. The communists’ overreaction to Elvis only generated intrigue, and more and more people wanted to check out his music. The anti-Elvis sentiment snowballed and compounded until, eventually, all dancing done without a partner was strictly forbidden. Why? Because it could lead to everyone doing pelvic thrusts like a savage capitalist.

No, seriously. That’s not a joke. Rock-and-roll dancing was akin to sexualized barbarism to the communists, and people were beaten, arrested, and sentenced to prison for partaking. Riots ensued when the East German youth were screaming, “long live Elvis Presley!” And when protesters had their homes raided, the intruders would routinely find pictures of Presley stashed away.

Sgt. Presley would eventually leave West Germany and transition back to civilian life, but not before inadvertently creating some new fans along the way.

popular

How the Navy kept its Vietnam river forces going

For a lot of sailors serving in the Vietnam War, especially those on aircraft carriers, the war effort was a matter of routine. For many, that daily routine didn’t involve much combat. But for the Navy’s river force, among a few other units, it was a different story. The pilots who flew from carriers or land bases, the SEALs and members of the Underwater Demolition Teams, and Navy corpsmen all saw plenty of action, among others.

One other group of sailors who often saw combat was the Navy’s riverine force. This force, known as the “Brown Water Navy,” took on the Viet Cong (and later, the North Vietnamese Army) in the Mekong Delta. These days, there are much newer, riverine combat vessels in service, and “brown water” sailors have seen action during Operation Iraqi Freedom.


In Vietnam, two classes of vessel primarily carried out operations. The first were PBRs (Patrol Boat Riverine). The Navy bought 32 of these 32-foot long vessels, each of which displaced seven tons. For small ships, they packed a huge punch: Three M2 .50-caliber machine guns and a Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher came standard. These small boats could be loaded up extras, too, including 7.62mm machine guns, 60mm mortars, and even flamethrowers!

Whatever configuration, these river force boats brought a lot of firepower for a crew of four to unleash on the enemy.

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A crewman rests near the forward gun turret of a PBR.

(US Navy)

The other vessel was the Patrol Craft Fast, known as the PCF or “Swift Boat.” This vessel, famous for being served on by former Secretary of State John Kerry (whose service drew controversy in 2004), packed three M2 .50-caliber machine guns and had a crew of six. 193 were built, and while they’re most famous for their service in Vietnam, the PCF was also exported.

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Swift Boats take South Vietnamese Marines to their infiltration point.

(US Navy)

While the sailors who went into harm’s way deserve our thanks, they could never have done it without the help of those who carried out maintenance on the vessels that brought them to the fight.

See how those maintainers kept the PBRs and Swift Boats in service and in action below!

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY HISTORY

Medieval knights used to fight giant snails and no one knows why

Alright, that headline is a bit misleading. The knights were depicted fighting giant snails. But the mystery remains – why? And were snails really that big back then?


Apparently, it’s a common sight in English scrolls dating from the 13th and 14th centuries: armored knights engaging in medieval combat with giant snails. Medievalists at the British Library began to wonder the same things we all are – WHY.

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So much why.

Two reasons might explain the ubiquitous depictions (but not fully). The first is that the snails are the enemy of the person writing the manuscripts. Many famous families and villains could have fit the bill. The only problem is that this doesn’t explain why the knights are always losing to the villain. If this was propaganda, shouldn’t the good guy win?

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Someone get this dude a salt shaker.

Another reason is that it could be a depiction of the common folk rising against an unwilling aristocracy. These slimy creatures from the garden weren’t welcome guests in the manor houses and castles of the Middle Ages. Neither were peasants.

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Taste steel, peasant.

There’s no way it could be a depiction of actual knights fighting real giant snails, right?

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RIGHT??

There were, in fact, snails as large (perhaps larger) than humans. But not in the middle ages. Fossils of Pachydiscus Seppenradensis giant cephalopods – have been found in temperate climates from the USA and across Europe. This puts the snails in the area where they could have fought medieval knights, but the timing doesn’t work out.

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Run. Run for your life. Cthulhu’s ancestors are coming for you.

Fossil records date Parapuzosia back to the early-to-late Cretaceous period of Earth’s history. This means these snails walked with dinosaurs like the Ankylosaurus and some species of dinosaur bipeds.

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This is the world history I really needed as a young man.

As far as history is concerned, knights couldn’t have been fighting giant snails because snails just didn’t grow that big back in the middle ages. Not even close. These days, the max size a “giant” snail grows can still fit in your hand.

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I mean, they’re kinda big. I guess.

So if they’re not fighting actual giant snails, what’s up with all the imagery of knights fighting giant snails?

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Or miniature knights fighting normal-sized snails.

If you have the answer, I’m sure the British Library would be interested in knowing.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Iraqi soldiers surrendered to a hovering Apache

The Apache helicopter was a maligned weapon system in early 1991 as low readiness rates, and worse than expected performance in small conflicts made people wonder if the aircraft’s huge costs were worth it. But the system excelled in the tough environment of the Persian Gulf War, chewing up Iraqi armor, bunkers, and ground troops.


In fact, one Apache crew even accepted the surrender of an Iraqi officer and his driver after the men decided they couldn’t escape the helicopter in their vehicle.

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Soldiers receive an escort from AH-64 Apache helicopters in 2004.

(U.S. Army Sgt. Kimberly Snow)

Warrant Officer John Ely was one of the pilots on the attack helicopter, and he would later describe the Iraqis’ actions as a seemingly obvious decision. Ely had been part of a team hunting targets in the desert, and they had already erased a few enemy positions.

Ely had his eye on a Toyota when the driver suddenly stopped the vehicle and hopped out. He opened the door for “a fat Iraqi officer” who exited the vehicle with his hands up and a briefcase raised.

Now, even with the man attempting to surrender, this was a tricky situation. Typically, surrenders are given to “maneuver” forces like infantry or cavalry on the ground, but engineers, artillery, and plenty of other ground troops are quite capable of accepting an enemy surrender.

But Apache crews have a severe weakness in this area. While the helicopter’s lethality is a great reason for enemy troops to throw their hands in the air, how does a four-man team in two helicopters; a common battlefield deployment for the attack helicopters, take custody of prisoners?

How do they search them for intel and weapons? How do they transport them back to a base? Apaches have good armor and redundant systems, but they’re vulnerable if they land. And they have no real passenger space even if they landed.

But as reported in the Chicago Tribune in 1991, Ely figured out a solution.

Look, [if you`re an Iraqi and] you see a guy in this machine hovering 200 feet in front of you, with a gun turret that moves with the nodding and turn of my head . . . I point south, they move south. They`ve just seen their buddies blown away. What would you do?
Enemy Surrenders to Apache

www.military.com

So, yeah, Ely just sent the dudes to some friendly forces so someone on the ground could search and secure them. In a similar situation, Apaches flying with OH-58s had a comparable experience on the “Highway of Death” where Iraqi tank crews surrendered as soon as they saw the helicopters coming in for an attack.

Another event took place in Iraq after Apaches took out artillery positions. The insurgents manning the weapons went to the middle of the field and held their hands up while the Apaches took out the large weapons, and then ground troops moved in to take possession of the prisoners.

But, tragically, that’s not always an option. The 227th Aviation Regiment’s 1st Battalion saw those flags of surrender from Iraqi tankers on the Highway of Death and didn’t engage them, allowing U.S. ground troops to accept the Iraqi surrender in 1991. But in 2007, two Iraqi men jumped out of their truck and attempted to surrender to a 1-227th Apache crew.

The crew held off on attacking, but wasn’t sure what to do. The Iraqis had been firing mortars from the truck, so the unit asked an undisclosed military lawyer for a legal review. His advice was that the Apache crew could not effectively receive the surrender, and so the mortar crew was still a legal target. (This advice has proved controversial since then.)

Meanwhile, the mortar crew jumped back into the truck and drove off with its mortar tube. So it was no longer clear whether they still wanted to surrender. The Apaches re-engaged, but failed to destroy the truck in the next attack. The men abandoned the truck and took shelter in a nearby shack, and the Apaches killed them there with a 30mm gun run.

So, if you ever find yourself trying to surrender to an Apache crew, maybe look around and see if you can find some ground troops to surrender to instead.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A day in the life of a Vietnam War chopper pilot

Hollywood tends to get military life wrong — and portrayals of helicopter pilots in the Vietnam War are no exception. Despite what you’ve seen in movies, daily operations didn’t always involve pulling troops from a hot landing zone or going in with guns and rockets blazing — and it wasn’t always done in a Huey, either.

In fact, while it’s best-known for playing a key role in Operation Enduring Freedom, the CH-47 Chinook saw a lot of action in the Vietnam War. This helicopter has served with the Army for over half a century and year and is still going strong — new variants, the CH-47F and MH-47G, are rolling off the production lines as we speak!


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CH-47 Chinooks and UH-1 Hueys load troops during Operation Crazy Horse. Over 30,000 troops were moved into difficult terrain in that 1966 operation.

(US Army photo)

For a lot of helicopter pilots, especially those who flew the CH-47A, CH-47B, and CH-47C models of the Chinook, the Vietnam War was mostly about moving cargo from one part of the operating theater to another, often hauling upwards of 7,000 pounds of cargo inside its cavernous cabin. The Chinook has a history of doing precisely that, whether in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Desert Storm, or any number of peacetime operations.

In Vietnam, CH-47s were also used to recover planes and helicopters. These would often be taken back to repair depots, like USNS Corpus Christi Bay (T ARVH 1). Chinooks were also often used for moving artillery pieces — and their crews and ammo — to new locations. It was faster and safer than going by ground, even though the helicopters sometimes found themselves overloaded by troops. In 1966, the Chinook made a name for itself during Operation Crazy Horse, during which over 30,000 troops were transported by chopper into very difficult terrain.

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A CH-47F in Afghanistan. The latest versions of the Chinook carry three times as much cargo as the ones that flew in Vietnam.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Nathan Hoskins)

At least 200 CH-47s were lost during Vietnam, either to enemy action or operational losses. Those harsh experiences, however, led to improvements. Today’s CH-47s haul 24,000 pounds, more than three times the 7,000 pounds carried by early Chinooks in Vietnam.

See what a day in the life of a Vietnam War Chinook pilot was like in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvXcgz-2u9g

www.youtube.com

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