Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII

In the summer of 1944, the Red Army was approaching Warsaw and Nazi Germany was preparing to retreat all along the Eastern Front. That’s when the Polish Resistance launched Operation Tempest, an all-out effort to shake off five years of Nazi occupation before the Germans could destroy the city or round up dissidents. 

For 63 days, Poles fought their occupiers in the streets of the Polish capital in the largest European resistance uprising of the war. Although the effort ultimately failed when the Soviets stopped their advance to allow the Nazis to crush the resistance, there were bright spots. 

The brightest being the liberation of the Gęsiówka Prison by the Zoska scouting battalion — essentially a hardcore group of eagle scouts — who kept the Nazis from liquidating the Jewish population there.

Members of the Polish Home Army, the main resistance force in occupied Poland during World War II, started the Warsaw Uprising on Aug. 1, 1944. Almost immediately, members of the Nazi SD, the intelligence arm of the SS, began to liquidate the Warsaw Concentration Camp known as Gęsiówka. 

To prevent them from finishing their dirty work, a group of teenage Polish scouts known as Battalion Zoska, organized an assault on the camp and its guards. The battalion wasn’t exactly what Americans would call Eagle Scouts, but it’s the closest description that fits. They were more than eagle scouts, but not quite a military unit.

Prisoners of Gęsiówka and the Zośka fighters after the liberation of the camp in August 1944

Still, these young scouts had been fighting Nazis as resistance fighters and partisans since 1942, so they had a lot of time to learn. When Operation Tempest was launched, Zoska had 520 soldiers in Warsaw. On the second day of fighting, Battalion Zoska captured a Nazi panzer tank and integrated it into their attack plan for Gęsiówka.

With their new armored platoon, Battalion Zoska began its assault on the concentration camp on Aug. 5. The Nazis were no match for the hardened eagle scout paramilitary force. The full force of Battalion Zoska descended with ferocity on the camp guards. Almost 500 Polish teenagers supported by the main gun of a panzer tank made for a formidable force.

Within 90 minutes, the Germans broke off their defense of the camp. Those who survived the Polish attack (there weren’t many) were scattered into the city or took refuge in a nearby prison still held by the occupiers. The attacking Poles lost only two men in the fight. 

Thousands of Polish Jews died in the days leading up to Battalion Zoska’s attack on Gęsiówka., but there were still 348 Jewish prisoners still alive in the camp after it was liberated. The Zoskas armed them and they joined the rest of Warsaw’s citizens in fighting Nazis to the death. 

The Warsaw Uprising would go on for another nine weeks as the Red Army looked on, hoping the Germans would crush the Polish resistance. Most of the liberated prisoners would die in the fighting, as would most of Battalion Zosk — 70% died in the Warsaw Uprising. 

Those who survived the Nazis were imprisoned in the Gęsiówka camp and other secret prisons by the communist regime in Poland. 

Today, the prison has been replaced by a  museum dedicated to the history of Poland’s Jewish people and a plaque honoring the Polish Jews who died in the camp, along with a memorial to the Polish Home Army and to Battalion Zoska.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The artillery mission that made Truman a criminal and hero

Future President Harry S. Truman was a new artillery captain in World War I during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive where his battery would be called to provide artillery fire for advancing American troops. One of his unit’s barrages would get him threatened with a court-martial, but the men who were saved by the barrage named him a hero.


Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII

Tanks push forward into action.

(National Archives)

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive in September and November in 1918 was the largest American offensive in history at the time with over a million men taking part. The job of Capt. Truman and most artillery units in the battle was to both clear enemy trenches with artillery and to take out German artillery units, thereby protecting American troops.

But the rules for artillery during these engagements were strict. Every division had a specific sector of fire, and these sectors were often further broken down by artillery regiment and battery. So Truman had specific targets he was supposed to hit and could engage basically anything else in the 35th Division’s sector.

The start of the offensive was legendary. Truman was part of the 60th Field Artillery Brigade which fired 40,000 rounds during the opening barrage, Truman’s battery, specifically, was firing in support of Lt. Col. George S. Patton’s tank brigade as the armor churned forward.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII

“Truman’s Battery” depicts Battery D in battle in World War I.

(Dominic D’Andrea)

But the overall offensive would not, immediately, go well for America. The German defenses were still robust, even after the opening salvo. And the limits on American artillery allowed German batteries to fire on American advances, sometimes with impunity.

Worst, America wasn’t yet used to dealing with the traffic jams that came from rapid advances through mud, and Germany made it harder for them by bombarding roads as they withdrew, filling them with shell craters that would trip up horses and cars.

Even with these and other setbacks, Battery D was typically in position to support their infantry and armored brethren.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII

Artillery soldiers fire in the Meuse-Argonne offensive in World War I.

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

Truman and Battery D focused on fire support of Patton and the other advancing troops, but they also fired at any threats to the 35th Division’s flank. So, when Truman saw an American plane drop a flare near his position on the 35th flank during the second day of the offensive, he grabbed his binoculars and tried to find what the pilot was pointing to.

Underneath the falling flare he spotted an entire German artillery battery setting up to send rounds into the American troops, either attacking Truman and his men or hitting the maneuvering forces ahead of him. The Germans were technically in the 28th Division’s sector, not Truman’s. If Truman turned his guns from their current mission to hit this threat, the action would break a direct order.

But the Germans were nearly within rifle range, and Truman wasn’t going to sit on his hands while a threat to Americans matured. He ordered his guns to take on the new mission, holding fire only until the German horses were pulled away. This ensured that the Germans wouldn’t be able to quickly withdraw. They would be forced to die at their guns or abandon them.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII

Traffic snarls slowed the American advance as artillery and supplies struggled to get into place to support the forward line of troops.

(National Archives)

It worked. Battery D’s fire crippled the Germans before they could get firing, and the survivors abandoned their guns permanently. But Truman, knowing that his own position had been spotted, pulled his own troops to the southwest and resumed operations.

All good, right? Well, no. The regimental commander, Col. Karl Klemm, somehow got it in his head that wiping out a German artillery battery was less important than following orders to a T, and he threatened Truman with a court-martial.

It didn’t seem to have much effect on Truman, though. After all, the 129th Field Artillery Regiment was already short qualified leaders, so it was unlikely he would get relieved of command on the spot. So he filled some notes and letters home with choice insults for Klemm, but he also kept his men moving forward with the advance.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII

Artillery Observers worked to find enemy targets and direct artillery fire onto them.

(National Archives)

And the next day, despite the threat of court-martial, Truman fired out of sector again. Twice. The first breach came the very next morning when Truman saw a German observation post being set up in an abandoned mill right in the middle of the 28th Infantry Division’s sector. Truman ordered his 75mm guns to smack it down.

And just hours later a German artillery battery tried to re-position in the 28th sector, and Truman spotted it. Again, he turned his guns and slammed them with his own artillery fire.

Later that same day, the order restricting artillery units to their own sectors of fire was withdrawn. From then on, artillery units could engage anything in their sector as well as any target they directly observed, exactly as Truman had been fighting the whole time.

Articles

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

On Feb. 25, 1968, a patrol left the besieged Khe Sanh garrison — where U.S. Marines were outnumbered by North Vietnamese forces almost 4 to 1 — and was drawn into a well-executed ambush.


The patrol, conducted by two squads, was nearly wiped out and few survivors managed to crawl out of the jungle. It was later dubbed “The Ghost Patrol.”

One of the Marines listed as lost in the battle, Pfc. Ronald L. Ridgeway, actually spent the next five years in solitary confinement in a North Vietnamese prison camp before returning to the family that had “buried” him months after his disappearance.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII
Marine Pfc. Ronald Ridgeway (Photo: YouTube/Vietnam Veteran News Podcast)

The Battle of Khe Sanh began when the North Vietnamese attacked one of America’s northernmost garrisons near the border between Vietnam and Laos. Army Gen. William Westmoreland had predicted the attack months before and reinforced the base with additional men and munitions and ordered repairs and upgrades to the base’s airfield.

When the North Vietnamese attacked on Jan. 21, 1968, it quickly became clear that the preparations weren’t enough. The 6,000 troops were attacked by an enemy force that would eventually grow to an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 enemies, and the carefully hoarded supply of artillery and mortar rounds were 90 percent destroyed by an enemy artillery attack that hit the ammo dump.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII
And the Marines needed that ammo. They went through it at a prodigious rate while trying to beat back the siege. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Westmoreland convinced President Lyndon B. Johnson that the base should be held at all costs, triggering a 77-day siege that required planes to constantly land supplies on the improved airfield.

The Marines and other troops on the base sought continuously to knock the North Vietnamese off balance and to relieve the pressure on the base. The February 25 patrol aimed to find North Vietnamese and either kill them or take them captive to collect intelligence.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII
F-100 strikes close to the lines while supporting the Marines at Khe Sanh on March 15, 1968. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

It was led by an inexperienced lieutenant who, after his men spotted three enemy fighters who quickly fled, ordered a full-speed chase to capture or kill them despite advice to the contrary from others.

The three enemies turned out to be bait, and they drew the Marines into a nearly perfect crescent-shaped ambush.

The Marines fought valiantly, but they were taking machine gun and other small arms fire from three sides mere moments after the fight began. Grenades rained down on their position as they sought cover, concealment, and fire superiority.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII
Infantry Sgt. Kregg Jorgenson is rushed behind friendly lines during a firefight in the Vietnamese jungle.(Image: YouTube/CBS Evening News)

Under increasing fire, Ridgeway and another Marine attempted to break contact and return to the base, but they came across a wounded Marine on their way. Unwilling to leave an injured brother, they stopped to render aid and carry him out.

As they stopped, bursts of machine gun fire hit the three Marines, wounding all three. One was killed by a grenade moments later, another died of wounds that night, and only Ridgeway survived despite the enemy shooting him in the helmet and shoulder. He was later captured when a Vietnamese soldier tried to steal his wristwatch and realized the body was still breathing.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII

That September, his family was part of a ceremony to bury unidentified remains from the battle and memorialize the nine Marines presumed dead whose bodies were only partially recovered.

But for five years after the battle, Ridgeway was an unidentified resident of the Hanoi Hilton, undergoing regular torture at the hands of his captors.

It wasn’t until the North Vietnamese agreed to a prisoner transfer as part of the peace process in 1973 that they released his name to American authorities, leading to Ridgeway’s mother getting an alert that her son was alive.

Five years after the battle and four years after his burial, Ridgeway returned to America and was reunited with his family. He later visited the grave and mourned the eight Marines whose names shared the list with his. A new memorial was later raised with Ridgeway’s name removed.

MIGHTY HISTORY

OSS agents gave the Dalai Lama a Patek Phillipe watch from FDR during WWII

Even if you’re not a watch enthusiast, the brand name Patek Philippe probably rings a bell. Founded in 1839, Patek is part of the so-called Horological Holy Trinity of luxury Swiss watch brands along with Vacheron Constantin and Audemars Piguet. That’s right, there are brands above even Rolex. The top-tier status of these brands makes them popular lyrical references for hip-hop and rap artists looking to flex their superiority. Why then, does His Holiness Tenzin Gyasto, the 14th Dalai Lama own a Patek? As you’ve likely read the title of this article, he didn’t buy it himself.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII
The young Dalai Lama in 1944 (Public Domain)

In 1942, the war in the Pacific looked grim. The Australian, British, and Dutch forces were suffering loss after loss against the relentless Japanese military. Much of the American Pacific Fleet was sunk or damaged at Pearl Harbor, and the American garrison in the Philippines was cut off and surrounded. China, who had been fighting the Japanese since 1937, was heavily reliant on American support. However, Japan had cut the Burma road through China, forcing America to find another supply route to Chinese forces. The Office of Strategic Services was called in to find a solution.

The predecessor to the CIA, the OSS specialized in clandestine operations like intelligence gathering, sabotage, subversion, and espionage. The agency recognized the strategic potential that Tibet had in moving supplies to China. However, the idea of going through Tibet was a tricky one. It would require recognizing Tibet as an autonomous region, something China was none too pleased about. Moreover, operations in Tibet would require the blessing of the young Dalai Lama. President Roosevelt approved of the plan and the OSS dispatched two of its best agents to Tibet in late 1942.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII
Captain Dolan in Tibet (Public Domain)

Captain Brooke Dolan II was a naturalist who could understand the perspectives of the Tibetan Buddhists. Besides that, he traveled extensively throughout Tibet before the war and knew their customs and courtesies. Dolan was joined by Major Ilya Tolstoy, grandson of Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy of War and Peace fame. Aside from his connection to literary history, Tolstoy was an accomplished scientist who conducted extensive research at Mount McKinley in Alaska. This helped prepare him for the challenging terrain and climate he would face in Tibet.

Dolan and Tolstoy trekked in a mule caravan from India. It took them over three months to summit the Himalayas and reach the Dalai Lama, then just seven years old. The agents presented His Holiness with a handwritten letter and a gift from President Roosevelt: a Patek Philippe reference 658 timepiece. Only 15 examples of the watch were produced and it was valued at $2,800 in 1942 (over $47,000 in 2021). The young Dalai Lama gifted the agents a ceremonial scarf in return. The exchange occurred in complete silence in accordance with Tibetan custom.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII
Dolan (second from the left) and Tolstoy (right) with their monk-interpreter, Kusho Yonton Singhe, near Lhasa, Tibet for their official greeting ceremony, January 1, 1943 (Public Domain)

The Dalai Lama approved of the request to transport supplies through Tibet into China. This friendly relationship allowed America to help keep China in the fight for the remainder of the war. It also allowed the CIA to support Tibetan resistance fighters when Communist China invaded in the 1950s.

The Dalai Lama continues to carry the Patek that was gifted to him by FDR through Dolan and Tolstoy. Sources report that the historical watch has been repaired at least three times since then. The Dalai Lama famously displayed it in 2016 during a meeting with the U.S. Congress. Made of 18k gold and featuring a perpetual calendar, moon phase, split-seconds chronograph and minute repeater, the watch would fetch a hefty sum today without its historical provenance. The fact that it involved so many famous figures and was featured in a crucial diplomatic agreement makes it absolutely priceless.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII
His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, presents the Patek Philippe 658 gifted to him by FDR (Senator Patrick Leahy)
MIGHTY HISTORY

This E-4’s grave is the most dangerous gravesite in the world

In January 1961, the U.S. Army suffered its only nuclear accident and the only fatal nuclear accident in the United States. The accident was caused by the manual removal of a control rod in a nuclear reactor in Idaho. The resulting explosion killed two Army specialists and a Navy Electrician’s Mate. One of the Army specialists, Richard McKinley, was so irradiated that his body had be interred in a lead-lined casket, covered in cement and placed in a metal vault before burial.

The special grave is now at Arlington National Cemetery where it is under special watch, unable to be moved without permission from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.


Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII

That’s not really what we think of at Arlington National Cemetery.

The official cause of the explosion was ruled an accident, although some suspect it might have been a suicide due to the nature of the accident. In the nighttime hours of Jan. 3, 1961, three enlisted men working the reactor at an experimental Idaho-based Reactor Testing Station were killed when one of the nuclear core’s control rods were removed manually.

That is to say one of the men removed the uranium-235 control rod 50 centimeters – with his hands. Just 40 centimeters was enough to send the reactor to critical.

And it did send the reactor critical, immediately unleashing 20,000 MW in .01 seconds, causing the nuclear fuel to melt. The melted uranium began to interact with the water in the reactor and produced a violent explosion of steam that caused part of the core to rise three meters in the air.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII

In the late 1970s, it was even alleged that the incident was an intentional murder-suicide.

Army Specialist John Byrnes and Navy Electricians Mate Richard Legg were also killed in the incident, the first and only deadly nuclear incident on U.S. soil. They were buried in their hometowns. Specialist Richard McKinley would have to be buried elsewhere – somewhere his irradiated body could not harm anyone else.

When the specialist removed the control rod by hand, he had already absorbed enough radiation to kill him a few times over but the resulting steam explosion sent the rod flying through his body, contaminating it with long-life radioactive isotopes.

He was placed in a lead casket, covered in concrete and sealed in a metal container. His body now rests in Arlington National Cemetery. Along with delivery of the body came the orders from the Assistant Adjutant General of Arlington Cemetery:

“Victim of nuclear accident. Body is contaminated with long-life radio-active isotopes. Under no circumstances will the body be moved from this location without prior approval of the Atomic Energy Commission in consultation with this headquarters.”
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These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

Snipers are undoubtedly the most lethal shooters on the battlefield, able to take out targets from hundreds and hundreds of yards away, without their marks being alerted to their presence.


They are experts at blending into the environment, masters of patience, physically developed and always well-trained. But snipers still can’t take the shots they they’re known for without a decent rifle in their hands, capable of helping them reach targets at longer-than-normal ranges.

Over the past 50 years, records for the longest kill-shots in history have been made and broken repeatedly by some of the greatest snipers the world has ever seen. These are the four guns they have used to break and set these records on confirmed kills at unimaginably far distances:

4. Browning M2 ‘Ma Deuce’ Heavy Machine Gun

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII
The M2 machine gun Carlos Hathcock used for his longest confirmed kill in 1967 (Photo US Marine Corps)

A WWII-era machine gun used as a sniping system doesn’t exactly evoke any images of precision shooting, but it’s exactly what a 24 year-old Marine by the name of Carlos Hathcock used in early 1967 to take out a Vietcong militiaman pushing a bicycle loaded with weapons and ammunition. Built to fire the .50 BMG round, the M2 had exactly the range and stopping power Hathcock wanted in a gun that would allow him to hit targets at distances far beyond what a standard-issue sniper rifle permitted.

With an Unertl scope mounted to a custom-made bracket crafted by Hathcock himself, and the M2 in single-shot mode, the gun could engage targets at distances over 1600 yards. The machine gun was balanced on an M3 tripod and kept in place with sandbags.

His record-breaking February 1967 kill was made using this setup at 2500 yards, creating a record for the history books which would stand until the War in Afghanistan in 2002.

3. Barrett M82A1 Special Application Scoped Rifle

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII
An M82A1 sniper rifle without its signature muzzle brake, circa 1990 (Photo US Army)

According to Chris Martin in his book, “Modern American Snipers,” Sgt. Brian Kremer currently holds the American record for the longest sniper kill in Iraq, while serving with the 75th Ranger Regiment. The M82 SASR is every bit the beast it looks, firing a .50 Browning Machine Gun round at effective ranges up to nearly 2,000 yards. Weighing in 30 pounds, and measuring 48-57 inches long depending on the barrel used, the M82 is without a doubt one of the most fearsome small arms on the battlefield.

The M82 was originally put into service with the US military in 1990, and has been used in every conflict since. Though smaller-caliber sniper rifles are typically unable to hit targets behind cover, American snipers have been able to use the M82 and the Raufoss Mk 211 .50 caliber round to simply shoot their way through obstacles at great distances to reach their marks. Kremer’s shot reportedly measured 2,515 yards.

2. Accuracy International L115A3 Long Range Rifle

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII
British Royal Marine commandos training with L115A1 sniper rifles (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

In 2009, British Army sniper Craig Harrison set a new world record for the longest confirmed kill in history with his L115A3, the standard long-range marksman’s rifle of the British military. During an ambush on a convoy he was attached to, Harrison hit a pair of Taliban machine gunners using 10 carefully-placed shots at a range of 2,707 yards, beating out the previous record by 50 yards.

Known in civilian markets as the Arctic Warfare Magnum, the L115A3 is chambered to fire the .338 Lapua round — a devastating bullet with phenomenal range. Known for its armor-piercing abilities at long distances, the .338 is now extremely popular among military snipers and marksmen across the world.

1. C15 Long Range Sniper Weapon

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII
A Canadian sniper training on the C15 .50 caliber sniper rifle (Photo Canadian Army)

Commercially known as the McMillan Tac-50, this is the rifle which has broken the world record for longest kill on three separate occasions over the last 15 years.

In March 2002 during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, Canadian sniper Arron Perry broke Carlos Hathcock’s 35-year record with a confirmed kill at 2,526 yards. Later that month, another Canadian sniper, Rob Furlong, topped Perry with a shot ranging 2,657 yards. Recently, it was reported that yet another Canadian set and holds the world record — now at a mind-blowing 3,540 yards… that’s over half a mile longer than Furlong’s 2002 kill!

The C15, like its commercial name suggests, is built to fire .50 caliber rounds, and has seen service with a number of elite military units, including the US Navy’s SEAL teams, Canada’s Joint Task Force 2, and Israeli special forces.

This monster of a weapon weighs 26 pounds on its own, and measures 57 inches from stock to barrel.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history

On August 22, 1914, France launched 15 ill-fated assaults against German lines from France to Belgium, resulting in battles which, combined, cost 27,000 French lives and an unknown number of German deaths in a single day of fighting. On that day, there were more fatalities than the British experienced in the first day of the Battle of the Somme and more than the U.S. suffered in the Battle of Antietam in the Civil War.


Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

 

The Battle of the Frontiers, as it would come to be known, began in August, 1914, but historians disagree about the exact date on which it started in earnest. Basically, the French forces mobilized in early August to arrest Germany’s quick progress westward, setting off a series of smaller clashes as the armies maneuvered for position.

By August 22, France’s armies were in position and the command wanted to push forward, always advancing. A general assault was ordered, and French forces pressed against their German counterparts in fifteen distinct locations. French forces attempted to use old-war tactics in a new, industrialized state of war, and it didn’t go better for France than for anyone else in World War I.

French troops tried to force wedges between German armies that had machine guns in defensive positions, tried to conduct bayonet charges against enemies behind cover, and kept sending wave after wave of troops when the first few attacks didn’t work.

Possibly the fiercest of the fighting came at Rossignole when the French 3rd Colonial Infantry Division ran into the entire German 6th Army Corps. The French forces fought bravely with officers leading from the front, but outnumbered and in dire straits, the division was whittled down to virtually nothing.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII
(Imperial War Museum)

 

Of the division’s three generals, two were killed and one was injured and captured. The commanding general, thought to have gone mad during the battle, simply waded into the worst of the fighting until he was shot dead. Some of the division’s units lost all but a handful of their officers, and the more conservative estimates for French soldiers killed at Rossignole say up to 7,000 perished. Some estimates are 50 percent higher.

But while Rossignole was fierce, Charleroi to the north was nearly as contested and featured much larger groups of men, resulting in even more casualties. France’s 15 divisions at the Charleroi were reinforced by three from Britain, and higher headquarters thought it was a sufficient force to pit against a suspected 18 German divisions.

But the French commander on the ground thought the Germans had twice as many men or more. He protested his orders, but was sent forward anyway on August 21. The French force and their British allies attacked a German force of 38 divisions which held key bridges and other features that the French needed to take to be successful.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII
(Wellcome Collection, CC BY 4.0)

 

Because of the French belief at the time that it was always better to be on offense, they sent division after division into the meat grinder. Thousands more Frenchmen, as well as large numbers of British and German troops, were lost in the bitter fighting.

By the time the sun set on August 22, approximately 27,000 French troops had died along with tens of thousands more British and German troops, making it more costly fighting than the first day of the Battle of the Somme, where Britain lost almost 20,000 soldiers. And, like the Somme, the full battle would rage for weeks more.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII

In all, the Battles of the Frontiers resulted in over half a million casualties in a single month of fighting. The painful lessons learned would all too slowly cause both sides to rethink their tactics and strategy, but years of trench fighting and pointless cavalry charges and bayonet assaults against machine guns would be needed before truly modern tactics were adopted across the board.

Unfortunately for those who sacrificed their lives for France in that bloody month, the large collection of smaller battles are mostly forgotten when held up next to gargantuan fights, like the Battle of the Somme, where over a million men were killed, wounded, and captured in just under five months of fighting.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII
One of the bloodiest battles in history. (French National Library, Public Domain)

 

Of course, there are some ancient battles where larger numbers of troops were reported killed in a day or a few days of fighting, but the numbers are not always considered reliable. One day of battle, which may have been even larger and more deadly than August 22, 1914, was the day in 216 B.C. when Carthage and Rome fought the Battle of Cannae. There, Hannibal managed to encircle a much larger Roman force and kill nearly all of its troops.

Carthage reportedly lost as many as 6,000 men while the Romans, if the reports are accurate, lost over 50,000, who were either killed or committed suicide on the battlefield.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Everything the US has learned in Afghanistan the Brits learned in the 1800s

In 1839, the forces of Great Britain and the British East India Company invaded Afghanistan in the first major conflict of the “Great Game” – the struggle between Great Britain and Russia for control of Asia. The British quickly defeated the opposing forces of Dost Mohammad and garrisoned the capital Kabul, as well as the major cities of Kandahar and Jalalabad. However, by mid-1841 the situation in Kabul was deteriorating. The British forces made camp in an indefensible position just outside the capital. Meanwhile, two senior British officials were murdered with no reprisal from the British forces, further emboldening the Afghans.


Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII

Unfortunately for the soldiers of the garrison, a confluence of events meant trouble for them. First, the appointment of the incompetent General Elphinstone to command the British forces in Kabul. The second was a new government in London calling for increased cost-savings from the ongoing campaign. The combination of these two events led to the fateful decision for the garrison in Kabul, along with their camp followers, to conduct a retreat to Jalalabad and then back to India to escape the rising unrest in the capital. After the first unit to travel to Jalalabad in November has been harassed and sniped throughout their journey, General Elphinstone trusted the assurances of an Afghan warlord that his column would be granted safe passage.

On 6 January 1842, Elphinstone’s column of the British 44th Regiment of Foot, three regiments of Bengal Native Infantry, British and Indian cavalry, the Bengal Horse Artillery – about 700 British and 3800 Indian soldiers – as well as 12,000 camp followers – set off on their march through the treacherous Afghan winter towards Jalalabad. Almost immediately, they began receiving harassing fire from the Ghilzai tribesmen and were ambushed and attacked repeatedly over the next several days. The weather also took a toll on the Indian soldiers and camp followers who had been recruited from the more tropical climate in India. On 9 January, after losing over 3,000 casualties and having only covered twenty five miles, General Elphinstone, along with the wives and children of the officers accepted the offer of a warlord to be taken into his custody for safety, and immediately became his hostages instead. The remainder of the force trudged on, hoping to clear the snow-choked passes and reach the safety of the garrison at Jalalabad.

By 12 January, the column had been reduced to around one hundred men, mostly infantrymen of the 44th Regiment of Foot, as well as a few remaining officers on horseback. As they tried to clear a barrier erected on the valley floor many were killed while the survivors gathered on a hillock outside the village of Gandamak to make their last stand. When offered a surrender by the Ghilzai tribesmen surrounding them a British sergeant reportedly yelled back “not bloodly likely!” and thus sealing their fate. In the ensuing chaos the British infantry fired their remaining ammunition before fighting on with bayonets. Only a handful of men survived to be taken captive.. Though some officers on horses managed to escape they were hunted down and killed as well; all except for one.

“You will see, not a soul will reach here from Kabul except one man, who will come to tell us the rest are destroyed.”

– Colonel Dennie, British Army of the Indus, Nov. 1841

At Jalalabad on 13 January, Colonel Dennie was manning the fortifications awaiting the arrival of the column from Kabul when he spotted a lone man on horseback approaching the city. Upon seeing the man he is said to have remarked “Did I not say so? Here comes the messenger.” The lone survivor of the column was Dr. William Brydon, an assistant surgeon, who straggled in exhausted and severely wounded on a horse that was also severely wounded. Dr. Brydon had survived a sword strike to the head, which had cleaved off a small portion of his skull, thanks to a copy of a magazine he had stuffed into his hat for extra warmth. His horse apparently cleared the gates of the city and promptly laid down, never to rise again. Brydon was the sole survivor of some 16,000 who started the trek a week earlier to arrive at Jalalabad.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII
“The Sepoy revolt at Meerut,” wood-engraving from the Illustrated London News, 1857

Brydon would survive his wounds and later survive another harrowing incident when we was severely wounded during the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857. General Elphinstone died in captivity. Shortly after the news of the massacre reached British officials, the decision was made to withdraw all British forces from Afghanistan, but not before retribution was sought. By the summer of 1842 the Army of Retribution had been raised and marched through Afghanistan, releasing many of the prisoners taken during the retreat from Kabul as well as exacting their vengeance before finally withdrawing on 12 October 1842.

MIGHTY HISTORY

In Ancient Rome, purple was worth more than gold

In the world of the ancient Mediterranean, there were plenty of ways for the upper class to flaunt their wealth. Just like today, the elites lived in massive houses, wore luxurious clothing, and dined on decadent delicacies. But for the 1 percent of the 1 percent, there was a status symbol shrouded in myth and worth more than gold: purple.

Dyes were difficult to produce in the ancient world. All dyes were made from a natural source like a plant, animal, or mineral, and some were rarer than others. One of the rarest, though, was Tyrian purple.


Tyrian purple was made from the secretions of a certain sea snail, called a Murex. It took thousands of these snails to produce even a small amount of usable dye, making Tyrian purple extremely expensive. It was worth the cost, however; Tyrian purple was famous because over time its color would not fade but actually become brighter and more beautiful.

Tyrian purple was named after the Phoenician city of Tyre, where the dye was first produced in the Bronze Age. The Phoenicians exported purple all around the Mediterranean, making their dye and themselves quite popular. Some historians even speculate that the word “Phoenician” is derived from the Greek word for “purple.”

The dye took the Mediterranean world by storm. In the Iliad and the Odyssey, Homer reserves purple for the greatest warriors and kings. King Solomon supposedly decorated the Temple of Jerusalem with Tyrian purple. Alexander the Great and his successors wore purple as their symbol of royal authority. The Mediterranean was also awash with myths about how human beings first discovered purple.

Tyrian purple would earn its other name, imperial purple, from the Romans. In the Roman Republic, the high-ranking magistrates wore the toga praetexta, a white toga with a purple stripe. Generals celebrating a triumph, a festival that was the highest honor a general could receive, were allowed to wear the solid purple toga picta.

After the Republic became the Empire, purple was increasingly associated with the emperor and his subordinates. According to Roman historians, the emperor Caligula once sentenced a Roman client-king to death for the arrogance of wearing purple.

In the coming centuries, the Roman government would even nationalize the production of purple, and save the dye for the emperor. In the reign of Diocletian in the late third and early fourth centuries, one pound of purple wool was worth a pound of gold, and one pound of purple dye was worth three pounds of gold.

In the Eastern Roman Empire, purple was the property of the emperor. To become emperor was to be “raised to the purple” and to be the child of an emperor was to be “born in the purple.” Purple was used for the most important imperial documents, and a splash of purple on one’s clothes marked one as a bishop or imperial administrator.

Even after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, purple remained popular. The westerners could still purchase purple from the easterners, who produced it in Constantinople. Charlemagne was wearing purple when he was crowned the Holy Roman Emperor in 800, and was wearing purple when he was buried. The nobility and the clergy used purple to represent their secular and sacred power.

After the Ottomans conquered Constantinople in 1453, the production of purple went into decline. Western Europe could no longer purchase purple, and the nobility and clergy were forced to start using scarlet instead.

However, purple’s association with might and majesty never quite disappeared. For centuries it remained the color of royalty, and many churches use purple vestments as symbols of authority. The ceremonial robes used in academia, modeled after clerical vestments, are often purple to represent intellectual excellence.

In America, the Purple Heart, along with its predecessor the Badge of Military Merit, uses purple to represent valor. Artificial dyes have made purple available to everyone nowadays, but it has never lost its association with greatness.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A sailor snuck ‘Remember Pearl Harbor’ onto Tojo’s dentures before his war crime trial

Japanese Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo took office just a month before the Pearl Harbor attacks, but had served as the Army minister for over a year before that and helped to draft the plan — from the attack at Pearl Harbor through the hopeful Japanese victory — for war with the western powers.


After Japan’s surrender, Tojo knew that he would be arrested and executed. He attempted suicide on Sep. 11, 1945 as American soldiers moved into position around his house but he survived.

 

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII
Photo: Navy Medicine

As Tojo awaited trial in 1946, the Navy sent Lt. j.g. Dr. George Foster, an oral surgeon, to examine the prime minister’s heavily damaged teeth. The surgeon removed all but seven of Tojo’s and then consulted with a Navy dental prosthetics officer, Lt. j.g. Dr. Jack Mallory.

Mallory recommended complete upper and lower dentures, but Tojo refused because he thought it would be a waste of effort to make both dentures for someone about to be executed. Instead, he asked for only an upper set of dentures so he could speak well at his trial.

Mallory and his friends devised a prank. They decided to engrave “Remember Pearl Harbor” on the back of the general’s dentures. Knowing that he would get in trouble if caught, Mallory opted to engrave the message in Morse code instead of standard letters.

Only Foster and Mallory knew that Mallory had gone through with the joke.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII
Tōjō meets with Minister of Munitions Nobusuke Kishi, who later became a prime minister in postwar Japan.

You could see it clearly when it was dried, but 99 percent of the time you couldn’t tell,” Mallory told the Chico News and Review in 2002.

The secret got out though. Mallory bragged about the prank to two new members of the dental team and one of them told his parents in a letter. The parents passed the story on and it was broadcast on a Texas radio show.

When word began to circulate through Tokyo, Mallory went to his superior and confessed.

Army Maj. William Hill told the young dentist, “That’s funny as hell but we could get our asses kicked for doing it.”

Mallory and Foster knew a guard at the prison and got access to the prison on Feb. 14, 1947, to grind the message off of the dentures. Their mission was successful.

An Army colonel found out about the story the next morning and summoned the dentists to his office, but both men denied the rumors.

Tojo later complained that the dentures fit differently after they were adjusted that February night, but there are no signs that he ever knew about the trick the dentists played on him. He was sentenced to death during the trial and executed in 1948.

Articles

This is how olives could bring peace to the Middle East

Israel.

Palestine.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII
It’s the soldier at back right that really gets us. (Go90 Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)


The ongoing conflict between the citizens of these two nations has become, in our time, the textbook case of intractability in human coexistence, an example of the kind of horizonless mistrust that pits neighbor against neighbor in enmity over a mutually claimed homeland.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII
Say what you will, this kid has got balls. (Go90 Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

…in general, there is no meeting between them. It’s not something normal between Israeli and Palestinian people. There is a fear, there is a stereotype…both sides lost their humanity in the other side’s eyes. —Mohammed Judah, NEF Staff

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII
Extremism for any cause make us strangers to our own humanity. (Go90 Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

How does one begin to help unbind this locked, loaded, boundary-straining situation? What universal balm exists to cool the friction between these factions?

Could it, perhaps, be food?

There is an organization — the Near East Foundation — that thinks so. And what’s more, given the industrial preoccupation of this region of the world (read: petrolium), this organization is prepared to make its theory even more audacious. NEF thinks the answer could be found in oil: olive oil.

Meet Olive Oil Without Borders. At the epicenter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the West Bank, this USAID-funded project seeks to bring olive farmers from both sides together. Mutual economic benefit is the primary goal. NEF consultants teach best practices in cultivation, harvest, and olive oil production without regard for politics and for the good of the region as a whole.

And by coming together around a mutual interest, and perhaps sharing the fruits of their labors, Israelis and Palestinians may, slowly, gently, come to trust in each other’s humanity.

In Part 1 of its two part finale, Meals Ready To Eat journeys to the Middle East to witness the struggle between divisive conflict and unifying food culture.

Watch as Dannehl extends many olive branches, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Meals Ready To Eat:

Army food will make you feel the feels

This whiskey is a WWII victory, distilled

This is what happens when you run your kitchen like a platoon

This is what it means to be American in Guam

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time when the USS Missouri gave full honors to a kamikaze pilot

Japanese kamikaze pilots struck fear in the hearts of allied troops as they conducted choreographed nose-dives right into U.S. ships during World War II’s Pacific fight.


Although the act proved costly for both sides, the Japanese were determined to take out as many Americans as they could in their quest for victory.

Reportedly, the first kamikaze operation of WWII occurred during the Battle of the Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.

After a mission had been planned out, the pilots of the Japanese “Special Attack Corps” received a slip of paper with three options: to volunteer out of a strong desire, to simply volunteer, or to decline.

Related: US acquires kamikaze drones to take out ISIS

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII
Kamikaze pilots pose together in front of a zero fighter plane before taking off from the Imperial Army airstrip.

On Apr. 11, 1945, just 10 days into the battle of Okinawa, a Japanese kamikaze pilot reportedly named Setsuo Ishino began his final mission at the young age of 19.

Ishino flew with 15 other pilots on their mission to directly nose dive into the USS Missouri — known as the Mighty Mo — and kill as many Americans as possible.

Around noon, the Mighty Mo spotted the inbound aircraft on their radar and fired their massive anti-aircraft weapons in defense.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII
Japanese kamikaze pilot, Setsuo Ishino.

The well-equipped battleship nailed Ishino’s plane, but somehow the motivated pilot regained control of his fighter and managed to crash into the USS Missouri, causing hot debris to rain all over the deck.

Also Read: This WWII vet fought kamikazes in history’s largest naval battle

The surviving crew cleared the wreckage and discovered Ishino’s dead body inside the plane. The deckhands planned on tossing the Japanese pilot overboard until Capt. William M. Callaghan, Missouri’s commanding officer ordered his men to render the enemy a proper burial.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII
Setsuo Ishino sea burial.

While not unheard of, there really wasn’t a precedent for rendering military funeral honors for an enemy.

Nonetheless, the ship’s medical staff prepared Ishino’s body, respectfully wrapping him up in his flag. As the lifeless body slid overboard, the crew members saluted and the Marines fired their weapons toward the sky, giving the Japanese kamikaze pilot full military honors.

Humanity can still be found in war.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Listen to these D-Day ‘frogmen’ explain their crazy role in the historic battle

Despite a limited number of submarines and other surveillance assets, naval forces in World War II had to find a way to spot enemy obstructions and defenses at fortified islands and beaches.

Into the gap stepped the frogmen and recon swimmers, brave sailors and Marines who swam into enemy waters and surveyed defenses with just snorkels and fins, often with enemy fire raining around them.

On D-Day, these brave men played a critical role ensuring that landing craft could make it to shore and take part in one of the most daring, important assaults of World War II. Hear what it was like to be in the waters at Normandy on that fateful day from the frogmen who were actually there in the interview below:


But the heroics of Naval Combat Demolition Units didn’t stop at D-Day; they played key roles in many defining operations of World War II:

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII

Navy and Marine Corps personnel landing at Tarawa had to do so with limited intelligence and with nearly all obstacles in place at the start of the battle.

(U.S. Marine Corps painting Sergeant Tom Lovell)

Beach landings around the world, but especially the frequent landings in the Pacific during World War II, require good intelligence. Enemy mines and underwater obstacles can cripple a landing force when it’s most vulnerable. To ensure the landing works, attackers have to either avoid or clear such obstacles before the landings are affected.

The Navy learned this lesson the hard way when forces landing at Tarawa just hours after their arrival were forced to fight past a reef, beach obstacles and mines, and machine gun positions that had all been underestimated because no one got eyes directly on them before the fight. The invaders had relied on aerial imagery that couldn’t expose all the hazards.

But when the Navy is short on stealthy assets, like submarines, someone else has to get up close and personal and see where the obstructions are.

“Frogmen,” recon swimmers whose efforts would lead to today’s Navy SEALs, filled this role by jumping out of small boats while wearing just shorts, snorkels, swim masks, and fins. From there, they had to swim along enemy beaches and make mental notes of anywhere they saw natural or man-made obstacles that could hinder a landing.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII

A Navy frogman in relatively advanced gear for the time. Many frogmen during World War II, especially in the Pacific, made do with just snorkels, masks, and fins.

(National Archives and Records Administration)

If the obstacles were thick and foreboding enough, they had to destroy them, swimming up to mines and other countermeasures and dismantling them in place or blowing them up. Most frogmen served in units named for this task, the “Underwater Demolition Teams,” or UDTs.

Worse, if there was any question of the shore composition, the frogmen were tasked with swimming up to the beach itself, gathering sand, and swimming back with their samples.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII

Marines landing at Iwo Jima benefited from the swimmers who ensured the approaches were clear of obstacles and checked whether the volcanic sand would allow for the free movement of tracked vehicles.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

While Iwo Jima was revealed to be largely bare of obstacles, the swimmers had to collect the volcanic ash of the beach as Japanese defenders in pillboxes were laying down a thick blanket of fire on the swimmers and their fire support ships. The hail of bullets was so thick that the ships frequently had to leave the line to put out fires and repair damage.

The swimmers had no such safe space. When they landed at Utah and Omaha beaches on D-Day, the Utah team suffered 17 casualties and the Omaha team lost 91 killed and wounded. 37 men died on the two beaches to reduce the threat to the follow-on attackers.

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII

Members of a Naval Combat Demolition Unit hit the beach during training.

They had to sneak up to obstacles and place dozens of pounds of explosives on them to prepare them for destruction, sometimes while close enough to German patrols and sentries to hear them speaking to each other.

One swimmer, part of a Naval Combat Demolition Unit, interviewed a few years ago by Stars and Stripes, recalled a woman on the beach waving to him from her beachfront house as the sailor laid the foundation for the invasion that would start in less than an hour.

According to a book review of Iwo Jima Recon by the Marine Corps Association Foundation,

The frogmen avoided mortar and small-arms fire by ducking underwater as they swam into the beach. One diver’s account simply stated, “Bullets drifted down like falling leaves.” Amazingly, all but one of the divers returned safely.

Their sacrifices, while great, saved lives. The naval report on Iwo Jima below details some of the frogmen’s work. Skip to 4:15 if you’re only interested in the swimmers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKxxbqynRIU

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