The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor

The Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was meant to be supported by five midget submarines. These submersibles were less than 80 feet long, crewed by two men, and carried just two torpedoes. Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki was the commander of midget submarine HA-19. The midget sub, also crewed by Warrant Officer Kiyoshi Inagaki, piggybacked across the Pacific on the Japanese submarine I-24. However, while none of the midget submarines at Pearl Harbor were successful in the attacks, HA-19 suffered a particularly bad streak of luck.

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor
Ensign Sakamaki’s naval photo

Before the midget sub even launched, there was an issue. A short distance from Pearl Harbor, the crew discovered that one of the torpedoes had been crushed during the trans-Pacific voyage. Although a replacement torpedo was loaded, the trouble continued. During final checks, Sakamaki found that the sub’s gyro had failed. Despite his best efforts, Inagaki was unable to repair it. This meant that the two men would have to navigate by memory and come up to periscope depth to check their progress intermittently. This would increase their risk of being spotted as they entered the harbor.

When HA-19 finally launched, the sub nosedived and almost ended its journey then and there. After adjusting their ballast, Sakamaki and Inagaki righted their vessel and headed for the harbor…or so they thought. Navigating from memory, they ended up sailing adjacent to the harbor entrance and back out into open water. The nosedive and navigational error cost them hours. When they finally reached the harbor entrance, they found it guarded by a blockade of U.S. destroyers. Sakamaki decided to run the gauntlet and force their way into the harbor.

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor
HA-19 washed ashore the day after the attack (U.S. Navy)

USS Ward (DD-139) had already sunk one midget sub that had attempted to enter the harbor earlier. Upon sighting HA-19, Ward dropped a pattern of depth charges that knocked Sakamaki and Inagaki unconscious. By the time they came to, the aerial attack on Pearl Harbor was underway. HA-19 made a second run for the harbor entrance but ran aground on a coral reef. This time, USS Helm (DD-388) spotted the midget sub and engaged it with her deck gun. Although HA-19 was freed by the shelling, its hull was compromised. Seawater mixed with the sub’s batteries and caused gas to leak from them. Fighting the gas leak and electrical shocks, Sakamaki and Inagaki also had to continuously adjust their ballast to account for the incoming seawater.

The two Japanese sailors then discovered that their torpedo housing was damaged and couldn’t fire. They devised a bold plan to ram the nearest ship, climb on board, and fight to the death on deck. After stripping down to their suicide outfits of their underwear, undershirts, and headbands, the two men sailed for the harbor entrance one last time. They were spotted and hit by more depth charges. This time, the sub’s steering was damaged. Both men were knocked unconscious again and HA-19 drifted at the mercy of the currents.

When Sakamaki and Inagaki awoke, HA-19 was completely disabled and had run aground again. They lit the fuse on the sub’s scuttling charge and swam for shore. Inagaki drowned during his escape and his body was recovered a few days later. Sakamaki, weary and wounded, almost met the same fate as he floundered towards land.

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor
POW #1 (U.S. War Department)

Two soldiers from Bellows Field, Lt. P. C. Plybon and Sgt. D. M. Auki spotted Sakamaki in the water. At first, they thought that the nearly nude Japanese sailor was a sea turtle coming ashore. When they saw his arms flailing though, they knew it was a person and rushed to help. At this point, Sakamaki realized that the scuttling charge had not gone off, but was too exhausted to swim back to the sub. Instead, he continued to the beach. Auki quickly realized that Sakamaki was Japanese and took him prisoner. Sakamaki became Prisoner of War Number 1 for the United States in WWII.

Upon his capture, Sakamaki’s only request was that he be allowed to commit suicide to make up for the shame of not dying in battle. Naturally, this request was denied and he was held for the entirety of the war. HA-19 was recovered and used on a war bond tour before it was placed at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, TX. After the war, Sakamaki was returned to Japan. He got married and worked for Toyota for most of his life. Sakamaki was reunited with HA-19 in 1991 when he accepted an invitation to speak at the National Museum of the Pacific War. He passed away in 1999.

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor
Sakamaki visits HA-19 (National Museum of the Pacific War)

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why Bloody Mary is feared

Queen Mary I is the daughter of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. The King loved his daughter but he desired a male heir to continue his line. He started to lust after Anne Boleyn, one of his wife’s ladies-in-waiting. Anne was higher-level servant that served as the Queen’s personal assistant but still low born. She allowed the King to pursue her. However, he needed his heir to be legitimate and considered divorcing the Queen. His divorce would trigger a chain of events that would change the course of history forever in England.

Mary falls from grace

Pope Clement VII happened to be Queen Catherine’s cousin. For six years the Pope attempted to delay the divorce, hoping to give Catherine enough time to birth a male heir. King Henry grew angrier over time and married Anne in secret. Henry declared that his marriage to Queen Catherine was invalid because she was the wife of his brother and thus the union was incestuous. He broke away from his ties to Rome and sparked the English Reformation by establishing The Church of England. The archbishop of Canter Bury, Thomas Cranmer, would then grant him an annulment instead.

queen mary
Portrait of Mary Tudor, Queen Mary I (1516 – 1558), circa 1550s
This portrait derives from the work of Hans Eworth who worked as a portrait and history painter (Flickr)

From this point forward Mary I is a bastard. Her titles revoked and cast out of her father’s favor. Her mother was forced to live in exile and this was the beginning of Mary’s deep seated hatred for her step mother, a protestant. Anne hated her too and continuously vied for Mary’s execution. Anne gave birth to a princess, Elizabeth I, whom also became a devoted protestant later in life.

Insult to injury

Anne’s failure to give the King an heir provided an opening for Mary to return to her father’s court but at a high cost. She would have to acknowledge him as the head of the Church of England and accept that her claim to royalty was illegitimate. She reluctantly agreed and regretted it for the rest of her life. For her humiliation she was reinstated at court and given a lavish residence – or be put to death.

As for Anne, she was beheaded on May 19, 1536 on false claims of multiple affairs with other men. The true reason for her execution was her failure to give Henry a male heir. The King married his third wife two weeks later — Jane Seymour. She was able to give Henry a male heir, Edward VI. Edward, also a dedicated protestant, who assumed the throne at the age of nine after his father’s death. Edward died of tuberculosis at the age of 15. He declared another heir so that neither of his sisters, Mary I or Elizabeth I would rule in his stead. Mary I was able to decisively wrestle power for herself in nine days and became the first Queen of England to rule in her own right.

Revenge of the Bloody Mary

For three years rebel bodies dangled from gibbets, and heretics were relentlessly executed, some 300 being burned at the stake. Thenceforward the queen, now known as Bloody Mary, was hated, her Spanish husband distrusted and slandered, and she herself blamed for the vicious slaughter.

Eric Norman Simons, The Queen and the Rebel: Mary Tudor and Wyatt the Younger

Mary also got her revenge against Thomas Cranmer who annulled her mother’s marriage and paved the way for Protestantism. He was burned at the stake for heresy.

Portrait of bloody mary
(Wikipedia)

Queen Mary I continued to rule for five years after taking the throne. She was ruthless and cruel, hellbent on revenge for the harsh life she lived. She blamed the protestants for everything and believed that by burning heretics alive she was saving the souls of everyone in her kingdom. After years of fighting mental illness and physical illness, she succumbed to uterine or ovarian cancer at the age of 42 in 1558. She gained the nickname ‘Bloody Mary,’ the first Queen of England.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Russia wants AI revolution, but its robots are people in costumes

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has been teasing a Russian artificial intelligence plan for months, promising to unveil it by “mid-June.” The first details have finally been announced, and the plan is surprisingly modest. But since this is a country whose state media thought a man in a costume was a real robot, it’s really not clear how Russia takes the lead where China and the U.S. are already humming along.


The U.S. and China are in an AI arms race that, coincidentally, is going on at the same time as our 5G race. But Putin is wise to the game going on, saying in 2017 that whoever leads artificial intelligence “will become the ruler of the world,” and he’s thrown his country into the race.

On June 20, Russia released the first details of its AI strategy, including a 0 million pledge in support for their 14 centers of study based at universities and scientific organizations. If 0 mil sounds like a lot, realize that America has OpenAI which was launched with id=”listicle-2638945543″ billion, DARPA launched the AI Next Campaign with billion, and venture capitalists in the U.S. dropped .3 billion on AI investments.

Meanwhile, Russia hasn’t announced any government research on the level of DARPA, and its private investment is paltry, possibly because Russia has little to no protections for private property, so the state can take any AI products created there at any time for its own use.

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor

Russian President Vladimir Putin Speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping June 5, 2019, during a series of Russian-Chinese talks.

(Office of the President of Russia)

That’s not to say there’s no development going on in Russia. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, recently bought one Russian AI company, implying it must have had some tech worth shelling out cash for. But it now belongs to an American company, and Alphabet has purchased dozens of competitors around the world but only found something worth scooping in Russia once.

America does have a major rival for AI supremacy though, and it might actually be in first place. China spends more on AI research than the U.S. does. According to Thomas Davenport, a government-run venture capital firm in China has promised over billion in research money for AI. And individual cities have dropped huge money as well. Tianjin, a port, has slated billion in research monies.

America has many more groups investing in AI than China, but China is likely investing more overall—even on the venture capital side—than the U.S., according to Davenport.

So, yeah, the idea of a come-from-behind victory for Russia seems far-fetched, but the fight at ranks 1 and 2 is still undecided, and victory is important. Artificial intelligence will likely give a massive advantage in every aspect of war as well as in a lot of industrial and economic applications.

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This is how T.E. Lawrence became a legend in the Arab world

Twenty-eight years after the untimely death of T. E. Lawrence — the Englishman known the world over as “Lawrence of Arabia” — Hollywood made a movie about him. 


The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor
The Legend.

It was, in the parlance of the day, a “doozy.”

Epic in scale and scope and concerning the extraordinary particulars of Lawrence’s role in the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire leading up to World War 1, “Lawrence of Arabia” was nominated for ten Academy Awards in 1963 and took home seven including Best Picture.

Though many with first hand knowledge of the true events of Lawrence’s life were quick to criticize the film’s dramatic liberties, much of the frisson that makes it a cinematic tour de force arises from the undeniably ambiguous nature of the man himself.

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor
The Man. The Myth…

T. E. Lawrence was a poet, an archeologist, a diplomat and a spy. He spoke French well enough to translate whole volumes of its literature to English. He spoke Arabic well enough to forge alliances between feuding Bedouin tribes. The question of his sexuality has been a matter of scholarly gossip for the better part of a century. Setting his extreme need for personal privacy against his talent for finding the center of world-changing events, the journalist Lowell Thomas famously commented that Lawrence “had a genius for backing into the limelight.”

But for all that’s debatable about T. E. Lawrence, many of his military superlatives are accurately recorded and verifiably real. As a British Army advisor to Arab Prince Faisal, Lawrence helped organize — and in many cases participated in — a number of the most pivotal maneuvers of the Arab Revolt. We was, to use a modern term, as deeply embedded amongst the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula as the necessity of his assignment required, perhaps more than his superiors in the British Army would deem advisable, certainly beyond what Edwardian cultural empathy could possibly conceive.

Lawrence saw the desert and went all in.

The film culminates with the Oct. 1, 1918, reclamation of Damascus, when the Arab forces, led in part by Lawrence and backed by the British Army, marched through the gates of the city in triumph. All across the Arab Peninsula, the forces of the Ottoman empire were retreating or surrendering to Prince Faisal’s nationalized Arab army.

The organized harassment campaign deployed against Ottoman railroads, depots and installations–a guerrilla approach perfected by Lawrence and his Bedouin irregulars from 1917 through 1918–had so destabilized the Ottoman position in the region that when it finally came time to take Damascus, the city surrendered without resistance. By the end of the war, the Arab Coalition had seized Palestine, Transjordan, Lebanon, southern Syria and vast swaths of the Arabian Peninsula. British General Allenby hailed Prince Faisal for his role in the victory (but was surely, in the same breath, congratulating himself for following Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence’s lead with the strong-willed Arab peoples):

I send your Highness my greetings and my most cordial congratulations upon the great achievement of your gallant troops … Thanks to our combined efforts, the Ottoman army is everywhere in full retreat.

As word of the adventures and exploits of Lawrence of Arabia spread throughout the West, the sheer romantic gall of the man, not to mention the exotic backdrop against which he won his fame, fired an insatiable public story engine that would spin over the particulars of his life forever after. The 1963 film was, among many takes on the subject matter, perhaps merely its most high-profile.

Lawrence’s own memoir of the Arab Revolt, “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom,” complicates his legacy far more than it elucidates, fueling unending debate among his biographers. As fodder for the imagination, it’s really all too perfect. His story is the stuff of legend precisely because it raises more questions than historical sleuthing can answer. But whatever the truth, the film that emerged is a juggernaut, a four hour cinematic tone poem about the ravenousness of Destiny when it’s got a man like T. E. Lawrence in its jaws.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The first fighter ace of World War II was a Chinese-American flying for China

Arthur Tien Chin was born in Portland, Oregon in 1913. He would die there in 1997, but not before being recognized for the incredible life he led. 

The man would spend much of his life as an everyday postal worker started his adult life as a skilled fighter pilot and the first American ace of what would become known as World War II – he would even be recognized for his contributions.

Chin was born to Cantonese parents who immigrated to Oregon from Taishan, in China’s Guangdong Province. When the Japanese Empire invaded Manchuria in 1931, Chinese-Americans were shocked and outraged. From the safety of their new country, they decided something had to be done.

Chin began flight school with a class of  around a dozen other Americans of Chinese descent, paid for by the Chinese expatriate community in Oregon. The only stipulation was that the students return to their homeland to fly against Japanese aggression. 

He returned to  Guangdong and joined the provincial air forces, as much of China was ruled by warlords at the time and many provinces had their own armies.  He soon defected to the Kuomintang central government’s air force and was selected for advanced fighter training, from the Nazi German Luftwaffe

Before the Axis Pact split the world into Axis and Allies with Germany and China on opposite sides, China was a major buyer of German weapons, especially aircraft. Upon his return to China, he was training other pilots in the use of the planes China actually had, outdated as they may be. 

Chinese pilots were still fighting with fabric-covered Curtiss biplanes with open cockpits and rifle-sized machine guns in 1937. That’s the year Japan began a full-scale war with China. Chin and his fellow Americans went to work, despite the technological disadvantage of fighting against modern bombers and fighters.

A plane similar to the one used by Arthur Tien Chin
A Curtiss biplane similar to the one used by Chin.

His first kill came that year when he took down a Japanese Mitsubishi G3M2 twin-engine bomber, on his first day at an airfield near Nanjing. But the plane he was flying took heavy damage and he was forced to the ground. His second kill against the same bomber came the very next month, September 1937.

By February 1938, Chin and company were flying British Gloster Gladiator fighters, which were still biplanes but not cloth covered. Chinese fighter pilots were able to down significant Japanese Imperial planes at first, but when the Zero, the Mitsubishi A6M, was introduced to the skies over China, the Gladiator’s days were numbered. Despite the Gladiator’s shortcomings, Chin would score 6.5 kills in its cockpit.

Chin himself would be shot down by intercepting Zeros while flying an escort mission in Guangxi. Outnumbered and outgunned, he rammed his biplane into one of the Japanese fighters, taking it down. He flew his failing plane back to friendly territory and landed in a rice paddy. His face now badly burned from the incident, he waited until friendly troops came by to return to base.

He and his family were bombed shortly after, as Chin recovered from injuries sustained during his shootdown incident. When his Liuzhou home was bombed by the Japanese, his wife was killed as she covered his body to protect him from shrapnel and debris. He was moved to Hong Kong to recuperate.

But no rest came. It wasn’t long before Japan came for Hong Kong too. He was evacuated and moved to New York City for skin grafts. He left the Chinese military after he recovered in 1945. After a stint promoting the purchase of war bonds, he was sent back to China, this time as a civilian aviator. His mission to fly supplies over “the hump” – an air route over the Himalayas from India into China. 

At the time, it was one of the most dangerous air routes in the whole war. But when the war ended in 1945, he returned to the US. Since he couldn’t find work as a pilot back in his home state of Oregon, so he became a postal officer. 

In 1995, the United States recognized Chin as a veteran of World War II, awarding him the Distinguished Service Cross and the Air Medal for his service. A month after his 1997, he was inducted into the American Combat Airman Hall of Fame of the Commemorative Air Force Airpower Museum for his 8.5 kills, making him America’s first fighter ace of World War II.

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France sent thousands of thank you gifts to the US after WWII

In 1949, the French freighter Magellan steamed into New York Harbor with “Merci, America” painted on its bow. The ship was carrying 49 railway cars filled with thousands of gifts donated by the people of France — a thank you for the food donated by American citizens to help rebuild Europe after WWII.


The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor
The Magellan steaming into New York Harbor in 1949.

Just two years before the Magellan arrived, the Marshall Plan inspired Americans to collect food and put their donations aboard what they called the “Friendship Train.” The train’s journey began in Los Angeles on Nov. 7, 1947, and arrived in New York City to a ticker-tape parade before shipping off to Europe.

Along the way, it stopped in many major cities on its 11-day route from sea to shining sea. When the cars arrived in the French city of Le Havre, it was 700 cars long and valued at some $40 million ($435 million adjusted for inflation).

Theme Trains, a site dedicated to the appreciation of historical railway events, notes that the idea of the American Friendship train was the brainchild of journalist Drew Pearson. Through his work and colleagues in Europe, he believed the Russians (and thus, Communists) were getting the credit for aid sent there through disinformation campaigns.

Pearson’s idea for the American train would make certain the Russians couldn’t take credit for western aid. He organized a grassroots effort through American newspapers, that effort resulted in the Friendship Train.

The people of France were so grateful that they responded with a train of their own — the Merci Train. French war veteran Andre Picard organized 49 WWI-era boxcars, one for each state (Hawaii and Washington, D.C. shared a car). The cars were filled with personal gifts from individual French citizens.

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor
The Merci Train arrives in New York, 1949.

When the Magellan arrived with the boxcars in 1949, delegations from each state received it, then sent its train on a tour of their state.  The boxcars bore a ribbon reading “gratitude train,” along with every crest from the provinces of France. They came to rest in public locations that vary from state to state — parks, museums, schools — for the public to view.

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor
Arizona’s boxcar, located near Scottsdale.

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George Washington was voted Britain’s ‘Greatest Enemy Commander’

In 2012, Britain’s National Army Museum organized a contest asking its patrons which of Britain’s historical enemies was their greatest foe? The answer turned out to be the man who, almost through sheer force of will, and despite a lack of trained and equipped troops, organized the worst defeat the British Empire ever suffered. Ever.

The man was George Washington.


The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor
“Give us this firecake and I’ll bring forth on this continent a new nation.”

 

When considering the winner of the contest, the museum took into account Washington’s spirit of endurance against the odds stacked in the British Empire’s favor and the enormous impact of his victory – not in the two centuries to come but in the immediate aftermath.

“His personal leadership was crucial,” said historian Stephen Brumwell, who called the American victory the Empire’s worst defeat. “His army was always under strength, hungry, badly supplied. He shared the dangers of his men. Anyone other than Washington would have given up the fight. He came to personify the cause, and the scale of his victory was immense.”

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor
And he made Cornwallis walk next to his horse after Yorktown, apparently. Ballsy.

 

Each possible commander must have led an army against British forces in combat, which ruled out enemies like Adolf Hitler. Candidates must also have been within the National Army Museum’s timeframe of the 17th century onwards, which ruled out enemies like William the Conqueror, who actually conquered Britain and changed Western Civilization forever.

The 8,000-plus votes in the survey put Washington well above other notable British enemies, such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Irish Independence leader Michael Collins, Nazi Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, and Turkish founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the “Hercules of the American Revolution”

Peter Francisco was born into a wealthy family in June, 1760, on an island in the Azores archipelago of Portugal. When Francisco was just 5 years old, he was abducted by pirates. The future patriot was ripped from his home and carted off to a nearby ship. Approximately six weeks later, a dock worker saw a boat maneuver up the James River in Virginia. There, the pirates dropped off the young Francisco and left as quickly as they’d arrived.

Nobody’s entirely sure why the abductors snatched him up only to later drop him off without seeking payment, but historians have their theories. Some say that Francisco’s father orchestrated the kidnapping in order to spare Peter from the wrath of his family’s political enemies.

Whatever the case, locals took the abandoned Francisco to a nearby orphanage soon after he arrived. There, he was taken in by Judge Anthony Winston. He took the young boy back to his plantation to learn English. Due to his dark, Mediterranean complexion, however, Francisco lived near the slaves and never received a proper education.

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor

Francisco spent many of his early years working on Judge Winston’s plantation, learning how to be a blacksmith. Winston invited Francisco to join him at the Second Virginia Convention in 1775, where George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry were all in attendance. After several days of intense debate between loyalists and patriots, Patrick Henry delivered his famous quote,

“Give me liberty or give me death.”

As the teenage Francisco watched through a window, he chose liberty.


Nearly a year and a half later, Francisco finally convinced Winston to allow him to join the Continental Army. At just 16 years old, Francisco was officially a member of the 10th Virginia Regiment and stood six feet, six inches tall and weighed 260 pounds — truly a giant of his era.

Soon after, Francisco fought in several famous battles, including Brandywine and Valley Forge. During the Battle of Stony Point, George Washington recruited 20 elite troops to be first in line to assault the British fort. Francisco was selected as one of those men.

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor
The Continental Army defeated British troops at Stony Point with a well-planned nighttime attack.

Francisco was tasked with scaling a 300-foot wall and reaching the fort’s flagstaff. Of the 20 who led the charge, 17 were either killed or wounded — a large slash across the abdomen put Francisco among them. Despite his injury, he killed his adversaries and reached his destination. He lay, wounded, at the base of the flag as the British surrendered. From then on, Francisco was known as the “Hercules of the American Revolution.”

During the Battle of Camden, Francisco noticed a 1,100-pound cannon in a field next to some dead horses. According to legend, he managed to lift the canon and take it, saving it from falling to British hands. For this courageous act, the U.S. Postal Service design a stamp in Francisco’s honor.

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor
Stamps were expensive even in 1975…

As Francisco continued to fight the war, he continuously remarked on the tiny size of the swords with which they fought. Eventually, Washington gave Francisco a six-foot broadsword — not unlike the sword famously used by William Wallace in his own battles against the English.

By the time Francisco was done serving, he had been wounded six times, but never stopped fighting. He was later elected by the Senate to work as the sergeant-at-arms.

Later, Francisco died from appendicitis. He was 71-years-old.

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The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

The final resting place of presidents, bandleaders, war heroes, astronauts, inventors, civil rights leaders, Pulitzer Prize winners, boxers, Supreme Court justices and sports stars, Arlington National Cemetery stands as a memorial to the melting pot of the United States. With connections to some of our nation’s most influential people and pivotal events, its history is as interesting as its denizens.


The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor
A serene image of Arlington National Cemetery in the spring. (Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Ingfbruno)

Arlington is situated on 624 acres overlooking the Potomac River directly across from Washington, D. C. Although today it is surrounded by the nation’s capital, at one time, Arlington was a bucolic estate with a neoclassical mansion, Arlington House. Still presiding over the grounds today, the mansion was built by George Washington’s (yes, that Washington) grandson and marks the beginning of the cemetery’s history.

Before she married George, Martha was married to Daniel Parke Custis. After he died and she wed the “Father” of our Country, George adopted her two surviving children. The oldest, John Parke Custis (JPC), died in 1781 while serving with the Revolutionary Army. He left behind four children, the youngest of which, George Washington Parke Custis (GWPC), was born only shortly before his father’s death.

Related: These ladies attend every funeral at Arlington so no one is buried alone

GWPC and one sister went to live with the Washington’s. When he became of age in 1802, GWPC inherited wealth and property from his deceased father (JPC), including the Arlington land. Hoping to build a home that could also serve as a memorial to his grandfather, George Washington, GWPC hired an architect and built a Greek revival mansion believed by some to be “modeled after the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens.”

The home was built in pieces, with the north wing being completed in 1802, and the south in 1804. These two stood as separate buildings until the central section connected them in 1818. During GWPC’s life, a portion of the mansion was reserved to store George Washington memorabilia, which included portraits, papers and even the tent Washington used while in command at Yorktown.

GWPC and his family lived and died on the property, where many of them were buried.

In 1831, GWPC’s only surviving child, Mary, married Robert E. Lee (yes, that Lee). The Lee’s lived on the property with the Custis’s where they raised their seven children. At her father’s death, Mary inherited Arlington. Robert E. Lee loved the property and once described it as the place “where my attachments are more strongly placed than at any other place in the world.”

Prior to the Civil War, Lee had attended West Point (graduating second in his class) and saw service for the U.S. in the Mexican War (1846-1848). A respected and well-liked officer, Lee struggled with his decision to resign his commission of 36 years in order to take command of Virginia’s confederate forces. When he did in April 1861, this choice was seen as a betrayal of the Union by many of his former friends including Brig. Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs.

As Arlington, on high ground overlooking the capital, was critical to either the defense or defeat of D.C., Union leaders were eager to control it. After Virginia seceded in May 1861, Union troops crossed en masse into Virginia and soon took command of the estate. The grounds were quickly converted into a Union camp.

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor
American flags adorn the graves at Arlington. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

By 1862, Congress had passed a law that imposed a tax on the real property of “insurrectionists.” Mary was unable to pay the tax bill in person, and her proxy’s attempt to satisfy the debt was rebuffed. As a result, Uncle Sam seized Arlington, and at its auction, the federal government purchased the estate for $26,800 (about $607,000 today, far below market value).

Not only a good bargain, Union leaders felt that by seizing the estates of prominent Rebels, they would, in the words of Gen. William T. Sherman: “Make them so sick of war that generations would pass away before they would again appeal to it.”

In 1863, after thousands of former slaves, freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, converged on D.C., a Freedman’s Village was established on the estate “complete with new frame houses, schools, churches and farmlands on which former slaves grew food for the Union war effort.”

As one journalist described it:

One sees more than poetic justice in the fact that its rich lands, so long the domain of the great general of the rebellion, now afford labor and support to hundreds of enfranchised slaves.

As Union casualties began to mount in the spring of 1864, Gen. Meigs suggested burying some of the dead at Arlington. The first, on May 13, 1864, was Pvt. William Christman, a poor soldier whose family could not afford the cost of a burial. Soon, many other indigent soldiers were laid to rest on Arlington’s grounds, near the slave and freedman cemetery that had already been established. Realizing the efficacy of this system, Gen. Meigs urged Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton:

I recommend that  . . . the land surrounding Arlington Mansion . . . be appropriated as a National Military Cemetery, to be properly enclosed, laid out and carefully preserved for that purpose.

Serving the dual goals of paying homage to the dead and making “Arlington uninhabitable for the Lees,” Meigs had prominent Union officers buried near Mrs. Lee’s garden. He also placed a mass grave of over 2000 unknown soldiers, topped with a raised sarcophagus, close to the house.

After the war, the Lee’s tried in vain to regain Arlington. Mary wrote to a friend that the graves: “are planted up to the very door without any regard to common decency.” After Robert E. Lee’s death in 1870, Mary petitioned Congress for the return of her family home, but this proposal was soundly defeated.

Shortly after, other monuments and structures honoring the dead were erected including numerous elaborate Gilded Age tombstones and the large, red McClellan Gate at the entrance to the grounds.

The family was not done, however, and in January 1879, following six days of trial a jury determined that the requirement that Mary Lee had to pay the 1862 tax in person was unconstitutional. On appeal, the Supreme Court concurred, so the property was once again in the hands of the Lee family.

Also read: Arlington National Cemetery is running out of room to bury America’s vets

Rather than disinter graves and move monuments, however, the federal government and Mary Lee’s son, George Washington Custis Lee, agreed on a sale. On March 31, 1883, Uncle Sam purchased Arlington from the Lee family for $150,000 (about $3,638,000 today).

Today, Arlington shelters the remains of over 400,000 souls. In addition to its famous sea of somber, beautiful white headstones, Arlington also hosts numerous monuments including the Tomb of the Unknowns, the Rough Riders Monument, the Pentagon Group Burial Marker and two memorials to the Space Shuttle tragedies Challenger and Columbia.

One of the National Cemetery’s most well known gravesites is that of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy with its eternal flame. Two of his children and Jackie Kennedy are also interred there.

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor
The eternal flame at the grave of John F. Kennedy. (Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Wknight94)

William Howard Taft is the only other U.S. President buried on the grounds, and he along with three other Chief Justices and eight associate justices represent the Supreme Court at Arlington.

Of course, war heroes abound and famous generals buried at Arlington include George C. Marshall (father of the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after WWII) and Omar N. Bradley.

Famous explorers interred at Arlington include Adm. Richard Byrd (the first man to fly over both poles) and Rear Adm. Robert Peary (another arctic explorer). John Wesley Powell (of Lake Powell fame) is also laid to rest at Arlington, as are several astronauts including Lt. Col. Virgil “Gus” Grissom and Capt. Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr. (the third man to walk on the moon).

Other famous Americans buried at the National Cemetery include Abner Doubleday (who, in fact, had nothing to do with baseball contrary to legend), big bandleader Maj. Glenn Miller (who went missing in action on Dec. 15, 1944, so he really just has a headstone there), boxing’s Joe Louis, inventor George Westinghouse and civil rights leader Medgar Evers.

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Watch how sand from Omaha Beach brightens veterans’ tombstones

On the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) shared a video on Twitter of a remarkable ceremony. “The letters on the white crosses almost disappear in the brightness of the stone, so a soldier fills the indentations with sand from Omaha Beach to bring the name forward.”

It’s a quiet practice that adds to the many rituals that honor service members, including leaving coins on gravestones, placing wreaths on graves during winter holidays, or setting the American flag at graves for Memorial Day.

This video is particularly special to watch, as it clearly shows how effective the process is:


In the video, the soldier conjures the name of William A. Richards, a fallen World War II veteran, killed in 1944, with sand from Omaha Beach, one of the D-Day invasion sites. D-Day marked the turning of the war in Europe, where millions and millions of Allied service members perished.

Also read: Hero medic remembers what it was like to land on Omaha Beach

Others began to respond to the tweet with their own experiences witnessing the ceremony, including the graves of their relatives. The sands from Normandy beaches are sent to military cemeteries throughout Europe. In the Netherlands American Cemetery, the graves of American service members have been adopted by Dutch families, who research the lives of the fallen and honor their graves with flowers.

 

For so many, these rituals are powerful reminders of the cost of freedom. The sanctity of a military funeral is one that is shared across the country — and, in the case of the world wars, across the globe. It can be easy for many Americans to feel separated, through both time and distance, from the horrors of World War I and World War II; but for our allies in Europe, the wars were fought in their own backyard.

The sands of Omaha Beach bring forth the names of those who died fighting against Nazi Germany and the enemies of freedom, lest we ever forget.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These 5 innovative Civil War weapons changed combat forever

The American Civil War was a bloody affair, where many battles were fought with infantry tactics that had been around for 100 years. But some weapons designers pushed the envelope of technology during the violent conflict and developed arms that would revolutionize the way militaries fight for centuries.


1. The Repeating Rifle

Although the primary weapon on both sides of the war was the rifled musket, the repeating rifle made its combat debut during the Civil War. The introduction of the percussion cap and the cartridge allowed for the creation of breech-loading rifles, far superior in reloading speed than muzzle-loaders. The weapon truly came into its own though in the form of the Spencer repeating rifle. The rifle fired seven .56 caliber bullets from a tube magazine in the buttstock. A lever-action discharged and loaded the rounds.

 

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor
President Lincoln is said to have tested the Spencer Rifle himself on the White House grounds.

The real revolution from the weapon came from a change in infantry tactics. The cartridge and ability to fire multiple rounds in quick secession meant soldiers no longer had to stand massed against each other. Instead, they could maneuver more and even take advantage of cover and concealment by kneeling and lying down while still being able to fire. Unfortunately, the generals of the time were worried that troops would waste too much ammunition so the rifles only saw limited use.

2. The Gatling Gun

Before John Gatling’s invention, there was no way to provide sustained high rates of fire. Although not a true automatic weapon, the hand-cranked, multi-barreled weapon could deliver rounds down range at upwards of 450 per minute. With no links or feed belts, the weapon was gravity fed. The use of multiple barrels limited overheating and allowed for longer sustained rates of fire.

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor
An 1865 Gatling in the British Imperial Artillery Museum.

The introduction of rapid fire weapons quickly changed the nature of warfare. No longer could mass infantry formations be used – they would be mowed down by the higher rates of fire. This was a lesson that would not be sufficiently learned until the brutal combat of World War I.

During the Civil War, Gatling guns saw limited action because, once again, the war department feared a waste of ammunition. Most guns used in combat were purchased personally by generals. The rotating barrels of the Gatling gun would later come to prominence in automatic weapons like the GAU-17 minigun and Vulcan 20mm cannon.

3. Ironclads

At the outbreak of the Civil War, warship design was just beginning to incorporate steam power. Most vessels were still wooden and powered by sail, but the British and French started to add armor-plating the sides of existing ship designs. From the beginning of the war, both the Union and the Confederacy sought to acquire ironclad warships. Their homegrown designs first met at the Battle of Hampton Roads in March 1862.

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor
The Monitor fighting the CSS Virginia at the Battle of Hampton Roads. (National Archives)

The Confederate CSS Virginia, a casemate ironclad, defeated three Union ships before encountering the Union’s USS Monitor. Though the battle ended in a draw with neither ship able to defeat the other, naval warfare was forever changed. In particular, the Monitor gave its name to a new type of warship.

These were low to the waterline and used rotating turrets to house their armament rather than the typical broadsides of a sailing ship. After news of the battle traveled abroad, many nations ceased production of wooden warships in favor of the new monitor-type. The turret has been a prominent design feature of warships ever since.

4. The Submarine

Though it was the Union that had superior industrial capabilities it was the Confederacy that launched the only submarine of the war. That submarine, the H.L. Hunley would be the first such ship to successfully attack and sink an enemy ship.

With a length of just 40 feet and a crew of eight using a hand-cranked shaft to propel her through the water, the Hunley was a far cry from the submarines that would appear in the early 20th century.

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor
The Hunley after being pulled up from the bottom of Charleston Harbor. The sub now sits in the H.L. Hunley Museum in Charleston, South Carolina.

The Hunley was armed with just a single spar torpedo – an explosive charge attached to the end of a wooden pole –  that was used to successfully sink the USS Housatonic on February 17, 1864.

Unfortunately, the Hunley was lost with all hands shortly after her attack but she opened the way for the future of underwater warfare.

5. The Hand grenade

While grenades were not a new invention to the American Civil War, improvements to their design and function radically changed the way they could be used. Prior to this time, grenades had fuses that had to be lit before being thrown and so were only used by special troops known as grenadiers. Other times grenades were closer to Molotov Cocktails than what would commonly be called a grenade.

William Ketchum designed a new grenade that would detonate on impact.

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor

His design consisted of a metal cylinder with a plunger on the nose that would cause the explosives inside to detonate when it landed. To ensure that it landed nose down, he attached a wooden tailpiece with four fins to stabilize the grenade. With this type of fuse, individual soldiers of any type could carry the grenades.

This meant infantry assaulting trenches and other enemy positions could carry grenades while still carrying their rifles. By the 20th century, all major militaries adopted the hand grenade for standard infantry use.

Articles

5 of the most over-hyped military commanders in American history

These generals may be legends — or seen as awesome commanders — but did they really live up to all their hype?


Under closer examination, there might be some instances where the shine isn’t so bright. We’re about to shatter some long-held prejudices, so buckle up your seatbelt and hang on for the ride.

1. Douglas MacArthur

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor

MacArthur had his shining moments, but he had his share of miscalculations during his career as well.

“Good Doug” was the guy who pulls off the Inchon invasion or who sees Leyte as the place to return to the Philippines. “Bad Doug” is the guy who, according to U.S. Army’s official World War II history on the fall of the Philippines, failed to take immediate action, and saw them get caught on the ground.

Chicago Bears fans in the 2000s would always wonder which Rex Grossman would show up – “Good Rex” could carry the team, while “Bad Rex” could blow the game. It could be argued that Gen. Douglas MacArthur was much the same.

2. William F. Halsey

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor
Official U.S. Navy portrait of William F. Halsey, Jr. (US Navy photo)

Let’s lay it out here: Adm. William F. “Bull” Halsey was probably the only naval leader who could have won the Guadalcanal campaign, and for the first year and a half of World War II, he was well in his element. America needed someone who could help the country rebound from the infamous surprise attack at Pearl Harbor and who could inspire his men to go above and beyond.

But the fact is, in 1944, his limitations became apparent. Historynet.com noted his faults became apparent at Leyte Gulf, he “bit” on the Japanese carriers, which had been intended as a decoy. A thesis at the United States Army’s Command and General Staff College stated that Halsey “made several unfounded assumptions and misjudged the tactical situation.”

3. James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor

While having a number of great moments – like stealing the uniform of the CO of the Army of the Potomac and making off with a huge haul of intelligence – Confederate Gen. Jeb Stuart also was responsible for a big blunder prior to the Battle of Gettysburg.

Lee’s official report on the Gettysburg campaign indicates that “the absence of the cavalry” made it “impossible to ascertain” Union intentions. An excellent dramatization of that is in the 1993 film “Gettysburg,” where Lee rants about possibly facing “the entire Federal army” while chewing out Harry Heth for getting into the fight.

4. Robert E. Lee

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor

Was Lee a great general? Well, he did beat a large number of his opposite numbers in the East. McClellan, Burnside, and Hooker among them. But like Jeb Stuart, Lee forgot the bigger picture. As Edward H. Bonekemper, author of “How Robert E. Lee Lost the Civil War,” noted at the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable, ”

The Union, not the Confederacy, had the burden of winning the war, and the South, outnumbered about four-to-one in white men of fighting age, had a severe manpower shortage.” The simple fact was that the South needed to preserve its manpower. Lee failed to do so, and many believed, often wasted it.

Ordering Pickett’s Charge was a classic example of wasting manpower. Antietam was another – and it was worse because the victory there allowed Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Nice going, Bobby.

5. George S. Patton

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor

Yeah, another legend who may be over-hyped.

But Patton, for all his virtues, had some serious faults as well. The slapping incident was but the least of those.

More worrisome from a military standpoint was the Task Force Baum fiasco, as described in this thesis. Patton, not the picture of humility, later admitted he made a mistake.

Patton probably was an example of someone promoted a bit past his level of competence.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why car bombs are a terrorist go-to

A car is easily converted to a bomb.


Though the latest explosive ordnance tech may trace an innovation curve toward tiny/powerful similar to that of the smartphone, for the purposes of terrorism, a few sacks of the right garden-variety chemicals packed in a vehicle is all it takes to cause mass destruction and appalling casualties. A car bomber doesn’t even necessarily need to die behind the wheel to detonate it. He or she can live to attack again.

That was certainly Timothy McVeigh’s thinking on Apr. 19, 1995, when he lit timed fuses to a massive homemade explosive device in the yellow Ryder truck he’d parked in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The ensuing detonation, registered by seismometers at the nearby Omniplex Science Museum at approximately 3.0 on the Richter scale, destroyed one third of the building, killed 168 people (including 19 children) and wounded over 680 others.

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor
Rescue workers scramble to find survivors after the bombing of the Edward P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

McVeigh’s truck bombing was, to date, the deadliest act of domestic terror in U.S. history. It was the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil prior to the September 11th attacks, which would eclipse the memory of McVeigh’s villainy just three months after he was executed by lethal injection on June 11th, 2001.

Terrible as it was, the Oklahoma City bombing paled in comparison to the strength and lethality of the 1983 car bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks at Beirut International Airport. In that attack, a suicide bomber drove a truck packed with over 2,000 lbs. of explosives directly into the heart of the facility.

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor
The barracks at Beirut International Airport, prior to bombing. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The blast, which FBI investigators later qualified as the largest non-nuclear detonation since WW2, killed 220 Marines, 18 sailors, and 3 soldiers. Estimated to have delivered an explosive force equivalent to 21,000 pounds of TNT, it was the largest car bomb ever detonated. Eyewitnesses reported seeing the building levitate off its support columns on a cloud of concussive fire before thundering down into a plinth of stratified rubble.

The 1st Battalion 8th Marines stationed there was part of a multinational peacekeeping force supervising the withdrawal of the Palestinian Liberation Organization from Beirut. Under the peacetime rules of engagement, security around the barracks was relatively light, with sentry’s weapons unloaded and on safe. However, given the size of the explosive device, investigators concluded that the barracks would have been destroyed even if the bomber had been stopped at the last checkpoint and detonated it there.

The first POW captured by the U.S. was at Pearl Harbor
Search and rescue in the aftermath. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

 

Converting cars into mass-casualty weapons has been repeatedly demonstrated as an effective, go-to tactic for insurgent forces and terror organizations. It works to create chaos and inflict collateral damage and serves to erode the momentum of the mission wherever the U.S. deploys its armed forces.

Also read: This former commander says you can’t just ‘Delta Force’ your way out of terrorism

But the sowing of terror has as much to do with the conversion aspect as the deaths that result from the bombs. The psychological shock of a terrorist act is heightened in the imaginations of those left alive by the awareness that a common token of peaceful, everyday life — a yellow box truck, a commercial jet, some dude’s underwear — has been turned, by fanatical human creativity, into a weapon of mass destruction. It’s a move tailor-made to mess with the mind of comfortable society. And even though it’s been happening with increasing frequency since the turn of the 20th century, the shock of the vehicle bomb never seems blunted or dulled, and the dread of it, never fully absorbed.

We can’t get used to the horror of it. To the moral mind, it smacks of such desperation and depravity, we won’t allow it to become normal. And in that, there’s some small hope to be had.

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