What life was like for World War II prisoners - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

What life was like for World War II prisoners

Let’s get one thing out of the way really quickly: Getting captured in full-scale warfare is nothing to be ashamed of. When tens of thousands of people are clashing in a massive battle, it’s easy to get cut off and isolated through no fault of your own, shot down over enemy territory, or any of dozens of other ways to get captured. But that means you were headed to a prisoner camp, and where you were captured and by whom mattered a lot in World War II.


What Was Life Like For Prisoners of WWII

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That’s because not all of the major combatants were yet signatories to the Geneva Conventions, and life as a prisoner wasn’t great for even those who were covered by the conventions.

That’s because Geneva Convention protections are actually fairly limited, and were even more so in World War II. The broad strokes are that captors must not execute those who have surrendered or are surrendering; must give sufficient food, shelter, and medical care away from active combat; cannot torture prisoners, and must not overwork prisoners.

The U.S. fulfilled all of these requirements in their prisoner camps on the U.S. mainland, and Britain and France had similarly good records of prisoner treatment during the war. Not perfect, but good. (But it’s worth noting that the U.S. and Britain were both accused of human rights violations against their own citizens and some war crimes including the execution of Axis soldiers who were attempting to surrender.)

Recently liberated Allied soldiers in a prison corridor in Changi Prison, Singapore.

(State Library of Victoria Collections)

But not all prisons were run that way. German prisons were more strict, had more reports of beatings and food shortages, and some prisoners were executed for political reasons as the war drew to an end. But the worst German atrocities were those committed against suspected commandos, Jews, or people’s designated undesirable by the German state.

If a U.S. or other Allied soldier was suspected of being Jewish, gay, or of some other category that would’ve gotten a German or Polish person thrown into a concentration camp, then that soldier would likely be thrown into a concentration camp themselves. There, they would be subject to all the atrocities of the Holocaust, including summary execution as the Germans tried to hide evidence of their crimes at war’s end.

And some prisoners were subjected to the same unethical medical experiments that the Nazis famously performed on Jewish prisoners.

That may sound like the worst a World War II prisoner could suffer, but there were similar nightmares in store for certain prisoners of the Soviet Union. Food shortages for the Soviet Army led to forced labor of some prisoners. And the deep hatred of Soviet troops toward German invaders led to summary executions and torture. Food was scarce and could be made from inedible ingredients like straw or sawdust.

But arguably, the worst place to be captured was in the Pacific while fighting Japan. Japanese forces were convicted after the war of forced death marches like the five-day ordeal that many Americans and Filipinos captured on the Bataan Peninsula were forced to suffer without water or food. Other Japanese leaders were convicted of cannibalism after butchering Americans for meat used as a delicacy on officer tables. Torture, beatings, executions, and more were common in Japanese camps.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the origin of the 21-gun salute

If you ever attend a military funeral or memorial ceremony, you may notice a group of men and women proudly holding rifles. Then, at a specific time, they aim their weapons up to the sky and fire, usually causing a slight stir in the crowd, even though everyone was expecting it to happen.

Don’t worry — those rounds are just blanks.

This practice is quite common throughout the world and, as with many traditions, it has a practical origin. Back when ships carried cannons, it was universally understood that immediately after firing, these weapons were rendered ineffective for a period of time — after all, reloading took a while. So, in order to demonstrate peaceful intent, ships would turn their cannons to the sky and discharge, telling those ashore that a ship’s weapons weren’t live.

Nobody knows why ships were designed, at one point, to carry precisely seven cannon. Some theorize that it’s related to the seven phases of the moon, others think it has to do with the biblical week, and some say it’s simply because seven is a lucky freakin’ number.


President Franklin D. Roosevelt, embarked on Indianapolis, receives a 21-gun salute from Coast Guard Cutter Mojave, during the presidential fleet, 1934.

The cannon in shore batteries (with ample stores of dry, usable gunpowder) would fire three shots in return for every single shot they heard coming from the sea. For all you math geniuses out there, that equals 21 cannon shots. Upon hearing the return fire, ships at sea knew that the harbor was friendly — and the 21-gun salute was born.

It isn’t always 21, though. During a funeral ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, the POTUS, former presidents, and presidents elect receive the traditional 21-gun salute. Other high-ranking officials, however, like the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and military officers in command over multiple branches, receive a 19-gun salute.

Members of the honor guard’s rifle team fire off a salute to remember twelve veterans during a burial at sea ceremony held aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76).
(Photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Christine Singh)

Although hearing the 21-gun salute typically means you’re mourning the loss of a fellow patriot, know that this is a practice rooted in peace and history. With this salute, the fallen join those who gave us traditions so long ago.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This smart scale whipped me into shape faster than a personal trainer

If December is the season for consumerist gluttony, and full-fat eggnog, then January is the time for carrot sticks, running on the treadmill, and staring blankly at a scale that says you’ve only lost two pounds since the new year. If you, like me, found yourself in that happy place between despondency and full-on despair, you may need a smart scale to ever so gently nudge you along.


We’ve all felt that intense, cloying sense of dread when stepping on the scale. They’re generally the square, bulky things you willfully sidestep when you walk in to take a leak. Enter the Qardio’s QardioBase2. It makes getting into shape … intriguing. It’s a WiFi- or Bluetooth-connected circular scale that hooks up with the corresponding app and works on any surface, and it’s designed to be your kinder and gentler weight loss and fitness coach.

Fitness resolutions may center on pounds and ounces, but Qardio’s QardioBase2 smart scale focuses its feedback on direction rather than specific, hard-core goals. If you’re looking for something that offers its readout in more general, encouraging terms rather than the bark of a drill instructor, this is the bathroom scale for you.

Rather than spitting out a single weight, the QardioBase2 provides feedback on your body mass index, tracking it over time and rewarding you with one of three faces: smiling for weight loss, a neutral face for negligible results, and a frown when you’ve indulged a little too much.

Granted, for some its smiley-centric feedback is a bit too twee, and for those who need black-and-white reports, it also reads weight, along with muscle mass, fat percentage, bone, and water composition, allowing you to drill down as far as you want. All stats are recorded via its app to you can track progress over time. It weights just under seven pounds, is 13 inches in diameter, and works with iOS 10.0 or later, Kindle, Android 5 or later, and the Apple Watch.

Beyond the emoji feedback, which may be a tad precious, there’s a lot more to love. Its sleek design and tempered glass top in either black or white is less than an inch thick and adds class to even the most humble bathroom.

For those who want options for the whole family, it automatically detects individual users, recording data separately as such. It also has a pregnancy mode to track weight gain and progress as your partner gets further and further along in her pregnancy. Plus, she can add pictures to her numbers, so she can look back and remember what she looked like when the baby was the size of a walnut.

With the QardioBase2, I had a healthy alternative to the dreaded decimal point. Its feedback is less judgy that others in its class, but the various functions and multi-user ease makes this a scale I’m happy to use all year. Instead of dreading weighing myself, I was actually … well, excited is too strong a word. But heavily invested.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

The 5 worst modern battles to fight as a foot soldier

Let’s be clear — all battles suck for a foot soldier, even the smaller ones. But there were some in recent times that sucked more than others for the lowly grunt, with body counts piling up, bad commanders and leadership with a total lack of respect for the lives of their men.


Here is a partial list of five of the worst modern battles to be a bottom-of-the-barrel foot soldier.

5. The Battle of Kiev, 1941

Soviet troops on the move to Kiev. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Battle of Kiev lasted from August 23 – Sept. 26, 1941. The German army, led by Fedor von Bock, Gerd von Rundstedt, and the famed Heinz Guderian, continued their spearhead towards Moscow but Hitler reconsidered.

Instead, he ordered Bock, von Rundstedt, and Guderian to focus their attack on the city of Kiev. The total amount of German forces heading towards Kiev numbered a little over 500,000. The reason for this was that Kiev was third largest city with a large concentration of Soviet forces with likely more than 627,000 Red Army troops facing the German onslaught.

How bad was it? In order to crush the Soviets in Kiev, the Germans were forced to systematically reduce the pockets of resistance. In other words, the Germans had to work at making each line (pockets of resistance) buckle and break.

Because of this, the fighting was unsurprisingly up close and personal. The total number of dead were 127,000 Germans and 700,544 Soviets — that’s over 800,000 killed in the battle for Kiev.

4. The Battle of Verdun, 1916

French troops moving through the trenches during the Battle of Verdun. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Battle of Verdun lasted from Feb. 21 – Dec. 18, 1916, between the armies of France and the German Empire. Located in northeastern France, when the battle of Verdun kicked off, 30,000 French soldiers faced 130,000 German soldiers. Seeing that 30,000 troops were not enough, the French bolstered their forces to a staggering 1.1 million men. The Germans countered this by delivering 1.25 million troops.

The horrors of such a battle need little explanation. All one has to do is look at the photos of the battle site. World War I was a war in which the technology outpaced the tactics and strategies. Because of this, war came to a near standstill as men were mowed down by machine guns and blown to pieces by artillery fire on a daily basis.

If that wasn’t enough, living in the trenches was another misery all its own. Here’s a testimony.

A German soldier writes to his parents:

An awful word, Verdun. Numerous people, still young and filled with hope, had to lay down their lives here – their mortal remains decomposing somewhere, in between trenches, in mass graves, at cemeteries…

In total, the French would lose upwards of 500,000 troops while the Germans lost in some estimates more than 400,000 — nearly 1 million killed on both sides.

3. The Siege of Leningrad, 1941-1944

Red Army troops fighting on the outskirts of Leningrad. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The siege of Leningrad lasted from Sept. 8 1941 – Jan. 27, 1944. The German army surrounded the city with 725,000 troops and began an on-and-off bombardment and assault of the city which was defended by 930,000 Soviet soldiers.

While the Germans made little advancement into the city, mainly controlling the outskirts, they were effective in starving the city to near death.

While war is indeed hell, the Germans suffered from the typical day-to-day engagements as did the Soviet soldiers. However, the people of the city suffered the worst. Due to the limited amount of supplies, many people ate whatever they could get their hands on, even people.

Once the siege lifted, the Germans suffered 579,985 casualties while the Soviets lost 642,000 during the siege and another 400,000 at evacuations.

2. The Battle of Stalingrad, 1942-1943

A German soldier fights during the battle of Stalingrad. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The battle of Stalingrad lasted from August 23, 1942 – Feb. 2, 1943. Initially, the Germans besiege the city with 270,000 troops. But by the time the siege was lifted, the Germans army had swelled to 1,040,000 men.

The Soviets at first only had 187,000 personnel to defend the city, but by the time of the counteroffensive, more than 1.1 million troops were on the move.

The horrors of Stalingrad were an outgrowth of the hellish street-to-street and building-to-building fighting. Not to mention the many horrors both sides witnessed and committed.

Red Army Maj. Anatloy Zoldatov, recalled:

The filth and human excrement and who knows what else was piled up waist-high. It stank beyond belief. There were two toilets and signs above them both that read: No Russians allowed.

In total, the Germans would lose 734,000 killed, wounded and missing, while the Russians lost 478,741 killed and missing and another 650,878 wounded or sick.

1. The Battle of Berlin, 1945

German troops teach Berliners to use an anti-tank grenade before the battle of Berlin. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The battle of Berlin ran from April 16 – May 2, 1945. The Germans had only 766,750 soldiers on hand to defend the city against 2.5 million Soviet soldiers. The result was a decisive Soviet victory that would lead to Germany’s surrender on May 7, 1945.

As for the horrors of the battle, many German citizens — including children — were forced to defend the city. Of course, this was the norm when the situation grows dire.

Like Stalingrad, the fighting in Berlin would be from street-to-street and building-to-building. However, the German army, like its people, were depleted from years of war and had 2.5 million angry Soviets kicking their door in.

Once Berlin was theirs, the pillaging began. In total, the Germany army lost 92,000–100,000 troops while the Soviets lost 81,116.

MIGHTY TRENDING

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school

At the U.S. Army’s Sniper School at Fort Benning in Georgia, students undergo some of the most grueling training the force offers.


“Sniper school is one of the hardest schools in the military, not physically, but mentally,” Staff Sgt. Brian Moran, one of the 11 instructors who oversees the training, told the Army News Service.

Army snipers face demanding missions and often operate with little or no support, and the training at Fort Benning tests their ability to work in isolation and under pressure.

Below, you can see some of the rigorous and, for many, overwhelming training that Army sniper candidates endure:

12. Over 300 candidates start the seven-week Sniper School course at Fort Benning each year. In early August, 46 soldiers were on hand for the first day. Each had already met demanding criteria, including navigation and marksmanship evaluations, physical-fitness tests, and psychological examinations.

Students listen to their instructor at the US Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

11. “Snipers are often deployed in small two-man teams, which requires a great deal of mental fortitude to remain focused on the task at hand,” said Moran, the Sniper School instructor. “If individuals have difficulty being isolated, there is a potential for mission failure.”

During the first week of training, sniper students at the U.S. Army School at Fort Benning, Georgia, are given demanding physical training tests. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

10. After a battery of physical-fitness tests on the first day, candidates are taught to make a ghillie suit — a camouflage suit that uses foliage to break up the outline of the soldier’s body.

A sniper school instructor at Fort Benning, Georgia, inspects camouflage after students prepared the top of their ghillie suits. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

9. The first test of their new concealment comes hours later, crawling hundreds of feet through tall grass and a ditch filled with water, mud, rocks, and vegetation.

Students are taught camouflage and concealment techniques at the U.S. Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia. They learned to weather a ghillie suit by crawling through ditches filled with water, mud, rocks, vegetation and fallen tree branches. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

8. Part of the exercise requires students to carry and drag one another — testing their ability to help their comrades if one is wounded or incapacitated in the field. “The object of this training is to teach students that being a sniper can be a difficult and dirty job,” Moran said. “These are the conditions that snipers will often find themselves in.”

Students learn that being a sniper can be a difficult and dirty job during training at the U.S. Army Sniper School, Fort Benning, Georgia. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

7. The second week of training sends them into the field to stalk a target, putting students’ patience and camouflage to the test. The Georgia heat and a variety of critters combine with instructors using high-powered optics to suss out prospective snipers. Stalking requires close attention to detail and “a high tolerance for discomfort,” Moran said. “Most of the students who are dropped from the sniper course have failed because of their lack of discipline.”

Students at the U.S. Army Sniper School endure a constant supply of stressors; some physical, but mostly mental stressors. Students must pay attention to the smallest details in every subject of the sniper course. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

6. Also during the second week, sniper candidates are taught to do reconnaissance, which is part of their secondary mission to collect and report battlefield information. Snipers who can operate with little support and carry out those missions, Moran said, can aid commanders at every level. “Snipers are force multipliers,” he told Army News Service.

Sniper instructor Staff Sgt. Brian Moran explains the importance of proper camouflage techniques at the U.S. Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

5. The third week mixes classroom work with firing on a range. Students are taught how to communicate with spotters, and they fire 80 to 120 rounds a day at targets ranging from 300 meters to 800 meters away. Starting in week three, students are paired up and alternate turns as sniper and as spotter. The duos are trained to work in tandem to track targets and defend themselves.

Specialist Adrian Leatherman, a sniper team leader with 1-23 Infantry, waits to proceed through a stalking lane during the International Sniper Competition at Fort Benning, Georgia. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army)

4. After the soldier’s third week, the trials turn from physical to mental. The fourth week adds night-fire and limited-visibility firing scenarios. Record-fire tests see snipers paired with spotters and given five targets and a seven-minute time limit. The pressure becomes too much for some, and three students were sent home.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Shelman Spencer)

3. Week five challenges sniper candidates to hit targets at unknown distances, as well as moving targets. “Students must learn how to properly lead their target so the round will impact a given position when the target will be there,” Moran said. Two more students were sent home.

U.S. Soldiers with 2nd Cavalry Regiment master the Rough Terrain Run task during the European Best Sniper Squad Competition at the 7th Army Training Command’s, Grafenwoehr Training Area, Bavaria, Germany, Oct. 26, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

2. The demands do not slack in week six. They are taught to use new weapons, like the M9 pistol or the M107 .50-caliber sniper rifle, and to fire from unstable platforms or other positions. The seventh week, known as the “employment phase,” challenges students to plan and carry out a mission after receiving an operational order.

A U.S. Army Paratrooper, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, engages targets during a recon and sniper break contact live fire exercise at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Feb. 6, 2017. The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army’s Contingency Response Force in Europe, providing rapid forces to the United States European, Africa and Central Commands areas of responsibilities. (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gerhard Seuffert)

1. The course culminates in week seven with time-limited road march to a range for a “final shot.” Given two bullets and one target, students must calculate range and engage, with their scores determining honor graduate and “top gun” status for graduation. At graduation on September 22, just four of the 46 students remained. “The training in sniper school is hands down the best I’ve received in the Army,” said Sgt. Stephen Ray, a member of the 1st Armored Brigade who graduated No. 1 in the class — Top Gun.

Sgt. Ian Rivera-Aponte, a U.S. Army Reserve sniper and infantryman with the 100th Infantry Battalion, Honolulu, Hawaii, poses for a promotional photo shoot for Army Reserve recruiting at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, July 26, 2017. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Budweiser will brew George Washington’s 1757 beer recipe

We need a batch of good news. A little hops in our step. Something to sip on that takes us to a different time. 1757 to be exact.

Budweiser has done it again. Making history. And this is just straight up awesome. Using the original recipe from George Washington’s handwritten notes found in a notebook from 1757 during the French and Indian War, Budweiser has crafted the next edition in their Reserve collection. Here is the page from the notebook:


So cool! And it just gets better.

This limited edition Freedom Reserve Red Lager is brewed exclusively by veteran brewers who brew for Budweiser.

“We are incredibly proud of our Freedom Reserve Red Lager because it was passionately brewed by our veteran brewers who have bravely served our country,” Budweiser Vice President Ricardo Marques

Proceeds from the beer go to support Folds of Honor, whose mission is to provide scholarships to spouses and children of fallen and disabled service members.

America, ladies and gentlemen.

The 5.4 ABV lager is described as “a rich caramel malt taste and a smooth finish with a hint of molasses.”

Ok, fine, you’ve convinced me. OMW to get some right now. Hopefully you live close enough to snag up some of this speciality brew, too. Enter your zip code here to find out where you can buy it.

This 2018 Memorial Day, toast to the men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy our lives safely in our back yards with the peace of mind to sit and have a beer this weekend.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US doesn’t know what to do with Turkey’s undelivered F-35s

Congress is offering the Defense Department the option to purchase Turkey’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and giving the defense secretary discretion to spend up to $30 million to store the fifth-generation jets until a plan for their use is formalized, according to the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2020.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has been given the green light to spend funds “to be appropriated for fiscal year 2020 for the Department of Defense to conduct activities associated with storage, preservation, and developing a plan for the final disposition of such F-35 aircraft and Turkish F-35 aircraft equipment, including full mission simulators, helmet-mounted display systems, air system maintenance trainers, and ancillary mission equipment,” the bill states.


That money would fund storage for up to six jets and associated materials. F-35 deliveries to Turkey had originally been slated to occur between late summer and the end of this year.

(photo by Tom Reynolds)

Lawmakers will not allow the F-35As once destined for Turkey to be transferred unless that country gets rid of its S-400 surface-to-air-missile systems and associated equipment and promises never to purchase or use the Russian-made weapon again, according to the bill.

“Turkey’s possession of the S-400 air and missile defense system adversely affects the national security of Turkey, the United States, and all members of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance,” lawmakers said.

In a joint statement provided with the bill Tuesday, Congress said it would “support” the U.S. purchase of all jets originally meant for Turkey. The aircraft have been stationed at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where international pilot training is conducted.

“The conferees also encourage the Secretary of Defense to maximize the procurement quantity of Turkish F-35A aircraft associated with Lots 12, 13, or 14 during fiscal year 2020 using the additional funds authorized in section 4101 of this Act,” according to the statement.

Esper has 90 days from the bill’s passage to provide congressional defense committees a report outlining a long-term plan for Turkey’s F-35s, “which includes options for recovery of costs from Turkey and for unilateral use of such assets,” the bill states.

Hill Air Force Base F-35A Lightning IIs fly in formation.

(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Despite months of efforts to sway the NATO ally from purchasing the S-400, known to Moscow as the “F-35 killer,” Pentagon officials have been steadily phasing Turkey out of the JSF program.

The Pentagon in July officially booted Turkey from participating in the program over its purchase of the Russian-made S-400 and asked students — pilots and maintainers — attending F-35 training in the U.S. at Luke and at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, to leave.

The DoD also began phasing out aircraft parts manufactured by Turkey. Turkish industries produce 937 parts for the F-35, including items for the landing gear and fuselage.

“We’re on the path to March 2020 to transition all of those parts out. … The U.S. absorbed about a 0 million bill for that,” Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord said in October.

Lord at the time said top brass estimates that Turkey’s surface-to-air missile systems will be ready to track aircraft in the region by the end of 2019.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

George Custer’s younger brother earned two Medals of Honor in the same week

It’s funny how the older Custer can be so infamous for his worst military blunder, while his brother Thomas Ward can earn two Medals of Honor and practically be lost to history.


Note, I still haven’t shown a picture of Thomas Ward Custer yet. This is George.

Related: 9 amazing facts about General George Custer

“If you want to know what I think of him, all I can say, Tom ought to have been the general and I the captain,” so says Gen. George Armstrong Custer, who was probably right.

Custer’s famous last stand is one of the defining moments in the Indian Wars of the late 19th century. The name Custer evokes the memory of a legendary failure. If you don’t believe it, just read “We Were Soldiers Once… and Young.”

Retired Lt. Col. Hal Moore, commanding the 7th Cavalry at Ia Drang, worried he’d be just like the infamous 7th Cavalry commander Custer and lead his men to certain death.

“Casualties were beginning to pile up. As we dropped behind that termite hill, I fleetingly thought about an illustrious predecessor of mine in the 7th Cavalry, Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, and his final stand in the valley of the Little Bighorn in Montana, eighty-nine years earlier. I was determined that history would not repeat itself in the valley of the Ia Drang.”

Thomas Ward Custer would die with his big brother at Little Bighorn and wouldn’t achieve the rank and notoriety of the elder Custer. He was a good soldier (to put it mildly) enlisting at age 16 to fight in the Civil War and fighting in the major battles of Chickamauga, Chattanooga, and in the Atlanta Campaign. He was enlisted for most of the war before earning a commission in October 1864.

Barely six months later — April 3, 1865 — the younger Custer captured a Confederate Regimental flag at Namozine Church. He did it after being wounded and thrown from his horse. He also took at least a dozen prisoners to boot.

Thomas Ward Custer, just after the Civil War ended.

 

Capturing an enemy flag was a big deal at the time of the Civil War. If a unit’s flag was captured, there was a good chance the unit’s cohesion would just fall apart. They were held in the middle of the unit and troops looked to them for assurance during the fighting – the assurance that the rest of the unit was still fighting with them.

Three days later, Thomas Ward captured another regiment’s colors at Saylor’s Creek, jumping from his horse during a cavalry charge, over and into the enemy lines. He was wounded in the face for his trouble and awarded his second Medal of Honor. General Charles E. Capeheart, an eyewitness, reported:

“Having crossed the line of temporary works on the flank of the road, we were encountered by a supporting battle line. It was the second time he [Tom] wrestled the colors. He received a shot in the face which knocked him back on his horse, but in a moment was soon upright in the saddle. Reaching out his right arm, he grasped the flag while the color bearer reeled. The bullet from Tom’s revolver must have pierced him in the region of the heart. Captain Custer wretched the standard from his grasp and bore it away in triumph.”

Just three days after Thomas Ward captured his second enemy regimental flag, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse, ending the Civil War.

Also read: These 12 facts might give you a new perspective on the Civil War

When the Civil War ended — at 20 and a brevet lieutenant colonel — Thomas decided to stay on in the Army. His exploits on the American frontier were the stuff of legend, including a tussle with the Western lawman “Wild Bill” Hickok.

It was following his brother George to Little Bighorn that would prove the younger Custer’s fatal mistake.

The site of Custer’s last stand in 1877. All that remained were the skeletons of cavalry horses. (Worst. Family Reunion. Ever.)

Thomas Ward Custer was slaughtered there during his brother’s infamous last stand, along with another brother, Boston Custer and their nephew, Henry Armstong Reed.

Military Life

4 ways to strengthen your relationship with a military child

Tough. Adaptable. Resilient. Cultivated. Hardy. Well-rounded.

These are all words that have been used to describe military kids. They’ve certainly earned these badges of honor, but military kids are still young and in need of strong guidance along the windy road of military life.

And along the way, we parents often hear the chorus of military life echoing in our minds:


Are the kids okay?

Even as we are proud of them for adapting to big challenges and embracing the world’s diversity, we still wonder how our military kids feel deep down inside. And we still hope they know that they can rely on us, talk to us, trust us.

When we’re caught wondering, we can turn to practical strategies that are proven to strengthen relationships between parents and children. Doing so is more productive than wondering and worrying, and the results might just give us the answer to that echoing question.

The next time you’re wondering, give these four strategies a try:

Break out the art supplies

(Photo by Nicolas Buffler)

Engaging in artwork is not only a great way for children (and adults) to express their emotions, it’s also a great way to bond and relax.

Developmental psychologist Richard Rende studied the effects of parents and children engaging in creative work together. Children experienced cognitive, social and emotional benefits, but Rende also emphasized that 95 percent of moms reported that the quality time spent with their kids was one of the most important benefits.

The Cleveland Clinic’s clinical psychologist Scott M. Bea notes that people can feel calmer by coloring in books like the popular mosaic coloring books. He describes this as a “meditative exercise,” which helps people relax and de-stress.

If you can’t stomach complicated projects involving paints and glue, then opt for plain paper and markers or coloring books. The creative activity will be pleasurable, allowing your minds to take a break from worrying about deployments and transitions, and enjoy special time together in the process.

Talk like your phone doesn’t exist

(Flickr photo by Mad Fish Digital)

Good conversations don’t have to resemble a session with Freud, but the more you show your kids that you’re focusing on them and nothing else, the better. So leave your phone at home or keep it tucked in your purse or pocket. Do what you have to do to resist its temptation, so that you and your kids can enjoy talking, uninterrupted.

Go for a walk, have a picnic or take your kids out for a “date.” Ask simple questions about school or friends, and follow their lead from there. If a deployment or a PCS is approaching, ask them how they’re feeling about it. If they tell you, great – validate their feelings and help process them. But, if they don’t feel like sharing, that’s okay, too.

Clinical psychologist and developer of Parenting for Service Members and Veterans Peter Shore says, “Recognize and respect when children don’t want to talk, but be available when they’re ready.”

Tell them how you’re feeling, too. Military kids might not realize that their strong, confident parents also get nervous and frustrated (and excited and optimistic!) about major events in military life. Sharing your feelings and talking about how you cope with them will set a good example and build trust.

Create your own traditions

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brad Mincey)

Traditions don’t have to be only about Christmas morning and birthday dinners – you can think outside the box and create traditions that are unique to your family and reflect your unique military life.

These can be as simple as family dinners, family game night or reading before bedtime. But you can also design traditions out of activities your family enjoys or the location where you’re currently stationed. If your family is adventurous, make the first Saturday of every month “Adventure Saturday,” and explore a different part of your current location. If you’re crafty, devote the first Sunday of every month to creating something to decorate your home or send to a family member.

As long as the focus is on the family bonding through that activity (i.e., no screens are on or within reach!), these moments can serve as special, reliable traditions that your children will grow to rely on and value, especially during times of added stress.

Open a book

(Photo by Neeta Lind)

Reading aloud to your kids, even when they’re independent readers, is one of the best ways to build a strong relationship with your child. Research shows that when parents read aloud to their children, the very sound of their voice is calming, and the feeling of being snuggled up on a bed or a couch provides a sense of security. This simple activity can be a welcome balance to the uncertain times of deployment or PCS.

Reading aloud can also prompt important conversations. When you read, pause and empathize with characters, or relate your own experiences to situations that occur in the story. Encourage your children to do the same, and remain open to discussing how stories relate to emotions and experiences in military life.

Reading just about any book will provide you with a great tool to bond with your military kid, but you can find suggestions for age-appropriate books that relate to military life here.

Even if you’re pretty convinced that the kids are, indeed, okay, trying one of these strategies could still reap some valuable rewards. Using the Month of the Military Child as an opportunity to make one of these activities a common practice in your house will show your military kids that you’re proud of them and you love them – something that even the toughest, most adaptable and most resilient kids still need to know.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

Thanks to movies and video games, tons of people join the military thinking they’ll be the next John Wick. Gun-hungry recruits salivate at the prospect of sending rounds downrange using all the latest and greatest weaponry. Unfortunately, that rug will be pulled out from under newcomers when they realize that “military-grade” really just means “broken all the time with no money to fix it.”

The famous M203 Grenade Launcher is no exception. Yes, it’s a useful tool in combat since it can fire a 40mm grenade and reap an entire cluster of souls and limbs. But, in reality, they’re big pieces of sh*t.

Here’s why:


It’s mostly just annoying to have a fore grip.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexis C. Schneider)

You can’t really use a grip

There are fore grips made specifically for the M203, but they aren’t all that great. The real tragedy here is that you can’t add a cool, angled fore grip or any variation. If you choose to use the M203-specific grip, you have to place it somewhere that won’t interfere with the reloading process.

They’re noisy

When you get issued an M203, your rifle’s sling swivel will turn into your personal noisemaker because it’s going to click against the M203 with every step you take.

Aiming is a minor inconvenience with an M203.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally)

It adds weight to your rifle

Granted, the M203 doesn’t weigh so much on its own, but as every infantryman will tell you, “ounces equal pounds, pounds equal pain.”

Additionally, when you want to fire from a standing position, you’ll have to lift the front end of your rifle, which has now been weighted down. This may seem like a nitpick, but after days of little food, water, and sleep, you’ll be feeling it. If you get issued an M203, start hitting the gym because you’ll need the extra muscle.

They’re bulky

If you’ve got that M16/M203 combo going on, have fun fitting into tight spaces. It’s baffling how often that M203 gets in the way. Want to sit comfortably in any military vehicle? Good luck.

Consider yourself lucky if you can reload with it still attached.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Isabelo Tabanguil)

They fall off

Easily the worst part of having an M203 is that they’re not usable 100% of the time. Most will just fall of the rifle after firing a single shot, which is both dangerous and annoying. If you’re in a situation where you have to use that bad boy, you don’t have time to pick it up and put it back on. This means you’ll just have to hand-fire it, which isn’t a bad thing by itself, but it also means you don’t have the sights of the rifle for aiming,

With these issues in mind, you’ll likely not get to fire it often enough for it to be worthwhile. You’ll most likely end up hating the thing and it’ll feel like dead weight.

MIGHTY CULTURE

April Fools’ in the Military: The Best Pranks Among the Ranks

Come April 1st, it’s time to keep your ears opened and your eyes peeled, ready for whatever mischief might come your way. It’s a day where folks of all cultures plan and perform their best tricks, service members from all branches included. From physical pranks, to things that are somehow out of place, to flat-out destructive jokes, April Fools’ Day is known for mischief. There are even historical events, including elaborate and heart-stopping examples of how soldiers took advantage of this day of lighthearted fun.

Take a look at these fun pranks among the military community for a good laugh and possibly some ideas for weeks to come.


German Camp, 1915

On this day in 1915, the Geneva Tribune reported a French plane dropped a large object over a German camp. From a distance, the object appeared to be a huge bomb. Upon seeing it, soldiers ran for cover, though no explosion took place. Eventually, they approached the object, which was actually a giant football. On it was a tag that read, “April fool!”

Europe, 1943, the 30-Day Furlough

In a newspaper article in Stars and Stripes, a European publication for overseas soldiers, readers learned of a 30-day furlough available for overseas service members. They were said to be brought home by the newly refurbished ship, Normanie, which would be manned by Women’s Army Corps. What’s more is it stated on-ship entertainment provided by Gypsy Rose Lee and Betty Grable, two big names at the time.

Britain, 1980

Did you know that Irish bearskin helmets grow hair, so much so that it became a problem wherein they needed trimming? Specially requested by the staff of Buckingham Palace. That was the subject of an April Fools’ article in Soldier, a British magazine published in 1980. They even included scientific evidence on how the hair was able to grow once removed from the animal.

Mediterranean, 1986

While members on the USS Kennedy suspected nothing more than a delivery of mail during a six month deployment in the Mediterranean, jokesters had other intentions. Navy members planned a surprise drop off on April Fools’ Day in 1986. The helicopter landed and released three greased piglets — each painted red, white and blue — who ran across the deck. The event was even filmed for future generations to see!

Old Guard Virginia, 2013

There are working dogs in the military, so why not working cats? Back in 2013 an announcement was made via the U.S. Army that they were launching a trained cat program, wherein felines would help the military moving forward. Specifically, their duties were to help Military Police track narcotics and catch criminals in their tracks.

Okinawa, Japan 2019

In perhaps one of the most widespread pranks in history, on April Fools’ Day, 2019, the Marine Corps base in Okinawa announced via social media that service members could grow facial hair openly … and have pets in their barracks rooms. Putting safety first, the post even mentioned that pets would need to wear reflective belts to ensure their visibility, likely during early morning hours of PT. Funny enough, right? The problem is people believed it! Some went as far as to throw out razors or take on pets, not realizing the whole announcement was a joke.

Traditionally, April Fools’ Day has been a time to bring in jokes and laughter, often with creative pranks. It’s a look back at how military members still saw the bright side of things, whether in time of war, deployment or simply in everyday situations.

Do you have a favorite military-related April Fools’ Day prank? Let us know about it!

MIGHTY CULTURE

New leadership course brings officers closer to the fire

The Field Artillery Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC) implemented a new change to its capstone exercise, Red Leg War, giving students a more realistic experience before entering their respective units.

This change now allows students to approach the impact zone while calling in fires during the Fires Support Coordination Exercise.


“We want them to have the experience of fires impacting much closer than they have in the past,” said Lt. Col. Terry Hilt, 1st Battalion, 30th Field Artillery commander. “They will now be able to potentially walk through the craters as they move from objective to objective.

Field Artillery Basic Officer Leader Course students conduct a walk-through of the impact zone during a fire support coordination exercise (FSCX) Jan. 17, 2019, at Fort Sill.

(Photo by Daniel Malta, Fort Sill Public Affairs)

“We have a safety on Dailey Hill counting rounds as the lane [of soldiers] advances,” he said. “We also have an EOD [Explosive Ordnance Disposal] team out there.”

If a round doesn’t explode and it’s in the path of the soldiers, then the lane is stopped and the EOD team takes care of the unexploded ordnance, Hilt said.

2nd Lt. Anderson Simmons approaches the impact area Jan. 17. He and his classmates graduated Jan. 23, 2019, to become the Army’s newest field artillery officers.

(Photo by Daniel Malta, Fort Sill Public Affairs)

In the past, after planning, briefing and rehearsing, students had been brought to an observation point where they would call in fires on designated targets.

Field Artillery Basic Officer Leader Course students do a quick huddle as they approach the impact zone Jan. 17, 2019.

(Photo by Daniel Malta, Fort Sill Public Affairs)

Now, students get to fully realize the effects of that planning by getting as close as 750 meters from impacting rounds, while simultaneously calling in fire from mobile positions.

This also allows students to more realistically adapt their fire commands while moving to contact, and exposes them to the devastating effects of those artillery rounds, Hilt said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The US plan to train nuclear suicide bomber paratroopers

It’s an idea as old as nuclear weapons themselves: If you could slip a nuke into a city and detonate it, the enemy would never know it was coming. No missiles detected, no early warning radar, just one day: BOOM. In Cold War lore, these man-portable devices were usually envisioned as suitcase bombs. But the U.S. Army doesn’t do suitcases.


They used to though. They used to do suitcases really well.

No, the Army’s man-portable nuclear weapon was, of course, a duffel bag of sorts – and it was designed to be carried by a paratrooper, Green Light Team, or Atomic Demolition Munitions Specialists in case of World War III. NATO knew if the Soviets invaded with a traditional, conventional force, it would take time to mount any kind of meaningful resistance or counterattack. So in the 1960s, the Army came up with the brilliant idea to pack nukes on the backs of individual troops and drop them into strategic places to deny their use to the enemy.

One single paratrooper could cut off communications, destroy crops, and demolish key infrastructure in both the Soviet Union and in recently-captured, Soviet-held territory. There’s just one problem with this plan that the Army didn’t really see as much of a problem, apparently.

Humans can run faster than nuclear blasts?

Humans can’t run faster than nuclear blasts. In theory, the idea would be that the troop in question would either set a timer and secure the location before hoofing it out of there, with plenty of time to spare. But let’s be real: is the U.S. Army going to leave that much to chance? What if the enemy found it, disarmed it, secured it and then was able to reproduce it or use that weapon against NATO forces? They wouldn’t because Big Army isn’t that dumb.

Even if it were possible to outrun the timer on the bomb and/or the bomb yield was small enough for the munitions crew to escape, there’s no way the team would be recoverable due to the fallout or the alarm raised by such a weapon – or more likely because the use of a nuclear weapon triggered a full nuclear exchange.