It’s no secret that the early American revolutionists were up against a serious enemy when it came to the British Navy. Not only was the British Navy, one of the most experienced in the world, but their fleet was massive. Compared to the small, inexperienced, and fledgling Navy of early America, we almost didn’t stand a chance.
That is until tens of thousands of citizen sailors stood up and answered the call for freedom.
Fed up with British society’s confines, these tens of thousands of sailors played a critical role in America’s quest for independence, but are largely forgotten from the history books.
These so-called privateers accounted for more than 2,000 sailors in our early Navy and were all commissioned by both the Continental Congress and states. Together, the armada preyed on British ships on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, which severely disrupted the British economy and turned British public opinion against the war.
But who were these privateers?
A tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages allows countries at war to license private seamen to seize and plunder enemy vessels. It’s important here to note that privateers were different from pirates because pirates didn’t have legal authorization to plunder ships. Privateers had official letters from governments condoning their actions. Admittedly, the difference between pirates and privateers seems a little murky at best. But either way, the privateers at the helms of ships in the days of the Revolutionary War had one goal in mind: destroy as many British ships as possible.
Early America was as cash strapped as one would expect a fledgling colony to be. We were attempting to extricate ourselves from British rule, which was expensive. Early leaders knew that there’s no way our inexperienced Navy would ever be able to challenge Britain on the seas, but we did have one specific advantage. We didn’t really have anything to lose.
So the Continental Congress decided to capitalize on that. It issued money to privateers as guerrilla-style naval disruptors and told them to do whatever it took to stop British ships. And that’s exactly what they did.
Privateers were required to post bonds of up to 5,000 pounds as collateral to ensure that captives taken from British ships wouldn’t be mistreated. These sailors for hire also promised not to knowingly raid American or neutral ships. George Washington leased the ships and set out to man them with competent sailors up to the task.
The chance was once in a lifetime, and Washington sweetened the deal by offering one-third of all the goods the privateers captured and sold. In this appeal to the privateers’ financial self-interest, soon, Washington had more volunteers than he knew what to do with. Financial incentive coupled with a newfound patriotism for their fledgling country ensured helped awake the early spirit of capitalism, and for the first time in their lives, these sailors realized they might actually be able to make some money.
Whalers, merchants and fishermen set out to convert their ships. By May 1775, there were over 100 New England privateers roaming the high seas, all with the same solitary goal in mind. Privateering became so popular that the Continental Congress started issuing blank commission forms for sailors to fill out themselves.
Had it not been for the blossoming spirit of patriotism and the allure of cold hard cash, it’s possible that the Revolutionary War might have turned out very differently. Privateers helped to damage the British economy and undermine British policy, all helpful for the war effort. Ultimately, the privateers helped to capture over 2,000 British naval vessels. Faced with two fronts, one on British soil and one on American soil, the British Navy was very challenged to keep up with the constant barrage of privateers. Ultimately, this helped us win the war and gain our independence from Britain.
Under the Geneva Convention, hospital ships are immune from attack. Or, in very simple terms, shooting at them is a huge no-no.
But one American sub commander did worse – he actually sank a hospital ship. However, he managed to get promoted and retire as a two-star admiral nevertheless.
Charles E. Loughlin was the first commanding officer of the USS Queenfish (SS 393). The first three war patrols netted him a pair of Navy Crosses and a Silver Star, according to the Military Times Hall of Valor.
But it was on his fourth patrol that things went south.
CombinedFleet.com reported that in January 1945, the United States and Japan had come to an agreement to allow packages from the Red Cross to be delivered to American POWs. The Japanese selected the Awa Maru, a relatively new freighter (CombinedFleet.com reports she was completed on March 5, 1943), to carry out the delivery.
She was demilitarized, while American headquarters sent out a number of messages advising submarines that she was not a valid target.
According to “Sink ‘Em All,” the wartime memoirs of Vice Adm. Charles Lockwood, who served as Commander, Submarines Pacific, Loughlin was the victim of some mistakes from Lockwood’s staff. Lockwood, in particular, pointed to a message sent to “All Submarines” that outlined the route the ship would take and ordering submarines to let the ship pass that should have been sent to only those subs along the Awa Maru’s route.
In addition, Loughlin apparently had not been shown earlier dispatches by his communications personnel, and as a result, failed to grasp the importance of the March 30, 1945 dispatch. Two days later, in the evening hours of April 1, the USS Queenfish detected a contact on radar, going at a speed somewhere between 16 and 18 knots.
It was foggy, and with visibility down to about 200 yards. Contrary to the agreement allowing the ship free passage, the Awa Maru did not sound its fog horn. Lockwood would quote Loughlin’s patrol report noting that based on the data, the radar contact appeared to be a destroyer or destroyer escort. The Queenfish fired four torpedoes at the target at a range of 1,200 yards. All four hit, sinking the hospital ship.
After a recovered survivor revealed the identity of the vessel that was sunk, Loughlin reported the incident to Lockwood. The USS Queenfish was sent back to Pearl Harbor. Loughlin, though, would end up receiving only a letter of admonition from a general court martial – an action that, according to an NSA article on the sinking, prompted an enraged Nimitz to issue Letters of Reprimand to at least some of the court martial panel. Lockwood would report that one member of the court-martial panel would tell him that they came to the conclusion that Loughlin had never been shown the earlier dispatches, but that Loughlin had refused to throw his communications officer under the bus.
By all rights, Loughlin’s career should have been sunk, but instead, Loughlin would serve for over two more decades in the Navy.
How did this happen despite a such colossal screw-up? The reason is because intelligence information would reveal that the Awa Maru was, in the words of a Britney Spears song, “not that innocent.”
CombinedFleet.com noted that while the ship had picked up the relief packages, and was delivering them, she also carried 20 planes, 2,000 bombs, and 500 tons of other munitions. The Awa Maru dropped the planes, bombs, and ammo off in Saigon, prior to delivering the relief supplies to Singapore. When the ship was sunk, she was carrying bales of rubber and according to Lockwood, tins carrying granular material. The crew on USS Queenfish recovered some of the materials.
Lockwood would later come to believe that “Loughlin should have been awarded a commendation instead of a reprimand.” Fleet Adm. Ernest King sought to ensure that Loughlin would never hold a seagoing command again, but Navsource.org reports that Loughlin commanded the heavy cruiser USS Toledo (CA 133) and the oiler USS Mississinewa (AO 144). He rose to the rank of rear admiral, receiving the Legion of Merit for tours commanding Submarine Squadron Six and the Naval District of Washington.
In 1949, Japan quietly abandoned claims for compensation for the Awa Maru’s sinking.
One of the first-ever Special Forces underwater operations wasn’t targeted against an enemy. Rather, it was to assist in the search and recovery of 26 Americans who had perished in a freak aircraft collision.
On March 7, 1958, a United States Marine Corps (USMC) R4Q (C-119) “Flying Boxcar” transport and a United States Navy (USN) AD-6 Skyraider fighter were returning to Okinawa-Naha Air Force Base (AFB) after a mission in the Philippines. As they prepared for their final approach to the base, the weather suddenly turned to rain, seriously limiting visibility. The pilots, thus, decided to make an instrument landing. At that crucial moment, however, the Navy Skyraider lost its communication with both the USMC transport and with the control tower. The Marine pilots frantically tried to reach their Navy colleague on the radio, to no avail. Moments later, the Skyraider smashed into the fuselage of the R4Q, turning both aircraft into a fireball of debris and human flesh.
After the aircraft were lost from the radar, the call went out to the standby Search-and-Rescue (SAR) crews. SAR planes and helicopters from Naha AFB and other bases scrambled into action and scoured the cold Pacific Ocean for traces of the wreckage with hopes of finding survivors. After days of futilely combing the ocean, the search was called off.
In the end, the wreckage of both aircraft was discovered on the floor of the Pacific about three miles offshore. Faced with a delicate and complex recovery effort, the Marine Corps and Navy turned to the Green Berets of the 1st Special Forces Group (SFG). Dive operational detachments were then assigned to the task. In the end, after Herculean efforts, they managed to recover all 26 bodies.
In the wake of their success, the Commanding General of the IX Corps sent a letter to the 1st SFG. “In times of such tragedy and sorrow, it is most gratifying to know that local military personnel and organizations, as exemplified by the First Special Forces Group (Airborne), may be relied upon to render promptly such outstanding professional assistance,” he wrote. “I am confident that the parents, wives and loved ones of the deceased share my deep appreciation and sincere thanks for [your] outstanding contribution…to the successful accomplishment of the search and salvage operation.”
Tragically, a number of the Green Berets who participated in the recovery operations would be killed in action in Vietnam a few years later.
The year 1958 was a bad one for the C-119. In total, an astounding five aircraft were lost due to accidents, with a total loss of life of 34 service members. But the venerable Flying Boxcar continues to serve in numerous capacities in the U.S. military.
In the days before naval aviation and submarines, the battleship was the unchallenged king of the seas. Building a bigger and better ship with more and bigger guns was basically the order of the day, and it continued all the way up until the days before World War II, when the world reached peak battleship, and airplanes proved to be deadlier than the Navy ever imagined.
But America almost reached peak battleship before World War I was even a possibility, and it was possibly the biggest battleship ever conceived – it also might have been an ironic joke from someone who hated the Navy.
Benjamin Tillman, famous racist and Navy hater.
Benjamin Tillman was a U.S. Senator from South Carolina and a member of the Senate Naval Affairs Committee. He was annoyed at the Navy for coming to Congress every year to request money to build more and bigger battleships. Despite this pretty much being what the Navy is supposed to do, Tillman decided it would be best to just get the whole arms race out of the way and build the biggest possible battleship they could at the moment. This led to the creation of the Maximum Battleship design.
No, that’s really what they called it.
Tillman hated the Navy’s battleships, and everyone knew it, but when he requested the Department of the Navy just submit the plans for the biggest battleship they could, the Navy obliged him anyway. There were, however, restrictions on U.S. ship designs at the time. Namely, they had to fit through the Panama Canal.
The first design submitted was a massive 70,000 tons – almost 50 percent heavier than the modern Navy’s USS Missouri – and this was in 1916. It carried 12 16-inch guns and had an armor thickness of 18 inches. In comparison, the Iowa-class battleships of World War II would carry just nine 16-inch guns and have a maximum armor thickness of 14.5 inches. The next iteration of Maximum Battleship designs would have 24 16-inch guns and an armor thickness of 13 inches. It was the third design that really took the cake, however.
Maximum Battleship III – also known as the Tillman III design – weighed 63,000 tons. It had the armor of the second design and the guns of the second design. It could even move at an absurd 30 knots, which is almost as fast as an Iowa-class ship and an insane speed for a ship of that size in 1916. This is a weight equal to the largest battleships ever actually built that moves even faster and was supposed to be built 20 years earlier. That wasn’t the end of the attempt, though. There would be another.
The largest of the Tillman Designs.
The fourth design for Tillman featured the 24 guns and even thicker armor, coming in at 19 inches. It was clear by now the Navy wasn’t expecting to get funding for these. The fourth design would displace 80,000 tons and was practically impossible to build with the technology of the day. In all, six designs were made, each bigger and more ridiculous than the last. It would be as big as the modern American supercarriers and carry the most and biggest weapons of anything on earth, on land, or on the oceans. And it would have been sunk just as easily with the advent of naval aviation.
Aircraft carriers are the largest warships on the sea, and the U.S. Navy’s carriers are considered the world’s most elite. They’re so big they have their own ZIP code, and their reach and technological sophistication are unrivaled across the world.
On this date 96 years ago, the first aircraft carrier – the USS Langley – was commissioned in Norfolk, Virginia. The carrier had been converted from the collier USS Jupiter, which was the Navy’s first surface ship propelled by electric motors.
The Wright connection
Cmdr. Kenneth Whiting was the Langley’s executive officer. He was a submarine commander turned aviator who was one of the last to take personal training from famed aviator Orville Wright, one of the two brothers credited with inventing, building, and flying the world’s first airplane.
The Langley was named for Samuel Pierpont Langley, a former U.S. Naval Academy assistant professor who eventually became secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. He was also a massive aviation enthusiast. Ironically, Langley had the same spirit as the famed Wright brothers, but never quite had their success. He built his own airplane that he tried on several occasions to launch off ships.
While he didn’t succeed, he did inspire the Navy’s desire to launch and land aircraft from ships at sea. Sailors took up where he left off.
USS Langley’s career
The Langley was built primarily for testing and experimentation for seaborne aviation in the Pacific. It became the test platform for developing carrier operation techniques and tactics, notably helping the Navy learn to better land and launch aircraft more quickly.
Fifteen years after its commissioning, in 1937, the Langley was reclassified as a seaplane tender because newer aircraft carriers were available. It stayed stationed in the Pacific to support seaplane patrols and aircraft transportation services during the early months of World War II.
On Feb. 27, 1942, the Langley was transporting U.S. Army P-40s off the coast of Indonesia when it was attacked by nine Japanese dive bombers. The escorting destroyers surrounding the carrier tried their best to help, but it wasn’t enough. The Langley’s crew was ordered to abandon ship, and the escort destroyers eventually torpedoed the Langley so it wouldn’t fall into enemy hands.
More fun facts
• Despite being an aircraft carrier, the Langley didn’t have a control tower – now known as “the island” – as the modern-day carriers do.
• It was nicknamed the “covered wagon” because its flight deck, which covered the entire ship, resembled a giant canopy.
• The first plane launch from the flight deck of the Langley was Oct. 17, 1922. The first landing was nine days later.
In 1916, an American poet, Harvard graduate, and soldier of the French Foreign Legion was killed while attacking in the first wave at Belloy-en-Santerre, part of the opening of the Battle of the Somme. Alan Seeger had written a prophetic poem that would be published a year later titled, I Have a Rendezvous with Death.
Alan Seeger as a young Harvard student. A few years after this photo, he would join the French Foreign Legion.
The young Seeger graduated from Harvard in 1910 where he studied with poetry legends like T.S. Eliot. He spent two years living the Bohemian life in New York City’s Greenwich Village, crashing on couches and living off friends’ generosity. But New York didn’t live up to his expectations and, in 1912, he departed for Paris.
The City of Lights filled him with admiration despite the large amount of misery that came with living in crowded and filthy quarters in the city. When war broke out between Germany and France, Seeger joined the French Foreign Legion to protect his beloved city.
The young Seeger was a fatalist and romantic, and he wrote a number of poems that glamorized the idea of dying in war, especially for his adopted country.
Seeger took a spot in the first wave of his unit’s attack and wrote a letter to a friend where he wrote of his gratitude for the assignment.
“We go up to the attack tomorrow. This will probably be the biggest thing yet. We are to have the honor of marching in the first wave. I will write you soon if I get through all right. If not, my only earthly care is for my poems. I am glad to be going in first wave. If you are in this thing at all it is best to be in to the limit. And this is the supreme experience.”
Soldiers waiting for H-Hour during in operation in the Battle of the Somme.
But time passed without the men being ordered forward. On July 4, they were told that general offensive was about to begin, but they would only be in reserve.
Then, a few hours later, a voice called out. “The company will fall in to go to the first line.”
The Battle of the Somme and its overall campaign cost over 1.5 million lives.
Two battalions were to attack Belloy-en-Santerre, our company being the reserve of battalion. The companies forming the first wave were deployed on the plain. Bayonets glittered in the air above the corn, already quite tall.
The first section (Alan’s section) formed the right and vanguard of the company and mine formed the left wing. After the first bound forward, we lay flat on the ground, and I saw the first section advancing beyond us and making toward the extreme right of the village of Belloy-en-Santerre. I caught sight of Seeger and called to him, making a sign with my hand.
He answered with a smile. How pale he was! His tall silhouette stood out on the green of the cornfield. He was the tallest man in his section. His head erect, and pride in his eye, I saw him running forward, with bayonet fixed. Soon, he disappeared and that was the last time I saw my friend. . . .”
Seeger was killed that afternoon, cut down during the battle that is the bloodiest in British military history, and a costly one for every other nation that took part.
I have a rendezvous with Death At some disputed barricade, When Spring comes back with rustling shade And apple-blossoms fill the air— I have a rendezvous with Death When Spring brings back blue days and fair.
It may be he shall take my hand And lead me into his dark land And close my eyes and quench my breath— It may be I shall pass him still. I have a rendezvous with Death On some scarred slope of battered hill, When Spring comes round again this year And the first meadow-flowers appear.
God knows ’twere better to be deep Pillowed in silk and scented down, Where love throbs out in blissful sleep, Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath, Where hushed awakenings are dear… But I’ve a rendezvous with Death At midnight in some flaming town, When Spring trips north again this year, And I to my pledged word am true, I shall not fail that rendezvous.
The United States Military has always prided itself on its legacy. That’s why the historical accomplishments of a unit are almost always passed down from the old-timers to the young bloods. And if a great troop does a heroic deed, you can bet the installation where they were once stationed will have a street named after them.
The history books of the United States Military are extensive and cherished — but you won’t often see mention of the glider regiments. Outside of randomly finding their insignia on “Badges of the United States Army” posters that line the training room, you won’t ever hear anyone sing the tales of the gliders.
That’s mostly because the history of the gliders is a bit… awkward, let’s say.
Still though. There was a need that the gliders filled and they got the job done… some times…
Since their inception, gliders have been at odds with the paratroopers. Instead of having an infantryman jump from an aircraft and float down individually, the gliders would be filled to the brim with infantrymen that could all exit the glider at the same time and location. Gliders could also be filled with heavy equipment or vehicles and moved into the battlefield, remaining fairly silent as it glided to the ground.
And that about does it for the list of benefits to using gliders.
Earlier anti-glider poles had explosives, but the Axis found it a bit of overkill, as the inertia alone did the trick.
The thing is, all of the functions of the glider were better (and more safely) served by the helicopter. But even before helicopters were ready to take on a primary role, the Army had long abandoned gliders.
There were simply too many problems in the operating of gliders. First, gliders had to be towed by a much larger aircraft. When the time came, the glider would release the line and, as the name implies, glide to its intended destination. It didn’t have its own engine or any completely reliable means of piloting it.
Accidents were frequent. After all, there’s a reason they were unaffectionately called “flying coffins.” The glider needed to remain light (despite the heavy load in the back), so it had barely any kind of protection. The glider was literally made of honeycombed plywood and canvas, meaning air pockets or 40-mph winds could start shredding the exterior.
If the glider did manage to hold together throughout its journey, it was most left to its own devices after the departure of the towing plane. There were no brakes and steering was difficult. The only safe bet was to find a clearing, which were difficult to spot, seeing as the gliders cut the line while still miles away from their destination.
It also didn’t help that the Axis knew about the gliders’ biggest weakness: randomly placed ten-foot poles in giant clearings.
Farewell, gliders. You won’t be missed.
(442nd Fighter Wing Archive photo)
Gliders, in the eyes of the public, were doomed from the very beginning. In August, 1943, the gliders were given their first public demonstration in front for 10,000 spectators in St. Louis. A single bolt came undone and the glider fell like a sack of bricks right in front of the grand stand. Everyone onboard, including the mayor of St. Louis, was instantly killed.
The gliders did land properly more often than not and they played an instrumental role in major Allied invasions, but the fact that a staggering eleven percent of all troops who rode in them would die (and thirty percent were wounded upon landing) was something that the military just wanted to forget about.
The word hero is defined as someone who is admired for their courage and noble qualities. Patrick “Paddy” Brown was all of that and more. He was murdered on September 11, 2001.
Paddy grew up in Queens, New York, raised by a father who was an FBI agent and former minor league baseball player, and a mother that taught music. As a kid, he’d loved the firehouse and felt at home there. Paddy joined the Boy Scout Explorer Post which specialized in fire service when he was a teenager. As he got older, Paddy joined the New York Fire Patrol and was assigned to Fire Patrol 1. He was well on his way to becoming a full-fledged firefighter.
But war came calling.
At 17 years old, Paddy enlisted in the Marine Corps with his father’s permission. Feeling the need to be a part of something bigger than himself led him to putting his firefighting dreams on hold. After arguing his way out of a clerk position, he was moved to the 3rd Engineers Battalion and immediately deployed to Vietnam.
It was there that he would crawl through the tunnels constructed by the Vietcong, being one of the first to search and clear them. Paddy completed and survived two full tours of Vietnam, making it home at the rank of Sergeant. For his time in service he was awarded the Combat Action Ribbon and Vietnam Service Medal.
Paddy came home to a country divided over the war and found himself lost. Paddy turned to alcohol to push down his demons, unable to find hope or good in his surroundings. He confided in fellow firefighter Tim Brown that he recognized he was traveling down a dangerous path and needed to course-correct. Paddy replaced alcohol with boxing and eventually became an AA sponsor. Soon, Paddy was back at the New York Fire Patrol with the goal of becoming an FDNY firefighter.
On January 28, 1977, Paddy graduated and was assigned to Ladder 26 in Harlem, officially a part of the FDNY. It wasn’t long before he began making a name for himself with frequent rescues. By 1982, he was being recruited to Rescue 1 and 2 – units filled with the best of the best in the FDNY. By the time he hit 10 years as a firefighter, his personal awards and recognitions for heroism were astounding. Paddy achieved the rank of Lieutenant on August 8, 1987.
All of this was done quietly. Tim shared that when Paddy would wear his dress uniform, he would often leave off some of his medals to avoid making people feel inadequate, because he had so many. Despite not wanting attention, a daring rope rescue in 1991 would make him known everywhere. By 1993, he was promoted to Captain and on October 21, 2000 he was assigned as Captain of Ladder 3.
September 11, 2001 changed everything.
Paddy was on duty when he witnessed the first plane hit the World Trade Center. He quickly called the dispatcher to tell them what he saw and Ladder 3 was immediately tasked with responding. When he made it to the North Tower, he ran into Tim in the lobby and gave him a hug. Tim shared that there was something in his eyes and voice as he headed up the stairwell.
Paddy knew he’d never make it out.
As the South Tower collapsed, the North Tower swayed. Ladder 6 was told to evacuate, as was Ladder 3, which Paddy was leading. His last known words are as follows: “This is the officer of Ladder Co. 3. I refuse the order! I am on the 44th floor and we have too many burned people with me. I am not leaving them!”
Not long after that radio call, the North Tower collapsed. Tim had just narrowly survived the collapse of the South Tower himself when he watched the North Tower fall.
In that moment, Tim shared, he knew all of his friends were dead.
Paddy and Michael.
Paddy’s brother Michael, who was a doctor and former FDNY firefighter, spent weeks searching for him in the rubble and ash. On November 10, 2001, a day that should have been spent celebrating both the Marine Corps’ and Paddy’s birthdays, a memorial service was held for Paddy, instead. The lines stretched around the block, with people coming to mourn the loss of a hero. Paddy’s family was overwhelmed with incredible stories about their hero that they had never known before.
They wouldn’t find Paddy’s body until December 14, 2001.
In 2010, Michael wrote the book What Brothers Do, about both his search for Paddy and his journey to discovering who Paddy really was. The book is being relaunched and has a new urgency to its message of what makes a true hero. Michael was diagnosed with cancer, caused by searching in the ruins of the towers. His hope is that the story of Paddy and all of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, will never be in vain.
For every purchase of What Brothers Do, a portion will be donated to the Tunnel To Towers Foundation. Click here to grab your copy today.
While everyone talks about D-Day, what’s often forgotten is that getting past the Atlantic Wall was only the first step. The Allies had to fight their way out of Normandy and into the rest of France — not to mention across Germany.
This wasn’t easy. Germany had some very well-trained troops who were determined to put up a fight. One of the places where the Nazis held up the Allies was Villers-Bocage — a village to the southwest of Caen, a major objective of the initial staged.
According to Battle of Normandy Tours, on June 13, 1944, a force of British tanks from the famous 7th Armoured Division — also known as the “Desert Rats” — headed towards Villers-Bocage. At that village, a company of German Tiger tanks, under the command of Michael Wittman, fought the British force of Cromwell and Sherman Firefly tanks.
When all was said and done, Wittman’s force had destroyed 27 Allied tanks, according to WarfareHistoryNetwork.com. The Germans had also killed, wounded, or captured 188 Allied troops.
This video shows some of the fighting that took place during the Battle of Villers-Bocage. Warning: It does show some of the consequences of when armored vehicles are destroyed.
When the Soviets tested their first atomic bomb in 1949, it was game on. President Harry S. Truman responded by announcing that the United States would build an even more destructive weapon: the hydrogen bomb. Stalin followed suit and the “arms race” began. This was the start of the Cold War.
In retrospect, the US’s weirdest war put up some very impressive stats. Crash Course, a YouTube channel dedicated to crazy history facts and stats on pretty much any topic created the following video about the Cold War, and the facts are chilling. If you don’t know many of the details about it, the video below will give you a, you guessed it, crash course.
Watch the video:
What did you think about these Cold War facts?
We thought it was pretty interesting. Who knew that war led to the creation of NASA? Let us know what you’d like to learn about next in the comments!
In the hours following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the forces of the Empire of Japan also struck a number of other strategic targets. But those weren’t surprise hit and run attacks. Japan’s army and navy invaded Thailand, the Philippines, Guam, Wake Island, the Gilbert Islands, Borneo, British Hong Kong, Malaya and the Dutch East Indies.
That was just in 1941. The following year, Japan also invaded New Guinea, Singapore, Burma, India, the Solomon Islands, Timor, Christmas Island and the Andaman Islands.
The defenders of these Pacific possessions had mixed success in holding off or repelling their attackers, but many fell to the surprise attacks. In all the Japanese took 140,000 Allied prisoners during the war. An estimated 36,000 were sent back to Japan but many would not survive the trip.
One of the biggest reasons for this were the transports they were packed into. These notorious transports were called “Hell Ships” by the prisoners aboard them – and for a good reason.
Prisoners taken by the Japanese were beaten and starved, if not killed outright when captured. Those who did survive captivity were often pushed into forced labor, used in mines and factories all over Imperial Japan and its newly-acquired territories.
When prisoners were taken at any one of the battles fought to “acquire” the new Japanese possessions, Allied forces expected treatment in line with the rules regarding POWs under the 1929 Geneva Convention, which forbade their use in wartime production and hostilities against their home countries. The agreement before 1949 was intended not to punish those prisoners for being taken captive, but only to prevent their further participation in the war.
When captured by the Japanese, however, POWs were not treated humanely as the Geneva Convention prescribed. The Japanese saw surrender as a dishonorable act and treated their prisoners as if they were dishonored.
As a result, an estimated 40% of American prisoners taken by Japan died in captivity. The Hell Ships that transported them to all regions of the empire are indicative of why. Like the Bataan Death March and the conditions of tropical prisons on land, prisoners on hell ships endured the harsh treatment of their overseers, a lack of food and water, and all the diseases found among large groups of forcibly incarcerated people.
Unlike the prison camps and the death march, the prisoners aboard hell ships also had to contend with little access to air and proper ventilation. They had to endure the extreme heat of being held in a cargo hold. Worst of all, the ships also carried war supplies and auxiliary troops so they couldn’t be flagged as a non-combatant ship.
As a result, hell ships were frequently targeted by Allied air and naval forces, meaning they (and the prisoners of war aboard them) could be strafed, torpedoed, and sunk but aircraft, submarines and other Allied naval ships.
These attacks happened much more than anyone would like to admit. An estimated 20,000 Allied prisoners went down aboard the hell ships, targeted by friendly forces. If they were attacked or sunk, their treatment in the situation was not guaranteed. If they survived the attacks, some were killed trying to escape the incoming water. If they were allowed to escape the sinking ship, there was no telling if the Japanese would try to rescue them.
When they did escape the sinking ship and were rescued by the Japanese, they found themselves right back to being captive, often in just the same horrifying conditions they’d just escaped.
At least 14 hell ships were sunk by the Allies during the war, killing thousands of Allied POWs.
How does one start a revolution? It begins with a group of like-minded individuals who are bold enough to carry out an action against a superior entity, ultimately to change control of power. In the days of the American Revolution, these individuals were known as the Sons of Liberty, and their supporters — patriots like Sarah Bradlee Fulton, among others — predicated their success on secret preparation. How could they lead a rebellion against England’s powerful King George III and inspire townspeople to join their cause?
It didn’t happen overnight, but a series of events emboldened them to launch into action with an idea that was formed behind closed doors. It became known as the Boston Tea Party and is one of the most impactful political protests in history.
1773: Working men disguised as Mohawks throw chests of tea into the harbour in protest against direct taxation by the British.
(Original Artist: Robert Reid. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.)
In the 1760s, the colonists living in Boston, Massachusetts, felt that the British were taking advantage of them. Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers who later penned America’s first political cartoon under the namesake “Join, or Die,” saw firsthand the strength and influence of a unified people. He shared these observations about his displeasure with the British through the written word, including poetry:
We have an old mother that peevish is grown,
She snubs us like children that scarce walk alone;
She forgets we’re grown up and have sense of our own,
Which nobody can deny, which nobody can deny.
Meanwhile, Boston’s economy thrived; they had successful taverns, the richest shipyard on the waterfront, 3,000 wooden and brick homes, and some 500 shops. The population of 16,000 were hardworking and young — half of them were teenagers. The majority in Boston were educated enough to read the ever-popular Boston Gazette newspaper and follow updates on how the British bullied and used them as pawns to fund their wartime debts (from the French and Indian Wars).
In 1765, Parliament, England’s governing body of the colonies, imposed the Stamp Act, which taxed Americans for anything made from paper after it arrived in colonial shipping ports. The Quartering Act followed, which demanded that citizens open their businesses and homes to British soldiers for housing and food. Two years later, the Townshend Act added paint, glass, lead, and tea to the list of taxable goods.
Join, or Die. by Benjamin Franklin (1754), a political cartoon commentary on the disunity of the North American British colonies, was later used to encourage the former colonies to unite against British rule.
(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)
The American colonists were naturally angry, and tensions were consolidated to an upheaval in anarchy. By this time, the secret society of rebels known as the Sons of Liberty had formed. Frontman Samuel Adams — among other members such as John Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere — held public gatherings at Faneuil Hall to gain notoriety. In secret, the future Founding Fathers also held private meetings at the Green Dragon Tavern or the “House of the Revolution,” previously located on Union Street in Boston’s North End. Samuel Adams’ individual actions had the British publicly cast him as “the most dangerous man in Massachusetts.”
Their freedoms were being infringed upon, writes Kathleen Krull in her book “What Was The Boston Tea Party?” They protested in small boycotts and skirmishes against loyalist businesses (those who sided with the British), which made the headlines in the next day’s newspaper — but, most importantly, it caught the attention of the royal tyrants. Adams encouraged other patriots who believed in their cause to act in defiance. They used intimidation, vandalism, and even defamation of tax collectors through a shameful punishment called tarring and feathering.
On Feb. 22, 1770, one of these strong-armed attempts turned violent when British customs officer, Ebenezer Richardson, fired his musket upon a group in his backyard, killing 11-year-old Christopher Seider. A month later, on March 5, 1770, Private Hugh White, a British soldier, used his bayonet against a patriot at the Custom House on King Street.
White escalated the verbal altercation to a physical one, and the angry mob countered with a volley of snowballs, rocks, and ice. Bells rang signalling a disturbance, and loyalists and patriots entered the street to see the commotion. As the riot ensued, the British fired their muskets, killing five colonists in what is today known as the Boston Massacre.
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “Boston Massacre” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1870.
After these two incidents of bloodshed, the final straw was the imposition of the Tea Act, which was passed in May 1773. The Sons of Liberty had illegally smuggled tea from Holland because anything associated with the British infuriated them. Parliament countered with the enforcement of the British East India Company, the only tea that could be purchased. The once-adored tea from India and China, all 18 million pounds of it, had been outcasted by the colonists. So a group of American women began to make their own.
Women also played important if lesser-known roles in the events leading up to the Boston Tea Party. Similar to the Sons of Liberty, a group comprised of approximately 300 women was referred to as the Daughters of Liberty, and they had significant influence. Sarah Bradlee Fulton was an important figure who became known as the “Mother of the Boston Tea Party”; she later became one of the first women to come under the orders of George Washington as a spy during the American Revolution.
Fulton’s role in the Boston Tea Party wasn’t the infamous actions of dumping tea into Boston Harbor — it was more subtle, though equally important. Fulton is credited with suggesting that the patriots wear disguises during their great tea-dumping campaign to ensure that they couldn’t be recognized from a distance and would remain incognito when they ditched their outfits after the event.
Colonists also spread propaganda about British tea in the newspapers, instead valuing “Liberty Tea” made by American women in homemade batches. “Let us abjure the poisonous baneful plant and its odious infusion,” wrote one colonist. “Poisonous and odious, I mean, not on account of the physical qualities but on account of the political diseases and death that are connected with every particle of it.”
The Green Dragon Tavern, the meeting place where the Sons of Liberty planned the Boston Tea Party.
The Liberty Tea used the red root bush herb found growing on riverbanks. Red sumac berries and homegrown leaves were used to make Indian Lemonade Tea. Other recipes meticulously crafted delicious Raspberry Leaf Tea. It was declared “as good as any other tea, and much more wholesome in the end.”
While the Daughters of Liberty generally voiced their dissatisfaction with the British in quieter ways, they occasionally had to get a little rowdy. One such incident involved a merchant who was hoarding coffee, which was later dubbed the “Coffee Party.” Abigail Adams wrote about it to her husband, John, on July 31, 1777.
“There has been much rout and noise in the town for several weeks. Some stores had been opened by a number of people and the coffee and sugar carried into the market and dealt out by pounds. It was rumoured that an eminent, wealthy, stingy merchant (who is a bachelor) had a hogshead of coffee in his store which he refused to sell to the committee under 6 shillings per pound. A number of females some say a hundred, some say more assembled with a cart and trucks, marched down to the warehouse and demanded the keys, which he refused to deliver, upon which one of them seized him by his neck and tossed him into the cart. Upon his finding no quarter he delivered the keys, when they tipped up the cart and discharged him, then opened the warehouse, hoisted out the coffee themselves, put it into the trucks and drove off. It was reported that he had a spanking among them, but this I believe was not true. A large concourse of men stood amazed silent spectators of the whole transaction.”
But what happened in Boston Harbor four years prior was a pivotal moment in the fight for American independence.
On Dec. 16, 1773, an assembly was called at the Old South Meeting House, the largest building in colonial Boston. This is where John Hancock made a passionate demand: “Let every man do what is right in his own eyes!” The historic meeting amassed an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 colonists unified together against tyranny. The Boston Tea Party was put into motion to resist British oppression and to rally against taxation without proper representation.
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “Destruction of the tea” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1881.
That evening, disguised as American Indians, “Adams’ Mohawks” marched toward Griffin’s Wharf carrying axes and tomahawks, wearing feathers on their caps and warpaint on their faces. The only opposition between the liberators and 342 chests of tea was a British officer who had drawn his sword. He was no match for them and simply stepped aside as he was heavily outnumbered. The men split into three groups and boarded the three ships: the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver. They ordered the crew below deck, then used ropes and pulleys to hoist 90- to 400-pound chests of tea up from the cargo area, onto the deck, and into the harbor.
A large crowd gathered on the shoreline and cheered on their patriots as they emptied the tea into the shallow harbor. With low tide, the harbor’s height was only two feet, therefore the “Indians” had to stomp the piles of overflowing tea leaves to get them to sink. Some of the raiding force tried to sneak tea into their pockets — one was even brave enough to use a rowboat to collect his stash, but these canoes were overturned. After they emptied all of the crates, enough to fill 18.5 million teacups, the “Indians” ducked into safe houses, through the help of the Daughters of Liberty, and were home by 10 that night.
John Andrews, an observer, later wrote, “They say the actors were Indians… Whether they were or not to a transient observer they appear’d as such, being cloth’d in blankets with the heads muffled and copper color’d countenances, each being arm’d with a hatchet or ax, and pair pistols, nor was their dialect different from what I conceive these [sic] geniusses to speak, as their jargon was unintelligible to all but themselves.”
To this day, due to a pledge of secrecy, it remains unclear of who was directly involved in the historic action of dumping tea into Boston Harbor. But the event — known now as the Boston Tea Party — has become one of the most iconic events of the American Revolution, igniting a revolt against British rule and the beginning of a new unified nation.
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The casualty list released by the American Expeditionary Force on July 21, 1918 listed 64 American soldiers and Marines killed in action and 28 missing.
But the name reporters noticed first was that of a 20 year-old college student from Oyster Bay, Long Island: Lt. Quentin Roosevelt.
Quentin Roosevelt had been a public figure since he was four years-old, when his father, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, became president.
Roosevelt had been missing since July 14, 1918, when he and four other pilots from the U.S. Army Air Service’s 95th Aero Squadron engaged at least seven German aircraft near the village of Chamery, France.
His father had been notified that he was missing and presumed dead on July 17 and took it hard.
Quentin Roosevelt was a flight leader in the 95th and despite his famous family, he was very much a regular guy.
“Everyone who met him for the first time expected him to have the airs and superciliousness of a spoiled boy,” wrote Capt. Eddy Rickenbacker, the top American Ace of World War I. “This notion was quickly lost after the first glimpse one had of Quentin.”
Army Air Service Lt. Quentin Roosevelt
“Gay, hearty and absolutely square in everything he said or did, Quentin Roosevelt was one of the most popular fellows in the group. We loved him purely for his own natural self,” Rickenbacker remembered.
Quentin Roosevelt was the fifth child of Teddy and Edith Roosevelt. Quentin was his father’s favorite and his dad told stories to reporters about Quentin and the gang of boys — sons of White House employees — he played with. When the United States entered World War I, Quentin Roosevelt was a Harvard student.
His father had argued for American entry into the war, so it was only natural for Quentin and the other three Roosevelt sons to join the military.
Quentin dropped out of Harvard and joined the 1st Aero Company of the New York National Guard. The unit trained at a local airfield on Long Island, which was later renamed Roosevelt Field in Quentin Roosevelt’s honor.
The 1st Aero Company was federalized in June 1917 as the 1st Reserve Aero Squadron and sent to France. Roosevelt went along and was assigned as a supply officer at a training base.
He learned to fly the Nieuport 28 fight that the French had provided to the Americans. The Nieuport 28 was a light biplane fighter armed with two Vickers machine gun.
Army Air Service Lt. Quentin Roosevelt
The French had decided to outfit their fighter squadrons with the better SPAD 13 fighter, so the Nieuports were available for the Americans. They equipped the 95th and three other American fighter squadrons.
In June 1918 Roosevelt joined the 95th. Roosevelt was a good pilot but gained a reputation for being a risk-taker. With four weeks of training, Quentin Roosevelt got into the fight in July 1918.
On July 5, 1918 he was in combat twice.
On his first mission, the engine of Roosevelt’s Nieuport malfunctioned. A German fighter shot at him but missed. Later that day he took up another plane and the machine guns jammed.
On July 9 he shot down a German plane and may have got another.
On July 14 — Bastille Day the other American pilots were ordered into the air as part of the American effort to stop the German advance in what became known as the Second Battle of the Marne. The German Army was attacking toward Paris. The American Army was in their way.
New York National Guard Chaplain (Cpt.) Father Francis P. Duffy, the chaplain of New York’s famed “Fighting 69th” reads a service as a cross is placed on the grave of Lt. Quentin Roosevelt in August 1918.
In World War I the main enemy air threat was observation planes that found targets for artillery. The job for Roosevelt and the other American pilots was to escort observation planes over German lines.
The Americans accomplished their mission and were heading home when they were jumped by at least seven German plans. The weather was cloudy, so Lt. Edward Buford, the flight leader, decided to break off and retreat.
But instead he saw one American plane engaging three German aircraft.
“I shook the two I was maneuvering with, and tried to get over to him but before I could reach him his machine turned over on its back and plunged down and out of control,” Buford said.
“At the time of the fight I did not know who the pilot was I’d seen go down. ” Buford remembered, “But as Quentin did not come back, it must have been him.”
Quentin Roosevelt’s grave outside Chamrey, France after the French erected a more permanent grave marking.
“His loss was one of the severest blows we have ever had in the squadron. He certainly died fighting,” Buford wrote.
Three German pilots took credit for downing Roosevelt. Most historians give credit to Sgt. Carl-Emil Graper. Roosevelt, Graper wrote later, fought courageously.
The Germans were shocked to find out they had killed the son of an American president.
On July 15 they buried Quentin Roosevelt with military honors where his plane crashed outside the village of Chamery. A thousand German soldiers paid their respects, according to an American prisoner of war who watched.
On the cross they erected, the German soldiers wrote: “Lieutenant Roosevelt, buried by the Germans.”
When the German’s retreated, and the Allies retook Chamery, Quentin Roosevelt’s grave became a tourist attraction. Soldiers visited his grave, had their photograph taken there, and took pieces of his Nieuport as souvenirs.
The commander of New York’s 69th Infantry, Col. Frank McCoy, had served as President Roosevelt’s military aid and had known Quentin when he was a boy. At McCoy’s direction, the regiment’s chaplain Father (Capt.) Francis Duffy had a cross made and put it in place at the grave.
American Soldiers stand at the grave of Lt. Quentin Roosevelt in 1918.
“The plot had already been ornamented with a rustic fence by the soldiers of the 32nd Division. We erected our own little monument without molesting the one that had been left by the Germans,” he wrote in his memoirs.
“It is fitting that enemy and friend alike should pay tribute to his heroism,” Duffy added.
An Army Signal Corps photographer and movie cameraman recorded the event.
After the war, the temporary grave stone was replaced with a permanent one and Edith Roosevelt gave a fountain to the village of Chamery in memory of her son.
Quentin Roosevelt’s body remained where he fell until 1955. Then, at the request of the Roosevelt family, Quentin’s remains were exhumed.
He was laid to rest next to another son of Teddy Roosevelt; Theodore Roosevelt Jr. Ted, as he was called, was a brigadier general in the Army who led the men of the 4th Infantry Division ashore on Utah Beach on D-Day before dying of a heart attack on July 12, 1944.
Both men are buried in the Omaha Beach American Cemetery.
Quentin’s death shocked the apparently unstoppable Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. who grieved deeply, according to his biographers.
Teddy Roosevelt had fought childhood asthma, coped with the deaths of his first wife and mother on the same day, started down rustlers as a rancher in the Dakotas, faced enemy fire in the Spanish American War, survived a shooting attempt in 1912 and survived tropical illness and exhaustion during a 1914 expedition in the Amazon.
But six months after Quentin’s death, Theodore Roosevelt died of a heart attack in his sleep.
During the World War I centennial observance the Division of Military and Naval Affairs will be issue press releases noting key dates which impacted New Yorkers based on information provided by the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. More than 400,000 New Yorkers served in the military during World War I, more than any other state.