In July 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee hatched an audacious plan to invade the North, defeat the Union Army, and force an end to the war – with a Confederate victory. Everything – perhaps the entire Civil War – depended on the outcome at Gettysburg.
So maybe Lee should have stayed home to recover from his heart attack.
A study from the National Institute of Health’s Center for Biotechnology Information reviewed the general’s medical history in 1992. Despite his relatively good medical condition from 1864 to 1867, by the end of the decade, he suffered from exertional (stable) angina – chest pain from blocked arteries caused by activity. By 1870, his angina became unstable and he died at age 63.
“It often was stated that the loss of the war broke the heart of Lee, but in view of our modern day understanding, it probably is more accurate to say that advancing coronary atherosclerosis was the culprit,” the NIH said.
Harvard studies show the cardiac impact of six major risk factors: high total cholesterol, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and smoking. Anyone with two or more of these factors has a 69 percent chance of developing a cardiovascular disease – and 11 fewer years of life.
Lee had been suffering from what his doctors diagnosed as pericarditis since March 1863, which had a sudden onset and came with pain in his chest, back, and arms. It affected his ability to ride a horse and he was known to be anxious and depressed in the days and years after, both common conditions after heart attacks.
“It came on in paroxysms, was quite sharp,” he wrote. Doctors look at “my lungs, my heart, circulation, etc. and I believe they pronounced me tolerable sound.”
Pericarditis is an inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart but the NIH study refutes that diagnosis because American doctors were unfamiliar with the idea of angina. The researchers proposed instead that Lee suffered from ischemic heart disease, which would keep blood and oxygen from getting to the muscles of the heart.
His heart disease may have affected his judgement in all areas of life, which would explain some of the inexplicable and uncharacteristic decisions he ordered that day, namely Pickett’s Charge.
Lee’s March 1863 episode was a heart attack, not Pericarditis. As the NIH diagnosis says, the loss at Gettysburg didn’t break Lee’s heart, it was broken when he got there.
The United States was the “Arsenal of Democracy” in World War II, but even this arsenal had to get a little help from allies. The British, in fact, loaned us some of their planes during that conflict. Here are four planes we borrowed from the Brits.
1. Supermarine Spitfire
Yes, even though the United States had the P-40, P-38, P-47, P-51, F4F Wildcat, F6F Hellcat, and the F4U Corsair, they had to acquire the plane that won the Battle of Britain.
The American Spitfires mostly saw service in North Africa and Italy, according to SpitfireSite.com, until they were replaced by P-51s. United States Army Air Force Spitfires scored almost 350 kills during World War II.
The Spitfire is also notable for being the plane that got Jimmy Doolittle chewed out by Eisenhower.
2. Airspeed Horsa
Okay, this is technically a glider. Still, the United States needed a glider to bring in heavy gear for units like the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. The Airspeed Horsa fit the bill with its ability to carry a lot of troops and gear, and the United States got 301 of the planes for D-Day, according to the book World War II Glider Assault Tactics.
3. Bristol Beaufighter
This was a multi-role heavy fighter, which packed a huge punch (four 20mm cannon, six .303-caliber machine guns). According to Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, the United States operated four squadrons of Beaufighters in the night-fighter role. These squadrons operated in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, eventually switching to the P-61 Black Widow.
4. De Havilland Mosquito
This plane was very versatile, used for photo reconnaissance, as a night-fighter, as a heavy fighter, and even as a light bomber. The Army Air Force used a number of these planes in all of those roles during World War II, but historynet.com noted that most of them were crashed because this airborne hot rod was difficult to fly.
America may have missed out — the Mosquito is considered a legend.
Even today, America’s importing warplanes: The A-29 Super Tucano is a Brazilian design, while the AV-8 Harrier was British.
There were multiple versions of the rules, all with variations in wording. But they all carried the same eight sentiments:
Oscar Boelcke was once the world’s top fighter pilot, and he wrote eight rules to help other pilots survive to be like him.
Try to secure advantages before attacking. If possible, keep the sun behind you.
This is one of the rules that has shifted over time, but target acquisition in World War I was done almost exclusively through pilots simply scanning the skies. For that reason, Boelcke recommended the pilot keep the sun at their backs when heading into enemy territory or when deciding on an angle of attack against an unwary enemy pilot.
This would blind the adversary to the threat until the German pilot was already letting loose with his first machine gun burst. Nowadays, it does work a little different since targets are generally acquired via radar and other sensors. Still, Boelcke would certainly recommend hiding the approach and only engaging with the advantage.
Always carry through an attack when you have started it.
This one was far from hard and fast, but it was aimed at a particular shortcoming of young pilots. While Boelcke would allow for the occasional need to bug out (more on that in a later rule), he worried for new pilots who would see an enemy and attack, but then would turn and run after the first burst. That allowed the enemy to get a good bead on the fleeing German and shoot them down.
Instead, he recommended, only engage if you’re certain you can succeed and then stick with the fight unless you lose all advantage and have no other options left to fight. In more modern terms, “Finish the fight.”
A German pursuit squadron in World War I.
(German military archives)
Fire only at close range, and only when your opponent is properly in your sights.
This was another rule squarely aimed at a common mistake by rookies. Overeager pilots would fire from hundreds of yards away, giving away their position with little chance of a hit. (Aerial marksmanship is famously difficult as, even in World War I, the shooter and the target are moving in different directions at dozens or even hundreds of miles an hour.)
Boelcke insisted that pilots wait until 100 meters or so, about 110 yards, before firing if at all possible. This helped in two ways. First, the attack pilot would only give away their position when there was a chance of success. But two, it hedged against the common problem of aviation guns jamming. So withholding fire until it was most likely to kill the enemy reduced the chances of a jam on a mission because the pilot fired less overall.
Always keep your eye on your opponent, and never let yourself be deceived by ruses.
This one may feel obvious: Always keep your eye on your enemy. But American pilots, following their British counterparts, had learned to fake their deaths in the air by seemingly going into an irrecoverable spin during combat when they needed to bug out.
Boelcke wanted to make sure his pilots were ready for this and other tricks, and so he recommended that they always watch their enemy, even if the foe seemed dead or doomed.
Lt. Baldamus, a German ace fighter pilot.
(German military archives)
In any form of attack it is essential to assail your enemy from behind.
Again, rookie pilots would do stupid stuff, like attack an enemy flying from one side to the other, or coming head-on, both attack angles that were extremely challenging for even a veteran pilot to accomplish. So Boelcke directed his younger pilots to always focus on getting behind their enemy and attacking from there. There was one exception featured in the next rule.
If your opponent dives on you, do not try to evade his onslaught, but fly to meet it.
Yup, no need to try to navigate to the enemy’s rear if they’ve already gotten the jump on you. Instead, treat it like an “ambush near” on the ground and immediately turn to face the threat and shoot at it. Then, if at all possible, get to the enemy’s rear.
Rookie pilots had often made the mistake of running from their enemy instead. If they weren’t close to enemy lines, this resulted in them shedding altitude and pointing away from their attacker, allowing the attacker a series of free and easy shots at the fleeing pilot.
Baron Manfred von Richthofen became the top fighter pilot of World War I, following in the footsteps of his mentor who achieved 40 kills before anyone else.
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
When over the enemy’s lines never forget your own line of retreat.
This is the exception to a number of the rules above. Yes, you should always try to finish the fight against an enemy, whether you initiated the fight or were responding after they attacked you. But, you should always know which way to go if you have to run. If the guns jam, if the engine fails, if you’re hit with a potentially mortal wound, you have to know which way help is.
Attack on principle in groups of four or six. When the fight breaks up into a series of single combats, take care that several do not go for the same opponent.
This one was aimed at younger squadron leaders. Basically, try to fly in groups whenever possible so that pilots can support each other. But, when fighting one group against another, be sure that you have each enemy plane on the run. If you’re matched man-to-man, but two of your pilots accidentally go after the same target, then there’s an enemy plane free to go after one German after another.
Instead, the pilots should be aware of where each other are, and they should coordinate their attacks as best as possible to keep the enemy on their back foot.
A single weapon used predominantly in World War I and with a limited deployment in World War II was so effective and so terrifying that Germany lodged a diplomatic protest against its use by American forces. It wasn’t the flamethrower or the machine gun. It was shotguns, especially the Winchester Models 1897 and 1912.
The two shotguns were first entered into combat after America realized how brutal trench warfare really was. The soldiers and Marines serving on the Western Front needed a way to clear attackers from the American trenches as well as to quickly clear defenders from enemy trenches during assaults.
Standard shotguns were civilian versions of the weapon, often with a sling added for easy carrying. Riot guns were similar but with shorter barrels. The most heavily modified versions were the trench guns which featured shorter barrels — usually 20 inches or shorter, heat shields, and bayonet lugs.
The Model 97 quickly became one of the most popular shotguns issued, partially because of how well it stood up to the rigorous conditions on the Western Front. Operators could quickly clean mud and water from the weapons and get them ready to fire after a mishap, and the weapon continued to function even if it was dropped or slammed against trenchworks.
But the big reason that the Model 97 became so popular was that it could be “slamfired.” Typically, an operator readies a pump-action shotgun by pumping it to feed a round into the chamber and eject any empty casing currently in it. Then, they pull the trigger while aimed at their target to fire. Repeat.
But when slamfiring, they keep the trigger held back while pumping the weapon. When the new round feeds into the chamber, it will automatically fire. This meant the weapon could be fired as quickly as the operator could pump the handle.
The Model 97 held six rounds of 00 buckshot, each shell of which held nine pellets. A trained soldier slamfiring could fire all six rounds, 54 total lead pellets, in approximately two seconds. At the close ranges in many World War I trenches, the effect was devastating.
The Winchester Model 97 and Model 1912 would go on to serve similar functions in World War II, again clearing German defenders from trenches and bunkers as well as operating in the Pacific. The two Winchester shotguns were deployed to Korea and Vietnam, though the U.S. was slowly transitioning to newer shotguns by that point.
Every July, more than 1,200 cadet candidates arrive at West Point, the US military academy in West Point, New York. Established in 1802, it’s around 50 miles north of New York City. The location of the academy has significance in US history. Say what you want about West Pointers (or military academies in general) but getting into West Point is a pretty significant feat!
Located on the western point of the Hudson River right where it bends, West Point has historical significance in America’s quest for independence from the British. During the War of Independence, the British had to attack coming down the Hudson River. From West Point, they could see them coming.
Reception day, also known as R-Day, is always on a Monday and marks the first of each student’s four-year journey to graduation. In that journey, Cadets will follow through four programs: Character, Academic, Physical and Military.
Their civilian days are officially over right from the start
The first day at West Point involves a transformation from civilian status through a series of activities. At the end of the day, the Military Academy requires them to take an oath to serve in the US Army. Upon arrival, cadet candidates and their families begin the day with an orientation. However, when that’s over, they have just 60 seconds to bid their families farewell. After that, they will have extremely limited contact with the outside world for six weeks.
That obligatory West Point haircut is all the rage
Walking out the door of Eisenhower Hall, students officially become “new cadets” and receive their physical training uniforms and a bag. That bag holds everything they are permitted to carry during their first six weeks. Immediately after, new cadets must head to the barbershop. Male cadets have to pretty much shave their heads, though females do not.
After that, new cadets get their assignments at companies that teach them the basics of taking orders and how to properly march. Upperclassmen help to lead the new cadets, operating as a learning environment for both. New cadets learn the basics of leadership skills while upperclassmen practice them. R-Day ends with the Oath Ceremony, where everything the new cadets have learned is reiterated.
Nothing’s truly free
Attending West Point is free, but it’s not easy to get in. Aside from being a US citizen, students must also be in good physical condition, pass a specific medical exam and show a history of high academic achievement. Also, that free tuition comes with a different kind of debt: service. This includes five years of active duty in the Army and three years as Reserves. All who complete the initial six weeks of basic training are then formally accepted into the corps of cadets.
But escaping from inside the camp’s barbed wire was something altogether more difficult.
The countryside around Auschwitz was fervently pro-Polish and anti-Nazi. The local population was willing to do whatever it took to aid an escapee.
So the underground partisan movement in the local area and the camp resistance formed a partnership to help people escape.
Auschwitz was part of a series of labor and extermination camps created by the Nazis in occupied Poland. Its first prisoners arrived in May 1940. In June, a Polish boy scout named Kazimierz Piechowski would be imprisoned in Auschwitz I.
In a 2011 interview with The Guardian’s Homa Khaleeli, Piechowski talked about his duties moving the corpses of executed prisoners. He got the work detail because he learned German as a boy scout.
“The death wall was between blocks 10 and 11. They would line prisoners up and shoot them in the back of the head,” he told Khaleeli. “Sometimes it was 20 a day, sometimes it was 100, sometimes it was more. Men, women and children.”
Only 19 when the Nazis occupied his hometown, Piechowski saw his young friends rounded up by German soldiers because of their scouting background. During a run for the Hungarian border he was captured and sent to Auschwitz.
The concentration camp was so new, Piechowski was among those who helped build it.
“Wake up, you buggers!” Piechowski screamed in German. “Open up or I’ll open you up!”
The guard did.
The men drove to the town of Wadowice. All went their separate ways. Piechowski joined the nationalist partisan resistance movement and spent the rest of the war fighting Nazis.
In all, 196 prisoners made an escape from Auschwitz, out of 928 attempts. An estimated 1.1 million Jews, homosexuals, Slavs, Gypsies, and Polish political prisoners were killed in the Auschwitz camp complex.
Kazimierz Piechowski survived the war, spent seven years in a Soviet gulag for joining the Polish Home Army.
He toured to recount stories of his time in a Nazi death camp until his passing in 2017 at the age of 98.
“I am a scout, so I have to do my duty – and be cheerful and merry. And I will be a scout to the end of my life,” he told The Guardian.
There are all kinds of strange ways to light up a cigarette, from blowtorches to magnifying glasses. But few people on Earth have ever used as bizarre or overkill a method as devised by a Cold War physicist: the explosion of a nuclear bomb.
On Aug. 18, 2019, a thread from Reddit’s popular “r/TodayILearned” community mentioned the story of how the theoretical physicist Ted Taylor used the blinding flash of an atomic explosion to light a cigarette in 1952.
Records of “atomic cigarette lighter” events aren’t exactly robust, but it appears Taylor was the first to come up with the idea. That’s according to the author Richard L. Miller, whose 1986 book “Under the Cloud: The Decades of Nuclear Testing” chronicled the event in detail.
Taylor apparently lit his cigarette during Operation Tumbler-Snapper, which was a series of test blasts orchestrated by the US military at the Nevada Test Site. The operation happened in the throes of the Korean War — a conflict in which President Harry S. Truman considered dropping the bomb (again).
Government officials code-named the test explosion or shot in question “George” because it was the seventh in a series (and “G” is the seventh letter of the alphabet). Its purpose wasn’t to light up a smoke, of course: Military researchers placed a roughly 3,000-pound nuclear-bomb design, known as the Mark 5, atop a 300-foot-tall tower in part to try out a new blast-triggering technology, according to the Nuclear Weapons Archive.
The day before the test shot, Taylor apparently found a spare parabolic (cup-shaped) mirror, according to Miller’s book, and set it up in a control building ahead of time. Taylor knew exactly where to place the mirror so that it’d gather light from the test explosion, which would release gobs of thermal energy, and focus it on a particular spot.
Next, Taylor hung a Pall Mall cigarette on a wire so that its tip would float directly in front of the focused light beam. The arrangement wasn’t too different in principle from holding out a magnifying glass to concentrate sunlight on a piece of paper and light it on fire.
On June 1, 1952, Taylor and other weapons experts huddled into the bunkerlike control building near Area 3 of the Yucca Flats weapons test basin in Nevada. Then they set off the bomb.
“In a second or so the concentrated, focused light from the weapon ignited the tip of the cigarette. He had made the world’s first atomic cigarette lighter,” Miller wrote of Taylor’s setup.
‘It is a form of patting the bomb’
Taylor’s nuclear-age antics likely did not stop with him.
Martin Pfeiffer, an anthropologist who researches humanity’s relationship with nuclear weapons (and who frequently forces the release of documents related to the bomb), tweeted that a 1955 Department of Defense film appears to show the concept in action.
About 19 minutes into the half-hour movie, titled “Operation Teapot Military Effects Studies,” a narrator describes how parabolic mirrors were used to concentrate the light-based energy from nuclear explosions on samples of ceramics.
In the clip, a person’s hand holds the tip of a cigarette in a beam of focused light, causing it to smoke and ignite:
Although this looks like another cigarette being lit by a nuclear weapon, that’s unlikely.
There’s no blinding flash — a telltale effect of a nuclear explosion — and the length of time the light beam stays on-screen is far too long as well. The person being filmed probably just held out his cigarette for the videographer so as to demonstrate the concept of a parabolic mirror focusing would-be bomb energy.
Still, it’s not hard to imagine the story of Taylor’s feat spreading among his colleagues over many years and hundreds of above-ground US nuclear test shots. A few others probably tried it themselves.
In any case, Pfeiffer isn’t enamored by such stunts.
“Lighting a cigarette with a nuclear weapon … is at least in part an effort of domestication of nuclear weapons through a performance articulating it to a most quotidian act of cigarette lighting,” he tweeted. “It is a form of patting the bomb.”
That is to say: The act risks trivializing nuclear weapons, which can and have inflicted mass death and destruction. The 1945 US nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, for example, led to approximately 150,000 casualties, and decades of suffering for many who survived the attacks.
Today, above-ground nuclear testing is mostly banned worldwide, since it can spread radioactive fallout, mess with electronics, be mistaken for an act of war, and more. But US-Russia relations have deteriorated to the point that each nation is racing to develop and test new nuclear armaments.
The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, or CTBT, endeavors to ban nuclear explosions “by everyone, everywhere: on the Earth’s surface, in the atmosphere, underwater, and underground.” Russia has signed and ratified the treaty, but eight other nations have yet to complete both steps and bring it into effect.
The US signed on to the CTBT in 1996, but Congress has yet to ratify the nation’s participation in the agreement. There are also nearly15,000 nuclear weapons in existence today, which means the atomic-cigarette-lighter trick could, almost certainly for worse, be tried again.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Minutes after Tate Jolly arrived at the diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, a mortar hit the compound where an ambassador and another American had been killed and dozens more were trapped.
The Marine gunnery sergeant was one of only two U.S. troops with a small task force that rushed to respond to what quickly became clear was a coordinated attack on the U.S. State Department facility.
It was a remarkable mission. The closest military backup was hours away, which later led to fierce debate about how U.S. troops should be postured to protect Americans and diplomatic posts overseas.
“There was no one even remotely close to being able to go and get them in North Africa,” a source familiar with the operation planning said. “The nearest airplanes were hours away and the nearest ground troops a day away or further.”
The source spoke under the condition of anonymity to talk freely about the Sept. 11, 2012, incident, which remains a topic of controversy in Washington seven years later.
The scene was chaotic when the team arrived, and they quickly tried to restore order. There were nearly 30 panicked people who needed to be evacuated quickly, but the compound was under fire from multiple sides.
“Unfortunately, it was not a whole lot of offense; it was a whole lot of just holding guys off as long as they could to try and get out,” the person familiar with the mission said.
Jolly, who declined a request for an interview, would ultimately be awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism there. The soldier with him, Master Sgt. David Halbruner, received the Army‘s Distinguished Service Cross. The valor awards are exceeded only by the Medal of Honor.
Little has been known about the Jolly’s actions in Benghazi. There was no public ceremony when he received his valor award and, until recently, his name has not been publicly tied to the mission in media reports.
His hometown paper in North Carolina,the Wilkes Journal-Patriot, recently reported that the 36-year-old who’d graduated from high school about 90 miles north of Charlotte was the Marine who’d gone above and beyond to save other Americans. Jolly recently retired as a master sergeant.
According to testimony, public documents and the person familiar with his actions, Jolly was calm in the face of deadly chaos. He and Halbruner are credited with saving numerous lives that day.
With a rifle strapped to his back amid an onslaught of mortars and machine-gun fire, Jolly tended to the wounded, at one point throwing a man onto his back and shuffling him down a ladder amid a barrage of enemy fire. He helped some get back into the fight and provided vital care to others with life-threatening injuries.
Here’s how then-Gunnery Sgt. Jolly helped get other Americans to safety during a situation that caused a years-long political firestorm thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C.
A Delta Force Marine
Jolly, an infantry assault Marine, was assigned to a Delta Force detachment in Libya at the time of the Benghazi attack. It’s rare, though not unheard of, for Marines to join the elite Army special-operations teams.
The Marine had deployed to Iraq twice before joining the secretive counterterrorism force, spending about five years carrying out clandestine missions before the Benghazi attack and another five after, according to information about his career obtained by Military.com.
He racked up more than a dozen total deployments with Delta Force.
The Navy Cross Jolly received for his actions in Benghazi was his fourth valor award. He has two Bronze Stars with combat “V” devices — one of which he earned for undisclosed reasons during his time with Delta Force, and a second from a 2004-2005 deployment to Ramadi, Iraq.
Jolly also earned a Navy Commendation Medal with combat distinguishing device and a Purple Heart for injuries sustained during that deployment.
(Senior Airman Dennis Sloan)
According to his award citations, Jolly repeatedly braved enemy fire in Ramadi to help take out an enemy sniper who had ambushed a government center. He received the Navy Commendation Medal for risking his life to destroy roadside bombs when an explosive ordnance disposal team couldn’t reach his unit.
On the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Jolly was about 600 miles away from Benghazi in Tripoli — roughly the same distance between Chicago and Washington, D.C. Since Jolly and Halbruner were some of the only troops in-country, the operation was coordinated not by U.S. Africa Command, but the CIA.
Team Tripoli, made up of Jolly, Halbruner and five others, arrived in Benghazi at about 1:30 a.m. That was about four hours after the attack began, and two since Ambassador Christopher J. Stevens had last been seen alive.
The team was led by Glen Doherty, a Global Response Staff (GRS) security officer and former Navy SEAL, who was later killed. He was Team Tripoli’s medic.
The plan, according to the person familiar with the mission, was to leave the airport and head to the hospital, where they believed Stevens was being treated. When they found out Stevens had died, the first ambassador to be killed in the line of duty since 1979, the team headed to the consulate to bolster the diplomatic security personnel and GRS, a group of private military contractors who were fending off the attackers.
“It could’ve gone really, really bad,” said the source familiar with the mission. “It could’ve become 30 American hostages in North Africa. There were seven shooters going in to protect people who don’t shoot for a living.”
By the time they arrived, Sean Smith, a State Department foreign service officer, had also died. It was still dark, just after 5 a.m., according to a congressional timeline of the attack. Within minutes, the first mortar hit.
The attacks continued, with one witness estimating there were as many as 100 insurgents spotted surrounding their location in 20- or 30-man groups. It was a skilled enemy, one of the troops there later told members of Congress.
“It’s not easy … to shoot inside the city and get something on the target within two shots — that’s difficult,” the witness testified. “I would say they were definitely a trained mortar team or had been trained to do something similar to that.
“I was kind of surprised,” the service member added. “… It was unusual.”
They were there a matter of hours, but at times witnesses said the team feared they wouldn’t make it out alive. It began to “rain down on us,” one of them told lawmakers.
”I really believe that this attack was planned,” the witness said. “The accuracy with which the mortars hit us was too good for any regular revolutionaries.”
In total, six 81-millimeter mortars assaulted the annex within a minute and 13 seconds, a congressional report on the attack states. Doherty and Tyrone Woods, another former SEAL with the GRS, didn’t survive.
Dave Ubben, a State Department security agent, and Mark “Oz” Geist, another GRS member, were badly hurt. The men were defending the compound from the rooftop, determined to make it look like they had a lot more firepower than they actually did.
“There was a lot of shooting, a lot of indirect fire and explosions,” the source with knowledge of the response said. “It was just guys being really aggressive and doing a good job at making it seem like their element was bigger than it was, like they were less hurt than they were.”
Ubben — who’d testified before a federal court in 2017 that he took shrapnel to his head, nearly lost his leg, and had a grapefruit-sized piece of his arm taken off — was losing blood fast. Geist also had a serious arm injury that needed immediate attention.
Jolly and Halbruner were determined to save them. Amid the fight, they were tying tourniquets to the men’s bodies.
Ubben is alive because Jolly helped move him from the rooftop to a building where diplomatic personnel were hunkered down. Gregory Hicks, who became the acting chief of mission after Stevens died, later described how the gunny did it during a congressional hearing.
Ambassador Christopher J. Stevens.
“One guy … full of combat gear climbed up [to the roof], strapped David Ubben, who is a large man, to his back and carried him down the ladder, saved him,” Hicks said.
Jolly and Halbruner also went back out to the rooftop to recover the bodies of the fallen.
“They didn’t know whether any more mortars were going to come in. The accuracy was terribly precise,” Hicks said. “… They climbed up on the roof, and they carried Glen’s body and Tyrone’s body down.”
It was for Jolly’s “valorous actions, dedication to duty and willingness to place himself in harm’s way” to save numerous unarmed Americans’ lives that he earned the Navy Cross, according to his citation.
Bracing for the worst
That attack was traumatic for many of the civilians trapped inside one of the buildings, according to the person with knowledge of the operation. They’d lost their ambassador and another colleague, and they had no experience being caught in a life-and-death combat situation.
Once Jolly and Halbruner brought the injured men in from off the rooftop, the diplomatic staff helped treat their wounds, according to the source familiar with the situation. It gave them a mission as the onslaught continued outside.
As the sun came up, the remaining team members worried that terrorists would overtake the facility. First believed to be the work of the Benghazi-based Ansar al-Sharia group, the attack was coordinated by several networks in the region, including al-Qaida affiliates.
Throughout the night, the Americans had the advantage of night vision, the person familiar with the mission said. In the daylight, it could quickly become an even playing field.
Surprisingly though, it got quieter. They gathered inside one of the buildings and formed an evacuation plan to move the diplomatic staff to the airport and eventually out of Benghazi.
“[They had to talk about] things like, ‘What happens if they came under attack on the way out? Do you know where to go if you are separated from the group or are being shot at?'” according to the person familiar with the plans.
They prepared for the worst: that as the convoy left the compound, they’d be ambushed, everyone would panic, and the terrorists would take hostages. But they made it to the airport without issue and, by 7:31 a.m., the first plane with survivors took off for Tripoli.
“Who would’ve thought seven people could go into Benghazi and get more than 25 people out? Especially without traditional military support?” the person familiar with the mission said. “… But you can do a lot if you’re determined and have no other choice.”
The Defense Department and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later faced a host of criticism over their response to the attack. Critics called it too slow — a congressional investigation finding that despite President Barack Obama and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta clearly ordering the military to deploy response forces, none were sent until almost eight hours after the attacks began.
President Obama and Secretary Clinton honor the Benghazi attack victims at the Transfer of Remains Ceremony held at Andrews Air Force Base on Sept. 14, 2012.
(State Department photo)
Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey was asked to explain why he hadn’t dispatched F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets from Italy. He told lawmakers it would’ve been “the wrong tool for the job.”
The Marine Corps, the nation’s go-to crisis-response force, has been particularly responsive in the aftermath of the attack. Since there aren’t enough amphibious ships to stage Marines everywhere they’d like to be at sea, they’ve set up land-based crisis-response forces built to respond to emergencies quickly. Those units include up to 2,200 personnel, along with aircraft and logistics capabilities.
Those units are now based in Europe, the Middle East and Central America. Those assigned to Africa and the Middle East have fielded several State Department requests to evacuate embassy personnel or shore up security when intelligence has indicated a high risk for attack.
The Marine Corps and State Department have also bolstered the number of embassy guards placed at diplomatic posts around the world, standing up dozens of new detachments that previously did not have military personnel.
It was a tragedy to see a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans killed in Benghazi but, sadly, it sometimes takes an awful situation to get the attention of those in charge of policy, the person familiar with the response said.
“It was a bad situation, but a lot of priorities changed after this tragedy that would otherwise never have gotten fixed.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Siege warfare is a military tactic in which an enemy army surrounds a castle or fortress and attempts to break in either by physical force or by starving the inhabitants into submission. In other words, it is a nasty ordeal for all involved and it often sports some diabolical tactics.
Here are three sieges from ancient history that show just how nasty things can get.
1. Battle of Jericho (late 17th or 16th centuries BCE)
The siege of Jericho is a well-known story. The Israelites marched around the walls seven times and on the seventh circuit they stopped, the Levites blew into their shofars and the next thing you know the walls came tumbling down, end of story. However, there is an alternative history that wrings more true.
The shofars sounded, the men cried out and the walls fell. But that’s not exactly what happened. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
The Israelite commander named Joshua used psychological terror and stealth to bring down the walls of Jericho. In other words, before Joshua mustered his forces on the days preceding the Jericho battle, he sent two men to scout out the area and the city of Jericho like any good commander would.
Once the men were in the city, they went straight to the inn. An inn is a perfect place for a pair of strangers seeking information. The men got lucky when a prostitute by name of Rahab approached them and gave them all the details about the city’s security. Afterward, both spies swore to Rahab that she and her family would be spared so long as she left a scarlet cord hanging from her window.
Once the spies returned with the goodies, Joshua assembled his forces and deployed to Jericho, where they would march around the city for seven days. There are two reasons for this. First was to terrorize the city’s inhabitants with this bizarre rounding of the city day after day.
Second, was to keep the guards along the wall occupied by watching the army. While this goes on, a number of men would break rank undetected and head to Rahab’s window and climb up the scarlet cord. This would go on for six days. After the seventh day came, the Israelite army stopped, the shofars sounded and the men shouted.
This was a signal for the uncertain amount of men staying in Rahab’s apartment to attack the city from the inside by taking the main gate and opening it for the Israelites to storm in. Once the Israelites were in, the slaughter begins.
Every man, woman, child — and even livestock — were put to the sword, except for Rahab and her family.
2. The Siege of Baghdad (1258)
In 1258, the massive Mongol army along with many foreign nations under the authority of Prince Hulegu, surrounded the city of Baghdad after conquering much of Iran and northern Iraq. Once the Mongols settled into camp, the destruction began.
That’ll teach you to negotiate with a Mongol. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
On jan. 30, 1258, the Hulegu gave the order to commence the bombardment of the city walls. But there was a problem. The Mongol siege crews had no rocks. The siege train carrying the needed stones was three days journey away.
While the Mongols look for suitable projectiles to throw at the city walls, Hulegu ordered his Mongol archers to fire arrows over the walls with messages attached saying the city’s residents would be treated with kindness if they surrender.
While Hulegu sought to end this siege peacefully, Mongol engineers came up empty handed in the catapult rock search. However, not all was lost. Mongol engineers stripped foundation stones from the buildings in the suburbs and uprooted palm trees to use as hasty projectiles, battering the walls of Baghdad (James Chambers, The Devil’s Horsemen, 145).
The Caliph quickly sent ambassadors to negotiate peace but Hulegu would not hear the plea and detained them. Hulegu’s message was clear, surrender was not enough; it must be unconditional surrender.
While the Caliph continued to send envoys to Hulegu, the Mongols continued to bombard the walls — focusing on the Ajami tower, which was reduced to rubble by Feb. 1. The Mongols would finally break into the city the next day and seized a portion of the eastern wall. However, the battle was far from over and the negotiations continued for another four days. On the 6 February, the bombardment was over but the Mongols remained on the wall until the Caliph surrendered. Hulegu sent another message, this one to the armies of Baghdad. The message told them to lay down their arms and leave their posts.
Seeing the situation was unwinnable by use of arms, the Caliph’s advisors advised him to flee. But one man by the name of Ibn Alqami proposed that the best way to end this was for the Caliph to go before Hulegu. Hulegu’s terms to the Caliph were simple: turn over his daughter so that he could marry her and recognize Hulegu as the supreme authority.
If accepted, Hulegu would end the siege. The Caliph agreed and his forces marched out thinking they were going to retire to Syria. However, the forces were killed and later the Caliph and his sons were put to death. As for Baghdad, well, the hounds of hell were let loose.
Hulegu then ordered the troops guarding the walls to descend and kill the inhabitants of the city, great and small. (The Mongols) organized as though harvesting a field and cut down countless, numberless multitudes of men, women, and children. For forty days they did not stop. Then they grew weary and stopped killing. Their hands grew tired; they took others for sale. They destroyed mercilessly.
However, Hulegu’s wife, the senior Khantun (lady), named Doquz Khatun was a Christian. She spared the Christians of Baghdad, Nestorians and other denominations and beseeched her husband not to kill them. And he spared them with their goods and property.
Hulegu ordered all his soldiers to take the goods and property of the city. They all loaded up with gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, and costly garments, for it was an extremely rich city, unequalled on earth.
Hulegu himself took his share the caliph’s treasures—three thousand camel loads; and there was no counting the horses, mules and asses.
3. “Bring out your Dead!” The Siege of Kaffa (1346)
While this is a not ranking list, the Siege of Kaffa probably wins hands down for the suckiest siege. The reason is that Kaffa is ground zero for the worst plague to date to ever fall upon mankind. However, I understand the plague started elsewhere, but for Europe, Kaffa is the main source. So how did it happen?
Throwing plague-infected corpses over the walls of Kaffa might have been the opening salvo in a regional pandemic. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
In 1346, Mongols besieged the Genoese city of Kaffa located on the Black Sea. Before this siege, the Mongols and Genoese made an agreement in 1266 that the city would serve as a trading center between Europe and the Far East. However, the city would be taken over by the Mongols later on only to be given back. This seesaw agreement tradeoff would go on for some time.
The final straw came in 1343 when Christian locals and Muslims in the enclave of Tana inflamed. In turn, the Christians fled to Kaffa to escape the wrath of Khan Janibeg. Janibeg sent his army after them and found them hiding in the city. So what better option than to besiege the city.
In 1344, the Genoese were successful in breaking the siege by killing 15,000 of the Khan’s men and destroying their siege engines. The Khan would come back and try again in 1346, but as the Mongol besieged the city, a mysterious illness began to circulate the encampment. The Mongols, seeing their men fall ill and die, decided to use the bodies as a weapon. According to the notary Gabriel de Mussis:
The dying Tartars, stunned and stupefied by the immensity of the disaster brought about by the disease, and realizing that they had no hope of escape, lost interest in the siege. But they ordered corpses to be placed in catapults (trebuchets) and lobbed into the city in the hope that the intolerable stench would kill everyone inside. What seemed like mountains of dead were thrown into the city, and the Christians could not hide or flee or escape from them, although they dumped as many of the bodies as they could in the sea. And soon the rotting corpses tainted the air and poisoned the water supply, and the stench was so overwhelming that hardly one in several thousand was in a position to flee the remains of the Tartar army. Moreover, one infected man could carry the poison to others, and infect people and places with the disease by look alone. No one knew, or could discover, a means of defense.
Eventually, the city would surrender in 1349. But the damage had been done, and some of the Genoese took to their ships heading back for the ports in Italy. Unfortunately, some on board of those ships were infected with the bubonic plague. Gabriel de Mussis mentions this, stating:
…As it happened, among those who escaped from Caffa by boat were a few sailors who had been infected with the poisonous disease. Some boats were bound for Genoa, others went to Venice and to other Christian areas. When the sailors reached these places and mixed with the people there, it was as if they had brought evil spirits with them: every city, every settlement, every place was poisoned by the contagious pestilence, and their inhabitants, both men and women, died suddenly.
Overall, the Siege of Kaffa could be the deadliest siege ever. The outcome of the siege and the bubonic plague affected much of the world, particularly Europe, since Asia was already contaminated.
While it is possible that had the siege at Kaffa not taken place, the plague may not have infected Europe, or it may have come much later. But given that the siege did happen, it may have unwittingly resulted in the deaths of 50 million people out of a population of 80 million in Europe from 1346-1353.
During World War II, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill were responsible for leading their nations to victory and jointly planned strategies for the cooperation and eventual success of the Allied armed forces. Roosevelt and Churchill had already agreed early in the war that Germany must be stopped first if success was to be attained in the Pacific. They were repeatedly urged by Stalin to open a “second front” that would alleviate the enormous pressure that Germany’s military was exerting on Russia. Large amounts of Soviet territory had been seized by the Germans, and the Soviet population had suffered terrible casualties from the relentless drive towards Moscow. Roosevelt and Churchill promised to invade Europe, but they could not deliver on their promise until many hurdles were overcome.
Initially, the United States had far too few soldiers in England for the Allies to mount a successful cross-channel operation. Additionally, invading Europe from more than one point would make it harder for Hitler to resupply and reinforce his divisions. In July 1942 Churchill and Roosevelt decided on the goal of occupying North Africa as a springboard to a European invasion from the south.
In addition to the troops, supplies, ships, and planes were also gathered. One photograph shows some of the equipment that was stockpiled in this manner. Countless details about weather, topography, and the German forces in France had to be learned before Overlord could be launched in 1944. In November American and British forces under the command of U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower landed at three ports in French Morocco and Algeria. This surprise seizure of Casablanca, Oran, and Algiers came less than a week after the decisive British victory at El Alamein. The stage was set for the expulsion of the Germans from Tunisia in May 1943, the Allied invasion of Sicily and Italy later that summer, and the main assault on France the following year.
Because of this success, Eisenhower was named commander of all Allied forces in Europe in 1943. When in February 1944 he was ordered to invade the continent, planning for “Operation Overlord” had been under way for about a year. Hundreds of thousands of troops from the United States, Great Britain, France,Canada, and other nations were assembled in southern England and intensively trained for the complicated amphibious action against Normandy.
General Eisenhower’s experience and the Allied troops’ preparations were finally put to the test on the morning of June 6, 1944. An invasion force of 4,000 ships, 11,000 planes, and nearly three million soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors was assembled in England for the assault. Eisenhower’s doubts about success in the face of a highly-defended and well-prepared enemy led him to consider what would happen if the invasion of Normandy failed. If the Allies did not secure a strong foothold on D-Day, they would be ordered into a full retreat, and he would be forced to make public the message he drafted for such an occasion. View a large version of the letter here.
Here’s what it says: “Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”
As the attack began, Allied troops did confront formidable obstacles. Germany had thousands of soldiers dug into bunkers, defended by artillery, mines, tangled barbed wire, machine guns, and other hazards to prevent landing craft from coming ashore. Document 3 featured with this lesson shows some of the ferocity of the attack they faced. About 4,900 U.S. troops were killed on D-Day, but by the end of the day 155,000 Allied troops were ashore and in control of 80 square miles of the French coast. Eisenhower’s letter was not needed, because D-Day was a success, opening Europe to the Allies and a German surrender less than a year later.
This article originally appeared on National Archives. Follow @USNatArchives on Twitter.
As if the lowly soldier of World War I didn’t have enough to worry about on the hellish battlefields of France — from massive flamethrowers, to giant artillery guns to poison gas — there was a lot of nastiness that could kill you in no-man’s land.
Not quite the nightmare scenario of living, walking Ents from “Lord of the Rings,” the British and later the Germans nevertheless disguised sniper hides and observation posts in positions designed to look like trees destroyed on the battlefield made from steel drums and camouflaged to look like an everyday arbor.
In the constant game of cat and mouse that marked the stalemate of the Western Front, diabolical designers looked to the splintered wreckage of the pock-marked battlescape to hide their positions. According to a story about the deadly hollowed-out trees in the London Daily Mail, the Brits found wrecked trees they could use to construct what they called “O.P. Trees” for observation posts.
Is that a German Baumbeobachter behind me? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
“The ideal tree was dead and often it was bomb blasted,” the MailOnline story said. “The photographs and sketches were then sent to a workshop where artists constructed an artificial tree of hollow steel cylinders.”
“It contained an internal scaffolding for reinforcement, to allow a sniper or observer to ascend within the structure,” the story added.
The trees were built to look exactly like the ruined ones in no-man’s land, so troops would sneak between the lines in the dark and replace the real tree with the fake one. Manned by a British Tommy, the O.P. Trees gave a better view of the battlefield than peering over the trench line.
Historians say a soldier perched within the tree would relay his observation to another trooper posted below, who’d carry the information back to the lines for an attack.
An O.P. Tree being installed on a World War I battlefield by British troops. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
“As far as we know the trees were surprisingly successful and none of them were detected by the enemy,” a historian with the Imperial War Museum in Kensington, England, told MailOnline. “In 1916 the Germans had captured a lot of the higher ground on the Western Front and even the elevation of a few feet through one of these trees could prove crucial.”
The Germans later caught on to the tactic and built there own, calling them Baumbeobachter (which means “tree observer”) and used them throughout the war. The Brits are said to have used their first O.P. Trees during the battle of Ypres in Belgium in 1915, and historians estimate around 45 were deployed to the Western front.
Any enlisted Navy sailor can tell you that their dress uniform wouldn’t be as famous today without one of its most iconic pieces — the historic neckerchief.
Reportedly, the neckerchief made its first appearance in the 16th century and was primarily worn as a sweat rag and to protect the sailor’s neck from rubbing raw against their stiff collared shirts.
In some cases, the 36-square-inch silk fabric could also be used as a battle dressing or tourniquet in a life saving situation.
The color black was picked to hide any dirt or residue that built up during wear.
In 1817, the Navy wanted each one of its sailors to tie their neckerchief the same way, so it introduce the square knot. The square knot was hand-picked because it was commonly used on ships to secure its cargo.
The knot was later added to the dress blue uniform to represent the hardworking Navy tradition, and it remains that way today.
How to tie a square knot:
During the inspection, each sailor is carefully examined by a senior at least twice a year. While under observation, the sailor must display a properly tied square knot which needs to hang at the bottom of the jumper’s V-neck opening, and the ends of the neckerchief must appear even as shown above.
Do you remember your first uniform inspection? Comment below.
After a long shift, troops have the option to relax by kicking off their boots and cracking open a beer. However, this privilege wasn’t available to the veterans of World War I. On Dec. 18, 1919, a little over a year after The Great War, alcohol was an illegal substance in the United States. The veterans who fought in the most destructive war at that time were now denied the right to a cold brew. Imagine winning WWI, yet a civilian tells you you’re not allowed to drink. Fat chance.
The Eighteenth Amendment wasn’t perfect, which was perfect, because the loopholes allowed veterans to consume alcohol without directly violating the Constitution. The Lance Corporal underground of today can get away with some mischief, but they have nothing on the post-World War I veterans scoring some booze using a real underground.
“I’ll start my own country, with blackjack…”
They bought it before it was illegal
Troops returning from the European theater had a valuable head start to legally purchase as many bottles as they could before Prohibition came into effect. It was legal to drink alcohol that was purchased prior to the 18th Amendment, in the privacy of your own home. The loophole in the law was the ‘manufacture, sale, and transportation of intoxicating liquors,’ not consumption, which is an important distinction if you’re dodging an NJP.
Modern troops that are stationed in Okinawa understand the essential skill needed to stockpile booze in preparation for monsoon season. Proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance, every second counts.
Vino Sand Co.
They made their own wine
If you’ve never tried the Navy’s Well Wine, don’t.
Vineyards during prohibition ceased producing wine for distribution and instead sold bricks of dried grapes. These bricks could be mixed with water and left to ferment over the period of three weeks or more to create wine. Troops could purchase these bricks and accidentally let them ferment in a dark cupboard somewhere.
Blatz Products Company
They made their own beer too
Malt syrup was not an illegal substance, but it was the key ingredient to make beer at home. By adding water, yeast, and sugar to the syrup, a troop could buy one can and patiently wait for the fermented ingredients to produce 50 pints of beer.
This wasn’t legal, and raids were conducted on stockpiles of malt syrup, but if a troop wanted to get away with drinking beer, this was one they could get away with in their basement.
They would get a prescription for whiskey
A troop could legally purchase a pint of hard liquor every ten days at a drug store with a doctor’s prescription. It was during this time that Walgreens happily contributed to providing people with the medicine they so desperately needed in those trying times. Their aid in the legal sale of alcohol allowed them to flourish into 500 chain stores during the 1920s.
“Extra, Extra, read all about it. Terminal Lance Corporals become clergymen en masse!”
US Navy 100912-M-2275H-196 A command chaplain holds church services aboard USS Kearsarge
A troop could get it from their Chaplin or religious leader
The Yorkville Enquirer reported the ban on sacramental wine on Sept. 1, 1922 had been lifted.
Imported or Domestic Product now allowed for Sacramental Use. David I. ltlair, commissioner of internal revenue, has definitely removed the ban from sacramental wine, in a decision which repeals two former decisions placing restrictions on wine for ‘sacramental use, and amends the regulations governing its distribution.
Incredibly, troops mysteriously became devout attendees to services because:
If a bonded winery for the purposes of manufacturing ceremonial wines for general distribution, but not for his congregation only. A priest, rabbi or minister of the gospel also may be employed as a qualified winemaker to supervise the production of the needed wines.
Naturally, the number of religious leaders also rose by dubious amounts after 1922.
To Alcohol! The cause of… and solution to… all of life’s problems.