How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals

In January 1946, a rather amusing wanted ad was published in the pulp comic book Rangeland Romances. “Three lonely sailors” of the USS Mellette sent in a request for pen pals that seems like it would have been hard to ignore. 

The USS Mellette (APA-156) was a Haskell-class attack transport commissioned Sept. 27, 1944, conducting a series of training operations in the Pacific before she got underway for Iwo Jima on Jan. 27, 1945. She participated in the initial assault on Feb. 19, unloading supplies and taking on casualties. She would remain active in the Pacific, including Okinawa, Saipan, and Nagasaki, until she finally witnessed the official surrender of Japan in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945. In June, 1946, she was decommissioned and entered into the Reserve Fleet at Yorktown, Virginia.

The Beach-Party Sailors’ letter was shared on Twitter by Vera Herbert, Writer and Co-Executive Producer of This is Us, a show that has taken great effort and care toward telling military stories. It’s no wonder, then, that she would get excited over this treasure of an ad:

Beach-Party Sailors

Dear Editor:

We wonder if you have room in your “Pony Express” for three lonely sailors.

We read RANGELAND ROMANCES and enjoy them very much. We are Marvin Munson S2/c and John Williams S2/c and Clayton Daniels S1/c. We have been overseas for several months and don’t get much mail at all. So come on, girls everywhere, and make some lonely sailors happy.

We are “beach-party” sailors and were in the invasion of Iwo Jima and have some interesting things to write about. So, girls, let’s sling some ink.

Sincerely,

U.S.S. Mellette (APA-156)

℅ Fleet Post Office

San Francisco, Calif.

JOHN WILLIAMS S2/c

MARVIN MUNSON S2/c

CLAYTON DANIELS S1/c”

Whether those frisky sailors ever heard from Rangeland Romances readers is tough to say, but I’m with Herbert in hoping they found love through the pages of pulp comics. 

They’re not the only service members who appreciate letters from home. One military spouse, Army wife Christina Etchberger, set up a pen pal program so people can write to veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Anyone who wants to is invited to write a letter to a veteran. Etchberger encourages pen pals to include thin objects like photos, cards, crafts, stickers, postcards, stamps, or seed envelopes and write a little something about yourself on the back (for example, Etchberger’s son wrote “looking for a pen pal who likes planes!”). Keep the letter positive and avoid controversial topics. 

Then mail your letter directly to the Lawton-Fort Sill Veterans Center, 501 SE Flower Mound Road, Lawton, OK 73501.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What it takes to get a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCOM

Dennis Wolfe, Retired U.S. Army sergeant major, received U.S. Special Operations Command’s 2018 Bull Simons Award April 18, 2018, in Tampa, Florida. His remarkable five decade career in and out of uniform pioneering explosive ordnance and disposal tactics for special operations was the basis for the award. His expertise established a world class program to counter weapons of mass destruction becoming the standard for the United States government and our international partners.

The lifetime achievement award recognizes recipients who embody the true spirit, values, and skills of a special operations warrior. Col. Arthur “Bull” Simons, whom the award is named after, was the epitome of these attributes.


Wolfe was born in Port Trevorton, Pennsylvania and raised in humble surroundings where there was not much of a chance to make a decent living and travel.

“It was 1962 following graduation from high school and there was very little opportunity where I grew up and was raised and I always had this dream of seeing the world and knew there was a lot out there and probably the way to do it was to join the service,” Wolfe said. “I, of course, had no idea what I was getting into.”

During basic training an unfortunate injury would turn out to be a fortunate career opportunity for him.

“My basic training was in Fort Gordon, Georgia and I wanted to go airborne, but I injured my knee so they put me in a garrison unit. The guys in the garrison unit convinced me I should go to explosive ordnance disposal school, which I did,” said Wolfe. “In the EOD field I was on presidential support, VIP support, supporting the secret service.”

After serving more than a decade, he became a mentor in the EOD career field and was teaching future conventional Army EOD specialists. Then his career took an unexpected turn.

“One of my assignments in the EOD field was as an instructor at Redstone Arsenal and that is where I got a call to come to Fort Bragg for an assessment and selection process for a unit that was starting up,” said Wolfe.

How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals
Dennis Wolfe

The assessment and selection was for a unit whose mission would be hostage rescue and counter-terrorism. During the assessment and selection process he was noticed right away by future USSOCOM Command Sgt. Maj. Mel Wick.

“The assessment and selection process that Dennis went through was one of the toughest mental and physical selection processes in the world,” said Wick. “There were several reasons Dennis was chosen. We did some psychological testing. We did a lot of interviews with people he had worked with and he had a very important skill that was missing in the group we were assembling. It didn’t take him long at all to earn the respect of the other more experienced Soldiers that he was in the training course with.”

Another famous special operator from that era, former USSOCOM Commander Gen. Peter Schoomaker, and 2016 Bull Simons Award recipient recognized that Wolfe was a unique asset. “Dennis was a little different than most the rest of us because he came with a specialty [EOD] that wasn’t familiar to us which in the long run was fortuitous,” said Schoomaker.

It would not be long before Wolfe would take part in some of the country’s most dangerous missions, among them the invasion of Grenada, and the failed Iranian hostage rescue attempt known as Operation Eagle Claw.

“We got word that the embassy in Iran had been taken over by terrorists. They said that probably was going to be a mission that this unit was going to be involved in,” Wolfe said. “That mission eventually became Eagle Claw where we planned to rescue 52 hostages.”


“When we were preparing for Eagle Claw Dennis was able to provide a lot of assistance there for the planning and preparation for that,” Wick said. “He was heavily involved in figuring out the breaching charges for the walls. He was also going to be key to looking for and disarming booby traps.”

The failed Iranian hostage rescue during Operation Eagle Claw had an impact on many special operators and Wolfe was no exception.

“I think the experiences of Eagle Claw had a deep impact on everyone that was there. I think that was definitely shown throughout the rest of his career with the lessons he learned there,” Wick said. “His ability to analyze things, to anticipate things, to always look forward, and to always be considering the broader picture rather than the small technical piece that he was focused on.”

Wolfe was noted for his calm demeanor in any stressful situation. The years of training dealing with weapons of mass destruction gave him the ability to keep his teams focused.

“In a crisis situation he was also a very steady anchor that people could hang on to, to calm themselves down by looking at Dennis,” Wick said. “I mean if Dennis can be calm in this situation, well the rest had to be.”

Wolfe became much more than an EOD specialist for the special mission unit and learned to master the essential special operator skills.

How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals
Dennis Wolfe
(Photo by Michael Bottoms)

“Of course when you learn when someone has this extraordinary specialty you figure that would limit what they do. The truth is Dennis ended up being an extraordinary operator as well,” Schoomaker said. “He went through what all of us went through and became extraordinary operator in the special mission unit. He ended up being a team leader and eventually being the sergeant major of the selection and training detachment.”

Being an operator means you have to take on many personas and Wolfe was very skilled at going from noticed to unnoticed.

“Dennis was able to fit into whatever conditions he was faced with. He could be out in the mud and two hours later he’s cleaned up in a suit in front of an ambassador or a senator giving a briefing. One hour after that he is with a bunch of scientists going through the very technical details of disarming a nuclear weapon,” Wick said. “I’ve seen him sit on the corner in dirty ragged clothes with a bottle of wine while he is observing a target. He could adapt very rapidly in his speech. He could sound like a redneck or he could sound like a scientist and he could switch from one to the other very easily.”

Retiring from the Army, Wolfe became a civil servant and carried on the special operations EOD mission that eventually would have a global impact.

“Even after he retired we retained him in a civilian capacity where he could put his full time effort into developing a full scale program as the field evolved,” said Schoomaker.

In his civilian capacity, Wolfe would go on and write the tactics, techniques, and procedures that would greatly enhance the security of the United States.

“When Dennis Wolfe and I met the Soviet Union recently collapsed and there was a big concern about the loss of control of weapons of mass destruction,” said James McDonnell, Assistant Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office. “Dennis was the guy that brought EOD into special operations. So he had the vision to understand how the terrorist threat was evolving and that vision was absolutely critical because all the planning had to be done in advance. All techniques, tactics and procedures had to be done in advance and they really didn’t exist.”

Wolfe was a master at dealing with people who weren’t in special operations and incorporating their expertise into a special operations mission.

“So for example, scientists had all kinds of tools they thought were great, but you couldn’t necessarily jump out of an airplane with. You couldn’t dive with them,” McDonnel said. “So what Dennis was able to do was bring that into this national laboratory complex and say ‘if you take this tool and modify in this particular way then we can use it.'”

Echoing Secretary McDonnell’s sentiment, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. James Bonner, who today is the commander of the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives Command, and was as an officer who served with Wolfe, thinks he has had lasting, legacy impact on the entire EOD community.


“When we talk about weapons of mass destruction we are talking about chemical, biological, nuclear, it can be radiological, it can have an explosive element to it and when you look at an explosive ordnance disposal technician it takes about one year to go through EOD school, just to be able to work basic EOD problems. Then if you are fortunate to be assigned to the special mission unit, the training plan Dennis incorporated with the national lab takes another year of training before you are ready for a role in the special mission unit. That is the level of expertise and capability that Dennis was able to build.”

“Dennis was able to bring highly technical skills into the special operations community that it didn’t have before and build that capability literally over decades into a national asset that is globally unique,” said McDonnell.

Reflecting on his fifty years of government and in special operations, Wolfe’s humility is readily apparent.

“I never turned anything down. I never planned anything specifically. The unit said they needed me because of my skills. I couldn’t refuse. I’ll go. I never thought I had all those skills people were looking for. Sometimes they had more faith in me than I had in myself. I felt as a Soldier I couldn’t turn anything down,” Wolfe said. “During my time SOF has gone from reactive to proactive. I think we are still there today. At least I hope we are.”

“He had the courage to do some really amazing things and has made contributions that are just unmeasurable to the security of the United States,” Wick said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the legacy of Sputnik 1, the world’s first satellite launched into orbit

Just 60 years ago, there were no man-made objects above the planet Earth. Now, there are nearly 500,000 objects circling over Earth in various orbits. These include debris, inactive, and active satellites.


The tiny Sputnik, which means “satellite” or “fellow traveler” in Russian, was the first man-made satellite to be launched into Earth’s orbit on Oct. 4, 1957, and it changed the course of human history.

How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals
This handout October 1957 NASA image shows a technician putting the finishing touches on Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite. Photo from NASA.

The 58cm diameter, 83.6kg metallic orb, with four antennae that transmitted radio pulses, that was launched by the Soviet Union heralded the space race between the USSR and the US – ushering in an era of scientific advances, not only in military, but also in communications and navigation technologies.

There are approximately 1,500 active satellites currently orbiting the Earth. Modern society is heavily dependent on satellite technology, which is used for television and radio broadcasting, telephone calls, GPS navigation, mapping, weather forecasting, and other functions.

How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals
A map of currently tracked satellite objects. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Class of satellite orbit

Class Altitude Orbital period Common usage
Low Earth Orbit 80km – 1,700km 2 hrs Communications, Earth observation, development (International Space Station, Hubble Space Telescope)
Medium Earth Orbit 1,700km – 35,700km 2 – 24 hrs Navigation (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo)
Geosynchronous Orbit 35,700km 24 hrs Broadcast, Weather
Elliptical Orbit Variable Variable Communications (Sirius Satellite Radio)

How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals
The Hubble Space Telescope in orbit. Photo from NASA.

The US share of satellites

US government and private entities own over 40 percent of all satellites currently in orbit. Most operational satellites currently in orbit are for used for communications, Earth observation, technology development, navigation, and space science.

They have lifetimes ranging from months to 30-plus years after launch.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 times soldiers won against the odds

One of the better-known assumptions about combat is that the side with the greater numbers usually wins. Seems pretty self-explanatory, right? Being outnumbered puts you at an automatic disadvantage. Still, other factors, like experience, equipment, tactics and even weather come into play. Here is a list of famous clashes throughout history with unlikely resolutions.

  1. The Evacuation of Dunkirk (1940)

In World War 2, during the height of Hitler’s aggression, British, Canadian, French and Belgian troops had been forced onto the beaches of Dunkirk, France, by the advancing German army. Since most of the escape routes to the English Channel had been severed, a slaughter seemed imminent. 

So Winston Churchill came up with a plan. During “Operation Dynamo,” destroyers and transport ships were sent to evacuate the troops from the beaches. They wouldn’t have been enough, but civilians pitched in to help. Roughly 700 civilian-owned vessels joined the rescue mission. Hitler also decided to pause the attack for three days, allowing over 300,000 people to be safely returned to Britain between May 27th and June 4th.

  1. Agincourt (1415)

King Henry V’s famous victory over the French was the decisive battle in the Hundred Years’ War. Due to the terrain (a recently-plowed field surrounded by woods), with foot soldiers in the center flanked by wedges of archers wielding longbows, the numerically superior French forces were handicapped. Because they were narrowed at the front of their ranks, they couldn’t mount any maneuvers that could overwhelm the English forces. 

When the battle commenced on the morning of October 25th, it was over in a short three hours with an unexpected win for the British. France was crippled and a new period of English superiority began in the war.

  1. Cannae (216 BC)

Everyone knows the name Hannibal. This story might remind you why he was such a legend. The famed Carthaginian general arrived early at the battlefieldvnear Cannae – an ancient village in southeastern Italy. Despite being greatly outnumbered by the Romans, he easily defeated them using his superior skills of strategy. 

He sent his 50,000 troops to guard the Aufidus river, depriving his opponents of water in the sweltering August heat. Hannibal further took advantage of the terrain by forcing the Romans to face south, where the heat, wind, and blowing grit ground them down even further. Though Roman Consuls Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Gaius Terentius Varro brought nearly twice the men of their opponent, many in the ranks were relatively inexperienced, which further contributed to their loss. 

  1. The Battle of Chancellorsville (1863)

This victory of the confederates over a Union force twice its size during the American Civil War “was the contest that put Confederate leader Robert E. Lee into the pantheon of great military generals.” The new young general on the Union side, Joseph Hooker, fell prey to bad luck and poor strategic decisions that gave Lee the advantage. For starters, he sent most of his cavalry ahead to raid in Virginia, depleting his reconnaissance force. Lee’s information about the Union troop positions was much keener, and to top it off Hooker’s German troops defected at a crucial moment. A combination of Lee’s audacity and Hooker’s timidity won the day for the confederates.   

  1. The Capture of Belgrade (1941)

The brazenness and ingenious use of deception on the part of German SS Officer Fritz Klingenberg enabled a small force of German troops to capture the Yugoslavian capital of Belgrade during World War 2. Following a long campaign of bombing runs by Lutwaffe planes, Klingenberg first tried to ferry a large force across the Danube river in a motorboat to capture the city, but became stranded with only six troops when the boat sank. 

How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals
Photo courtesy of German Federal Archives, Wikimedia

Undeterred, the skeleton crew headed to the heart of the city, capturing Yugoslavian troops and trucks along the way. They replaced the Yugoslavian national flag with the German one, and upon meeting with Belgrade’s mayor, Klingenberg bluffed that they were only a fraction of a much larger invading force, and would resume bombing if necessary. When backup German troops arrived on April 13, 1941, they were shocked to discover that the city had already been taken.

Through this string of shocking victories, we can learn an invaluable lesson that every member of the military likely already knows; don’t give in to defeat until the battle is over. Until then, use every ounce of courage and tact, and you just might live to tell the tale.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Axis Sally: The American voice of Nazi Germany

Mildred Gillars was born in Portland, Maine on November 29, 1900. As she grew up in Ohio, she developed big aspirations for becoming an actress. In pursuit of those hefty dreams, Gillars enrolled in the drama department at Ohio Wesleyan University. But Gillars never completed her degree. She would instead find herself winding down a sordid path that would led to her notoriety as Axis Sally.


After dropping out, Gillars moved to New York City to pursue her acting dreams. Unfortunately, life in the big city didn’t bring her the instant success she had hoped. After bouncing around between various odd jobs, appearing in the vaudeville circuit, and ultimately floundering in the professional theatre business, Gillars packed her bags up yet again.

In 1929, she left America all together. First, she moved to Paris, then Algiers, and eventually made her way to Germany in 1934 to study music. It was there that she would start down the precarious path that led her to commit treason against the United States.

In 1940, Gillars found a job introducing music on the German public radio network Reichs-Rundfunk-Gesellschaft. As the Nazis rolled over Europe in their brutal bid for conquest, RRG was ubiquitous. Gillars was finally getting some of that attention she’d always wanted, even as the full outbreak of WWII was looming.

By 1941, the U.S. State Department began advising all American nationals to abandon all German occupied territories. Gillars ignored this advice and resolved to stay in Berlin. By this time, she was engaged to the naturalized German citizen Paul Karlson, who told her he wouldn’t go through with their marriage if she fled.

Not long after Gillars decided to stay for her fiancé, Karlson was deployed to the Eastern Front and killed in action. Soon after, Gillars began an affair with her married radio manager, Max Otto Koischwitz. Koischwitz had a creative mind. In 1942, he cast his lover in a new radio show called Home Sweet Home, Gillars’s once apolitical broadcasts took a turn towards propaganda.

Home Sweet Home was created with the purpose to unsettle American forces stationed in Europe, playing on the soldiers’ homesickness and their fears about life back home. Gillars would speculate about whether or not the women on the homefront were remaining faithful. The goal was to convince American soldiers that their time at war would end with them alone, spurned, and maimed upon their return home.

How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals

Alchetron

This wasn’t Gillars’s only show aimed at fostering doubt in the American people. She also starred in the show Midge at the Mike, which consisted of playing popular American music—swing in particular—interspersed with rants that were largely anti-Semitic and verbal attacks filled with a hatred for Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Her other show GI’s Letter-box and Medical Reports was particularly gruesome. This broadcast targeted those on American soil, as Gillars struck worry into the hearts of families as she delivered accounts of soldiers who were captured, wounded, or dead, citing specific information about their grim fates.

It seemed Gillars’s betrayal of her country gave her everything she wanted. She was pulling in a generous paycheck. The comfort of financial security was a strong draw after a childhood spent in Midwestern poverty. Additionally, after so many failures throughout her short-lived stage career, her pleasant voice and mocking propaganda made her a prestigious name in European radio.

Gillars’s despicable persona was known among the soldiers by many names—Berlin Bitch, Berlin Babe, Olga—however, the one that had the most traction was Axis Sally. And before long, she wasn’t the only woman spinning doubt behind the microphone. In an effort to recreate the successful broadcast formula, the German Foreign Office had Italian radio announcer Rita Zucca broadcasting from Rome under the name of Sally. Gillars was, of course, furious that listeners frequently confused the two of them.

Over in Japan, yet more women crooned over radio waves into the ears of American soldiers. This was largely due to Japanese propaganda officials forcing Allied prisoners of war to broadcast anti-American shows.

Most notable of these broadcasters was Iva Toguri, also known as Tokyo Rose. Toguri, along with prisoner of war/producer, Australian Army Major Charles Cousens, did their best to keep their broadcasts satirical, leaning heavily on the propaganda official’s lack of cultural understanding of America. Toguri also used her meager earnings from the show to feed POWs in Tokyo.

How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals

Alchetron

After the war, Mildred Gillars would claim that her time on the radio was under similar duress as Toguri’s. She said that, upon hearing about Pearl Harbor in 1941, she broke down in horror and boldly denounced Germany’s Japanese allies. Then, fearing she would find herself in a concentration camp for her indiscretion, she later signed a written oath of allegiance to Germany.

Gillars also claimed that, upon being aggressively approached by her new lover Koischwitz to spin his propaganda, she felt she had no choice. Saying no wasn’t an option in Nazi Germany.

It’s impossible to tell whether her claims were true or desperate grabs to change the public’s opinion of her. Regardless, she continued to broadcast propaganda until two days before Germany’s surrender. She was arrested on March 15, 1946 and spent the next two and a half years in an Allied prison camp until her trial. Once convicted on one count of treason, Gillars spent 12 years in prison, followed by parole.

During her stint in prison, Gillars converted to Catholicism. Upon her release in 1961, she went to live at the Our Lady of Bethlehem Convent in Columbus, Ohio. There, she became a private tutor to high school students, and, at age 72, finally earned enough credits to complete her degree from Ohio Wesleyan University.

In 1988, Mildred Gillars died of colon cancer, leaving behind a complicated legacy. Her body lays in the St. Joseph’s Cemetery south of Columbus in an unmarked grave.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time North Dakota seceded from the Union

After Tennessee seceded from the Union in June 1861, the Civil War began in earnest. It would be won by force just a few years later, in a war that tore the country apart — a war that Americans still haven’t forgotten. So when North Dakota governor William “Wild Bill” Langer declared North Dakota’s independence — in 1934 —  you have to wonder what he was thinking.


It’s likely he was thinking about anything that would get him out of going to a federal prison. Langer was just convicted of a felony and the state Supreme Court upheld a conviction that would remove him from the Governor’s office. His lieutenant governor, Ole Olson (yes, that’s really his name), took over.

How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals
Wild Bill is sick of your sh*t.

Good thing the National Guard was already on the streets.

Langer was skimming money from government paychecks into an account run by the group that put him in the office of governor. But that’s not even what he was convicted for, which was conspiracy to violate an act of Congress. His jail sentence was longer than his time in office.

But the voters loved him anyway. Despite the charges and convictions, they voted for him.

Martial law had to be declared in North Dakota. Earle Sarles, adjutant general of the North Dakota National Guard and the man technically in charge of the entire state at that moment, basically decided, on the spot, who would be governor: Olson or Langer.

What no one except Langer loyalists knew at the time was that the governor drew up a “Declaration of Independence for the State of North Dakota” the night before Court’s decision. But true to the North Dakota Constitution (and the oath he took to wear a U.S. Army uniform), he supported the court ruling and backed Olson.

How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals
Mic drop.

When the North Dakota National Guard was called up to forcibly remove him from the Capitol Building in Bismarck, Langer’s supporters will still marching and demonstrating the capital’s streets.

Langer would be exonerated for the crime in 1935 and successfully ran for U.S. Senate, being seated in 1941 — where he had to explain the Declaration of Independence to the Congress.

MIGHTY HISTORY

3 black service members who helped shape history

From the American Revolution and beyond, Black service members have had an irreplaceable role in the trajectory and success of the United States military. Their contributions have helped shape the outcome of individual battles and missions, as well as paved the way for changes regarding equality in the armed forces. Here are three service members who each played unique and incredibly important roles during their time in the service.


How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals

Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James Jr.

Pilot and instructor of the famous Tuskegee Airmen, history’s first Black military pilots, Gen. James has an untouchable legacy of accomplishments. From the time he was young, Chappie, a nickname gifted by his brother, had always wanted to be a pilot. At 19, he would become a Tuskegee graduate and respected instructor. In July of 1943, as a Second Lieutenant, he became a pilot and member of the Tuskegee Airmen.

His time as a fighter pilot only bolstered his reputation. During the Korean War, he flew over 100 combat missions. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1950, for his leadership over a flight of F-51 Mustangs (a 1947 re-designation of the legendary P-51) during a close air support mission for U.N. troops, which saved U.S. soldiers from a serious and fatal threat.

Following the Korean War, James quickly began rising in the ranks, and by 1967, as a colonel, he became Vice Wing Commander of the Eighth Tactical Fighter Wing in Thailand, and flew 78 combat missions over North Vietnam. The most notable of which being Operation Bolo, which is considered to be one of the most successful tactical missions against Vietnamese fighter forces during that time.

In addition to all of James’s war efforts, he made an important impact on issues of racial equality, both within and outside of the military. One of his first assignments with the Tuskegee Airmen involved training in B-25 Mitchells at the Freeman Field in Indiana. Here, a group of Black service members were arrested and charged with mutiny and disobeying orders when they entered a “white only” officers’ club. When asked to sign an order supporting the need for racial segregation, James, along with 100 other Black officers, refused to do so. James, who was a Lieutenant at the time, was instrumental in aiding communication between those who were arrested and those in the public, in order to bring attention to what was happening. This incident led to Henry Stimson, the Secretary of War at the time, to ban access to facilities based on race, including officers’ clubs.

In 1975, James became the first Black four-star general in the armed forces. He was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1993. Prior to his death in 1978, he was asked to reflect on his life and service in the United States military, to which he responded, “I’ve fought in three wars and three more wouldn’t be too many to defend my country. I love America and as she has weaknesses or ills, I’ll hold her hand.”

How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals

Brig. Gen. Hazel Johnson-Brown

Following President Truman’s ban on segregation and discrimination in the military in 1955, Johnson-Brown joined the U.S. Army, having previously graduated from the Harlem Hospital School of Nursing. She served in the Army from 1955 to 1983, becoming the first Black female Brigadier General in 1979.

Her unparalleled skills as a nurse as well as her leadership capabilities contributed greatly to her successes throughout her career. Her ability to lead was evident when, over time, she was named both Director of the Walter Reed Army Institute School of Nursing as well as Chief Army Nurse in South Korea. She was also named the first Black Chief of the United States Army Nursing Corps, which granted her the distinguished responsibility of not only overseeing 7,000 Army nurses, but also the entirety of eight Army medical centers, 56 community hospitals, and 143 freestanding clinics both in the United States and around the world.

During her time in the Army, she received numerous awards and recognition for her work and contributions. Among them were the Army Commendation Medal, Distinguished Service Medal, Meritorious Service Award, Legion of Merit as well as being named Army Nurse of the Year twice. Her time in the service was spent at a variety of medical facilities, some of the most notable being Valley Forge General Hospital and the 8169 Hospital, Camp Zama, Japan.

Johnson-Brown’s ability to lead and inspire continued in her life as a civilian following retirement. She was a professor of nursing at Georgetown University, as well as George Mason University in Virginia, where she played a large role in developing and implementing the Center for Health Policy, which aimed not only to educate nurses in health policy and policy design, but to also actively involve them in the process.

She was also an advocate for racial equality, and was said by many to have challenged the inequalities she witnessed. In reference to a recent promotion, Johnson-Brown was asked about the potential impact of her race on her advancement, to which she responded “Race is an incidence of birth. I hope the criterion for selection didn’t include race but competence.”

How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals

Doris “Dorie” Miller

A perfect example of an unsung hero, Dorie Miller’s bravery and actions during the attack on Pearl Harbor saved countless lives and helped change history. As a means to provide more financial stability for his family, Miller enlisted in the Navy in 1939. He received training in Virginia and was promoted to Mess Attendant Third Class which, due to existing segregation in the Navy, was one of the few ranks afforded to Black service members at the time.

In 1940, Miller was transferred from the USS Pyro, to the USS West Virginia, which was where he was on December 7th, 1941. What was a normal work day for him, which began with gathering laundry, quickly shifted to what would become his defining moment. Upon hearing an alarm sound, Miller then went to his assigned battle station, which had already been destroyed by a torpedo, so he returned to seek reassignment.

Since Miller had the well known reputation of being the ships heavy-weight boxing champion, he was tasked with helping wounded soldiers to safety, which included the ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Mervyn Sharp Bennion, who had been severely injured.

Following that, Miller was ordered to begin feeding ammunition into an unmanned .50-caliber Browning machine gun, despite having never been trained to use them due to his rank. He manned not one but two of these weapons until he ran out of ammunition and the USS West Virginia began to sink. He was one of the last three men to abandon ship.

In recognition of his actions and heroism, Miller was awarded the Navy Cross, by Commander of the Pacific Fleet, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. At the time, this was the third-highest combat related Naval award, and Miller was the first Black sailor to be awarded the medal. He was also the recipient of a Purple Heart, World War II Victory Medal, Asiatic-Pacifc Campaign Medal and the American Defense Service Medal.

While it has never been definitively proven just how tactically effective Miller’s manning of weapons was, his dedication to protection and service in the face of adversity is what makes him such an integral part of history. Miller continued his service until November 24th, 1943, when he and two-thirds of the crew of the USS Liscome Bay died or went missing following a Japanese torpedo strike. The USS Miller, a U.S. Navy Knox class destroyer, was launched in 1972, with its name honoring Dorie.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Korean War started 68 years ago this week

When the Korean War erupted on June 25, 1950 — 68 years ago in June 2018 — Master Sgt. Thomas B. Hutton soon found himself serving there with the Eighth U.S. Army as a first sergeant in an automotive maintenance unit, duty that gave him a rare chance to see the land and people of Korea up close as the country went about its daily life amid the privations and perils of war.

Hutton was an avid photographer and during 1952, he turned his 35 mm lens to preserving what he saw, snapping hundreds of photos — in color — that afford a rare look and feel of the country at that time.

The photos show ordinary people — country folk and city dwellers — going about their daily tasks — washing clothes in a river, bustling past a railroad station, making their way down a country road, standing in a rice field and watching a passing train haul tanks to some distant railhead.


Hutton died in 1988 and hundreds of his slides ended up in the Texas home of one of his daughters. As it happened, her son was Army Col. Brandon D. Newton, who until June 2018, served two years as commander of U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud and Area I. He’d digitized his grandfather’s Korean War photos, kept them on his smartphone, and one day in 2017 showed them to a Korean Army sergeant major who sat next to him at an informal dinner.

How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals
Master Sgt. Thomas B. Hutton an Eighth U.S. Army first sergeant in an automotive maintenance unit looks out on the South Korea countryside during the Korean War circa 1952.
(U.S. Army photo)

The sergeant major was amazed. Color photos of the Korean War were rare enough, but these truly captured Korea’s history. They showed what the country looked like. What the people looked like. And they even included rare shots of some of the earliest members of two organizations that are part of the U.S.-South Korean military alliance to this day: the Korean Service Corps and the KATUSAs — South Korean Soldiers who serve shoulder-to-shoulder with U.S. Soldiers in U.S. Army units in Korea.

When the sergeant major asked Newton if he’d be willing to donate the photos to the Korean Army, Newton immediately said yes and soon gave the slides — 239 images — to the Korean Army.

The Korean Army was thrilled and got right to work on trying to pin down where the photos were taken and just what they showed. To get it right, they enlisted the aid of professors, museum curators and other experts.

Then on June 5, 2018 Newton, his wife and son were the guests of the Korean Army’s Personnel Command in Gyeryong, South Chungcheong Province, for an exhibition of some of Hutton’s photos and a ceremony marking the donation.

How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals
Early photo of a group of Korean Service Corps members during the Korean War circa 1952.
(U.S. Army photo)


The photos will be preserved in the Korean army’s official archives and copies would be distributed to museums and other institutions, the Korean army said during the ceremony.

During brief remarks at the ceremony, Newton said of the photos:

“First, they provide a very accurate and important history of what Korea was like in 1952, not just for the American Army, the Eighth Army, but also for the ROK army, Korean Service Corps and the KATUSAs. Second — most importantly — they demonstrate the strength of the alliance and an alliance that’s been in place for 68 years. And it helps us understand that our alliance is not just about the relationship between the militaries but also between our people, between the people of the United States of America and the people of the Republic of Korea. It’s a relationship that not only is about our service today but it’s about spanning generations from grandfathers and fathers and sons.”

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

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The 7 deadliest weapons of the Crusades

The battles that marked the period of the Crusades were bloody and brutal. Medieval warfare flat out sucked; not only was it incredibly violent, but medicine was basically nonexistent, there was poor sanitation practices, and really bad tactics.


The weapons used in the fighting were about as hellish as any martial tools could get. Think about it — it’s no surprise the phrase “get Medieval on them” strikes such fear.

The warriors of the Crusades, from the late 1000s to mid-1200s, were a mix of peasants, soldiers, and knights, and their mix of weaponry reflected the means by which each could acquire arms.

Peasants often had simple weapons — mostly tools used for agriculture — since they could not afford such luxuries of destruction. Knights had more expensive swords and armor, while others had bows, arrows, and spears.

So what are the deadliest weapons to encounter during the Crusades?

1. A mace or club

How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals
They’re fancy, but they’ll eff you up. (Photo: wiki user Samuraiantiqueworld)

 

The mace is a type of club with a ball at the end. When it comes to length, the mace varies between two or three feet. The shaft was made of wood while the ball was usually of iron.

The ball may be smooth and round or have flanges. While this is somewhat of an infantry weapon, some horsemen would also carry the mace. However, a cavalryman’s mace was much longer so that the rider could reach down and swipe his opponent.

The purpose of the mace was to crush bone since it is a top-heavy weapon. One blow from a mace could break a man’s bones easily. Many maces also had flanges for extra damage.

While a ball can crush, a mace with flanges can exploit and penetrate the flexible armor in order to crush the bone underneath, possibly causing the victim to bleed to death.

2. The spear

The spear may be simple in design, but it has proven itself to be an effective close combat weapon over the centuries.

The length of the spear is between six to eight feet. The purpose of the spear in combat is to keep your foe at a distance by thrusting at him, or if the infantryman in question has extra spears or a side arm he can rely on, he could throw it at the enemy.

Spears were used not only against infantry but also against cavalry charges — and to great effect.

The purpose of the spear is to pierce, not tickle. A good spear thrust can pierce and shatter bone, killing in one hit.

3. Arrows

 

How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals
So small. So deadly. Is anyone else thinking of Rickon right now?

The arrow delivered by a bow provided a nasty punch to the enemy. Arrows used against the cavalry would have been shaped to pierce armor while arrows used against ill-equipped infantry likely had barbs to make them harder to pull out of skin and bone.

The men who fought at the Battle of Dorylaeum in 1097 during the First Crusade found this out when they fought the Seljuk Turks, who fired volley after volley of arrows into their opposition.

Even though the Crusaders won the battle, it was costly and they learned a valuable lesson about their enemy’s tactics.

The purpose of the arrow is simple: to strike an opponent from a distance. However, many Crusaders would soon learn to place padding under their chainmail. In doing so, the arrows are said to have passed through the chainmail only to lodge into the padding without piercing the soldier.

While killing is the objective, many forget that maiming is just a sufficient. However, if an archer cannot kill or maim his opponent, he can also be a nuisance and harass him by showering down arrows upon him.

4. Trebuchet

How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals
Hey, at least there weren’t orcs in the Crusades, am I right? (Photo credit Luc Viatour)

The trebuchet is a siege engine first developed in China and brought westward by the armies of Islam, where it was introduced to European warfare during the First Crusade, though some historians doubt this timeline.

The trebuchet was a type of catapult and required many men to operate due to its sheer size and weight.

The amount of energy needed to send a projectile down range required a group of over 100 men pulling dozens of ropes that could generate enough force to send a 130-pound projectile nearly 500 feet.

The purpose of the trebuchet was to weaken and bring down fortress walls. Not only could it fire stone projectiles, it also delivered incendiary objects. While stone is meant to crush, objects of a flammable nature were hurled over castle or city walls to set the various buildings on fire.

Of course, if you want to start a plague, just load up the bodies of plague victims and send them over the walls, as the Mongols did at Caffa in 1347.

5. The battle axe

How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals
The iron edge is for killing. The ornamental carvings are just for fun. (Photo by wiki user S Marshall)

 

The Medieval battle axe was used to great effect during the Crusades.

What made the battle axe a fan favorite of some Crusade-era fighters was that, while being close in size to a sword, it was cheap to use and required limited skill — much like the mace.

The axe was either single or double-headed and the length of the blade was roughly 10 inches from the upper and lower points.

What makes this weapon so destructive is that not only could it crush a man’s bones wearing armor, the right hit was capable of cutting a limb off. In addition to lopping off enemy limbs, it was also used by doctors to provide amputations on medical patients (though with no guarantee of success).

6. Sword

Of all the weapons to inflict a considerable amount of damage to a human body, the sword was the most prestigious.

While many men could afford such a weapon, primarily nobles and those of wealth used it. Of course, over time, many more men, particularly those who were equipped by the states; i.e. the kings, used the sword.

The problem with the sword during this period, however, was the amount of various designs. The average Crusader sword or European sword during the period was 30 inches in length and was about 2 inches wide at the hilt.

What made the sword so popular was that it was a symbol of authority. While its design suggests power and of great importance, the judgment it could deliver onto a foe was devastating.

The sword was designed to do three different things, crush, pierce, and slice. Of course, this depends on the blade of the sword. In any case, the three functions of the sword gave its user an upper hand.

If he could not crush his opponent with a single hit (knocking him over, or breaking his arm or leg), he could try to slice him in an exposed are not covered by armor. If that failed, he could try knocking him down and aim for the areas that are vulnerable like the armpits, groin, and knee pit to name a few.

While the sword during the Crusades probably did the least amount of killing, it had the greatest impact as in being the symbol of conquest.

7. Lance

 

How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals

Don’t let the pretty little ponies fool you — the lance will mess your sh** up.

I tip my hat to the person who could survive a lance blow from a cavalryman. Yes, all weapons can kill if used properly, but of all the weapons mentioned, they either, crush, lop, slice, or pierce. In many cases, the victim survives or dies shortly after, which could be days.

The lance, which is least considered, won many of the battles during the early crusades. The lance did it all in one big swoop. As the lance made contact with the victim, it immediately crushed his torso and began to pierce through the body.

As it pierced, it began to slice through the vital organs before exiting the back. There are very few cases where the would-be receiver of the lance survived from his torso wound.

As the knights charged in with their lances, the enemy would be impaled immediately.

The length of a lance measured between 9 and 14 feet. Given the length and weight, along with the rider and his horse moving a full speed, it would not be unthinkable to suggest that two or even possibly three men could be impaled to a lance due to a swift cavalry charge into enemy lines.

The enemy would learn in later crusades to become more mobile and avoid cavalry charges at all costs.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Remembrance: Marines and Navy Medicine at Korea’s Chosin Reservoir

Arlington, Va. —

Seventy years ago the 1st Marine Division was fighting in the mountains around Korea’s Chosin Reservoir. It was a brutal winter – by some reports the coldest on record – and Marines were facing subzero temperatures, frostbite, hypothermia, and dehydration. The temperatures were so unbearable that Marines who served at the reservoir said the cold “would sink right to your bones.”

It was so cold that weapons were malfunctioning and at times Marines were fighting hand-to-hand, using rifle butts, their teeth and anything they could get their hands on to fend off the relentless attacks.   

Against all odds those Marines did what Marines do – they fought. Despite being surrounded by eight determined enemy divisions, the Marines broke through in one of the most epic acts of survival and determination in history. 

As TMO, I take considerable pride in the fact that embedded with those units at Chosin were Navy physicians, dentists and hospital corpsmen who embodied that eternal bond Navy Medicine has with the Marine Corps and the fundamental values of Honor, Courage and Commitment.

Honor:

In the Chosin Campaign, Navy Medical personnel could be found serving with honor at forward hospitals at Hagaru, clearing stations at Chinhung-ni and Koto-ri, as part of forward deployed surgical teams, and embedded within the 5th and 7th Regiments of the 1st Marine Division. Often medical care was performed within 200 yards of the frontlines and under the constant barrage of rifle and mortar fire.

 “Let us be humble in the knowledge of the sacrifice those men made in their unselfish, co-operative efforts to save the lives of their comrades.”

U.S. Navy Capt. Eugene Hering, 1st Marine Division Surgeon

When the Marines reached the Hamhung-Hungnam area on 11 December, medical personnel could be found operating the division hospital and offshore aboard hospital ships like Consolation which was used to transport survivors to Naval Hospital Yokosuka where definitive and long-term care was available.

Across mountainous terrain, through heavy snow and under constant attack, it was the job of Navy Medicine to perform first aid, frontline surgical care, attend to high rates of frostbite and immersion foot, manage aeromedical evacuation, and transport casualties to safety. This was a job conducted around the clock until the very end of the campaign.  

By the time the 1st Marine Division arrived in the Hamhung-Hungnam area, Navy medical personnel had treated more than 7,350 casualties – many suffering cold weather injuries and some requiring emergency amputations. 

Courage:

Courage was not in short supply among the Navy medical personnel at Chosin and can be seen in the story of HM3 James Waller, a corpsmen attached to the Marine Infantry Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division.  

While facing the enemy near Yudam-ni on 29 November, Parker moved through a hail of fire to aid six Marines critically wounded by a mortar barrage.  Although the ridge was devoid of cover, Parker treated the casualties and supervised their evacuation to positions of comparative safety. Despite a face wound, working in near-total darkness and in sub-zero temperatures with frostbitten hands he continued to administer to the casualties, even fighting off six enemy attacks in the process. Until the last casualty was evacuated Parker gallantly refused any medical aid even though incurring a second serious wound.  Chosin Reservoir Photo by Katie Lange DownloadDetailsShare

In the days and months after being evacuated, those Marines saved by Parker spoke of his bravery and his words of encouragement.  Through his daring initiative, fortitude and selfless efforts on behalf of his comrades, Parker served to inspire all who observed him and aided immeasurably in the saving of many lives. For his efforts this young corpsman was later awarded the Navy Cross.

Other Navy medical personnel who served in the Chosin Campaign were later recipients of Silver Stars and Bronze Stars with Valor.

Commitment:

It has been said of Chosin’s medical personnel that their devotion to duty and untiring efforts saved many lives. More than anything, they were committed to the safety and survival of thousands of Marines. This was not an easy job under the conditions.

Lt. Henry Litvin, a physician attached to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, later described just how difficult practicing medicine at Chosin could be:

“If you were treating a wound, you’d cut through the clothing to where the wound was, or you’d put a battle dressing over the clothes and make sure the wound wasn’t leaking blood,” he said. “It seemed that the intense cold inhibited bleeding. The wounds we saw had already been wrapped by corpsmen in the companies. If the battle dressing was in place, even over their clothing, and there was no leaking blood, we just checked the battle dressing and left the wounds alone.”

In recalling the dedication of corpsmen and regimental and battalion medical officers at Chosin, Navy Capt. Eugene Hering, 1st Marine Division Surgeon wrote: “Let us be humble in the knowledge of the sacrifice those men made in their unselfish, co-operative efforts to save the lives of their comrades.”

As we look back and honor the “Chosin Few,” let us remember that our military physicians, dentists, nurses, administrators, and, of course, our hospital corpsmen continue to ensure the safety, health and care of our Marine brethren. Navy Medicine remains steadfast in its commitment to provide medical power for naval superiority and ensure the Marine Corps is always ready for the fight. 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Win the first War on Terror by backing ‘Shores of Tripoli’ on Kickstarter

It was the first time the United States fought a pitched battle on foreign soil and, as a sign of things to come, came out the victor. In 1805, Arab mercenaries and United States Marines under the command of William Eaton and Marine Lt. Presley O’Bannon marched on the Tripolitan city of Derna. Their mission was to capture the city, then restore the rightful (American friendly) ruler of Tripoli to the throne. The Marines were outnumbered by nearly ten to one and made an overland march of 500 miles before they could even attack.

Well, do you have a better idea? A new strategy game on Kickstarter invites you to give it a shot.


In Shores of Tripoli, a new game from Washington, DC’s Fort Circle Games, take one or two players to take up arms as either the United States or the Bashaw of Tripoli in a game of wits and maneuvers designed to bend your opponent to your will. Tripolitania wants to keep conducting pirate raids that have brought it so much wealth in gold and slaves. The United States is out to end the reign of Barbary terror and restore the freedom of American ships at sea.

With cards representing significant events and the most important players in these events, players use dice and in-game figurines to start battles, start diplomatic talks, and get more troops to the fight. To win, the Americans must force the Tripolitans to submit to a peace treaty or forcibly install a pro-American ruler.

Guess which route the Marines chose.

How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals

“Lolz” – Lt. Presley O’Bannon.

To win as Tripoli, you have to inflict enough shock and damage on the Americans and their squadron of ships as possible, sinking four frigates or capturing 12 merchantmen.

Shores of Tripoli the board game honestly looks like any history buff’s greatest wet dream. Along with educational information about the conflict, the game comes with a high-quality game map, 82 wooden game pieces, and a lot of other high-quality elements. One historian’s review of the game called it “historically accurate” and “sophisticated” as well as “beautifully designed” and – most importantly, “very fun.

Now learning about military history doesn’t have to mean memorizing a bunch of boring dates. Now it means taking down the first terrorists with the United States Marine Corps.
How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals

Which looks like everything I’ve ever wanted in any game anywhere.

(Shores of Tripoli on Kickstarter)

You won’t get it in time for Christmas 2019, but for a backing of .00 you can get a copy of this amazing-looking historical strategy game. Or in true Marine Corps fashion, you can donate your copy to Toys for Tots. As you donate more money, you get more copies of the game, presumably one for yourself and up to 30 to donate to schools and Toys for Tots.

William Eaton just declared himself general and commander of the force that attacked Derna. For id=”listicle-2641249602″,000 you can declare yourself the Executive Producer of Shores of Tripoli game. Head on over to its Kickstarter page to find out how.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Maxim Gun’s devastating firepower changed warfare forever

During the pre-dawn hours of October 25, 1893, a British column of 700 men from the British South African Police under the command of Maj. Patrick William Forbes camped in a defensive position next to the Shangani River. While they slept, the Matabele king Lobengula ordered an attack on the column, sending a force comprised of up to 6,000 men – some armed with spears, but many with Martini-Henry rifles.


Among its weapons, the column possessed five Maxim guns – history’s first recoil-operated, belt-fed machine gun. Once a British bugler sounded the alert, the machine guns saw action, and the results were horrific. More than 1,600 of the attacking Matabele tribesman were mowed down like grass. As for the British column, it suffered only four casualties.

The British military not only measured the Maxim gun’s success by the number of Matabele killed in action. They could gauge the Maxim’s potential as a weapon of psychological warfare. In the aftermath, several Matabele war leaders committed suicide either by hanging themselves or throwing themselves on their spears.

The Maxim gun was an earth-shattering a weapon in its heyday – and a true weapon of empire.

How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals
(By Zorro2212 – Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Hiram Maxim‘s invention brought industrial-level killing to the battlefield. More than any other weapon developed in the late 19th and early 20th Century, the Maxim gun is responsible for changing the nature of warfare forever.

The British square and “the thin red line” of massed infantry firepower eventually went the way of the dodo.  When the Maxim gun opened fire at 500 rounds per minute, the tactic of soldiers firing in ranks became suicidal – from then on, the infantryman would have to dash and weave, relying on his ability to maneuver to bring fire to bear on the enemy and to stay alive.

The Maxim gun has two phases to its history. The first is when it was used as the weapon of choice to help expand the British Empire during the late 19th Century.  The weapon’s devastating use during The Great War launched the second phase of its history as one of the guns of modern 20th Century warfare.

But to really understand the weapon you have know something about Maxim, an American who was both an impressive genius and a shrewd businessman.

Born in Maine in 1840, tinkering came naturally to Maxim. While still a teenager, he literally built the better mousetrap – his automatically reset and rid local mills of rodents. At 26, he patented a curling iron, the first of 270 more patents to come. Then, Maxim became chief engineer of the United States Electric Lighting Co. in New York, where he introduced longer-lasting carbon filaments for electric light bulbs.

But he wanted fame and fortune – particularly fortune. He went to Europe in an effort to seek wealth by developing peacetime inventions like he had in the United States.

“In 1882 I was in Vienna, where I met an American whom I had known in the States,” Maxim wrote in his memoir. “He said: ‘Hang your chemistry and electricity! If you want to make a pile of money, invent something that will enable these Europeans to cut each others’ throats with greater facility.'”

Sound advice: In 1884, he harnessed the recoil of a bullet with a spring-loaded bolt mechanism and feeding device that fed ammunition into the gun on a cloth belt. The Gatling or Nordenfelt rapid-firing guns of the time were hand-cranked, gravity-fed weapons with multiple barrels prone to jamming.

Maxim also invented a cleaner burning, smokeless powder that he called cordite, which fouled a weapon much less than the black powder of the era. The combination of mechanized automatic fire and cleaner ammunition was revolutionary. By 1889, the British army adopted the Maxim gun; a year later, the armies of Austria, Germany, Italy and Russia all had Maxims.

The quintessential incarnation of the Maxim gun came when the inventor partnered with the British Vickers Co. The result was a water-cooled, tripod-mounted machine gun in .303 caliber, fed by ammunition on a 250-round belt.

It came just in time for World War I.  However, many generals and military planners doubted the effectiveness of the Maxim gun as well as similar machine guns against troops of Western European powers.

They still preached the bayonet charge. As one infantry manual said, “The spirit of the bayonet must be inculcated into all ranks, so that they go forward with aggressive determination and confidence of superiority born of continued practice, without which a bayonet charge will not be effective.”

Not even the evidence of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1906) with its long sieges and trench warfare – an eerie predictor of The Great War’s horrors to come – could persuade military observers of the Maxim gun’s lethality on the modern battlefield.

“The observers watched Russian and Japanese being mowed down in swathes by machine-gun fire and returned home to write: The machine gun is a vastly overrated weapon; it appears highly doubtful that it would be effective against trained European soldiery,” James L. Stokesbury drily comments in A Short History of World War I. “Apparently, they did not consider Japanese, or even Russians, to be in that supposedly elite category.”

How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals
A large-bore Maxim on the USS Vixen ca. 1898 (US Navy Photo)

The reality on the Western Front was something quite different. Some called The Great War “the machine gun war” – although artillery fire often caused the bulk of the casualties, soldiers vividly recounted watching their comrades drop like flies as machine guns traversed their ranks while firing.

In just one day during the Battle of the Somme – July 1, 1916 – the British saw 21,000 men slaughtered. The great majority of the casualties were killed by Spandau machine guns, the German version of the Maxim.

Maxim – wealthy, famous, and knighted by the queen – died on November 24, 1916, in London, his home after he became a naturalized British subject. A few weeks before, the Battle of the Somme had ended. The result was more than a million casualties.

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Watch this bird strike take out a jet…from the pilot’s POV

What does a bird strike look like from the perspective of a fighter pilot? We actually have that — thanks to cockpit video that was released about a decade ago.


Bird strikes do a lot of damage. Even legends like the B-52 can be brought down by seagulls.

Now, when this video first appeared, it was believed to have been from the cockpit of a F-16. According to FlightGlobal.com, though, the actual plane was a CT-155 Hawk assigned to NATO Flying Training Canada.

 

How a couple of frisky Iwo Jima sailors asked for pen pals
A Canadian CT-155 Hawk performing a flyby at the Alliance Air Show 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. The video below is from a similar plane. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

For a single-engine fighter like the CT-155, this bird strike prove to be very fatal. As heard in the video, the two pilots on board tried to get the engine to re-start. When that fails, there’s only one option left for the pilots: GTFO.

That’s exactly what these pilots did, leaving the stricken Hawk to its fate.

The pilots who ejected, RAF Flight Lieutenant Edward Morris and Captain John Hutt of what was then the Canadian Defense Forces Air Command (now the Royal Canadian Air Force), were both recovered alive and well. It was a close call. You can see that close call from their perspective below.

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