The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in 'Forrest Gump' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’

Before joining the Army, Sammy Davis worked at the restaurant inside his hometown bowling alley. As he was working, he watched a clip of Roger Donlon receiving the Medal of Honor for his bravery. That brief moment inspired him and, after he graduated from high school, Davis enlisted in the U.S. Army.


Sammy Davis was the son of a proud artilleryman and, like many teenagers, wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. After completing his artillery training, David requested to serve in Vietnam and was soon shipped out. Once there, he served as part of a field artillery crew that provided close support to the men serving in the infantry.

On Nov. 18, 1967, Davis’ unit was airlifted to Cai Lay, Vietnam, where an Army major informed them that they were 100-percent certain the enemy was to attack that day.

 

The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’
Cai Lay, Vietnam. (Medal Of Honor Book YouTube)

So, the men armed their 155mm Howitzer and fired their weapon in conjunction with the allied forces already on the ground. Just before dark, the enemy broke contact, causing the artillery crew to ease up on their massive weapon’s trigger. Later on, Davis heard the sound of mortars sliding down the tubes nearby. The only problem was that no Americans on deck had a mortar system to prep.

The battle was about to begin anew.

The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’
A 155 mm Howitzer similar to what Davis had in Vietnam.

The enemy’s mortars rained down on top of the allied troops. Then, out of nowhere, they just quit. An eerie feeling blanketed the area. Something was bound to happen, but no one knew when the full attack would commence.

Then, suddenly, a barrage of whistles rang out. The attack was on and allied forces were ready. Wave after wave of bombardment destroyed the area as American troops courageously fought off their opposition. During the chaos, David was knocked unconscious by heavy artillery fire, suffering severe blast wounds from the lower torso to his mid-back (including his buttocks).

Davis awoke to the realization that he was about to be overrun. So, he picked up his rifle and got back into the fight. Davis then reloaded his Howitzer and fired that sucker.

The flame lit up the sky.

Then, Davis heard someone shout, “don’t shoot, I’m a GI” from a nearby river. Davis spotted found one of his brothers-in-arms across the river and realized he needed help. Despite his own wounds and inability to swim, Davis used an air mattress and paddled to the other side of the river and discovered a foxhole with three more wounded men inside.

Sammy Davis managed to carry the three severely wounded men to safety — at one time. On Nov. 19, 1968, Davis received the Medal of Honor and his citation inspired source materials for the 1994 film, Forrest Gump.

Check out Medal of Honor Book‘s video below to listen to the courageous story from the legend himself.

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This Civil War general’s legacy goes deeper than a tank and ‘total war’

 


General William Tecumseh Sherman’s military legacy rests on a lot more than just killing the enemy.

Of course, he helped change how the United States would wage war in the next 80 years. His name would also later adorn one of the country’s most iconic symbols of military might.

The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’
Photo: D. Miller/ Flickr

But the one that probably matters the most for today’s veterans was his influence on how to deal with the invisible wounds of war.

Sherman was a high-profile general and war hero who successfully overcame mental health issues to return to service and play the decisive role he played in the Civil War.

In late 1861, he grew despondent over his command in Kentucky, a secondary theater of the war. Knowing he was not well, he insisted upon his relief in November of 1861. Caught in the depths of what a number of historians believe to have been either bipolar disorder or depression, Sherman even contemplated suicide.

The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’
General William Tecumseh Sherman (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

However, he would recover, and Gen. Henry Halleck would return him to light duty. Eventually he would be paired with Ulysses S. Grant in time to win the Battle of Shiloh. In the Western Theater, Grant and Sherman were two high-ranking “battle buddies” who eventually won the Civil War.

For today’s vets, his recovery without the modern understanding of mental health issues points to the important role that supportive friends, family, and superiors can play in treating the invisible wounds of war. In light of the recent suicide of Major General John Rossi, remembering the support that General Halleck and Grant gave to Sherman’s efforts to recover may be his most important legacy.

While his legacy of overcoming the “invisible wounds” of mental health problems is the most important legacy for today, that misses other contributions he made.

Sherman’s most immediate legacy was the introduction of the “total war” strategy to the United States military. The way he burned and pillaged his way through the state of Georgia, first taking Atlanta, then with his March to the Sea that took Savannah (near the present-day Fort Stewart), severed the supply lines for Confederate forces. The resulting logistics problems, combined with the bad news from home, helped force the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House in Virginia in April, 1865.

Eighty years later, Germany and Japan both surrendered, thanks to the use of that same doctrine. Whether it was the use of massed bomber formations, or submarines putting merchant vessels on the bottom of the ocean, Sherman’s concept of total war was in play during World War II.

World War II also saw another legacy of William Tecumseh Sherman. This time it was the famous M4 Sherman tank that was named in his honor. Prior to the Civil War, Sherman had warned the South that it was about to pick a fight it could not win – particularly given the North’s industrial might. In World War II, the Sherman was one of the most prominent examples of America’s industrial might – over 49,000 were built. They saw combat in every theater of combat, and were used not only by the Army and Marine Corps, but by the British, Canadians, Soviets, and Chinese. After World War II, they saw action in Korea and the Arab-Israeli and Indo-Pakistani Wars.

In an ironic twist, just as General Sherman warned the South prior to the Civil War that provoking a fight with the North was a bad idea, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto warned his superiors of America’s latent industrial might. Unlike Sherman, who left the South and backed up his moral convictions, Yamamoto implemented the desires of the Japanese war lords, and helped plan the Pearl Harbor attack. While Sherman lived to be reviled through the South, Yamamoto met his end at the hands of Tom Lanphier over Bougainville on April 18, 1943.

It is said that William Tecumseh Sherman was the first so called “modern general.” Given that his legacy to the United States military will continue to reverberate through the United States military and around the world, that seems to be a very fair statement.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Russia tried to join NATO

NATO, as we know it today, is a de facto bulwark against Russian (née Soviet) expansionism into Western Europe and potentially elsewhere. It must have come as a complete surprise when France, Great Britain, and the United States all received letters of intent from the Soviet Foreign Ministry about joining the alliance.

Against themselves.

Originally a political alliance in Western Europe when it was formed in 1949, NATO became a solid military alliance as well when the Korean War made the idea of Communist expansion by force all too real. The same year the Soviets detonated their first nuclear weapon, the West formed an alliance to neutralize that threat. But before the Soviet-dominated countries of Eastern Europe formed the Eastern Bloc in 1955, Russia made an attempt to join NATO.


The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’

Guess who’s coming to dinner.

Longtime Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin finally died in 1953 and Nikita Khrushchev was the new communist sheriff in town. So in 1954, when Soviets sent the letters of intent to NATO members, there was a renewed spirit of easing tensions. The Soviets reasoned that the aggressive nature of the NATO alliance would be much less dangerous to world peace if their former anti-Hitler ally were allowed to be a member.

The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’

Forgot about An-dre.

But in order to join the alliance, the Soviet Union would have to allow NATO to dictate its military planning and allow the basic tenets of democratic freedoms to bloom in all areas under its control. The debate about potentially allowing Russia to join reminded the member states that the alliance was formed to address threats to world peace when the UN couldn’t — usually because of Russia’s veto power on the Security Council.

Allowing the Russians to have a say in NATO affairs would neutralize NATO the way they neutralized the UN Security Council.

The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’

Can’t blame them for trying.

NATO told the Russians exactly that when the alliance rejected Russia’s application for membership, urging it and other Soviet satellites to allow the UN to do its job in keeping the world secure. It was not an unexpected response for the USSR.

“Most likely, the organizers of the North Atlantic bloc will react negatively to this step of the Soviet government and will advance many different objections. In that event the governments of the three powers will have exposed themselves, once again, as the organizers of a military bloc against other states and it would strengthen the position of social forces conducting a struggle against the formation of the European Defense Community,” Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov wrote.

Nine days later, Russia and those satellites formed the Warsaw Pact, its Eastern Bloc counter-alliance. Europe was officially split for the next 40-plus years.

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7 important military firsts from Operation Just Cause

Operation Just Cause was a quick, decisive mission to remove Manuel Noriega from power in 1989. The operation was opened by the largest airborne operation since World War II and is often cited as an example of using overwhelming force to achieve mission objectives.


The operation also saw many firsts for the U.S. military.

The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’
Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment during the invasion of Panama, Dec. 1989. (U.S. Army)

1. First deployment of the entire 75th Ranger Regiment

While Rangers are one of the oldest units in the US military, the unit in its modern incarnation did not come into being until 1986. Just three short years later the entire 75th Ranger Regiment would spearhead the assault into Panama with parachute landings at Rio Hato Airfield and Torrijos/Tocumen International Airport.

The next time the entire regiment would be deployed to one operation was the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’
They dropped ten of these from C-5s. Only two were damaged. (Photo: Department of Defense)

2. First (and only) airborne deployment of the M551 Sheridan tank

The M551 Sheridan armored reconnaissance/airborne assault vehicle had been in the military’s inventory since 1967 and had served in combat in Vietnam. However, by the mid-1980’s it had been phased out of all units, without replacement, with the exception of the 3rd Battalion, 73rd Armored Regiment (Airborne), a part of the 82nd Airborne Division.

When the 82nd jumped into Panama as part of Operation Just Cause, they brought tanks.

This was the first, and only, time that tanks and their crews were delivered by parachute in combat. With little else in the way of armored units, these tanks provided a much needed punch to the assault forces. Less than ten years later, though, the 82nd also divested itself of the M551 without a planned replacement.

The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’
Two F-117A Nighthawks dropped bombs during Operation Just Cause. (Photo: Department of Defense)

3. First mission for the F-117

Having just been revealed publicly the year prior, six F-117A’s flew from the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada — though only two would actively participate. Those two aircraft dropped 2,000 laser-guided bombs on the Rio Hato airport prior to the parachute insertion of the Rangers in order to stun and confuse the Panamanian soldiers stationed there.

After a successful debut in Panama, F-117’s would next see action in Operation Desert Storm where they flew through strong Iraqi air defenses to take out targets in Baghdad without a single loss.

The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’
The Apache racked up 240 hours of combat during Just Cause, most of them at during night missions. (Photo: U.S. Army)

4. First combat deployment of the AH-64 Apache

The AH-64 Apache, another weapons system that would see extensive service in the First Gulf War, also made its combat debut in Panama. In its first missions, the Apache proved a capable Close Air Support platform and, though not tank-busting, provided precision fires against fortified targets.

Its superb night-fighting capabilities ensured it had a long career ahead with the U.S. Army. After the warm-up in Panama the Apache would also see extensive service in Iraq in 1991, where it wreaked havoc on Iraqi armored formations. An improved Apache, the AH-64D Apache Longbow, continues to serve in the Army and has seen extensive use in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’
A U.S. Army HMMWV in Saladin Province, Iraq in March 2006. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

5. First combat deployment of the HMMWV

The venerable “Humvee” is as ubiquitous to the modern military as its predecessor the Jeep. The HMMWV had come into service earlier in the decade to replace a multitude of different service, cargo, and combat vehicles. In its debut in Panama, it quickly showed that it could outperform all of them.

The Humvee received praise for its durability and reliability from ground commanders in Panama. The Humvee has served troops all over the world for over 30 years, seeing extensive action in both Afghanistan and Iraq, before finally succumbing to the operational needs of the battlefield.

It will begin to be replaced in active service starting in 2018.

The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’
After Just Cause, LAVs continued to serve in the Gulf War, Iraq War, and the War in Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

6. First combat deployment of the LAV-25

Operation Just Cause also saw the combat debut of a Marine Corps weapons system, the LAV-25. In its first combat use the LAV-25 showed its versatility as it covered Marine advances, conducted breaching operations, and quickly transported Marines from objective to objective across the battlefield.

The LAV-25 received praise from the Marines who employed it and it has gone on to serve the Marines for nearly 30 more years.

7. First unified combatant command operation after the Goldwater-Nichols Act

While this sounds rather boring (yawn) compared to the rest of this list, it is actually very important. The Goldwater-Nichols Act had changed the chain of command and the interoperability of the branches of the armed forces. Like the rest of this list, Panama was a testbed for this new organizational structure.

The success of the operation proved that Congress had gotten it right. The new streamlined chain of command, which goes from the President to the Defense Secretary right to the Combatant Commanders, greatly increased speed of decision-making and the ability of the different branches to coordinate for an operation. This has been the model used throughout our current conflicts to ensure that each service is properly coordinated for joint operations.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A brave Titanic officer somehow survived to rescue troops from Dunkirk

On Apr. 15, 1912, Charles Lightoller was the second officer aboard the ill-fated Titanic. After helping as many passengers and crew as he could into lifeboats, he refused an order to escape on one of the final boats to make it off the ship. As Titanic’s bridge began to sink, he attempted to dive into the water and to the safety of one of the crew’s collapsible boats.

Except the Titanic sucked him down with her.


The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’

Two lifeboats carry Titanic survivors toward safety. April 15, 1912

(NARA)

Lightoller was no landsman. He had been at sea for decades and, as a result, he’d seen and heard everything. Titanic wasn’t even his first shipwreck, but it was the first time a sinking ship tried to take the officer down with it. As a grating pulled him to the bottom, the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean finally reached the ship’s hot boilers, and they exploded. The force propelled Lightoller to the surface and to the safety of his fellow crew’s boat.

He was the last Titanic survivor rescued by the RMS Carpathia the next day. He was also the most senior officer to survive the shipwreck. Later, during World War I, Lt. Lightoller would take command of many ships in the Royal Navy, leaving the service at the war’s end. By the time World War II rolled around, Lightoller was just a civilian raising chickens. His seaborne days confined to a personal yacht.

The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’

The Titanic’s officers. Lightoller is in the back row, second from the left.

While he did survey the German coast in 1939 for the Royal Navy while disguised as an elderly couple on vacation, his fighting days were long gone. But the very next year, the British Army in France was on the brink of ruin, as 400,000 Allied troops were stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk. The Royal Navy could not reach them, and they were slowly being annihilated by the Nazi forces that surrounded them. Operation Dynamo was on.

The Royal Navy ordered Lightoller to take his ship to Ramsgate, where a Navy crew would take control and ship off to Dunkirk to rescue as many Tommies as possible. But Lightoller wasn’t having it. He would take his ship to Dunkirk himself. The 66-year-old and his son departed for France as soon as they could in a 52×12-foot ship with a carrying capacity of 21.

The Lightollers picked up 130 British soldiers.

MIGHTY HISTORY

3 questions of unconventional warfare according to a top officer

Unconventional warfare is necessarily a messy business. It entails finding the enemies of our enemies and convincing them to fight our mutual foes, even if we’re not necessarily friends. It reduces America’s risk in blood, but it also means our national security rests on the shoulders of foreign fighters. In the confusing situations this creates, one top officer in the Afghanistan invasion had three simple questions to cut through the chaos.


The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’

U.S. special operators pose with Hamid Karzai during the invasion of Afghanistan. Karzai would go on to be president of Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army)

During the invasion, then-Lt. Col. Mark Rosengard was in command of Task Force Dagger, and he had to greatly expand the unconventional warfare program in the country. So he couldn’t spend days or weeks of time and reams of paper figuring out whether he would trust one potential guerrilla leader or another.

So, according to reporter Sean Naylor in his book Not a Good Day to Die, Rosengard just asked three questions.

First, “Do we have a common goal today, recognizing tomorrow may be different?” Basically, do the militiamen or guerillas want the same outcome as the American forces? Including, do they want to see the same people die?

Next, “Do you have a secure backyard?” Simply, do the local forces have somewhere safe-ish to train? If the forces have to constantly quit training in order to fight off attacks, then they won’t be able to actually train. But if there’s any sort of safe compound in which to get to work, then it’s time to ask the third question.

“Are you willing to kill people?”

Yeah, that’s not a very complicated one.

Taken together, these three questions would let Rosengard know whether he could get to work with a new commander. Of course, there were additional concerns that he had to keep track of.

The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’

Afghan forces in a discussion with a senior weapons sergeant of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces.

(U.S. Army)

For instance, on the first question, you would need to keep track of whether the militias might really turn on you tomorrow. It’s a bad idea to spend too much time training foreign fighters who only have a few days or weeks of loyalty to America left.

But, overall, these three questions match up with American choices in other wars.

Gen. John “BlackJack” Pershing made alliances with Moro tribesmen in the Philippines and hired them as law enforcement officers even though he knew their long-term goals would be different. And President Franklin D. Roosevelt allied America with Russia to destroy Germany, adding the Soviet Union to the Lend-Lease Act of 1941 despite it being clear that the U.S. and Soviet Union would eventually be at loggerheads.

Rosengard’s gambles in Afghanistan largely worked out for the invasion, and U.S. special operators and unconventional forces took large sections of the country in the Winter of 2001, a period in which they had planned to take just a small foothold in the north. The operators and their guerrilla allies also were able to bring Hamid Karzai back to the country to take power, helping cement American control of the country.

But, of course, the issues with Afghan forces in the invasion were quickly felt. Pashtun tribesmen were extremely helpful in taking the country from the Taliban, but their half-hearted attacks at Tora Bora are thought to have been a major contributor to Osama Bin Laden’s escape from that mountain stronghold into Pakistan where he would successfully hide until his death in 2011.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 people who were erased from history

It’s not easy to remove a person from history, but brutal leaders throughout history have erased some of their formerly close advisors.

After news of the execution of Jang Song-thaek, Kim Jong Un’s uncle and close advisor, broke in December 2013, North Korean state media has erased the man from history entirely, deleting him from online archives and photographs.


This extreme measure makes it “the largest deletion ever carried out by the official KCNA news agency and the Rodong Sinmun newspaper,” according to the Guardian.

But it wasn’t the first time a political leader has attempted to wipe a person clean out of history — here are five other people who were erased from existence:

Nikolai Yezhov, Joseph Stalin’s head of secret police

The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’
Stalin (center) with Nikolai Yezhov to his left. After Yezhov’s execution, he was airbrushed out of the photo.

Yezhov earned the nickname “The Vanishing Commissar” among art historians for his disappearance from photographs after his execution in 1940.

Yezhov, a loyal Stalinist, was head of the secret police during Stalin’s Great Purge, overseeing mass arrests and executions of those deemed disloyal to the Soviet regime before ironically being arrested, tortured, tried, and executed himself for disloyalty.

Stalin was known for eliminating all traces of those who fell out of his good side, or whom he no longer had use for, Yezhov included.

Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister

The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’
Goebbels (second from right) appears with Adolf Hitler and others at the home of film maker Leni Riefenstahl in 1937. In later images, he is missing.

Goebbels was immensely valued by Hitler for his enthusiasm, brilliant ideas, and vehement anti-semitism. Hitler made Goebbels his chief of propaganda, and sent him all over Germany to establish a Nazi presence and boost morale during the war. Goebbels was one of just a few people in Hitler’s inner-circle, even trusted with helping burn Hitler’s body after he committed suicide.

Like Stalin, Hitler was known for “erasing” people who fell out of his favor, though it remains unknown what Goebbels did that led to his being deleted from this famous 1937 photo taken at the home of German film maker Leni Riefenstahl.

Leon Trotsky, Russian revolutionary

The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’
Formerly close comrades, Trotsky appears in the image on the left at one of Lenin’s speeches; the same image, altered after the two split, shows Trotsky deleted.

An influential voice in the early days of the Soviet Union, Trotsky was initially a leader in the Bolshevik revolution, but references to Trotsky were eliminated after he switched his allegiance to the Mensheviks, splitting from comrade and fellow revolutionary Vladimir Lenin.

Lenin later denounced Trotsky as a “scoundrel” in 1917 (though Trotsky eventually rejoined the Bolsheviks), and after Lenin’s death Trotsky was eliminated from photos by Stalin. Trotsky was eventually exiled from the Soviet Union completely.

Bo Gu, senior leader of the Chinese Communist Party

The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’
Bo Gu, far left, appears in the photo with Mao Zedong and comrades; in the later photo, he is missing.

Qin Bangxian, better known as Bo Gu, was the “person with overall responsibility of the CCP,” and so had tremendous responsibility under leader Mao Zedong.

However, as a result of some miscommunication on tactical military defense at the Zunyi Conference during the Long March, Bo Gu was criticized for “serious partial political mistakes” and replaced in command by Zhang Wentian in 1935.

The exact miscommunication differs in most historical accounts, but it could be what led to Bo Gu’s fallout with Mao Zedong, and therefore could have been the reason for his elimination from this photo.

Grigoriy Nelyubov, Soviet cosmonaut

The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’

Hand-picked for the first cosmonaut detachment in 1960, Nelyubov was a star choice for space flight for being “a remarkable person, an excellent pilot, a sportsman…”

A founding member of the top space team known as the Sochi Six, some say Nelyubov was the third or fourth person in space; others say he never made it into space before being expelled from the Soviet space program for alcohol-related misconduct. The incident led to his being deleted from program records.

Nelyubov was ultimately struck by a train and killed; his death was ruled a suicide.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The IRA created a massive propane tank cannon to fight the British

For almost 40 years, the Irish people endured a constant state of fear stemming from a low-level war that killed thousands of Irish civilians, British troops, and Irish fighters – all in a stunningly understated conflict called “The Troubles.” While British and U.K. loyalist forces were well-equipped and armed for the task, the Irish Republican Army, fighting for a united Ireland, had to improvise a little.


The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’

This is why “Irish Car Bombs” are a thing.

The Irish Republican Army was a homegrown paramilitary organization that was at best outlawed, and at worst, designated a terrorist organization. They were committed to a fully united Ireland by any means necessary and resisted the United Kingdom’s occupation of Northern Ireland, also by any means necessary. This usually meant improvised guns, bombs, and even mortars. That’s how they created what British troops called the Mark 15. The IRA called it the “Barrack Buster.”

Barrack Busters first started to appear in the IRA arsenal in the 1990s and was an improvised 36-centimeter mortar capable of firing three-foot-long propane tanks filled with high explosives. The Mark 15 was usually made of a cooking gas container created for use in rural areas of Ireland. It was capable of launching one of these powerful explosive containers nearly a thousand feet.

The IRA improvised mortars of various sizes and power, and hit not only military barracks, but bases and even 10 Downing Street.

The Mark 15 was described as having the effect of a flying car bomb, that has taken down barracks, helicopters, and even Royal Air Force planes. It was the fifteenth in a line of development that stretched as far back as the early 1970s. It was the largest homemade mortar developed by the Irish Republican Army. The development does stretch to a Mark-16, but that weapon was more of a recoilless rifle than it was a traditional mortar.

Introduction of the giant mortar did have an impact on British forces. The United Kingdom was forced to pull its checkpoints away from the Irish border after the introduction of the Mark 15 mortar. It was so effective as a weapon it was adapted for use by paramilitary forces in other countries and conflicts, including the FARC in Colombia and the Free Syrian Army in Syria.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 1980 Olympics are the ‘cleanest’ in history. Athletes recall how Moscow cheated the system.

When Moscow hosted the 1980 Summer Olympics, games were being played not only in Soviet arenas but at the headquarters of the KGB.

The Kremlin was determined to host an untarnished event after the United States and 65 other countries boycotted the 1980 Olympics over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, and the secret police were heavily involved in the effort.

On the surface, they succeeded.


The Soviets performed like champions in Moscow, winning 195 medals, including 80 golds, enough to top the medal count. And the 1980 games stand alone today as the cleanest on record — the first and only since the testing of Olympic athletes began in 1968 to not disqualify a single athlete for using steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs.

But Soviet athletes and former members of the KGB allege that the Soviet authorities were using dirty tricks to boost performances while maintaining the appearance of a clean competition.

In a scheme that bears some resemblance to the state-sponsored doping program that Russia employed to boost its performance when it hosted the scandal-plagued Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, the Soviet authorities allegedly oversaw a broad effort to tamper with athletes’ drug tests.

In 1977, the KGB’s Fifth Directorate, which handled domestic security issues, created the Eleventh Department. Officially, the new entity’s task was “to disrupt subversive actions by the enemy and hostile elements during the preparation and holding of the Olympics.”

In reality, the employees of the Eleventh Department also worked in the Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory, which was accredited for the Olympics just two weeks before the games kicked off on July 19, 1980.

‘We Don’t Need Accidents’

Konstantin Volkov, who won a silver medal in the pole vault for the Soviet Union at the 1980 games, told Current Time that when it came time to hand in his urine sample for testing, an employee at the Moscow lab informed him that “we throw all this out” and handed him a different container already filled with urine.

“I said, ‘Well, I don’t have anything [in my urine]. I’m not scared,'” according to the 60-year-old Volkov. But the former pole vaulter said the lab employee insisted that “we don’t need accidents, so go turn this one in.”

When asked if other athletes, including from the 70 other countries competing in the games, were doing the same, the lab employee confirmed that they were.

“Yes, everyone is the same; no exceptions,” Volkov recalled the lab employee saying. “No one will have anything [in their samples].”

Retired KGB Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Popov told Current Time, the Russian-language network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA, that two of his former colleagues were accredited to work in the Anti-Doping Laboratory during the 1980 Olympics.

“They filled the containers [of urine] that were purportedly to be from the athletes,” said Popov, who handled sports journalists at the time. “Naturally, they didn’t have any positive doping tests, and that’s how the samples were clean.”

In the event that an athlete like Volkov actually provided samples, they were “simply replaced with obviously clean ones,” Popov added.

Efforts to uncover doping among Olympians first began at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. By 1975, the International Olympic Committee had banned anabolic steroids, which were often used by Soviet athletes. The next year, at the Montreal games, 12 athletes were disqualified for using steroids.

Yet despite the expanded effort to catch drug cheats, not a single athlete was caught doping in Moscow four years later — a result that contrasts sharply with a 1989 report by the Australian parliament that alleged “there is hardly a medal winner at the Moscow Games, certainly not a gold medal winner…who is not on one sort of drug or another: usually several kinds. The Moscow Games might well have been called the Chemists’ Games.”

The Kremlin was under extraordinary pressure to ensure that no scandals tainted the Moscow games, the first Olympics hosted by a communist country, and on which the Soviet Union had spent an estimated id=”listicle-2646453422″.3 billion.

With the “whole world” watching, state-run Moskva 24 TV recollected recently, the Soviet government was looking to “eliminate all elements of chance.”

Soviet citizens, meanwhile, were essentially told to consider the games a view into their own future. And in the sphere of sports doping, they were.

First Moscow, Then Sochi

Thirty-four years later, the Kremlin was once again playing host to the Olympics, this time in winter, in the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi. The 2014 Winter Olympics, won by Team Russia, was held up at the time as a symbol of Russia’s return as a sporting powerhouse and arrival as a tourism destination.

But those victories were soon tainted by allegations that Russia’s security services had been swapping out Russian athletes’ urine samples to avoid the detection of performance-enhancing substances.

“The Winter Olympics in Sochi debuted the ultimate fail-safe mechanism in the Russian’s sample-swapping progression,” concluded a 2016 independent investigation commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). “A protected Winter Olympics competitor likely to medal did not have to worry about his or her doping activities. They could dope up to, and possibly throughout, the games as they could count on their dirty sample being swapped at the Sochi Laboratory.”

Russian officials have never accepted the conclusions of what is commonly called the McLaren Report, and have engaged in a drawn out battle with WADA that continues to this day.

While Russia escaped a ban from the 2016 Olympics in Rio, the fallout from the scandal resulted in the suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee in 2017, preventing Russian athletes from competing under the Russian flag in South Korea in the 2018 Winter Olympics. Tens of Russian athletes were banned from international competition, and 13 medals won in Sochi were stripped from Team Russia.

Most recently, the failure by Russian authorities to cooperate fully with WADA’s investigation into the Moscow lab and the country’s state-sponsored doping program led the international anti-doping watchdog in 2019 to impose a four-year ban on Russia participating in or hosting any major international sports competitions, including the Olympics.

Popov told Current Time that the tampering in Sochi was “a remake, let’s say, of what there was in the ’80s…. The experience gained in those years was employed at the Sochi Olympics.”

He added that in 1980 the U.S.S.R.’s State Sports Committee had a “special program” that provided steroids to athletes who, in their coaches’ opinions, had the best chances of winning.

In 1980, then-20-year-old Volkov was seen as a potential gold medalist in Moscow, having won the European Championships just months before.

During the 1980 Summer Olympics, he told Current Time, representatives of the doping program suggested that he use anabolic steroids.

“They had me come in with my coach, my father,” Volkov recalled. He said he was told that he needed to go through “a special drugs program to win a gold medal.”

“But we refused because, first of all, we didn’t know how this works with pole vaulting” or how it would impact a pole vaulter’s technique, Volkov continued. “They said, ‘OK, it’s on you. If there’ll be a failure, then you’ll answer for your actions.'”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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This is the only Seabee to receive the Medal of Honor

In their 75 years building, fighting and serving on every continent – even Antarctica – only one Navy Seabee has been bestowed with the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor in combat.


Marvin G. Shields was a third-class construction mechanic with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11 and assigned to a nine-member Seabee team at a small camp near Dong Xoai, Vietnam. The camp housed Army Green Berets with 5th Special Forces Group, who were advising a force of Vietnamese soldiers including 400 local Montagnards.

Shields, then 25, who enlisted in 1962, was killed in an intense 1965 battle in Vietnam. His actions under fire led to the posthumous medal, awarded in 1966, “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”

So far he is the only Seabee to receive the Medal of Honor.

On June 10, 1965, Dong Xoai came under heavy fire from a regimental-sized Viet Cong force, who pummeled the camp with machine guns and heavy weapons. The initial attack wounded Shields but didn’t stop him.

“Shields continued to resupply his fellow Americans who needed ammunition and to return the enemy fire for a period of approximately three hours, at which time the Viet Cong launched a massive attack at close range with flame-throwers, hand grenades and small-arms fire,” his award citation states. “Wounded a second time during this attack, Shields nevertheless assisted in carrying a more critically wounded man to safety, and then resumed firing at the enemy for four more hours.”

Still, Shields kept fighting.

“When the commander asked for a volunteer to accompany him in an attempt to knock out an enemy machinegun emplacement which was endangering the lives of all personnel in the compound because of the accuracy of its fire, Shields unhesitatingly volunteered for this extremely hazardous mission,” reads the citation. “Proceeding toward their objective with a 3.5-inch rocket launcher, they succeeded in destroying the enemy machinegun emplacement, thus undoubtedly saving the lives of many of their fellow servicemen in the compound.”

But hostile fire ultimately got Shields, mortally wounding him as he was taking cover.

“His heroic initiative and great personal valor in the face of intense enemy fire sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service,” the citation states.

The five-day Battle of Dong Xoai also garnered a Medal of Honor for a junior Green Beret officer, 2nd Lt. Charles Q. Williams, who was wounded several times in the battle and survived the war.

Shields’ unit – Seabee Team 1104 – had come together just four months before the attack on their Dong Xoai camp, Frank Peterlin, the team’s officer-in-charge, recalled in a 2015 Navy news article about the Navy’s 50th commemoration of the battle and Shields’ award.

“In the evening, he [Shields] would have his guitar at his side and would love to sing and dance, especially with the Cambodian troops at our first camp,” said Peterlin, who attended the ceremony. “Marvin was always upbeat. At Dong Xoai, he was joking and encouraging his teammates throughout the battle.” Peterlin, a lieutenant junior-grade at the time, was wounded amid the fight and earned the Silver Star medal for his actions leading the men.

Shields, who was survived by his wife and young daughter, has been long remembered by Port Townsend, Washington, his hometown.

At the time of his death, the Port Townsend Leader newspaper wrote of him and his service: “A 1958 graduate of Port Townsend High School, Shields was one of the first employees on the Mineral Basin in Mining Development at Hyder, Alaska, when the locally organized project was initiated there by Walt Moa of Discovery Bay. He worked at Mineral Basin during the summer before graduating from school and returned there as a full time construction worker in 1958. He was called into the Navy early in 1962, and was due to be discharged in January.”

The Navy honored his memory with a frigate in his name (retired in 1992). The official U.S. Navy Seabee Museum in Port Hueneme, California, has a large display about him its Hall of Heroes. Navy Seabees have never forgotten Shields, who is buried in Gardiner, Washington. Inscribed on his black-granite headstone is this: “He died as he lived, for his friends.”

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This was the deadliest insurgent sniper in Iraq

The name struck fear in the hearts of U.S. and coalition troops during the war in Iraq. A sharpshooter who could unleash his deadly round in an instant and melt away unscathed.


He was almost like a ghost — a hyper accurate sniper that built a legend around his stealth and lethality. Videos peppered YouTube and LiveLeak that reportedly chronicled his exploits, adding to the growing legend.

In fact, “Juba,” as he was known, became a media sensation in his own right, his lethal skills were condensed into the character “Mustafa” that fought a sniper duel with Chris Kyle in the popular “American Sniper” film. And he’s the central villain in the sniper thriller movie “The Wall.”

The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’
Juba may have been a myth or a compilation of several insurgent snipers in Iraq. But his reputation made a strong impact on American troops at the height of the Iraq war.(Screen Shot from YouTube)

Insurgent propaganda credited Juba with 37 kills and he became well known among American troops in Iraq during the height of the insurgency in 2005 and 2007.

“He’s good. Every time we dismount I’m sure everyone has got him in the back of their minds,” Spc. Travis Burress, an sniper based in Camp Rustamiyah, told The Guardian newspaper in 2005. “He’s a serious threat to us.”

Videos purported to show several of Juba’s kills are a vivid reminder of why he was so feared by American troops. With pinpoint accuracy, the insurgent sharpshooter was able to target the gaps where heavily-armored U.S. service members remained vulnerable, dropping coalition forces with heartbreaking deftness.

And when he killed, he proved difficult to track.

“We have different techniques to try to lure him out, but he is very well trained and very patient,” a U.S. officer told The Guardian. “He doesn’t fire a second shot.”

The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’
Insurgent videos taunted U.S. troops — and even President Bush —that Juba was everywhere. (YouTube screen shot)

To hunt Juba, the U.S. dispatched the notorious Task Force Raptor, an elite unit of Iraqi special operators akin to Baghdad’s version of Delta Force. The Raptors harried Juba on his home turf of Ramadi, chasing him around the insurgent hotbed until the trail went cold. Most analysts at the time argued that Juba had fled Ramadi for another battlefield.

Though Juba became a well-known name among American troops on patrol in Iraq, there are some who argue the insurgent marksman was a myth — a composite of several enemy snipers that was built into a legend by the insurgency to frighten coalition troops. At Juba’s height, about 300 American troops had been killed by gunshots in Iraq, and one video of Juba’s exploits claimed he’d killed more than 140 soldiers and Marines.

“Speculation is [that] there was more than one Juba,” said former Special Forces and Iraq war vet Woody Baird. “My estimation is the bad guys were running a psychological operation attempting to terrorize the conventional forces by promoting a super sniper.”

It’s unclear what happened to Juba, though most agree that he was killed in action — either by American or Iraqi sharpshooters or even ISIS terrorists.

But some believe Juba is a made up insurgent meant to strike fear in U.S. troops at checkpoints and in vehicle hatches.

“Juba the Sniper? He’s a product of the U.S. military,” Capt. Brendan Hobbs told Stars and Stripes in 2007. “We’ve built up this myth ourselves.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Civil War battalion was just college kids

During the Civil War, an entire battalion was formed by pulling the students of two colleges out of school, putting them under the command of their professors, and shipping them off to war. And these college kids really did fight, possibly firing some of the first and last shots of the war and earning battle streamers for seven different engagements before the war ended.


Citadel cadets recreate the firing on the Star of the West

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The college students were cadets at The Citadel and The Arsenal Academy, both establishments for training future military officers. So, when South Carolina seceded on Dec. 20, 1860, there was obviously a question of roles for these men who had already signaled an interest in military service.

Just a few weeks later, on Jan. 9, cadets were manning artillery emplacements in Charleston Harbor when a merchant ship, Star of the West, loaded with supplies and reinforcements for Fort Sumter, entered the harbor. The Citadel’s superintendent, Col. Peter Stevens, ordered gunners to fire on the ship in an attempt to turn it around.

A single warning shot across the bow failed to deter the ship, but a short volley a few minutes later caused multiple strikes against the ship’s hull and forced it to withdraw.

A later attack by Confederate forces on Fort Sumter in April 1861 is generally regarded as the first attack of the war, but the cadets were awarded a streamer for their January attack.

The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’

An illustration of The Citadel during the Civil War.

(Alfred Rudolf Waud)

The next streamer for the academy came in November 1861, at Wappoo Cut, but they didn’t actually meet with Union forces. On Nov. 7, Union naval forces had shelled and seized two Confederate forts near the South Carolina capital, and political leaders worried that the Union would press forward. They called on the cadets to man defenses at Wappoo Cut, but the Union soldiers didn’t press the attack, and the cadets eventually returned to school.

Around the same time, Union forces landed on James and John’s islands, and Confederate counterattacks failed to re-take the beachheads, and on James Island, they were even forced back along a bridge. These were islands key to Charleston’s defense, and the cadets were sent again to hold the line. They brought eight light artillery pieces to James Island and manned them against Union attack.

At this point, though, The Citadel and The Arsenal were still functioning as military academies despite their students and faculty being called away from time to time to perform training, logistics, or even defensive duties. But by June 1862, there was a body of cadets that was ready to go to war without waiting for their commissions at graduation. At least 37 cadets resigned from the school and formed the “Cadet Rangers,” a cavalry unit.

This sort of pattern would continue for the next few years, with the cadets being called out to defend Charleston for a few days or weeks and then being sent back to the school to train, frustrating some of them. In early 1863, cadets manned guns in a defensive battery on a bridge between Charleston and James Island.

Union forces shelled the city during this period, and some of the cadets were sent to guard stores of weapons and supplies. But they returned to school again until the first half of 1864, when they were once again sent to defend James Island.

At the end of 1864, the cadets were called to a defense that would actually result in combat. Union Marines, soldiers, and sailors were sent to break the Charleston and Savannah Railroad, and their attack surprised the infantrymen defending the position. The cadets, stationed a few miles away at the time, rushed to the fight at the double-time.

The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’

Union Marines and other troops attacked cadets at the Battle of Tulifinny near Charleston, South Carolina, and the cadets earned praise for their disciplined fire and poise under attack.

(David Humphreys Miller)

During that first night, on Dec. 6, the cadets did little because they arrived as the Union troops were digging into their defensive positions while the Confederate attacks gave way.

But the next morning, the cadets were one of the key components of an attack on the Union positions. They came under rifle fire and responded with a bayonet charge, but were driven back. They secured their wounded and dropped back to their own defenses. In this role, they earned praise from nearby infantry units for their disciplined fire. They even pursued the Marines attacking them during the final Union retreat. During the fight, they suffered eight casualties.

The following year, in May 1865, cadets would once again engage in direct combat with Union forces. They were sent to guard infrastructure in Williamston, South Carolina, when Union forces attempted to reach a bridge over the Saluda River and burn it. The cadets beat back the attack successfully, saving the bridge.

Even as the Confederacy’s prospects in the war suffered under the Union Anaconda Plan, the cadets held their lines when ordered. They never surrendered and were one of the last forces to disband, not doing so until May 9, 1865, one month after Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia.

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That time CBS captured an intense firefight in Vietnam

In 1970, CBS News embedded with an Alpha Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, in Vietnam and was there when the platoon came under fire. The infantrymen, the “Blues” of the air mobile unit, were sent in whenever the troops had a known or suspected enemy to fight.


The story of Sammy Davis inspired the war scenes in ‘Forrest Gump’
Infantry Sgt. Kregg Jorgenson is rushed behind friendly lines during a firefight in the Vietnamese jungle.(Image: YouTube/CBS Evening News)

The men were headed home from investigating a series of North Vietnamese Army bunkers when Sgt. Kregg Jorgenson made eye contact with an enemy soldier hiding in the foliage and gripping an AK-47. Jorgenson, a Ranger veteran and three-time Purple Heart recipient, started firing at the same times as the enemy.

Jorgenson was pretty sure he had hit his man, but as the firefight erupted, the body on the trail disappeared. As the cameras kept rolling, the platoon leader called in air support and a medevac while the rest of the platoon poured lead into the trees.

See the original news piece in the video below: