Samuel Woodfill already had a lengthy career in the U.S. Army by the time the United States declared war on Germany in 1917. The son of a Mexican-American War and Civil War veteran, he enlisted in 1901 at the age of 18 and left his native Indiana.
After basic training, Pvt. Woodfill found himself assigned to the 11th Infantry Regiment stationed in the Philippines. He saw action in various campaigns against the rebellious Moros and earned accolades as a crack shot and for his “honest and faithful service.” In 1910, Woodfill left the Philippines for a number of duty stations. Over the next seven years, he would see service in Alaska, Kentucky, and on the Mexican border. But he would not see any more combat in that time.
Then, everything changed. America declared war on Germany. Woodfill, then a sergeant, attended an officer training course and received a temporary wartime rank of 2nd lieutenant. Soon after, he was given command of a machine gun company of the 60th Infantry Regiment, 5th Division. Finally, in April 1918 his unit sailed for France.
However, the 5th Division stayed in the rear until October 1918 when they were sent to the front to take part in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
Woodfill was leading his company in an attack near the village of Cunel when they came under heavy German machine gun fire from multiple positons. He ordered his company to take cover while he moved forward alone to scope out the situation.
The three German positions were well concealed in some bushes, an old barn, and a derelict church, respectively. Woodfill took aim at the machine gunner firing on his men in the church tower about 300 yards away. Unable to make out the gunner, he simply took aim at a position behind the muzzle flash and pulled the trigger. The gun fell silent. This was repeated four more times, as each German crewmember stepped forward to take their place on the gun.
Woodfill dropped another five-round clip in his Springfield and moved on to the next target. A single shot at the German in the barn put an end to the firing from that position.
He next maneuvered on a third machine gun position. In doing so, he took cover in a shell hole filled with lingering mustard gas. He approached to within ten yards of the position. Then, in rapid succession, he dispatched three of the crew members with his rifle. A fourth, a German officer, charged Woodfill and engaged him in hand-to-hand combat. He overcame the officer and killed him with a M1911 pistol.
With this line of machine guns silenced, Lt. Woodfill’s company continued their advance until they were again held up by a German machine gun nest. The officer once again raced forward to single-handedly attack the position. He killed the entire machine gun crew with his rifle before capturing three ammunition carriers from the position.
As the advance continued, Woodfill’s men again ran into murderous German machine gun fire. And once again their leader charged forward to handle the situation. Woodfill dispatched this crew with five shots from his rifle before drawing his pistol and charging the position to take on the remaining men. He killed one man with his pistol before grabbing a nearby pick axe and bludgeoning the other to death.
By this time, Woodfill was suffering heavily from exposure to mustard gas and was limping from a shrapnel wound. He was evacuated from the front lines and sent to Bordeaux to recover.
On Jan. 22, 1919, Woodfill was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions the previous fall. The next month, Gen. John Pershing personally presented the award to the young lieutenant.
In 1921, Gen. Pershing bestowed two more honors on Woodfill. When asked that year to name the outstanding American soldier of the Great War, Pershing surprised everyone by naming Lt. Samuel Woodfill, claiming he had always considered him “America’s Greatest Doughboy,” over the likes of Alvin York, Charles Wittlesey of the Lost Battalion, and even Eddie Rickenbacker.
Pershing then named Woodfill as a pallbearer, this time along with Alvin York, for the internment of the first Unknown Soldier.
The legendary soldier, having reverted to his pre-war enlisted status, retired from the Army as a Master Sergeant in 1923. However, he served his country again during World War II. Then commissioned a Major, he trained and inspired young officers as they prepared for the great challenges ahead.
Woodfill’s final service to his country was to once again act as a pallbearer, this time for his former commanding officer and supporter, Gen. Pershing. Woodfill himself passed away at the age of 68 in August 1951.
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Page Johnson, 386th Civil Engineering Squadron force protection escort, radios dispatch at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Sept. 4, 2019. The force protection flight provides a security buffer between other country nationals such as contractors, their employees and the general base population. Airmen assist and escort OCNs during their duty day, help minimize potential data collection, and ensure departure of vehicles and personnel once their services are completed for the day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Mozer O. Da Cunha).
Between colloquial humor and slang, the military says some weird stuff (don’t even get me started on acronyms), but some of the lingo has origins in so-called “voice procedure” and actually kind of makes sense.
Voice procedure is a set of techniques, protocols, and phrases used in two-way radio communications to reduce confusion and maximize clarity.
Here are a few of the big ones:
Saying “Roger” over the radio is shorthand for “I have received your message or transmission.”
If you’ve ever tried spelling your last name over the phone with someone, you know that the English alphabet has letters that sound the same, so phonetic or spelling alphabets were created to convey letters.
In the ’50s, this alphabet was standardized to the alphabet NATO militaries use today (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc), but when the radio use in the military became prevalent, the word ‘Roger’ was used for “R.”
The “R” in “received” was conveyed with “Roger” — and even though today “Romeo” stands for “R,” good ol’ “Roger” stuck.
At the time, much of the radio communication was between French and English speakers, so Mockford needed a word that would be understood in both languages and wouldn’t be commonly spoken.
“Mayday” is a rather unique phrase in English, but is also similar to the French word for “help me.”
This is an appropriate time for the use of ‘Mayday.’ (Painting by Pierre Dénys de Montfort, 1801)
To further reduce confusion, “Mayday” is used three times in the beginning of a distress call. It is reserved for incidents where loss of life or craft is imminent — misuse is considered a serious crime.
“Copy” has its origins in Morse Code communications. Morse Code operators would listen to transmissions and write down each letter or number immediately, a technique called “copying.”
Once voice communications became possible, ‘copy’ was used to confirm whether a transmission was received. Today it still means “I heard what you said” or “got it,” similar to “roger.”
As exciting as the sudden appearance of thousands of hatchets at the front was, it’s not clear that they were actually used violently. The mounted infantrymen carried them into battle, but the weapons’ main contribution to the war effort seems to have been logistical.
It’s unlikely that the unit would have found much use for the hatchets in combat. Each man could fire seven shots between reloads, making it unlikely that enemy forces could march into range of the hatchets. And the men rarely rode their horses during the actual fighting. Instead, they would ride quickly to the battlefield, dismount, and send the horses to the rear.
In that way, the mounted infantrymen really were the predecessors to mechanized infantry and air assault infantry rather than cousins to the cavalry.
And if they had been cavalry, they probably would have been saddled with those common sabers instead of their awesome, namesake hatchets.
In 1952, an accident at Canada’s Chalk River Laboratories near Deep River, Ontario caused a partial meltdown in an experimental nuclear reactor. Hydrogen explosions followed and hundreds of thousands of gallons of radioactive water flooded the core, heavily damaging the reactor. When the Canadian government turned to U.S. nuclear experts for help, “Father of the Nuclear Navy” Rear Admiral Hyman Rickover sent his protégé – Lieutenant James Earl “Jimmy” Carter – to lead a team of maintainers into the reactor core to shut it down.
The admiral was famous for the demands he put on the people who worked for him. His unorthodox methods almost kept him from making flag rank, but President Truman intervened on his behalf. It was a good call: the Navy’s 300 nuclear warships have never had a single nuclear incident.
Rickover’s team had access to the latest in nuclear energy technology because they were developing nuclear-powered ships for the U.S. Navy (the first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus, was completed in 1955). The Navy knew the technology the Canadians were using and how best to fix it.
Rickover volunteered Carter to the Canadians to take the failing reactor apart so it could be replaced, a testament to the extraordinary faith and training the U.S. Navy places in its sailors – and to the good judgment of Adm. Rickover. First, the reactor had to be shut down, then it could be disassembled and replaced.
Carter, then 28 years old, had been in the Navy for six years. He was assigned to the Naval Reactors Branch of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in Washington, D.C. Rickover’s demanding perfectionism was as instilled in Carter as it is today’s nuclear sailors.
Rickover (left) served 61 years on active duty and saw Carter get elected President.
In his book “Reflections at Ninety,” Carter recalls preparing for the task. The team built a replica of the reactor on a nearby tennis court to practice their next move and track the work they’d already finished. Every pipe, bolt, and nut was rebuilt exactly as it was in the damaged reactor area.
Lieutenant Carter divided himself and his 23 guys into teams of three. Each worked 90-second shifts cleaning and repairing the reactor as per what they practiced on the tennis court. A minute and a half was the maximum time the human body could handle the amount of radiation in the area.
By today’s standards, it was still way too much radiation – Carter and his men were exposed to levels a thousand times higher than what is now considered safe. He and his team absorbed a year’s worth of radiation in that 90 seconds. The basement where they helped replace the reactor was so contaminated, Carter’s urine was radioactive for six months after the incident.
It makes sense that the ship named after President Carter would be a Seawolf-class nuclear submarine, as Carter helped develop the nuclear Navy and was the only U.S. President to be qualified for submarine duty. The USS Jimmy Carter was commissioned in February 2005.
The effects of this exposure eventually caught up to him. Carter developed cancerous tumors on his liver and brain at age 91 but was screened as cancer-free a year later.
In the world of the ancient Mediterranean, there were plenty of ways for the upper class to flaunt their wealth. Just like today, the elites lived in massive houses, wore luxurious clothing, and dined on decadent delicacies. But for the 1 percent of the 1 percent, there was a status symbol shrouded in myth and worth more than gold: purple.
Dyes were difficult to produce in the ancient world. All dyes were made from a natural source like a plant, animal, or mineral, and some were rarer than others. One of the rarest, though, was Tyrian purple.
Tyrian purple was made from the secretions of a certain sea snail, called a Murex. It took thousands of these snails to produce even a small amount of usable dye, making Tyrian purple extremely expensive. It was worth the cost, however; Tyrian purple was famous because over time its color would not fade but actually become brighter and more beautiful.
Tyrian purple was named after the Phoenician city of Tyre, where the dye was first produced in the Bronze Age. The Phoenicians exported purple all around the Mediterranean, making their dye and themselves quite popular. Some historians even speculate that the word “Phoenician” is derived from the Greek word for “purple.”
The dye took the Mediterranean world by storm. In the Iliad and the Odyssey, Homer reserves purple for the greatest warriors and kings. King Solomon supposedly decorated the Temple of Jerusalem with Tyrian purple. Alexander the Great and his successors wore purple as their symbol of royal authority. The Mediterranean was also awash with myths about how human beings first discovered purple.
Tyrian purple would earn its other name, imperial purple, from the Romans. In the Roman Republic, the high-ranking magistrates wore the toga praetexta, a white toga with a purple stripe. Generals celebrating a triumph, a festival that was the highest honor a general could receive, were allowed to wear the solid purple toga picta.
After the Republic became the Empire, purple was increasingly associated with the emperor and his subordinates. According to Roman historians, the emperor Caligula once sentenced a Roman client-king to death for the arrogance of wearing purple.
In the coming centuries, the Roman government would even nationalize the production of purple, and save the dye for the emperor. In the reign of Diocletian in the late third and early fourth centuries, one pound of purple wool was worth a pound of gold, and one pound of purple dye was worth three pounds of gold.
In the Eastern Roman Empire, purple was the property of the emperor. To become emperor was to be “raised to the purple” and to be the child of an emperor was to be “born in the purple.” Purple was used for the most important imperial documents, and a splash of purple on one’s clothes marked one as a bishop or imperial administrator.
Even after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, purple remained popular. The westerners could still purchase purple from the easterners, who produced it in Constantinople. Charlemagne was wearing purple when he was crowned the Holy Roman Emperor in 800, and was wearing purple when he was buried. The nobility and the clergy used purple to represent their secular and sacred power.
After the Ottomans conquered Constantinople in 1453, the production of purple went into decline. Western Europe could no longer purchase purple, and the nobility and clergy were forced to start using scarlet instead.
However, purple’s association with might and majesty never quite disappeared. For centuries it remained the color of royalty, and many churches use purple vestments as symbols of authority. The ceremonial robes used in academia, modeled after clerical vestments, are often purple to represent intellectual excellence.
In America, the Purple Heart, along with its predecessor the Badge of Military Merit, uses purple to represent valor. Artificial dyes have made purple available to everyone nowadays, but it has never lost its association with greatness.
Destroyers, in general, don’t get as much love as they deserve for their contribution to World War II. The USS Aylwin is not different, even though her crew managed to do what few others could, which was to take the fight to the sucker-punching Japanese Navy and naval air forces during and after its attack on Pearl Harbor.
Despite having only half the necessary crew and being commanded by an Ensign, the Aylwin was out on patrols immediately.
The Aylwin was moored at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, with other ships from her Pacific squadron. Like most ships, roughly half of its crew were out on liberty or leave when the Japanese arrived in Hawaii. She had only one boiler going, strong enough to power only a few of the ship’s systems. That’s when the Utah was hit by a torpedo.
Even with only half her crew and being under the command of Ensign Stanley B. Caplan – that’s an O-1 for you non-Navy folks – the Aylwin was returning fire within three minutes of the Japanese attacks. A few minutes after that, her remaining boilers were lit. And a few minutes after that, Aylwin was making her way into the channel and into the open sea. This destroyer wasn’t going to be a sitting duck if she could help it.
As she left the harbor, Aylwin maintained a deadly, continuous rate of fire that would have dissuaded even the most daring of pilots from pressing their attack on the destroyer. Pearl Harbor, at that moment however, was a target-rich environment for both sides. The skies were filled with Japanese planes, and the grounds and harbor area were littered with military targets, planes, ships, and more. Zero after Zero came after the U.S. ship but were chased away as Ensign Caplan and his men fired everything they had at their pursuers. The machine gunners on the decks of the Aylwin claimed to have downed at least three enemy fighters.
Caplan and company began an immediate combat patrol, looking for enemy submarines in the area, as were her standing orders in case of such an attack. An unknown explosion and an attempt to depth charge an enemy submarine were the most notable events of the next few days. For 36 hours, Ensign Caplan knew what it meant to be the captain. The ship and the rest of its crew joined the task force around the USS Lexington and headed to Wake Island by Dec. 12.
The Aylwin would survive the war mostly intact, but with 13 battle stars for her contributions to the fighting at Midway, Attu, and Okinawa, just to name a few.
If fighting the well-defended Viet Cong on their home turf wasn’t dangerous enough, imagine having to crawl your way through a series of extremely tight and narrow underground tunnels to capture or kill them.
Such a terrifying prospect was reality for the brave “tunnel rats” of Vietnam, soldiers tasked with entering and clearing the makeshift tunnels dug by the VC in Vietnam. CW Bowman, Gerry Schooler and Art Tejeda spent days maneuvering through the tunnel complexes, clearing and destroying lethal booby-traps. Hear their stories:
In 1946, Viet Minh (a predecessor to Viet Cong) resistance fighters began digging the tunnels and bunkers throughout the countryside to combat the French, whom they would eventually defeat. By the time the Vietnam War broke out, the Viet Cong had over 100 miles of tunnels from which to spring deadly ambushes on American and South Vietnamese forces before vanishing. The numerous ‘spider holes,’ as the tunnel entrances were sometimes called, were conveniently located and well camouflaged — nearly impossible to detect.
Armed with only a flashlight, a single pistol, or maybe just a knife, a “tunnel rat” didn’t have much in the way of defense as they crawled in to clear these tunnels.
Here’s what you didn’t know about these courageous troops:
1. The shorter the better
Many of the “tunnel rats” from Austraila, New Zealand, South Vietnam, and America volunteered for the dangerous position.
However, the brave troops that were picked for the job were commonly the shortest grunts in the platoon — for obvious reasons.
2. Most “tunnel rat” dogs didn’t work out
It’s well-known that dogs are great at detecting IEDs in modern warfare, but they weren’t too good at sniffing out the many booby traps placed by the North Vietnamese around tunnel entrances.
3. Their rate of fire
If a soldier took enemy contact, their training taught them to adjust their rate of fire. Instead of firing multiple shots, the troop would commonly fire single shots, making use of echoes to confuse the enemy. After deafening shots rang out and reverberated off of tunnel walls, the enemy would left puzzled as to how many rounds they had left.
4. To wear a gas mask or not to wear a gas mask…
When entering a tunnel, many troops decided against wearing gas masks as they obstructed breathing and vision. Although crawling into a wall of gas was a possibility, many “tunnel rats” chose to take their chances.
Check out Simple History‘s video below to learn more about the dangerous job these brave tunnel rats had.
The president of the United States never technically takes a day off. Even when they’re ostensibly “on vacation” they are still very much the leader of the country and have many duties to fulfill on a daily basis. For example, even while on vacation, they need to continue to have things like intelligence and national security briefings and other such meetings so that if an emergency does suddenly come up, they can react quickly in an informed way. Because of this, the president, in addition to never technically being able to have a full day off while on vacation, doesn’t get sick days either.
Of course, the president is not only human but also generally speaking a quite old human, and thus they get ill, occasionally seriously. So what happens then? This is where the 25th Amendment potentially comes into effect.
In a nutshell, among other things, it provides that if the president ever gets so ill that they cannot physically perform necessary presidential duties anymore, their vice president can become the “Acting President” on their behalf until they’re able to resume their duties. So, in a way, this is a mechanism for the president to take a sick day if they want it and whenever they want it.
It’s also noteworthy that even if the president does not wish to relinquish the office during a time when they are “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”, the 25th Amendment provides a mechanism for the vice president to simply take the office from the president until such time as the president is once again able to resume duties.
(Amusingly, it’s not fully clear here what the scope of this section of the 25th Amendment is. For example, while the president is sleeping, and thus in an unconscious state, they are most definitely “unable to discharge the powers and duties of [the] office” until someone wakes them up. So technically the vice president and certain others could get together on any given night and temporarily make the vice president acting president until such time as the president wakes up and no doubt sends off the appropriate document to declare that they are, in fact, fit for duty, with Congress no doubt concurring at that point… Or, if I were president and my VP did that, I’d probably just take that rare opportunity to roll back over and sleep in for once, then maybe around noon have a leisurely breakfast before finally sending off the appropriate letter that I’m back in business.)
In the end, this latter rule allowing the vice president to forcibly take over is probably for the best as United States presidents are generally loath to give up the office, even temporarily. Despite many, many presidents having serious health issues and occasionally being incapacitated during their time in office (generally largely kept from the public eye at the time), only two have actually used this power in the over half a century since the 25th Amendment was ratified.
Breaking the trend, the first president to make use of the 25th Amendment was Ronald Reagan on July 13, 1985 when he temporarily officially bestowed the powers of the office onto Vice President George Bush while Reagan underwent surgery for colon cancer. Bush reportedly spent a whole 8 hours being president before Reagan decided he’d recovered enough from his surgery to start being president again.
A thing to note is that prior to handing off the powers of the presidency to Bush at 11:28AM, Reagan spent his morning as he normally did, going about presidential duties, and subsequently spent most of the evening after he became president again at 7:22PM catching up on everything he’d missed during the day. So not really much of a sick day.
The only other president to bestow the powers of the presidency on their vice president was George W. Bush in 2002 and later in 2007, each time so that he could have a colonoscopy. On each occasion, Vice President Dick Cheney was acting president for a little over 2 hours at which point Bush resumed his duties. Or to put it another way, during his 8 years in office, Bush technically had four hours of official time off, most of which he spent with a camera up his butt… (It’s good to be the president?)
This lack of leave taken for ill health is a surprising fact given, as previously alluded to, the large percentage of presidents who have suffered through various serious illnesses during their time in office.
Most infamously, Woodrow Wilson had a massive stroke in 1919 resulting in the temporary loss of use of the left side of his body, as well as him becoming blind in the left eye and with diminished vision in his right. What his cognitive state was at this time isn’t fully known, as this was all kept from the public by his wife, Edith, and his physician, Dr. Cary Grayson.
So how was he able to run the country in this state? Well, he wasn’t really. His wife took over handling what information was passed to him and what issues she simply delegated out for other people to handle. She also barred any direct access to the president for several weeks after the stroke, with the lone exception being that Dr. Grayson was allowed to attend him (and we’re speculating nurses, though this is never mentioned anywhere we could find).
As Edith herself would later write,
So began my stewardship, I studied every paper, sent from the different Secretaries or Senators, and tried to digest and present in tabloid form the things that, despite my vigilance, had to go to the President. I, myself, never made a single decision regarding the disposition of public affairs. The only decision that was mine was what was important and what was not, and the very important decision of when to present matters to my husband.
That said, it is thought by many historians that her claim that she never made direct presidential decisions herself is at best stretching the truth and at worst a blatant lie. That’s not to mention completely controlling the information that went to the president and what tasks (and to whom) were delegated out is questionable for a person not elected to office to do, even for a day, let alone an extended period.
While Wilson did recover somewhat over the next year and a half or so of his presidency, in the interim there was much question over whether he was actually still mentally and physically fit enough to continue on as president. Despite this and certain very pressing and far reaching matters being decided, like whether the United States should join the League of Nations, he refused to give up his position- a key point discussed when the 25th Amendment was being drafted a few decades later.
While other presidents had before and after Wilson suffered from various ailments, most notable to the development of the 25th Amendment was Dwight D. Eisenhower. While in office, he suffered a severe heart attack and then a subsequent stroke. He also had to have surgery to remove about ten inches of his small intestine as a result of complications owing to Crohn’s disease.
During these times, he did attempt to take sick days by having Attorney General Herbert Brownell Jr write up a document passing off some of the powers and duties of the president to Vice President Richard Nixon. Other presidents had more or less done similar things before when necessary, but always in secret, so as not to publicly reveal their medical issues. Eisenhower was essentially bucking the trend of keeping it secret and trying to set a precedent to make the whole thing official.
And, indeed, from a practical standpoint, Nixon and Eisenhower’s cabinet did take over his duties when he was incapacitated. It also could be interpreted that Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the U.S. Constitution did allow for such when the president was unable “to discharge the powers and duties of the… office”.
The matter finally came to a head with a president most considered the picture of robust, youthful, health — John F. Kennedy.
It turns out, Kennedy essentially needed his own pharmacy and team of doctors to keep him functioning semi-normally throughout his presidency — a fact only quite recently made publicly known.
The medical issues Kennedy suffered from were many and serious (some of which may in turn have been caused by the extensive medication he regularly took). First up was a potentially life threatening problem in Addison’s disease, where the adrenal glands don’t produce enough of certain essential hormones.
Next he suffered from osteoporosis resulting in three fractured vertebrae in his back. He also suffered from irritable bowel syndrome that saw him dealing with severe abdominal pain and occasional dangerous bouts of diarrhea. Then there was his hypothyroidism. And, just for fun, likely because of some of the medications he was on, he seemed particularly prone to infections.
Notably, many of these medications could potentially effect mood and his decision making ability. But without some of them, Kennedy would have been crippled by pain. Even with them, as Kennedy’s political advisor, Dave Powers, once noted, Kennedy always traveled “with crutches”. Further, when he was out of the public eye, he walked
gritting his teeth…but then when he came into the room where the crowd was gathered, he was erect and smiling, looking as fit and healthy as the light-heavyweight champion of the world. Then after he finished his speech and answered questions from the floor and shook hands with everyone, we would help him into the car and he would lean back on the seat and close his eyes in pain.
Kennedy’s many maladies were not, however, what helped spur the creation of the 25th Amendment, though may have been had they been widely known. Rather, it was when Kennedy was shot that everything finally came to a head, with the question being asked, “What would have happened had Kennedy lived, but been in a brain-dead state?”
As previously noted, while one could interpret Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the Constitution in such a way as to provide for the vice president to take over almost immediately in such cases, the wording wasn’t concrete enough on this or for many other such scenarios in which the vice president might need to become Acting President. It wasn’t even clear in these cases if the vice president did take over if the original president should get the job back if they were once again fit for office later during the allotted term.
This ambiguity is a major issue if, say, a nuclear strike was launched against the United States in the interim from when the president was no longer fit for office and when the government finally got around to deciding the vice president should indeed take over.
Thus, about a year and a half after Kennedy’s assassination, in July of 1965, congress sent the 25th Amendment out to the states to ratify, which it finally was on February 10, 1967, clarifying what should be done in many of these scenarios.
So to sum up, the president is not given any allotment of sick days, but the 25th Amendment does provide them a mechanism to take such if they feel like they’re unable to perform the duties of the office. But, for reasons like that it’s not politically couth for the president to show any weakness, only two presidents in history have ever done this since it became an option- both of whom were having something done to their colon at the time…
For the rest, when they were medically incapacitated, they seem to generally try to hide this from the public whenever possible and to delegate tasks and rearrange their work schedule as best they could to take a little time off. And, where they couldn’t do such, they simply muscled through the rest of their duties.
It’s noteworthy that before the ratification of the 25th Amendment, the office of the vice president was vacant for various reasons about 1/5th of the history of the United States up to that point. Nobody much concerned themselves with this until more recent history when the vice president more or less became the “deputy president”. Since then, and thanks to the 25th Amendment clarifying such, the office of Vice President is obviously meticulously kept filled.
As noted, even when a president is “on vacation” they’re still expected to work and most modern presidents have typically travelled with an entourage of hundreds, including military advisers and even the press to ensure they’re remain briefed and aware of any relevant information they may need. To quote Nancy Reagan about the matter, “presidents don’t get vacations — they just get a change of scenery”.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter
There was a plane designed during World War II and completed just after cessation of hostilities that served for 13 years but was never called upon to fly an operational mission: the B-36. According to some, this is a sign that it was so successful at deterrence that no foreign adversary wanted to tussle with it. But it’s not that clear cut.
The B-36 Peacemaker was massive, weighing in at 278,000 pounds without bombs or fuel, but could tip the scales at 410,000 pounds when it had its 86,000 pounds of bombs and a full fuel load. And those 86,000 pounds of bombs could be made up of conventional or nuclear weapons.
The design phase for the aircraft began in 1941 when American leaders asked for a plane that could take off in the states, fly into Germany and bomb Berlin, and then fly back home. But the first B-36 prototype rolled out of a hangar six days after the Japanese forces surrendered, ending World War II. Its maiden flight didn’t take place until August 8, 1946, almost a year after the end of the war.
The final design had a wing span of 230 feet and featured six engines and propellers. These propellers were mounted on the back of the wing, pushing the aircraft through the sky instead of pulling it. At that point in history, it was one of the largest planes to ever fly.
Over the following 16 years, the Army and then the Air Force devoted increasing amounts of time and money to studying and then experimenting with the concept. In 1951, they selected the B-36 Peacemaker, the only aircraft large enough to hold the test reactor and the necessary cockpit modifications to protect the crew.
One B-36 was modified into the NB-36, the nuclear-powered bomber. While it flew 47 test flights and had a powered reactor for most of them, it only ever flew using conventional fuel as scientists and engineers studied how the reactor worked in flight. Advances in conventional aircraft design made a nuclear-powered bomber largely irrelevant, and the program was shelved in 1958.
The larger plane would head towards its target and, if it was spotted by enemy radar or fighters, would release a fighter from its belly. The fighter pilot would engage the enemy forces, breaking them up or destroying them before returning to its parent bomber.
The B-36 would then receive the fighter into its belly again and continue toward the target. The advent of mid-air refueling made the concept obsolete, and it also ended the necessity of larger bombers with larger fuel tanks like the B-36. After all, a smaller bomber with more conservative tanks could take off, top up on fuel just outside of the enemy air defense ring, and then pierce the airspace.
So, the B-36 had a long and fairly storied career without once going on an operational mission against an enemy force. It gets a lot of credit for that, but it’s not actually the only aircraft to carry that distinction. The B-47 Stratojet and the B-58 Hustler were jet-powered aircraft with a similar mission to the piston-powered B-36.
They were all designed to fly from U.S. bases, drop big bomb loads, and then fly home. They were all nuclear-capable and they all went their entire careers without dropping a bomb on an enemy — but that alone doesn’t necessarily mean that they were or weren’t successful bombers.
While their strategic deterrence mission was important, they were unsuitable for a conventional bombing mission because they all had handling or speed issues that made leaders worried they would be too susceptible to being shot down. So, it’s not really that they were too good to need to drop bombs, it’s that they were too specialized for a specific deterrence to complete the operational missions.
The modern B-1 and B-2 stealth bombers, on the other hand, have both served as nuclear-deterrent bombers but had the handling, speed, and stealth necessary to survive while dropping bombs in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
In fact, the U.S. will likely turn to these modern successors to the B-36 in case of war with China, Russia or North Korean, not for their nuclear payloads but for their value at dropping conventional bombs (the B-1 has been modified to remove its nuclear capability to comply with treaties).
So, toast the success of the B-36 and its peers — but don’t forget the modern bombers that rose above the forebears.
The date was April 23, 1975, the war in Vietnam was winding down and the world was waiting to see what America would choose to do. President Ford gave a speech to the people from Tulane University. During that speech he told the citizens of the U.S. and the rest of the world that as far as America was concerned, the war was over.
He stated, “Today, America can regain the sense of pride that existed before Vietnam. But it cannot be achieved by re-fighting a war.” With these words he made it very clear that he would not be sending troops back over, despite the pleas for support from the South Vietnamese.
At this time, North Vietnam was surrounding the city of Saigon, preparing for a final assault on the capital city. The military leaders of South Vietnam ordered their troops to withdraw to the Highlands to a more defensible position. The biggest issue was that the South Vietnamese were largely outnumbered by the North Vietnamese. When they met in battle at Xuan Loc on April 21, it was clear that the end was near. Between the loss at that battle and President Ford’s speech at Tulane, South Vietnam had little hope that they could emerge victorious.
By the time April 27 dawned, North Vietnam forces had completely surrounded Saigon. They soon began their final push and assault on the city. On April 30, when North Vietnamese tanks burst through the gates of the Presidential Palace, the South Vietnamese were battered and beaten, and surrendered there and then. The war in Vietnam was officially over.
The Vietnam War was controversial from day one, especially in the U.S. It remained so through its duration, and beyond. President Ford made the choice to pull the American troops out of Vietnam and not send them back, even though South Vietnam pleaded with him to do so. This too was surely a controversial decision. The Vietnam War was an instance where no matter what was done, someone felt it was the wrong choice. The people of the United States at that time were not shy about shouting their opinions from every rooftop, either.
Those who were against the war, which was a good portion of the country, even made sure the soldiers returning home knew how they felt. The soldiers were not met with fanfare and welcome homes as were the soldiers of past wars, or as the soldiers of future wars would be. They were not given help or support in adjusting back to their lives at home. It seemed the people, the government and the country as a whole were perfectly happy to sweep the entire war and all those involved under the rug and simply move on.
Even now, 45 years after the war ended, the Vietnam War is still considered one of the most controversial wars in history. It is still often talked about in whispers, or not talked about at all. While there have been movements over the past two decades to give the Vietnam Veterans the recognition they deserve, it is still a fight everyday against the stigma felt during that time.
America as a country did as Ford said, “Regain the sense of pride that existed before Vietnam.” For those who fought in the war, however, there was no sense of pride found. They each had no choice but to go through the process of living a ‘normal’ life. For many this proved impossible, the war having taken every piece of them away.
It’s been 45 years since Saigon fell, 45 years since the war in Vietnam ended. Many of those men who fought in those jungles still live with the realities of that war every day. Now is the time to give them the recognition and appreciation they have always deserved. They didn’t choose to fight that battle. But, they answered the call when heeded. Today and every day, thank our Vietnam Veterans and show them the appreciation they never and should have received when they came home.
No President is 100 percent flawless in any aspect of their presidency. Even former generals can make bad calls when it comes to being the Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces. And even though their military decisions may look good at the time, history could judge the president for not having the vision to nip potential trouble spots in the bud.
He vastly overestimated the United States’ ability to wage war, and when U.S. troops burned York (present day Toronto), he opened the door to the burning of Washington.
5 – James Monroe
Monroe sent Andrew Jackson to invade Spanish Florida and attack the hostile natives there, despite not being at war with Spain.
6 – John Quincy Adams
Rather than build up the Navy to project U.S. power and protect American interests, he just did nothing.
7 – Andrew Jackson
Jackson began the systematic removal of natives from American territory, while neglecting the Navy.
8 – Martin Van Buren
Van Buren continued Jackson’s anti-Native policy while continuing to neglect the U.S. Navy
9 – William Henry Harrison
Harrison died thirty days into his presidency — before he could even make a military decision.
10 – John Tyler
Built the world’s largest naval cannon, which exploded during a demonstration.
11 – James K. Polk
Micromanaging the war with Mexico took its toll on his health and eventually killed him.
12 – Zachary Taylor
He ate cholera-ridden ice milk and cherries.
13 – Milliard Fillmore
Fillmore’s worst call was not invading Cuba, despite the constant headaches it posed then and in the future.
14 – Franklin Pierce
Pierce let Kansas decide if it would be a free or slave state, which led to Kansas being flooded with zealots from both sides, who promptly killed each other.
15 – James Buchanan
He left the secession crisis for Lincoln.
16 – Abraham Lincoln
Lincoln kept McClellan in command of the Union Army for way too long.
17 – Andrew Johnson
Instead of fulfilling the vision of Abraham Lincoln’s Reconstruction, Johnson used federal forces to punish the South.
18 – Ulysses S. Grant
The former Union general worried about being perceived as a dictator, but he still used the military to enforce laws in the South.
19 – Rutherford B. Hayes
Hayes used the Army to break up workers strikes in nonessential industries, which was especially violent in Pittsburgh.
20 – James. A. Garfield
James Garfield’s biggest mistake was foregoing a security detail (he was assassinated).
21 – Chester A. Arthur
Arthur hired political cronies to overhaul the Navy, which angered Congress, who withheld much of the funds.
22 – Grover Cleveland
Cleveland vetoed pensions for Civil War veterans.
23 – Benjamin Harrison
Harrison ordered the Massacre at Wounded Knee.
24 – Grover Cleveland
Cleveland broke up a rail workers strike with the Army because he wanted them to deliver the mail.
25 – William McKinley
Instead of giving the Philippines its independence, he subjugated the population.
26 – Theodore Roosevelt
The man’s been dead for almost a hundred years and I’m still afraid to criticize him (no comment).
27 – William Howard Taft
Taft kept U.S. troops as occupiers of Latin American countries, sowing mistrust and discord in the Western Hemisphere that continues to this day.
28 – Woodrow Wilson
Wilson was more concerned with his Fourteen Point peace plan than noticing Germany was being beaten up in the WWI armistice, one of the major causes of World War II.
29 – Warren G. Harding
Harding removed U.S. troops from Cuba instead of annexing it, which would give the U.S. a lot of trouble in the coming decades.
30 – Calvin Coolidge
Silent Cal neglected to maintain the Navy because World War I was over.
31 – Herbert Hoover
Hoover ordered a young General MacArthur to disperse the Bonus Army by force.
32 – Franklin D. Roosevelt
Roosevelt put a lot of misplaced trust in Stalin, who promptly used that trust against the U.S.
33 – Harry S. Truman
Truman thought the Chinese wouldn’t intervene in the Korean War even if MacArthur conquered the entire peninsula.
34 – Dwight D. Eisenhower
Ordered the CIA to overthrow Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran and put the Shah back in power.
35 – John F. Kennedy
Kennedy greenlit the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and then neglected to give them air support.
36 – Lyndon B. Johnson
LBJ escalated what was a civil war into a grand international conflict because he could only see Communists and didn’t understand Vietnam was fighting more for its independence from outside domination.
37 – Richard Nixon
Nixon’s scheme to get the country out of the Vietnam War started with bombing and then invading Cambodia.
38 – Gerald Ford
Ford ordered Marines back to Indochina to rescue hostages on a mission that ended with a 41 percent casualty rate, adding to the Vietnam War dead even though the war had been over for 2 years.
39 – Jimmy Carter
Carter ordered the all-too-complex Operation Eagle Claw to get hostages out of Iran, which ended disasterously.
40 – Ronald Reagan
Sent Marines to Beirut as peacekeepers, even though half the Lebanese factions fighting there were allied with Iran and lost 241 troops in a barracks bombing in 1983.
41 – George H.W. Bush
Bush’s invasion of Panama, while one of the most successful military operations in U.S. history, took a large toll on the civilian population and infrastructure.
When decked out in his full royal regalia, the Prince of Wales looks much like what you think a 69-year-old aristocrat might — much like what you think a stereotypical soon-to-be king might. His military uniform is emblazoned with medals, ropes, pins, patches, and other decorations worthy of someone who may soon occupy the biggest seat in the entire United Kingdom.
Which is amazing, considering he hasn’t seen combat once in his life.
Britain itself has not been devoid of conflict, even within Charles’ relatively short lifetime. He was born three years after the end of the Second World War, but broke royal tradition by going straight to university instead of joining the military after his secondary education. When he did join the armed forces in the 1970s, he did stints in both the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. Even though he was late to the game, there was still plenty of action to see.
Armed British soldiers in Northern Ireland during The Troubles.
During Charles’ service window, the UK saw a number of shooting conflicts, most notably the Falklands War with Argentina and The Troubles, a military occupation of Northern Ireland. He saw action in neither conflict.
While the Prince of Wales didn’t see combat duty, he still trained vigorously with the members of units to which he was attached. He has trained in undersea warfare and commanded a Royal Navy Destroyer and has learned to fly helicopters and twin-engine jet fighters with the RAF. Charles also successfully completed the parachute regiment’s jump training at an age much older than the average recruit.
Charles, tasked to lead the parachute regiment in 1978, decided he would be unfit to lead them without undergoing the training himself. He was 30 years old.
Charles also commands the Welsh Guards, leading the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony on Horse Guards Parade, marking Queen Elizabeth’s official birthday.
The Prince wears the ceremonial uniform of Colonel of the Welsh Guards during the Trooping the Colour Ceremony.
So, this isn’t to say Charles’ medals are somehow unearned. He wears no medals for valor in combat. Instead, he wears the appropriate regalia, given his service, ranks in the Navy and Air Force, and appropriate titles. He wears the Order of Merit, the Order of the Bath, and the Queen’s Service Order, all for service to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.
Other decorations of note include medals related to the Queen herself, including the Queen’s Coronation medal, Queen’s Silver Jubilee medal, and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee medal, all awarded for a celebration of his mother ascending to the throne and her continued reign as Queen. He also wears awards from Canada and New Zealand, and wears the Order of the Garter, chosen and awarded by the Queen herself.
The Prince of Wales and Prince Harry presented Operational Medals to the 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
It’s a tradition for men in the Royal family to serve in the military. Charles’ father, Prince Philip, served in World War II and his sons, William and Harry, both served. Harry famously deployed to combat duties in Afghanistan in recent years.
Once the US entered World War II, the government did not have any time to waste in getting new air bases and training facilities up and running. One of such bases was a short eight miles outside of Herington Kansas: the Herington Army Airfield. Construction on the base began in September 1942 with completion just 14 months later. One minute it was a grassy prairie and the next, a rumbling concrete jungle. Who would have thought?
Herington’s Path from Rags to Riches
Herington Army Airfield’s original purpose was to serve as an Interceptor Command Base for B-17 and B-24 Bombers from the Wichita Boeing Assembling Plant. But by June 1944, Herington kicked it up a notch and was transformed into one of the most powerful Air Bases of World War II.
They expanded the runways for B-29 Superfortress bombers, the largest, most devastating war machines the world had ever seen. The rapid building, modification, and delivery of tons and tons of B-29’s was nicknamed the Battle of Kansas, in part because of all the technical issues these massive aircraft faced in their production. Also, it was up to the already overworked, tired personnel at Herington and other Kansas airfields to get these machines up and running.
But Herington exceeded expectations. Of all the B-29’s that went to war, 60 percent were processed at Herington. At its height, it processed an average of 76 aircraft and 86 crews per month. It was a B-29 processed by Herington, the Enola Gay, which dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and ended the war once and for all. In other words, Herington was as essential to the war as they come.
Turning a Depression Town Upside-Down
Herington served the people of the US in more ways than providing top-notch fighter planes and crews, however. The war effort turned Herington from a sad Depression town into a booming hotspot in the middle of Kansas. Farmers, housewives, and high schoolers all had to go to work to support the base. People opened their homes and turned spare bedrooms into spaces to accommodate Airmen and their sweethearts.
Herington’s Slow Return to Mother Nature
Then suddenly, the war ended, and Herington Army Airfield was shut down and considered surplus war property. Still, plenty of its structures were salvaged for reuse. This includes buildings that were transformed from housing for troops to housing for farm animals. Next, the infirmary turned into Herington’s municipal hospital. Beech Aircraft Corporation bought the runways for airplane manufacturing. When Beech left Herington in 1960, the former base was all but forgotten for many years. It wasn’t until 1988 when an entrepreneur from California bought the derelict north-end hangar for his company Military Aircraft Restoration Corporation and poured money into its restoration. Today, it technically still serves as a place to restore old warbirds, though sadly, production is now at an indefinite standstill and Mother Nature is slowly taking the area back over as her own.