The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba

In June 1898, Spanish soldiers on duty in Santiago, Cuba were shocked and surprised when the city began exploding around them. No one heard the crack of offshore cannons, but sure enough, there was an American ship out in the water, firing at the town.

In the dark and without warning, the high-explosive shot from the ship was a psychological victory for the Americans. Spanish soldiers in Cuba would have to be on high alert, as the United States could strike without warning. 

The ship offshore of Santiago that night was the USS Vesuvius. The stealthy rounds it was able to fire at the city came not from a cannon filed with gunpowder and somehow silenced, but rather it was fired by compressed air. 

When we think of a compressed air gun these days, many of us probably think of airsoft players running around the woods somewhere. But at the end of the 19th century, compressed air cannons were a major technological innovation for naval warfare. 

Most often known as Dynamite Cannons, the compressed air guns of the Vesuvius and other ships usd multiple tanks of compressed air to fire high explosive rounds. The technological advancement was a necessity due to the new high-explosive rounds used by the Navy and elsewhere.  

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba
Photograph of U.S.S. Vesuvius, barrels of dynamite guns. (LOC Photo, Public Domain)

Early high explosive rounds were notoriously unstable. Though they could be carried aboard ships, firing one of these rounds using a traditional gunpowder charge would cause the shell to explode right as it left the muzzle of the gun. It needed a more gradual acceleration to keep the shell from exploding right away. Enter compressed air. 

The compressed air not only had the advantage of not killing the gun crews and tearing a hole in the ship, it allowed for ships like Vesuvius to slip into enemy water undetected and get off a few rounds without the enemy knowing it just fired its deck guns. Another advantage was, like the Spanish soldiers in Santiago experienced, the sheer terror of being shelled from the sea without any advance warning. 

On top of all that, the shells were lightweight and the compression could be reloaded aboard the ship at sea. They did have drawbacks, however. The compressed air that allowed the guns to fire off rounds without sound or the explosive death of the men who fired them meant that it had a lower muzzle velocity. As a result, the guns had to fire at a high angle which decreased their accuracy. 

The Americans were also able to use field artillery with the same technology. These field guns were also used on Santiago, this time by land-based forces. Col. Theodore Roosevelt and his volunteers fielded a Sims-Dudley Dynamite Gun when capturing the city, but the future president was unimpressed, despite the improved accuracy of the field model.

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba
Sims-Dudley 4 Inch Dynamite Gun on Field Mount (Wikipedia)

Other models of Dynamite Gun could be placed on shore batteries, use steam to refill the pneumatic firing charges, or affixed to submarines. Like their seaborne cousins, the land-based models had drawbacks of their own. Some of the steam-driven cannons required 200 tons of equipment to use, fire and reload. 

Improvements in the development of high explosives and high explosive rounds led to the quick demise of the Dynamite Guns and their use in land or sea combat. When the Army and Navy could go back to more traditional gunpowder charges, they did so almost immediately and compressed air guns became a footnote in history.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch the actual footage of George Bush’s WWII sea rescue

During World War II, George H.W. Bush served in the U.S. Navy. A pilot assigned to a torpedo squadron in the Pacific Theater, Bush flew the TBM Avenger, a torpedo bomber capable of taking off from aircraft carriers that would famously see combat during the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942.

Bush enlisted in the Navy’s flight training program fresh out of high school, becoming one of the Navy’s youngest aviators. He first saw action in May 1944 and would go on to fly 58 combat missions. Then, on Sept. 2, 1944, he was hit by anti-aircraft fire during an attack run on the Japanese-occupied island of Chichi Jima.

“Suddenly there was a jolt,” Bush wrote later, “as if a massive fist had crunched into the belly of the plane. Smoke poured into the cockpit, and I could see flames rippling across the crease of the wing, edging toward the fuel tanks.”

His two crewmembers were killed in the attack, leaving the young pilot to complete his bombing run against a radio facility and bail out alone over the Pacific into jellyfish-infested waters. During the egress, he struck his head, which bled profusely as he swam to a life raft and hoped for rescue.

He was one of the lucky ones. Many aviators struck down during that battle where captured and executed and, according to Bradley James’ bestselling novel Flyboys: A True Story of Courage, their livers even eaten by their captors.

After four hours, the USS Finback, a lifeguard submarine, found him. Now you can watch the video from the moment when the Finback’s crew pulled from the water the man who would go on to become the Director of Central Intelligence and the 41st president of the United States, serving from 1989 to 1993. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions during the mission.

President George H.W. Bush died on Nov. 30, 2018, at the age of 94 years old.

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY HISTORY

Keep Women’s History Month alive with these 10 books

When you open a history book, you’re usually confronted with the faces and stories of white men of the past. And while we’re not here to diminish the accomplishments of those men, it’s also high time we shine a brighter light on the women who fought tirelessly in their shadows. Their bravery paved the way for the Michelle Obamas and Elizabeth Warrens of our present-day—an era in which female voices are finally being heard through movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp.


Also read: 11 classic banned books written by veterans

March is Women’s History Month, so we’ve curated a list of insightful reads about the powerful ladies who came before us. From tales about “witches” to those of female war correspondents, these books tell the stories of women who changed history and thus shaped the future.

1. Daughters of the Inquisition

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba
(Seven Springs Press)

By Christina Crawford

After years of suffering, the author of Mommie Dearest rose above past traumas by connecting with—and harnessing—an inner fortitude. But what exactly are the origins of this strength, and what was its legacy? This is the question that forms the soul of Crawford’s latest book, Daughters of the Inquisition, which examines the colorful history and indefatigable spirit of womanhood. From the Goddess-worshipping Neolithic period to the violent misogyny of the 12th century, Crawford peels back 10,000 years to reveal the roles, battles, and unique powers of the female kind.

2. The Gentle Tamers

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba
(Open Road Media)

By Dee Brown

Our perception of the Old West is clouded by gun-slinging cowboys, saloon brawls, and John Wayne, but its history is far richer—and far more female—than we’ve been told. In The Gentle Tamers, the author of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee wipes the dust from our eyes, revealing the forgotten but indelible marks left by the female adventurers and pioneers of the region.

3. The Women Who Wrote the War

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba
(Skyhorse)

By Nancy Caldwell Sorel

Take a trip back to the Second World War, and discover the astonishing tales of its courageous female correspondents. One-hundred writers are covered in The Women Who Wrote the War, and author Nancy Caldwell Sorel draws multi-dimensional portraits of familiar faces—reporter Martha Gellhorn, for example—but never overlooks the accomplishments of more under-the-radar heroines. It’s a comprehensive and inspiring chronicle of the fiercely independent ladies who were soldiers armed with mighty pens.

Related: 6 women just earned the Expert Infantryman Badge

4. To Believe in Women

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba
(HMH)

By Lillian Faderman Professor

Female trailblazers like Eleanor Roosevelt and Susan B. Anthony were “women who lived in committed relationships with other women”—and, according to Lillian Faderman, were likely lesbians. In her book, Faderman argues that it was these women who, bolstered by the unique power of their sexual orientation, were able to instigate the social and feminist movements of the past two centuries. Featuring the recovered, eye-opening correspondence of Faderman’s subjects, To Believe in Women is an unmissable tribute to the lesbians who changed America.

5. The Peabody Sisters

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba
(HMH)

By Megan Marshall

While we’re all familiar with the Brontë brood, there’s another trio of sisters worth your attention: the Peabodys. Elizabeth, the eldest, matriculated in the same social circles as Henry Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, and ultimately sparked the Transcendentalist movement of the 19th century. Mary, next in line, was a notable writer and the wife of Horace Mann, a major player in U.S. educational reform. Meanwhile the youngest, Sophia, found fame as a painter and a husband in author Nathaniel Hawthorne. Each Peabody woman comes alive in Megan Marshall’s Pulitzer Prize finalist, which is at once a three-part biography as well as an overall study of a remarkable sisterhood.

6. Once Upon a Pedestal

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba
(Open Road Media)

By Emily Hahn

If you don’t know the name “Emily Hahn,” it’s high-time you do. As a young woman, Hahn briefly left the arts to pursue an education in engineering. After becoming her university program’s first female graduate, Hahn traveled America disguised as a man, established herself as a writer, hiked across Central Africa, and taught English in Shanghai. Once Upon a Pedestal is Hahn’s account of these extraordinary adventures which, though not widely known, informed her novels and reshaped our perception of Asia and Africa.

7. Witches, Midwives, and Nurses

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba
(The Feminist Press at CUNY)

By Barbara Ehrenreich

Originally published in 1973, this feminist classic examines the complex relationship between women and the medicine. Of particular focus is the infamous persecution of “witches”—or, rather, the demonization of women healers—by male doctors wanting to maintain absolute control over the field. Thus, Ehrenreich’s book not only provides a fascinating history of female oppression in the medical community, but also sheds light on how these practices continue to effect the modern-day healthcare system.

More: The 9 best nonfiction history audiobooks you can get right now

8. When and Where I Enter

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba
(HarperCollins)

By Paula J. Giddings

When and Where I Enter explores black women’s contribution to the creation and evolution of present-day America—and boy, is it a large one. From activist Ida B. Wells to civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer, these women instigated major social and political reform by bucking against the racism and sexism of their time. Giddings’ discussion of “white feminism” also feels especially prevalent today.

9. The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba
(Princeton University Press)

By Adrienne Mayor

Amazons have recently come into mainstream consciousness thanks to the blockbuster film, Wonder Woman — but did the likes of Hippolyta and Antiope exist outside of Greek mythology? Adrienne Mayor’s book offers a resounding “yes.” Through an analysis of archaeological findings, cultural traditions, and ancient myths, Mayor highlights how real-life warrior women from Egypt, India, and more inspired your favorite Amazonian war and love stories.

10. The Woman’s Hour

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba
(Penguin Publishing Group)

By Elaine Weiss

It’s 1920, and all of America is waiting to see if women will finally be granted the right to vote—a decision that lies in the hands of swing-state Tennessee. But the country is divided: The suffragettes stand on one side while their enemy is a smattering of big-wig politicians and fearful moralists. Elaine Weiss studies this landmark moment in The Woman’s Hour, following a diverse group of women as they fight for their freedom and change the course of American history.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How a daredevil pilot escaped Germany and invented air warfare

World War I pilots began by simply waving at each other in flight, greeting their adversary as each pilot headed to his own reconnaissance mission. But as World War I quickly became brutal—and the pilots themselves saw friends die on the ground by the thousands and in the air by the dozens—they quickly sought out ways to kill each other.


And one of the pioneers who pulled it off was Roland Garros, a daredevil pilot who barely escaped Germany with a night flight into Switzerland at the war’s start.

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba

French Pilot Roland Garros in a plane with a canine.

(Public domain)

Garros was a French pilot who had already made a name for himself as a daredevil and aviation expert by flying across the Mediterranean in 1913. But when World War I broke out, he was in Germany and made his unscheduled night flight into Switzerland to get away, quickly joining the Storks Squadron, a group of aviators who would be the highest ranked French air-to-air combatants in the war.

And Garros led the way. Fighter combat in the air began with pilots carrying pistols to shoot at enemy aviators and darts to drop on hostile troops on the ground. But most pilots were looking for some way to mount machine guns on their planes.

But pilots usually looked through propeller blades while flying, and that was the most logical place to mount a gun for pilots to control. But, obviously, shooting through their own propeller would inevitably cause the pilot to shoot down himself. One of the early fixes was to mount the machine gun above the propeller blades, but that pointed the gun into a weird angle, and no one was able to shoot anyone down with that configuration.

Garros figured out another way. He mounted his gun right in front of his seat so he could look down the barrel to aim. To get around the problem of destroying his propeller, he simply armored the wooden blades with a metal sheath and trusted them to deflect those rounds that would’ve downed him while the rest of the rounds flew toward his target.

And it worked. On Aug. 25, 1914, Garros and Lt. de Bernis successfully engaged a German airplane and damaged it with gunfire, wounding one of the German pilots and forcing the plane to turn and run.

It is sometimes counted as the first known aerial victory, though it’s important to note that “aerial victory” today is often used to refer to shooting down an enemy plane, not forcing it to run. That feat was first accomplished Oct. 5 by another French pilot.

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba

An illustration of aerial combat in World War I.

(Public domain)

But Garros would go on to down five enemy planes in March 1915, causing the American press to dub him an “ace,” one of the first times that term was used. He also may have been the first pilot to achieve five kills.

Either way, his bravery, and ingenuity helped put France at the forefront of the changing face of aerial warfare. Unfortunately, air combat was a risky business, and Garros would not survive the war. In April 1915, he was shot down and crashed behind German lines.

He quickly attempted to burn his plane to hide how the forward-firing machine gun worked, but he was captured before he could complete the coup. He would spend the next three years in a prisoner of war camp before escaping, achieving new aerial victories in 1918, but then dying in combat on Oct. 5,1918.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The “White Feather Sniper,” Carlos Hathcock

At a young age, Carlos Norman Hathcock II would go into the woods with his dog and the Mauser his father brought back from World War II to pretend to be a soldier. Hathcock dreamed of being a Marine throughout his childhood, and on May 20, 1959, at the age of 17, he enlisted.

In 1966, Hathcock started his deployment in South Vietnam. He initially served as a military policeman and later, owing to his reputation as a skilled marksman, served as a sniper.


The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba

The Hathcock brothers and a friend, shooting as children.

USMC Photo

During the Vietnam War, Hathcock had 93 confirmed kills of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong personnel. However, kills had to be confirmed by an acting third party, who had to be an officer, besides the sniper’s spotter. Hathcock estimated that he actually killed between 300 and 400 enemy soldiers.

In one instance, Hathcock saw a glint reflecting off an enemy sniper’s scope. He fired at it, sending a round through the enemy’s own rifle scope, hitting him in the eye and killing him.

Hathcock’s notoriety grew among the Viet Cong and NVA, who reportedly referred to him Du kích Lông Trắng (“White Feather Sniper”) because of the white feather he kept tucked in a band on his bush hat. The enemy placed a bounty on his head. After a platoon of Vietnamese snipers tried to hunt him down, many Marines donned white feathers to deceive the enemy. Hathcock successfully fought off numerous enemy snipers during the remainder of his deployment.

Hathcock did once remove the white feather from his bush hat during a volunteer mission. The mission was so risky he was not informed of its details until he accepted it. Transported to a field by helicopter, Hathcock crawled over 1,500 yards in a span of four days and three nights, without sleep, to assassinate an NVA general. At times, Hathcock was only a few feet away from patrolling enemy soldiers. He was also nearly bitten by a snake. Once in position, Hathcock waited for the general to exit his encampment before shooting. After completing this mission, Hathcock came back to the United States in 1967. However, missing the service, he returned to Vietnam in 1969, taking command of a sniper platoon.

On September 16, 1969, an AMTRAC Hathcock was riding on struck an anti-tank mine. He pulled seven Marines from the vehicle, suffering severe burns in the process. Hathcock received the Purple Heart while he was recuperating. Nearly 30 years later, he received a Silver Star for this action.

After returning to active duty, Hathcock helped establish the Marine Corps Scout Sniper School at the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia. However, he was in near constant pain due to his injuries, and in 1975, his health began to deteriorate. After diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, he medically discharged in 1979. Feeling forced out of the Marines, Hathcock fell into a state of depression. But with the help of his wife, and his newfound hobby of shark fishing, Hathcock eventually overcame his depression. Despite being retired from the military, Hathcock continued providing sniper instruction to police departments and select military units, such as SEAL Team Six.

Hathcock passed away Feb. 22, 1999, in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

We honor his service.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘grunt’

Major H.G. Duncan of the United States Marine Corps once defined a grunt as, “a term of affection used to denote that filthy, sweaty, dirt-encrusted, footsore, camouflage-painted, tired, sleepy, beautiful little son of a b*tch who has kept the wolf away from the door for over two hundred years.”


While this is true, we often think of the term as being synonymous with infantryman — you know, the guy who kicks in the doors and blows things up — but the fact of the matter is that terms like this and ‘POG’ have relatively unknown origins. If you were to ask a service member about these terms, the response is typically a definition, not a history lesson.

 

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba
This is a grunt. He’s tired of your whining. (image via Reddit)

Related: The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

Some say the term started in Vietnam when POGs needed their own term to describe the dirty, smelly infantrymen who made fun of the troops who sat in air-conditioned buildings all day instead of getting stuck in the jungle. Legend has it that the first POG to use the term was making a reference to the same term as used in the early 1900s to describe those who performed the less desirable jobs, which were typically physically demanding but not mentally stimulating. In this story, the first grunt to hear the term was unfamiliar with its history and instead took it as a compliment.

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba
Let’s be real, grunts do the things you’d rather lie about doing when you go home.

But, much like the term ‘POG,’ ‘grunt’ can also be thought of as an acronym. This origin story takes us back to the second World War when infantry united sustained extremely high casualty rates, forcing troops from rear-echelon units (often referred to as rear-echelon motherf*ckers or REMF) forward they were quickly trained, often in-theatre, to be foot soldiers. These troops were categorized as “General Replacement Unit, Not Trained,” or GRUNT.

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba
Some of these REMFs hadn’t even shot an M1 rifle before. (Image via Pinterest)

Also read: 6 ways for a POG to be accepted by grunts

Whichever piece of history you find to be more believable, the fact remains that infantry soldiers and Marines really do a lot of grunt work. These days, you might find infantrymen who have spent just as much time with a mop or broom than with their own rifles. Being just as accustomed to the smell of Pine-Sol as spent brass.

No matter the case, infantrymen tend to see their nickname as a compliment — unlike those uptight POGs.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Native Americans ended up fighting for the Confederacy

Even after Confederate commander Robert E. Lee surrendered in Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865, one Confederate army refused to acknowledge defeat and for months stubbornly fought on.

It was led not by one of the wealthy white southerners who made up much of the Confederacy’s officer class — but by a Native American chief called Stand Watie.

So how did a leader of a people facing systematic persecution come to fight for a cause founded on racism and the right to own slaves?

The story illustrates how in the Civil War, the presence of a common enemy caused unexpected alliances to be formed, including an alliance Paul Chaat Smith, a curator at the National Museum of the Native American, has characterized as a “mangy, snarling dog standing between you and a crowd-pleasing narrative.”


Watie was himself a plantation holder and slave owner, and had settled in Oklahoma after playing a central role in events that resulted in the eviction of thousands of Native Americans from their land in what is now Georgia.

He was born in 1806 in Cherokee country near what is now Rome, Georgia, and was given the Cherokee name Degataga, meaning “stand firm.”

His father — also a slave owner – was baptized, giving his son the Christian name Isaac S Uwatie. Dropping the ‘U’ and combining it with his Cherokee name, his son took the name Stand Watie.

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba

General Stand Watie, leader of a Native American army which fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.

(National Archives Catalogue)

In 1835, Watie was one of the Cherokee leaders to sign the treaty of New Echota handing over Cherokee ancestral territory to the federal government. In exchange they were granted land to resettle the nation west, in Indian Territory, in what is now Oklahoma.

Some refused to leave and were forcibly removed by the government. It is believed that nearly 4,000 Cherokee died attempting to make the journey to Indian Territory after 1838 in what has become known as the Trail of Tears.

Four years after the treaty, the Cherokee turned against those who had signed away their land, assassinating three of them. Watie survived.

Cherokee chief John Ross, who opposed the treaty, became an adamant enemy of Watie.

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba

John Ross, Cherokee Chief, Protested Treaty of New Echota, 1835, and Subsequent Forcible Removal of Cherokees to the West During Winter of 1838-39.

In 1861, Georgia ceded from the Union, becoming one of the original seven states that formed the slave-owning Confederacy.

That same year, Watie raised a force of Native Americans to fight for the Confederacy as North and South went to war.

It was the federal government, responsible for robbing Cherokee of their ancestral land, which Watie — in common with many of his people — saw as his main enemy, not the Confederacy.

And shockingly, many Cherokee were themselves slave owners, with some taking their slaves with them to Indian Territory after the forced resettlements west.

Smith has described the Cherokee as “deeply committed to slavery.”

He told the Smithsonian Magazine they “established their own racialized black codes, immediately reestablished slavery when they arrived in Indian territory, rebuilt their nations with slave labor, crushed slave rebellions, and enthusiastically sided with the Confederacy in the Civil War.”

Watie’s force earned a fearsome reputation, performing audacious raids behind enemies lines and attacking Native American settlements loyal to the Union.

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba

The surrender of General Lee to General Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, April 9, 1865.

Even as the majority of Cherokee repudiated the alliance with the Confederacy in 1862, Watie remained loyal. So successful was he as a military commander that in 1865 Waite was promoted to the rank of brigadier general, one of only two native Americans to achieve the rank in the conflict.

In wasn’t until June 23, 1865 — 154 years ago — that Watie surrendered to Union forces in Doaksville, Oklahoma. In doing so, he became the last Confederate general to lay down his arms in the Civil War.

His force at the time comprised Creek, Seminole, Cherokee, and Osage Indians.

Watie led a delegation of his Cherokee faction in Washington DC in 1866 to negotiate a new treaty with US government. Their loyalty to the Confederacy meant the old treaties had been torn up.

The new treaty signed by Watie granted former slaves tribal citizenship.

After the war, Watie spent the rest of his life as a businessman and plantation owner, and collecting his people’s folk tales and legends. He died in 1871.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

8 amazing facts about General Douglas MacArthur

Few military leaders in history are as iconic as General Douglas MacArthur. He was a bigger-than-life figure who rose to five-star rank and grew to believe in his own myth so much that he thought he was above the Constitution and ultimately had to be brought down by the President of the United States.


Here are 8 amazing facts about the general known as the “American Caesar”:

 

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba
MacArthur signing the articles of surrender aboard the USS Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay in 1945.

 

1. His parents were on different sides of the Civil War

MacArthur’s father, Douglas Jr., was a Union general, and his mother was from a prominent Confederate family. Two of her brothers refused to attend the wedding.

2. His father and he are both recipients of the Medal of Honor

Douglas MacArthur, Jr. was bestowed the Medal of Honor for actions at the Battle of Missionary Ridge in 1863. His son received the Medal of Honor from President Roosevelt in 1942 for defending the Philippines.

3. His mom lived at a hotel on the West Point grounds the entire time he was a cadet

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba

MacArthur’s mom told him he had to be great like his dad or Robert E. Lee, and she made sure he stayed focused by living on campus near him. The semi-weird strategy worked in that he was number one in his class by far. His performance record was only bested in history by two other cadets, one from the Class of 1884 and Robert E. Lee himself.

4. He puked on the White House steps

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba
MacArthur riding between President Roosevelt and Adm. Chester Nimitz.

During a heated defense budget discussion with FDR in 1934, MacArthur lost his temper and told the Commander-in-chief that “when we lost the next war, and an American boy, lying in the mud with an enemy bayonet through his belly and an enemy foot on his dying throat, spat out his last curse, I wanted the name not to be MacArthur, but Roosevelt.” He tried to resign on the spot but Roosevelt refused it. MacArthur was so physically upset by the exchange that he threw up on the White House steps on the way out.

5. He wanted to be president

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba

Although he was still on active duty in 1944 he was drafted by a wing of the Republican Party to run against FDR. He even won the Illinois Primary before the party went with Dewey. He tried again in ’48 but quit after getting crushed in the Wisconsin Primary. His last attempt was in ’52 but the Republicans bypassed him for a less controversial (and more likeable) war hero, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

6. He didn’t return to the United States for six years after World War II

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba

Because he was in charge of ensuring post-war Japan didn’t fall into chaos (and became a democracy) and then in command of the Korean War effort, MacArthur didn’t return to the U.S. between 1945 and 1951.

7. He got a ticker tape parade in NYC after he was fired by Truman

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba

MacArthur was defiant in carrying out President Truman’s plan to end the Korean War, and the general carried out a campaign in Congress to authorize the complete takeover of North Korea. Truman was convinced that would result in World War III, and when MacArthur refused to back down the President had no choice but to remove him from command. Although disgraced, MacArthur was so popular he was treated like a hero on his way out, including having a ticker tape parade thrown in his honor down the streets of Manhattan.

8. He designed his signature look

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba
(AP Photo/File)

His cover, shades, and corncob pipe were all part of a look MacArthur cultivated himself. The pipe company, Missouri Meerschaum, continues to craft replicas of the general’s customized pipe, and Ray-Ban named a sunglass line after him in 1987.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

World War II has always been a popular subject for wargamers. On land, sea, or air, this conflict has an extensive library of options, whether it be a board game, a computer game, or miniatures rules. But all games are not equal. There are also tradeoffs – each type of game has its pros and cons.

One miniatures game for the World War II era (and about a decade beyond) is Command at Sea, part of the Admiralty Trilogy of wargames designed by Larry Bond. Bond’s most famous wargame, Harpoon, is notable for its use by author Tom Clancy in the development of Red Storm Rising.


Command at Sea is now in its fourth edition since 1994. This version has been harmonized so that its simulations are in the same format as the other games in the Admiralty Trilogy, Harpoon and Fear God and Dreadnought. This means that those who have these games could cover a war from 1989 to 2018 with very little difficulty.

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba

Can you, as America, did, turn back the Japanese in the Pacific, despite having power ships like the heavy cruiser Takao and the battleship Kirishima?

(Imperial Japanese Navy photo)

A substantial number of additional modules, supporting every major combatant and theater of the war, are available. One that came with earlier versions of the game is The Rising Sun in the Pacific, which covers the first half of the Second World War in the Pacific Theater, where pivotal battles like the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Battle of Midway, and the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal can be re-fought on one’s own tabletop, along with possible battles that could have taken place had history gone differently.

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba

USS Enterprise (CV 6) preparing to launch planes against the Japanese.

(US Navy photo)

Other modules include American Fleets, which covers just about every ship class and aircraft the United States used during the war, and a few, like the Montana-class battleships, which didn’t make it to the fleet. Another module is Steel Typhoon, which covers the second half of World War II in the Pacific with 36 scenarios of both historical and hypothetical battles. The system doesn’t just cover World War II. The Spanish Civil War, fought before World War II was seen as inevitable is covered in a module.

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba

With Command at Sea, USS Tuscaloosa (CA 37) could have a very different service career during World War II.

(US Navy photo)

Since this is a set of miniature rules, it has some advantages over computer simulations. The online store Wargamevault.com has this game and the modules in both downloadable PDF and hard-copy versions.

Articles

This Pearl Harbor hero refused to abandon his ship

December 7, 1941, is a heartrending day for Americans — even 75 years later.


Despite the solemn reminder that over 2,000 individuals perished that day, the instances of self-sacrifice and valor offer a source of inspiration to Americans.

Captain Bennion of the USS West Virginia is one of those men, immortalized forever for his stubborn refusal to give up his ship or abandon his men during one of America’s darkest hours.

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba
Medal of Honor Recipient Captain Mervyn Sharp Bennion. (Photo courtesy of the Naval Historical Center)

Mervyn Sharp Bennion was born in Utah Territory in May of 1887. He successfully graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1910, ranked third in his class. His roommate, Earl C. Metz, recalled the Mormon farmer’s sharp mind during his academic years. “He was able to concentrate mentally to a degree I have never seen equalled. He could read over a thing once and he had it. He had a perfectly marvellous brain and mental processes,” Metz recollected.

After graduation, Bennion served aboard the USS North Dakota as a lieutenant during the First World War. He methodically rose in the ranks of the Navy until he received command of the USS Bernadou in 1932. He returned to the Naval War College for a short time, and served as an instructor. On July 2, 1941, Bennion assumed command of the USS West Virginia of the U.S. Pacific Fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor. A little over five months after receiving the command he would be dead.

His brother, Howard Sharp Bennion, published an account of his deeds in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Captain Bennion was casually shaving in his cabin on the morning of December 7 before heading out to church service. This stillness in his cabin was disrupted when one of his sailors burst through the door and alerted him that a wave of Japanese aircraft was headed directly toward the vessel.

Bennion rushed to the deck and issued a series of orders to prepare for the imminent attack. It was not long before a low flying Japanese torpedo bomber dumped three bombs on the West Virginia, causing severe damage and tearing a hole in its side.

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba
A rescue operation underway from the burning USS West Virginia after the Japanese attacks. (U.S. Navy, December 7, 1941)

On his way to the Flag Bridge a fragment of metal tore through the air and gashed Bennion in the abdomen. The projectile nearly decapitated him, tearing his torso to shreds and damaging his spine and left hip. He was unable to move his legs and his entrails protruded from his stomach.

A pharmacist’s mate came to his aid and placed a makeshift bandage over the mortal wound. Bennion demanded that the man go attend to other wounded sailors and continued to issue orders amid the chaos.

Bennion refused to be moved an inch from his location until the first Japanese attack ended. During the lull before the second wave arrived, he finally permitted himself to be placed on a cot under a sheltered position on the deck.

As he lay protracted and in agony, he resumed issuing commands and receiving reports when the second wave struck an hour later.

Due to the combination of the loss of blood and shock, he began to lose consciousness. A few of his men tied him on a ladder and carried the makeshift stretcher to the navigation bridge out of the way of flames and smoke engulfing the vessel.

Barley coherent and somehow still clinging to life, Bennion again ordered his men to leave him and look after themselves. Roughly 20 minutes later he passed away, one of the thousands of Americans to perish that day.

One officer who remained alongside Bennion to the end proudly proclaimed that “the noble conduct of Capt. Bennion before and after being wounded met the highest traditions of the naval service and justified the high esteem in which he was universally held. I consider it my great good fortune to have served under him.”

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba
The USS West Virginia continued to serve as an active battleship throughout the Pacific, and was present for the surrender of the Japanese on September 2, 1945. (U.S. Navy)

Bennion’s body was transported home and buried with honor in Utah. He was afterward awarded the Medal of Honor for his inspirational leadership. His citation read: “For conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage, and complete disregard of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. As Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. West Virginia, after being mortally wounded, Capt. Bennion evidenced apparent concern only in fighting and saving his ship, and strongly protested against being carried from the bridge.”

Despite being incapacitated early in the action at Pearl Harbor, Bennion refused to abandon his ship and nobly encouraged his men until the bitter end.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Shocking footage shows how US people learned of Okinawa invasion

Everyone knows that, in World War II, you couldn’t find nearly as much information on Twitter or Google. No, if you wanted to learn what was happening on the frontlines of the war in the early 1940s, you had to rely on newsreels played before movies and newspapers.


The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba

The battleship USS Tennessee bombards Okinawa as troops move forward to land.

(U.S. Navy History and Heritage Command)

But the newsreels were the much more visceral way to learn about the conflict. Often, censors would tone down depictions of combat and remove reports of some ship sinkings. But at other times, particularly when personnel were especially heroic, the military would allow reports of a ship sinking and even release the footage.

That was the case with this footage of the fighting on Okinawa and the near-sinking of the USS Franklin, an aircraft carrier hit by a kamikaze strike. The Franklin erupted in flames after the explosion ripped through it, but hundreds of sailors remained at their post even after the fleet’s admiral gave the captain permission to abandon the ship.

Instead, the crew evacuated non-essential personnel and got to work battling the flames and securing volatile ammunition and fuel stores to prevent further explosions. The ship’s chaplain even stayed on duty, performing last rites for the hundreds of young men dead and dying in the stricken ship.

WWII OKINAWA INVASION & SAGA OF AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS FRANKLIN NEWSREEL 72352C

www.youtube.com

And this footage, much of it shot by military combat cameramen, was released by the military in order to show the heroism of the sailors to moviegoers back home. And, it was combined with footage from the action ashore where soldiers and Marines enjoyed a lightly resisted landing but then had to fight fiercely for every additional yard as cave after cave after cave was found to contain fanatical defenders, well-armed and well-trained to bleed the landing forces dry.

A quick warning before you play the footage, though: This is some of the most visceral footage released by the military during the war, and it contains images of combat on Okinawa and at sea. There are multiple shots of combatants on both sides of the fight as they are dead or dying. So, only forge ahead if you’re prepared to see all of that.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why WWII troops are to thank for the rise of comics

It was June of 1938 when the world first got their hands on Action Comics #1. This new, featured character, Superman, embodied all that was good about the United States. He fought for truth, justice, and the American way. For a whole ten cents, kids could get their own issue, read fantastic stories, and escape from the harsh realities of the Great Depression. But comics found a secondary audience — young adults who were also looking for an fantastical escape from the bleak world around them.

Comic sales suffered alongside the economy at large. Kids simply couldn’t fork over ten cents every week and the entire industry was almost kneecapped before it could became the multi-billion dollar business it is today.

Everything changed on December 20, 1940 (cover-dated for March, 1941) — an entire year before the attack on Pearl Harbor — when another superhero, named Captain America, hit the shelves. He donned star-spangled colors, and the very first public-facing image of Cap featured him delivering a swift punch directly to Hitler’s jaw.

Sales rose into the millions — but not because of kiddies with spare dimes. The audience that bought en masse was, unsurprisingly, the very demographic that wanted to knock Hitler out themselves: the 24-year-old men being shipped off to war.


The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba

The creators knew their audience, and they found ways to show their support for the troops in nearly every issue.

(DC Comics)

Despite comic books’ reputation of being pulpy kids’ fiction, troops, at the time, became the primary consumers. Comics were the perfect rucksack stuffer. They were small, easy to fold or roll, and could be fit into anything. You could read it once, share it around, and then enjoy it again when it circled back around. If they got damaged or destroyed, it was fine because it only cost ten cents.

The heroic stories within took troops’ minds temporarily off of the war in front of them. Comic books had mastered escapist fantasy during the Great Depression — and that came in handy among troops fighting in WWII.

Lucky troops could find the newest issues of their favorite series around Europe — most often when in England, before heading back into the fray. But troops would also often request comics in care packages from back home.

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba

These comics were often printed on higher quality paper so they could withstand the trials of daily military life.

(David McKay Co.)

It wasn’t just the stories of Superman and Batman fighting the good fight back home that connected with the troops. In fact, Captain America was a super-soldier fighting in the same war as the audience for the same reasons against the same enemy.

But the superheroes we love today didn’t steal the show. Non-fiction series stood above them during that era.

In these comics, the characters had no superhuman powers. They weren’t fighting some devious, otherworldly villain. These comics featured real stories told by the troops who were fighting. It wasn’t uncommon for GIs in Europe to enjoy the comics about actions in the Pacific Theater, like Guadalcanal Diary, or for island-hopping Marines to read about the U.S. soldiers in France, in comics like USA Is Ready.

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba

One man in particular, Bob Kanigher, used his first-hand experience on the front lines to give the veteran comic book readers arguably one of the finest stories in the medium: Sgt. Rock of Easy Company.

(DC Comics)

The troops’ love of comic books continued well after many made the transition back into civilian life. From then on, the lion’s share of the comic book marketplace featured more mature themes, like crime, supernatural horror, and war — things that returning veterans would enjoy.

This came into direct conflict with a narrative that insisted comic books were for kids. The Comics Code Authority went into effect in 1954, censoring all the “foul” stuff veterans came to love. Comic sales plummeted. This should have been the final nail in the coffin for the medium — but it wasn’t, not by a long shot.

World War II veterans who had read and loved all the stories during wartime elbowed their way into the industry, giving rise to the Silver Age of comic books. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Syd Shore, Alice Marble, Curt Swan, and Bob Kanigher all served their country in the second World War. Together, they brought comic books back into the spotlight, steering them to the bright future they enjoy today.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This clever advertising doomed thousands of aviators

In the lead up to World War II, the U.S. Army Air Force had to make tough decisions on how to spend limited defense dollars. Decades of strict budgets after World War I left capabilities across the military underdeveloped, and the Air Forces decided to spend their part of the pie focusing on strategic bombing.

And, unfortunately, when a manufacturer told them a new bomber wouldn’t need a fighter escort, they bought it. Thousands of aviators would pay the price as unescorted B-17 formations faced losses of over 20 percent.


When the Army Air Force was looking for a new bomber in the early 1930s, they floated the idea of getting a beastly four-engine bird. Most bombers had two engines at the time, but it was thought a larger, four-engine plane could carry more bombs a longer way.

Boeing proved this was true with their Model 299. It had four engines and could carry 8,000 pounds of bombs while flying at faster speeds than other bombers of the day. It carried 13 large machine guns, mostly .50-cals. A reporter for The Seattle Times dubbed it a “flying fortress” in a photo caption and Boeing ran with it.

The future looked good for the Model 299 as it dominated a fly-off competition in 1935. But then it crashed and so was disqualified. Worse, it turned out that that the Model 299 was way more expensive than its primary competitors, and so the Army chief of staff ordered a two-engine bomber instead.

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba

(Seamus Darragh, Pixabay)

But the Army’s top aviators still wanted the Model 299, and they managed to order 13 for testing and dubbed them YB-17s. The plane was popular with aviation officers and its great range led to some public successes in the pre-war years. The Army Air Force already had a body of doctrine supporting the use of heavy, long-range bombers, but they refined it around their new flying fortresses.

And the new doctrine did treat the planes like they were fortresses, even though the fortress moniker originated with a journalist and was adopted by salesmen. As navigator Bob Culp recalled in 2008, “When you realize you’re protected by a very thin skin of aluminum, you realize you’re not really in a fortress.”

Boeing had advertised that the bomber could fly bombing missions in daylight conditions and defend itself from enemy fighters thanks to all those machine guns. Which, if true, would’ve been a godsend, because there were no fighters who could match the range of the bomber. And so then-Col. Curtis E. LeMay drafted a formation for the bomber that maximized the ability of the planes to protect each other.

Basically, 9-12 planes would fly in a box so their guns would cover all angles of attack. Three or more of these boxes would fly together. There was a lead box, then a box that flew higher, and finally a trail box that flew low.

With 36 planes formed into three boxes, there were 468 machine guns present. They would have 324,000 rounds of ammunition between them. The spread of a single .50-cal. machine gun would fire rounds across a spread 600 yards wide when firing at planes 1,000 yards away. With 468 planes firing 600-yard-wide spreads, it was thought they could form an actual wall of deadly steel at oncoming fighters.

And so the doctrine was approved, and aviation officers fooled themselves that B-17s really could defend themselves.

The Navy’s short-lived compressed air cannons wrecked the Spanish in Cuba

(National Museum of the U.S. Air Force)

But then American B-17s made their European combat debut in 1942. The planes flying over Europe in daytime proved easy pickings.

Flak gunners didn’t give the first crap about all those machine guns on the planes. Worse, B-17 pilots couldn’t maintain the precise boxes necessary for 360-degree coverage, and gunners couldn’t always keep the proper fields of fire.

Crews could head home, their duty fulfilled, after 25 missions. Only 1 in 4 would survive to reach that milestone. On one of America’s first large bomber raids in 1942, less than 300 bombers set off for Nazi-occupied Europe and 60 of them were lost, an attrition of over 20 percent.

Even when new fighters joined the war, the problem persisted anytime the B-17s outflew their escorts. In October 1943 the Eighth Air Force flew Mission Number 115 against factories in Schweinfurt, Germany. The 291-plane formation survived well while British Supermarine Spitfires and then P-47 Thunderbolts escorted them to the border. But then they were alone against German fighters.

Sixty planes were shot down and only 229 successfully dropped their bombs on target. Only 197 made it back to England.

The fact was, the B-17 Flying Fortress was anything but a fortress, and it needed fighters escorts like any other bomber.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information