This siege is one of Julius Caesar's most spectacular victories - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories

The Siege of Alesia is among the most celebrated battles of Roman times and stands as one of Gaius Julius Caesar’s finest victories. The battle was the last major engagement between the Gaul’s and Rome, precipitating the end of the Gallic Wars and ending Celtic dominance of Western Europe.


Caesar and his legions had been engaging in a war of conquest in Gaul since 58 BC. The campaign had been an extraordinarily bloody one, and despite defeating many of the major tribes and gaining a shaky control over the region, a revolt ending up destroying a quarter of Caesar’s troops. Despite being mercilessly crushed, the revolt convinced many Gauls that throwing off the Roman yoke might be possible.

This led to the rise of Vercingetorix of the Averni tribe, who was crowned king of all the Gauls in 52 BC. A general revolt broke, and many Roman officials, soldiers, and merchants were killed across the country. Caesar was in winter quarters in Cisalpine Gaul north of Italy and did not learn of the chaos immediately.

When word reached him, Caesar sent legions to the north to put down other tribes, and marched with the rest and his auxiliary cavalry in pursuit of Vercingetorix. After delivering several setbacks to Caesar, Vercingetorix thought a general battle would be too risky, and withdrew to the vast hill fortress town of Alesia.

Where Alesia was located is still a matter of dispute, but the conventional wisdom places it in Monta-Arieux in the French region of Burgundy. Alesia featured formidable walls, and was located on a plateau ideal for defense. Between Vercingetorix’s army and the town’s citizens, it held around 80,000 Gauls.

Caesar arrived at Alesia with an army of possibly 60,000 men. He quickly saw that a frontal assault was out of the question, and he began a vast series of siegeworks, seldom equalled in antiquity, to enclose the town and starve it out. Caesar ordered an 18 kilometer wall called a circumvallation built to completely surround the town, and it was completed in roughly 3 weeks.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories
A reconstructed section of the Alesia investment fortifications

The Gauls launched a series of raids in order to prevent the completion of wall, but all attempts were beaten back. A small force Gallic cavalry force managed to break through and escape, and Caesar knew it was only a matter of time until enemy reinforcements arrived.

He ordered the construction of second 21km wall called a contravallation that was built to protect from the outside against the inevitable Gallic relief force. It too was strongly reinforced with towers, pit traps, and ditches. Sections of moat were even made by diverting water from the local rivers.

The cruel realities of siege and starvation began to take their toll on Vercingetorix’s Gallic defenders, and to stretch provisions they decided to expel their women, children, and invalids from the fortress with a plea that Caesar let them through the lines. Caesar ruthlessly refused, and the Gallic civilians were left to miserably starve in the no-man’s land between the fortress and the Roman works.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories
The Fortifications built by Caesar in Alesia according to the hypothesis of the location in Alise-Sainte-Reine Inset: cross shows location of Alesia in Gaul (modern France). The circle shows the weakness in the north-western section of the contravallation line.

A large Gallic relief force eventually arrived in September, and on the 30th an assault was launched against the Roman outer wall while Vercingetorix sallied out of the fortress and attacked the inner. After several days of mostly failed attacks, on the third day the Gauls breached the outer wall and the Romans defending it were on the verge of being overrun. Caesar personally led a large force out of the Roman lines and hit the outer Gallic force from the rear. Caught between two Roman forces, the Gauls broke and were routed with great slaughter.

Vercingetorix, knowing no more help was coming, surrendered the next day. The surviving defenders of Alesia were then sold into slavery and the fortress town was completely obliterated by the Romans as a warning. This marked the end of any organized resistance in Gaul, and it was to become a key Roman province.

The Siege of Alesia was a masterpiece of military engineering, and the monumental efforts of his men combined with Caesar’s tactical brilliance allowed the Romans to defeat a much larger enemy army. It led to 500 years of Roman dominance in Gaul, and the great fame it gave Caesar helped further set the stage for the coming Roman civil war and Caesar’s ascension to dictator and the end of the Roman Republic.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Soviet pilot defected with a top-secret fighter 42 years ago

1430 Hrs. Local, Sept. 6, 1976. Sea of Japan near Hakodate Airport, Hokkaido Prefecture.

Jet fuel burned faster than he calculated as he pressed lower under the overcast, down to the gray black waves only 150-feet above the Sea of Japan. He hauled the heavy control stick left, then corrected back right in a skidding bank around a fishing vessel that came out of the misty nowhere in the low afternoon cloud cover. White vapor spiraled long “S”s from his angular wingtips in the violent turn nearly touching the wave tops.

That was the second fishing boat he had to bank hard to miss at nearly wave-top level. Rain squalls started. The huge Tumansky R-15 jet engines gulped more gas by the minute. This plane was not made to fly low and subsonic. It was built to fly supersonic in the high altitude hunt for the now-extinct American B-70 Mach 3 super-bomber that was never put into service.


He had to find the Japanese Self-Defense Force F-4 Phantoms that were no doubt in the air to intercept him. If they didn’t shoot him down first, they would lead him to Chitose Air Base where he may be able to land safely. If his fuel held out. But the Japanese Phantoms were nowhere to be found.

So, he hauled the stick back into his lap and the big, boxy Foxbat clawed through the clouds in its last, angry climb before succumbing to a fuel-starved death.

Eventually, he found an airport. Hokodate Airport. A 6,000 foot runway. Not long enough for his MiG-25 though. He’d make it work. On final approach to Hokodate he nearly collided head-on with a 727 airliner. It was better than ditching where he’d lose his biggest bargaining chip. His top secret airplane. He managed a rough landing, running off the end of the runway, climbing out of jet, and firing his pistol in the air when curious Japanese began snapping photos of the incident from a roadway.

It was, as I recall, the biggest thing that had ever happened in my life. I was 15 years old then.

We raced to the hobby shop on our bicycles to consult with the older men who owned the store. What would this mean? Was it real? Would there be a model of the MiG-25 released soon? We poured over the grainy newspaper photos, the best we had ever seen, again and again. We could not believe it, but it was real. The most exotic, highest flying, fastest, most secretive fighter plane on earth had just fallen into American hands. We got our first look at the mysterious MiG-25 Foxbat.

Flight Lieutenant Viktor Ivanovich Belenko, an elite MiG-25P pilot of the Soviet Air Defense Forces, had defected with the most secret operational combat aircraft of the era.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories

U.S. analysts initially the believed the MiG-25 was a highly maneuverable air superiority fighter with sophisticated lightweight jet engines. The reality was the MiG-25 had massive, heavy engines and was made of mostly simple materials using vacuum tube technology

(The Koku Fan)

What happened in the aftermath of his defection 42 years ago influenced aircraft design, dispelled myths about the Soviet Union, angered one nation and offered relief to another while leaving a third in an awkward diplomatic bind. It was one more minor tear in the tapestry of the Iron Curtain as it slowly unraveled around the edges, like a loose thread that continues to pull out longer and longer.

“What did they think and [what do we] think now? Traitor! Military pilots consider it a huge disgrace for the Air Force of the USSR and Russia.” That is what the administrator of the most active social media fan page for the Russian Aerospace Forces told TheAviationist.com when we asked them what Russians think of Viktor Belenko today. While the Iron Curtain has come down, the hardened attitudes about Belenko betraying the state remain. The Russians still hate Viktor Belenko for stealing their most prized combat aircraft at the time.

In the U.S., “secret” units have been operating Russian MiGs and Sukhois quietly over the American west for years. But Belenko’s defection in 1976 with a Foxbat, the NATO codename for the MiG-25 (the Russians don’t call it that), was an intelligence coup that not only provided technical data and benchmark insights for decades to come, it also provided a core-sample of Communist life in the Soviet Union.

According to Belenko, things were bad in the Soviet Union. In the 1980 chronicle of Belenko’s defection, “MiG Pilot: The Final Escape of Lieutenant Belenko”, author John Baron wrote of rampant alcoholism within the ranks of the Soviet air force. Living facilities at bases in the eastern Soviet Union were poor since some of the bases the MiG-25 operated from had not yet been upgraded to accommodate the larger ground crews needed to maintain the aircraft. Food quality for enlisted maintenance crews was so bad the men refused to eat. While food for officer/pilots like Belenko was much better, when Belenko reached the United States after his defection he mistakenly ate a can of cat food and later remarked that, “It was delicious. Better than canned food in the Soviet Union today!”

But Belenko entered a netherworld when he defected from Russia. While U.S. President Gerald Ford granted Belenko asylum in the U.S. and the Central Intelligence Agency gave him a stipend and built a life for him as a pilot and consultant in the U.S., neither side could fully trust the turncoat. When Belenko arrived in Japan he was given the book by Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch”. Despite his oath of military service to the Soviet Union, Belenko feared and was repulsed by the deep social injustice of Communist Soviet Russia. He had seen people inside the Soviet Union suffering like Denisovitch from poverty, hunger, and oppression. Belenko wanted out. And so, he stole his Foxbat, flew it to Japan and never looked back.

In a footnote to Belenko’s defection with the MiG-25P Foxbat, I did get my scale model airplane kit shortly thereafter. The Japanese hobby brand Hasegawa had sent photographers to Hokodate Airport to photograph the MiG-25 before it was concealed, examined by the U.S. and Japan, and shipped back to the Soviet Union in pieces. Within months of the MiG-25 landing in Japan, Hasegawa released a 1/72nd scale plastic model kit of the MiG-25 complete with decals for Viktor Belenko’s aircraft. It sold for U.S.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories

Japanese hobby brand Hasegawa obtained photos of the MiG-25 at Hokodate Airport before it was covered and quickly produced an accurate 1/72nd scale plastic of the aircraft.

(The Squadron Shop)

Viktor Belenko continues to live in the United States according to most sources. He was photographed in a bar in 2000 where he was recognized, photographed and spoke openly to people about his experience defecting from the former Soviet Union. In 1995, he had returned to Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union and safely returned to the U.S. afterward. Belenko told an interviewer he had enjoyed going on fishing trips in the U.S. with test pilot and fighter ace General Chuck Yeager.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories

Viktor Belenko adapted well to life in the U.S., flying for the U.S. military and enjoying U.S. culture. He even got married in the United States.

(SeanMunger.com)

There have been other famous defections by military pilots, including a shadowy attempted but apparently failed defection with a Soviet Tu-95 “Bear” heavy bomber. Author Tom Clancy rose to prominence on his breakout fictional novel “The Hunt for Red October” about a Russian captain defecting with a Soviet nuclear powered missile submarine. One of his fictional characters in the book even refers to the Belenko defection saying, “This isn’t some pilot defecting with a MiG!”. But fictional accounts aside, now that the Iron Curtain has long since come down it is unlikely we will ever see a defection from any country like Viktor Belenko’s.

Featured image: Photos of the then-secret MiG-25 Foxbat were taken from a nearby road before it could be covered.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Budweiser will brew George Washington’s 1757 beer recipe

We need a batch of good news. A little hops in our step. Something to sip on that takes us to a different time. 1757 to be exact.

Budweiser has done it again. Making history. And this is just straight up awesome. Using the original recipe from George Washington’s handwritten notes found in a notebook from 1757 during the French and Indian War, Budweiser has crafted the next edition in their Reserve collection. Here is the page from the notebook:


This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories

So cool! And it just gets better.

This limited edition Freedom Reserve Red Lager is brewed exclusively by veteran brewers who brew for Budweiser.

“We are incredibly proud of our Freedom Reserve Red Lager because it was passionately brewed by our veteran brewers who have bravely served our country,” Budweiser Vice President Ricardo Marques

Proceeds from the beer go to support Folds of Honor, whose mission is to provide scholarships to spouses and children of fallen and disabled service members.

America, ladies and gentlemen.

The 5.4 ABV lager is described as “a rich caramel malt taste and a smooth finish with a hint of molasses.”

Ok, fine, you’ve convinced me. OMW to get some right now. Hopefully you live close enough to snag up some of this speciality brew, too. Enter your zip code here to find out where you can buy it.

This 2018 Memorial Day, toast to the men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy our lives safely in our back yards with the peace of mind to sit and have a beer this weekend.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

Articles

That time the Navy considered flying Harriers off Iowa-class battleships

When you look at the Iowa-class battleships, in a way, you are looking at the ultimate in a surface combat platform. They are huge – about 45,000 tons — they carry nine 16-inch guns and have an array of other weapons, too, from Tomahawk cruise missiles to Phalanx close-in weapon systems.


This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories

Looking at them, could you imagine diluting that surface-combat firepower for some Harriers? Well, the U.S. Navy did.

According to the 13th Edition of “The Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet,” the Navy kicked around the idea of turning the Iowa and her three sisters into a combination battleship-carrier. The after turret would be removed, and the space would be turned into a flight deck. WarisBoring.com noted that the plan called for as many as 20 AV-8B Harriers to be carried on the ship.

There was also a consideration for adding vertical launch systems for Tomahawks and Standard surface-to-air missiles.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories
USS Wisconsin fires her main battery during Desert Storm. (US Navy photo)

It wasn’t as if the battleships hadn’t operated planes before, as in World War II the battleships operated floatplanes – usually for gunfire spotting. The Iowas kept their planes in an on-board hanger in the aft section of the ship.

That section was later used to land helicopters when they were in service during the 1980s. The New Jersey even operated a UCAV, the QH-50 Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter, while blasting Viet Cong and North Vietnamese positions during her one deployment in the Vietnam War.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories
Photo by Cpl. Garry J. Welch/U.S. Marine Corps

That said, the project never went forward. One big reason was at the end of the Cold War, the Iowa-class ships were quick to go on the chopping block — even as the USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin provided outstanding fire support to the Marines during Operation Desert Storm.

Another can be ascribed to history. Late in World War II, Japan was desperate for carriers. And when they tried to convert the battleships Ise and Hyuga to carrier, the effort wasn’t successful.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories
HIJMS Ise – a failed battleship/carrier hybrid. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

It is open to debate whether 20 Harriers would have been a fair trade for a third of an Iowa’s 16-inch firepower. What isn’t open for debate is that the Iowa-class fast battleship has never truly been replaced a quarter-century after their decommissioning.

Articles

That time 621 Brits rammed a suicide ship into a Nazi fortress

In 1942, a group of British commandos and sailors launched a daring raid to cripple the Nazi drydocks at St. Nazaire, France — the only facility in the northern Atlantic that could handle repairs to Germany’s largest battleships.


The raid consisted of 18 vessels and 621 British servicemen who ran a destroyer loaded with explosives into the Nazi-held docks.

The drydock at St. Nazaire — often called the Normandie docks after the French passenger ship Normandie that the docks were originally constructed to support — was the only facility capable of repairing the legendary German battleship Tirpitz if it was damaged.

The Tirpitz was a strategic target for the British.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories
The HMS Campbeltown as it was being converted to resemble a German warship for the St. Nazaire raid. (Photo: Royal Navy)

Britain’s audacious plan was dubbed “Operation Chariot.” It called for the HMS Campbeltown, a former U.S. destroyer that was traded to the United Kingdom, to sail straight down the river approach to Normandie.

When it reached the target, the ship would ram the drydock at full speed.

The Campbeltown had a 4-ton bomb nestled in the hull that would be set to go off in the early morning hours after the ramming.

Fifteen motor launches — 112-ft. long wooden boats with little armor or firepower — along with a motor torpedo boat and a motor gunboat provided a 17-ship escort for the Campbeltown.

These ships were supposed to provide some cover for the destroyer and evacuate the sailors and commandos after the mission.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories
British Motor Torpedo Boat 74 before it took part in the St. Nazaire raid. (Photo: Royal Navy)

The entire convoy left England on March 26, 1942. Only a few senior officers believed the mission had any chance of success, and even those thought that there was little or no chance that any of the men would make it home alive.

The fleet sailed down to the entrance to the waterways and turned east for the final five-mile trip upriver. As they turned, the commander ordered the fuzes on the bombs be lit. The men had approximately eight hours until their ship would blow sky high.

A Royal Air Force bombing mission was supposed to distract the defenders for as long as possible, but cloud cover caused the crews to not drop their bombs for fear of causing French casualties. Instead, the circling planes just alerted the Germans that something was going on.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories
British commandos rush with scaling ladders. (Photo: YouTube/993ti)

The Campbeltown had been modified to make it appear a little like a German ship, and it flew a German flag. But the camouflage job wasn’t particularly good.

The first few German defenses let the ships pass unmolested, but the flotilla quickly came under scrutiny.

Initially, British signallers using a stolen German code book were able to provide the right responses to challenges, but the Nazis got wise to the ruse and opened fire on the British.

Dozens of artillery emplacements and machine guns on both banks of the river started shooting the Campbeltown as other machine guns concentrated on the smaller ships.

The motor launches were quickly engulfed in flames as rounds pierced the external fuel tanks on the wooden decks and turned the boats into raging bonfires.

The Campbeltown proceeded upriver even after the helmsman was killed. The man who stepped up to replace him was also killed.

Finally, the scientist who had designed the bomb in the Campbeltown’s hold stepped up and steered the ship forward.

The commandos and sailors silenced as many German guns as they could, but survivors said the ship was still alight with the fire and sparks kicked up by the constant volleys hitting the Campbeltown.

Despite the fierce fire, the Campbeltown was able to strike the dock and ran aground on its lip.

St. Nazaire, Zerstörer "HMS Campbeltown" The HMS Campbeltown sits on the lip of the Normandie dock after crashing into it. (Photo: German army archives)

The surviving commandos spilled off of the ship and rushed to their assigned targets, setting bombs on the pumping house, the winding houses, and the caissons that made the drydock work.

Despite the commandos wounds and fatigue, they got the job done, knocking out the dock’s infrastructure.

But when they arrived back at their pickup point, nearly all of the motor launches were sinking or on fire. The commander gave the order for the men to disperse into small groups and attempt to fight their way to the Spanish border, 350 miles away.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories
British prisoners are escorted by German troops in the final hours of the St. Nazaire raid. (Photo: German army archives)

Most of the men were captured or killed during the attempted escape through the French city. The Germans treated the British fighters well, probably in honor of their bravery for having attacked a fortress at 10 to 1 odds.

Only 227 British troops made it out. Five fought their way to France, and 222 made it to safety on the surviving boats.

The prisoners left in the town were dismayed to see that the Campbeltown did not blow up on schedule. At 10 a.m., hours after the bomb was set to blow, the ship was covered in German soldiers.

Some of them were walking with their French girlfriends on the ship’s decks.

According to Lt. Cmdr. Sam Beattie, one of the mission commanders who later received the Victoria Cross for his actions, was being mocked by a German officer for trying to break the docks with a flimsy ship when the bomb blew. Then the bomb went off.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories
The remains of the HMS Campbeltown sit in the Normandie dry dock after a bomb in the ship’s hull rendered the docks unusable. (Photo: YouTube/993ti)

The resulting damage killed most of the men nearby and did so much damage to the dock that it wasn’t operable again until 1947.

The mission resulted in the award of five Victoria Crosses and four Croix de Guerre, Britain and France’s highest awards for valor. Another 80 awards were given to the men who carried out the raid.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the tragic history of the flying aircraft carrier

The world is well aware of how the Navy uses its massive fleet of aircraft carriers to dominate the oceans while protecting America. Each monstrous aircraft carrier houses thousands of sailors and dozens of aircraft just waiting for the word to deploy. 


But there was another breed of the aircraft carrier that doesn’t get as much attention these days — the type that actually flew.

In 1783, the Montgolfier brothers made the history books when they showcased the first successful flight of a working hot air balloon. Months later, they copied the flight, but this time they had passengers inside the cargo basket — a sheep, a duck, and a rooster.

Though accurately steering the ballon was haphazard, the flying technique still gained public interested.

 

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories
The Montgolfier brothers. (Pinterest)

 

Within the next year or so, this new technology rapidly progressed as Jean Baptiste Meusnier designed the cigar-shape airship which we recognize today.

At the turn of the 20th century, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin introduced the rigid airship that came with a solid internal frame — dubbed the “Zeppelin.” At the time, Zeppelins were highly utilized as they could stay airborne longer, travel further and carry heavier cargo — by that we mean bombs.

 

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories
The Zeppelin. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

 

Although the Zeppelin sacred the sh*t out of people as it flew over them, it didn’t take long to realize the lighter than air craft were vulnerable to even the most primitive fighters. Basically, it was an aircraft carrier that needed more aircraft around to protect it. 

So planners came up with the idea of having fighter planes escort the beastly airships, and what better way than to have these airships carry the fighter escorts themselves?

England constructed the 23-class Vickers rigid airship that could carry three Sopwith Camel biplanes that could deploy from hooks beneath the airship’s hull.

Four of these aircraft carriers were built, and the all four were decommissioned by 1920 for various reasons. The U.S. took note of the clever engineering and constructed both the USS Los Angeles and the USS Akron.

The USS Akron had the distinct ability to launch and recover fighters in mid-air. The planes would just fly up, and the pilot would attach to a T-shape mount which would pull the aircraft into the Akron’s internal hanger.

 

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories
A Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk coming in for ‘landing.’ (Source: Not Exactly Normal/ Screenshot)

Test flights began in the fall of 1931, but the Akron had loads of trouble flying and crashed — a lot. Several months later, the carrier was docked in San Diego where it unexpectedly took off taking three men with it. Two of the men fell to their deaths.

A few years later, the airship would crash one last time off the coast of New Jersey killing 73 passengers — more than double that of the infamous Hindenburg crash.

These events made the flying aircraft carrier very unpopular for war-time operations causing engineers to cease their development.

Check out Not Exactly Normal‘s video below and see the crash footage for yourself.

YouTube, Not Exactly Normal

MIGHTY HISTORY

10 odd jobs of World War II

Today’s military has some jobs that might surprise you — for example, did you know the Army and Marine Corps have instrument repair technicians? These troops repair musical instruments for the military bands.

But during World War II, there were a lot of jobs that would seem strange in today’s technologically focused military. Over the course of the war, technological advances reduced or eliminated the need for many manual occupations. This transition is captured in the War Department’s list of military jobs from 1944, where entries like ”horse artillery driver” appear just a page away from ”remote control turret repairman.”


This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories

1. Blacksmith

During World War II, blacksmiths still made many of the items needed to repair equipment and machinery. They would make metal tools and parts, by hand, in coal or coke forges. They also made shoes for some of the tens of thousands of horses and mules that saw service during the war.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories

2. Meat Cutter

Does what it says on the label: cuts meat. These troops were responsible for preparing whole carcassas, such as beef and lamb, for distribution to various units around the world.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories

3. Horsebreaker

Horsebreakers would train horses and mules so they could be issued to mounted units. They also trained them to carry packs and to be hitched to wagons and carts.

Although they weren’t used in World War II to the extent they were used in the First World War, troops still relied on horses and mules to cross terrain impassable to mechanized units. For example, the 5332nd Brigade, a long range patrol group created for service in the mountains of Burma, was largely self-sufficient due to the 3,000 mules assigned to it — all shipped from the United States.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories

4. Artist and Animation Artist

Today’s military has jobs for skilled multimedia illustrators, but in World War II, military artists and animation artists created paintings, illustrations, films, charts and maps by hand. A number of successful artists served in World War II, including Bill Maudlin, who drew Willie and Joe, archetypes for infantrymen on the front line; and Bill Keane, who went on to draw Family Circus after his military service ended.

The military’s animation artists were quite busy during World War II. The Army even stationed soldiers at Walt Disney’s studios for the duration of the war to make patriotic films for the public and instructional or training films for service members.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories

5. Crystal Grinder

During World War II, many radios still required crystals to operate, usually galena. Crystal grinders would grind and calibrate these crystals to pick up specific frequencies.

Personal radios were forbidden on the front lines, but crystal radio sets lacked external power sources, so they couldn’t be detected by the enemy. For this reason, troops often improvised crystal radios from a variety of materials — including pencils and razor blades — in order to listen to music and news. These contraband radio sets were dubbed ”foxhole radios.”

6. Cooper

Troops who worked as coopers built and repaired the wooden buckets, barrels, casks and kegs used to pack, store and ship supplies and equipment. They used hand tools to plug holes with wood and salvage damaged barrels.

Wood was used to package a wide range of goods for transport all the way through World War II, but improvements in metal and cardboard packaging technology marked the beginning of the end for wooden barrels and crates.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories

7. Model Maker

Military model makers were charged with creating scale models of military equipment, terrain and other objects to be used in movies, as training aids and for operational planning. The models built by these troops were used in what was perhaps one of the greatest examples of wartime deception, Operation Fortitude.

Operation Fortitude was aimed at convincing the Germans that Allied troops heading to France for the D-Day invasion would land in Pas de Calais in July, rather than Normandy in June. Dummy buildings, aircraft and landing craft were constructed by model makers and positioned near Dover, England, in a camp built for the fictitious First U.S. Army Group. The deception was so complete that Hitler held troops in reserve for two weeks after D-Day because he believed another invasion was coming via the Dover Strait.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories

8. Pigeoneer

Pigeoneers were responsible for all aspects of their birds’ lives. They would breed, train and care for pigeons that were used to deliver messages. Some birds would be trained specifically for night flying, while others learned that food could be found at one location and water at another. According to the U.S. Army Communications Electronics Museum, more than 90% of the messages carried by pigeons were successfully delivered.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories

9. Field Artillery Sound Recorder

These troops had the sickest beats. Until the development of radar, sound ranging was one of the most effective ways to locate enemy artillery, mortars and rockets. The process was first developed in World War I, and continued to be used in combat through the Korean War.

From a forward operating post, a field artillery sound recorder would monitor an oscillograph and recorder connected to several microphones. When the sound of an enemy gun reached a microphone, the information would be recorded on sound film and the data from several microphones could be analyzed to locate the enemy gun. The technology is still in use today by many countries, which often use sound ranging in concert with radar.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories

10. Airplane Woodworker

Although wood was largely phased out in favor of tubular steel in aircraft construction by the time World War II started, there was still a need for airplane woodworkers to repair and maintain existing aircraft — especially gliders and some training aircraft.

Wooden gliders like the Waco CG-4A — the most widely used American troop/cargo military glider of World War II — played critical parts in the war. The CG-4A was first used in the invasion of Sicily in July 1943. They most commonly flew airborne troops into battle, most famously for the D-Day assault on France on June 6, 1944, and Operation Market Garden in September 1944. They were also used in the China-Burma-India Theater.

This article originally appeared on Department of Defense.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The story of the slave who survived the Alamo

The attack on the Alamo in 1836 was not a 13-day siege and slaughter as often portrayed in film and television. Don’t get me wrong – the defenders of the mission-turned-fortress were killed en masse as Mexican troops stormed the structure. It’s just that not everyone inside the Alamo died that day.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories
Maybe standing in the open wearing the brightest clothes isn’t the best idea.

That’s how we came to know of Joe — just Joe, any other names he had are lost to history now. Joe was the slave of William B. Travis, the commander of the Alamo during Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s siege of the Texian fort. But no one knows exactly how Joe got there. No matter how he ended up there, he was one of many slaves and free blacks who fought or died at the Alamo.

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Joe was a stalwart defender alongside Travis and other Texians. When the din of the fighting died down and the Mexicans firmly controlled the fort, Joe was shot and bayoneted, only to be saved by a Mexican field officer. Because Joe could speak Spanish, he was able to be interrogated afterward.


All that is known about Joe after the Alamo is that he was questioned by Santa Anna and then later questioned by the Texas Cabinet. A little more than a year later,
Joe escaped to Mexico on two stolen horses.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories
One supposed photo of Joe, the slave and survivor of the Alamo.

That’s where attorney-turned-author Lewis Cook picked up the story. His first book, called
Joe’s Alamo: Unsung, is a fiction-based-on-history account of what came next, after the Alamo, and after Joe escaped.

Cook was waiting to go to medical school when he discovered Joe’s story and was compelled to write about the Alamo. Cook discovered the Alamo was more than a bunch of white, male landowners fighting for Texas. The fort was full of women, minorities of many color, and followers of many religions. So, he set out to tell the story of the Alamo, a story that, he believes, belongs to all of us through the diversity of its defenders.

In his book, Cook tells a different story from what is commonly told in textbooks, film, and TV shows. It includes recently discovered facts about William Travis, Susana Dickinson, Davy Crockett, and Joe himself.

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MIGHTY HISTORY

Today in history: Korean War armistice signed

Three years of a heavy-casualty war came to a close on this date in 1953 when the Korean War Armistice was signed. This conflict ended America’s first brush with the Cold War concept of “limited war,” which was the first “hot” war of the Cold War, where the aim of US involvement was not the total defeat of the enemy but instead the “limited” goal of protecting South Korea. During the three years of war, over 55,000 American troops were killed in action.

Korea was a Japanese colony for 35 years, from 1910-1045 until the US and the Soviet Union occupied it after WWII. The US proposed that the country temporarily be divided along the 38th Parallel to maintain influence in the region. Three years later, in 1948, the American-baked anti-communist southern government administration declared itself the Republic of Korea. The Soviet-back, communist north was quick to follow and declared itself the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea shortly after. Both governments were unstable, and border skirmishes were frequent before the Korean War officially began.


When the community of North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950, the U.S. quickly acted and secured a resolution from the United Nations calling for military defense. Within days, US forces had joined the battle by land, air, and sea.

Even though the armistice officially stopped hostilities between North and South Korea, it’s not a permanent peace treaty. The armistice agreement suspended open hostilities and withdrew all military forces.

Lots of brass was on hand to sign several copies. Eighteen official copies were signed in three different languages by US Army Lt. Gen. Willian K. Harrison, Jr., senior delegate, UN Command Delegation, North Korean Gen. Nam II, senior delegate, and delegations from both the Korean People’s Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteers were present for signatures.

It took a while to get to the discussion table. The armistice marked the end of the longest negotiated armistice in history. Spread over two years and 17 days, 158 meetings took place.

The established committee of representatives from neutral countries worked together to decide what would happen to POWs. Eventually, it was decided that POWs could choose what they wanted to do – stay where they were or return to their own country.

There were plenty of high-level POWs. One of the most well known is when US Army Brigadier General Francis Townsend Dodd was held hostage by North Korean POWs during a camp uprising. The incident was used widely to showcase North Korean victories and eventually led to the end of Dodd’s career.

Death tolls on all sides were significant and heavy. Currently, there are still more than 7,000 US soldiers missing in action from the war. There were up to a total of 5 million dead, wounded, or missing on both sides. Half of them were civilians.

New borders were drawn at the discussion table. This new border gave South Korea additional territory and established the Demilitarized Zone as a buffer between the forces.

It took twelve hours for the truce to go into effect. It was signed at 1000 and activated at 2200. But then, the US decided to lengthen the war period to January 31, 1955, to extend benefits eligibility for service members.

The Korean War armistice is strictly a military document, so there’s no nation as a signatory to the agreement. In March 2013, North Korean decided that the 1953 armistice was no longer valid. And, since neither side can claim they won the war, the region is now at an impasse.

It’s often called “The Forgotten War,” partly because of the lack of media coverage about the Korean war, post-conflict. Compared to WWII, there are far fewer movies about the Korean War than WWII. Officially, it’s still classified as a “police action” because President Truman never asked Congress for a formal declaration of war.

Sixteen countries participated in the conflict, but it’s not considered a “World War” by historians, even though it set the tone for the decades of Soviet-American rivalry and profoundly shaped the world we live in today.

Speaking of numbers, the U.S. dropped more bombs in Korean than in the Pacific Theater during WWII. In addition to 32,557 tons of napalm, U.S. forces dropped 635,000 tons of bombs.

It might be the forgotten war, but may we never forget.

MIGHTY HISTORY

World War I created millions of conscripted Veterans, improved benefits

World War I marked the fourth time Congress declared war, but just the first time America instituted a draft. The “Great War” also created a new series of benefits for Veterans–some that exist in different forms today.


This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories

A story from The Cook County News-Heraldfrom Grand Marais, Minnesota, July 4, 1917, referring to World War I registration slackers.

VA

World War I and the draft

April 6 marks the start of the U.S. involvement in World War I, which 4.7 million Americans fought in.

President Woodrow Wilson asked for a declaration of war April 2, 1917. The Senate voted April 4 and the House of Representatives voted to adopt the war resolution April 6.

Despite the declaration, American men did’nt volunteer in large numbers. Because the U.S. needed to organize, train and equip a force to fight Germany, Congress passed the Selective Service Act, which started U.S. conscription.

Following the May 18 passage, the first draft registration day was June 5, 1917, for the 48 states and Washington, D.C. In July, the first draft registration for Puerto Rico, Alaska and Hawaii started. This period also started the round up of draft evaders, called “slackers.”

According to the Library of Congress, over 70% of American Army troops were conscripts.

Of the 4.7 million Americans who fought, 116,000 died in service and 204,000 were wounded.

New benefits

Veterans did see new benefits arise out of their World War I service. Congress amended the War Risk Insurance Act of 1914 in 1917 to offer government-subsidized life insurance for Veterans. Additional legislation provided Veterans a discharge allowance at the end of the war.

The War Risk amendments also established authority for Veterans to receive rehabilitation and vocational training. The benefits focused on Veterans with dismemberment, sight, hearing, and other permanent disabilities. Injured service members remained in service and trained for new jobs.

The Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1918 provided vocational rehabilitation training for honorably discharged disabled World War I Veterans. The act also gave special monthly maintenance allowances for Veterans who couldn’t carry on a gainful occupation. In 1919, a new law fixed Veteran medical care. It gave the Public Health Service greater responsibility, transferred military hospitals to the Public Health Service and authorized new hospitals.

The war also produced another benefit for service members: information. For 17 months, The Stars and Stripes newspaper informed American service members about the war. Over 100 years later, the publication still provides independent news and information to active duty, Department of Defense civilians, Veterans, contractors and families.

Current day

For information on VA life insurance, visit https://www.va.gov/life-insurance/options-eligibility/.

To learn about VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment, see https://www.benefits.va.gov/vocrehab/.

To read about the current Military Selective Service Act, last amended July 9, 2003, go to the Selective Service System website.

Listen to what the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service is working on to report to Congress on the military selective service process.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This comic book legend fought Nazi panzers and earned a Bronze Star

Born Jacob Kurtzberg, the most influential comic book artist known to the world as Jack Kirby penned many of the most beloved superheros in today’s society.


The young Kirby found his calling at then Timely Comics, later known as Marvel Comics, by drawing in superheros. He and Joe Simon created a new patriotic hero and drew the iconic cover to what will be synonymous with comics in World War II. Captain America knocking the Hell out of Adolf Hitler in March 1941.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories

Duty called Kirby into the U.S. Army on June 7, 1942. He had created an inventory to be published in part of his absence, kissed his wife goodbye, and headed to Camp Stewart for Basic Training.

Being a small Jewish kid from New York, he had met people from across the country. People who had never traveled outside their family farm, Texans who never rode a horse, and everyone from every corner of the country. He did encounter antisemitism, but he credits working and living together as the moment that opened their eyes to how diverse the country really is.

Related: This is how the Army teaches you to ‘see green’ -not brown, black, or white

His unit, the Fifth Infantry Division, landed in Liverpool where he saw the devastation of the German Stukas. He was now ready to land on Omaha Beach ten days after D-Day.

And ready for his Marvel co-creator, Stan Lee, to give one of his best Cameos.General Patton got word that his unit was killed and arrived personally with replacements. Patton was livid when he learned that the outfit had just arrived just fine. The mix-up came about because of an error in the maps, so Kirby’s Lieutenant saw to correcting it. His lieutenant learned his soldier drew Captain America and many other comics and assigned Private Kirby the unenviable task of being a scout to draw the maps.

Kirby would create new maps or draw on existing maps locations of enemy and friendly activity. His markings of Axis’ 88 anti-armor cannons were used to clear the way for troops.

Kirby’s unit crossed much of Northern France and took heavy casualties. Sketching in a notepad was the only thing that could keep his nerves intact while he mapped out enemy locations. His unit even liberated a remote factory, turned concentration camp. This was one of the first provable concentration camps the U.S. came across.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories
Kirby and his wife, Roz, whom he wrote every day.

His maps would play a crucial role in the Battle of Metz, which he also personally fought in. Frozen by Himmler’s Panzers, he still fought them, referring to himself as a “Human Road Block.”

It was the unforgiving winter that sent him home. His feet had become purple with jungle rot and frostbite. It was so bad that he was rushed back to Paris and the doctors considered amputation. He was discharged in 1945, but not before being awarded a Combat Infantryman Badge and Bronze Star for all that he did in Europe.

Much of the information for this article can be found from The Kirby Museum and Ronin Ro’s Tales to Astonish, Jack Kirby’s Biography.

Articles

A brief history of dogs in warfare

Puppies are fluffy and adorable and cuddly companions. Companions who are capable of sinking long, sharp teeth into the flesh of enemy skulls and pulling muscle from the bone.


And in honor of National K9 Veterans Day celebrated on March 13, we took a look at the history of dogs in warfare.

While dogs are known as man’s best friend, they’re also fur missiles that have served in mankind’s wars since at least 600 B.C when the Lydian king deployed dogs to help break the invading army of Cimmerians.

In the early days, the dogs were used to break up enemy formations, charging into the ranks and tearing down as many enemy soldiers as possible. Friendly forces would either hit the enemy just behind the dogs or would wait, letting the dogs sow chaos before the humans hit with maximum force.

As warfare modernized, so did the service of dogs. They gained armor for avoiding injury in combat (think large dogs in little knight costumes) and breeders tailored new generations of dogs better suited for fighting. Dogs were pressed into new roles, acting as couriers, sentries, and scouts.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories
Rrobiek, a Belgian Malinois military working dog, and his handler, Army Staff Sgt. Charles Ogin, 3rd Infantry Regiment, practice bite training after work in Baghdad, Feb. 14, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anna Pongo)

In American military history, dogs served primarily as morale boosters, though some acted as prison guards and sentries. In one case during the Civil War, a Confederate spy who suspected she would be searched hid documents in a false coat of fur on her dog. The documents were safely delivered to Gen. Pierre G. T. Beauregard who was a little surprised when the woman cut the false hide off of her dog.

On the water, dogs served as rat catchers and mascots. Ships’ dogs also helped find food and water on undeveloped islands.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories
(Photo: U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command)

During World War I, dogs originally appointed as unit mascots distinguished themselves in open combat. One of America’s greatest animal war heroes served in World War I. Stubby the dog started hanging out with Connecticut soldiers drilling for service on the front lines.

Stubby went overseas with the 102nd Infantry and gave soldiers early warning of artillery, gas, and infantry attacks. During a raid against German defenses, Stubby was wounded by a hand grenade. Stubby stayed in the war and later apprehended a German spy. He was later promoted to sergeant.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories
Sgt. Stubby rocks his great coat and rifle during World War I. (Photo: Public Domain)

Of course, the introduction of true industrial war in World War I brought other changes to animal service, including the beginning of dogs acting as engineers. Dogs were fitted with cable-laying equipment and would place new communication lines when necessary, providing a smaller target for enemy soldiers trying to prevent Allied communication networks.

In World War II, dogs returned to their old roles, but they were also pressed into new ones. In one of the more horrific moments for animal combat, Soviet forces trained dogs to scurry under German tanks while wearing magnetic mines. The mines would detonate against the hull, disabling or killing the tank but also the dog.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories
Rob was a heroic parachuting dog of World War II later awarded the Dickin Medal. (Photo: Imperial War Museum)

The first airborne dogs jumped into combat on D-Day, accompanying British paratroopers as they fought the German armies.

America’s greatest dog of its greatest generation was likely Chips, a German Shepherd, Collie, Husky mix that forced the capture of 14 Italian soldiers in one day during the invasion of Sicily despite being wounded.

Throughout Korea and Vietnam, dogs continued to serve next to their humans.

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories
Australian soldiers pose with their black labs trained to hunt Viet Cong soldiers in the infamous tunnels of the Vietnam War. (Photo: Australian War Memorial)

In Vietnam, an Air force sentry dog named Nemo was patrolling the airbase perimeter with his handler when they were attacked by Viet Cong guerillas. The handler killed two enemies and Nemo savagely attacked the rest while the handler called for reinforcements. Nemo lost an eye and the handler was injured, but Nemo kept him safe until reinforcements arrived.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, dogs have served primarily in explosive detection roles, helping American and allied forces avoid IEDs and mines. They’ve also served on assault teams with special operators.

While some of the dogs in modern special operations are trained to engage directly with the enemy, Cairo went on the kill/capture mission against Osama Bin Laden but was there to search out hidden passages, enemies, or weapons.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This how the Army introduced the plastic explosive in the 1960s

Today, plastic explosives are a given. But 50 years ago, they were the latest in demolition technology. One of the most notable, of course, is C4.


Officially, it is called the M118 demolition charge, and was called Flex-X back then. Prior to the introduction of Flex-X, explosives had to be secured to what the engineers wanted to blow up.

C4, though, was more like Play-Doh or used chewing gum in that it could be stuck to whatever needs to go away.

 

This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories
Composition C-4 demolition charges await use as explosive ordnance disposal technicians conduct demolition operations supervisor training. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Kathryn Whittenberger)

The explosive had some other advantages as well. It could be used underwater, which means that divers could plant it on a pier without having to surface and risk being seen.

The explosive was also very insensitive. The video below shows troops dropping a weight on the Flex-X to no effect. It wouldn’t even go off when shot by multiple rounds from a M14 service rifle or when tossed into a campfire.

It also took much less time to set up – almost 60 percent less – when compared to earlier explosives, thanks to that Play-Doh/chewing gum consistency. That would save the lives of the engineers, who would spend less time away from cover.

Cold weather had little effect on the explosive’s ability to stick to whatever needed to be blown up. Other explosives needed to be taped or otherwise secured to the target.

According to the Federation of American Scientists, the M118 came in a box of 20 charges, each of which had four eight-ounce sheets of C4. A sales sheet from one manufacturer notes that the M118 is intended for breaching, ordnance disposal, demolition, and cutting metal.

The explosive replaced stocks of TNT, dynamite, and PETN in U.S. military stockpiles.

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