Snipers live by the mantra of “one shot, one kill.” Whenever they find themselves in combat, they must remain true to this law. They can take whatever time they need to calculate all the variables, but they have to make it count. That single shot must land exactly where it needs to be, and a sniper needs to get the heck out of dodge as soon as possible.
But in some cases, one shot means more than one kill. Such was the case with an unidentified Lance Corporal in the British Army who stopped a massive assault by Taliban insurgents all by himself, with one perfectly placed bullet.
Not much is known about the sniper, as the British military has kept his identity classified for safety concerns. What is known, however, is that he was a 20-year-old Lance Corporal with the 1st Battalion of the Coldstream Guards.
This Lance Corporal must have made a name for himself within his unit because he was handed the bolt-action L115A3 AWM .338-caliber sniper rifle early on in his career. Another story about him says that his very first shot fired in combat went directly into the chest of a Taliban machine gunner from 1,465 yards away.
His skill with a sniper rifle is unquestionable — so don’t go calling his amazing shot a matter of luck.
On a cold December morning in 2013, somewhere in Helmund Province, Afghanistan, the Coldstream Guards were out on a routine patrol when this unknown sniper spotted a large group approaching their location, so he radioed in their suspicious activity. There was about to be a massive assault by the Taliban. It wasn’t long before the group pulled out their weapons and opened fire in the direction of the British forces.
The distant end on the radio gave him the all-clear to engage all hostile forces, and he quickly calculated his shot. The Taliban insurgents were peeking from outside of a rock, but he couldn’t get the right angle. Six of the insurgents made their way into a ditch, and everything was perfect for the Lance Corporal. From 930 yards away, he fired directly into the chest of the terrorist in the middle… And boom!
A massive explosion detonated inside the ditch. The round penetrated a suicide vest that was said to have 44 lbs of explosives, and the round prematurely detonated the vest, in what could have been a devastating attack on the Brits. It’s unknown what substance was in the vest, but for reference, this is what 42 lbs. of tannerite will do:
The fighting ended immediately, and the remaining Taliban forces dispersed like cockroaches in the light. When everything went quiet, he was also said to have gotten on the radio and awkwardly said “I… I… think I’ve just shot a suicide bomber.“
His single shot saved the lives of countless British soldiers that day. The identity of this heroic badass is still unknown and, frankly, may never be revealed. As he was a member of the Coldstream Guard, it wouldn’t be uncommon for him to have rotated back to England and pulling guard duty at Buckingham Palace. A skilled marksman like him is perfectly suited to protect Queen Elizabeth II.
The “Miracle at Dunkirk,” when 338,000 troops were evacuated in Operation Dynamo where optimistic estimates topped out at 45,000 might be rescued, was a turning point for the allies, allowing them to salvage troops that would fight in North Africa, at D-Day, and beyond.
In 7 steps, here’s how the British Expeditionary Force was trapped on the beaches of France and then rescued in Operation Dynamo.
The military maneuvers and buildup between the two sides were dubbed the “Phoney War.” Belgium, the Netherlands, and other countries across Europe prepared for the likelihood of a German invasion.
2. The Germans invade
On May 10, 1940, the “Phoney War” came to a violent end as the Germans invaded the Netherlands and Belgium. The Germans quickly took ground and captured bridgeheads on the River Meuse, allowing them to invade France through the Ardennes Forest.
4. The French and British withdraw towards the beaches
As army after army and country after country surrendered to the German war machine, those still fighting were forced to withdraw further and further east and north. They were pushed against the beaches of France. Panzer forces attacked and captured the French deep-water ports at Boulogne and Calais on May 25 and 26, limiting the potential evacuation options.
5. The Panzers stop
The 48-hour timeline was agreed upon because it was the longest that forces could reliably hold out against German armor. But the German tanks had mysteriously stopped their push towards Dunkirk itself on May 23 by order of Gen. Ewald von Kleist. The next day, a full “stop order” was given by Hitler.
The Allies responded by quickly shoring up their defenses as best they could. What was a loose line of troops on May 23, likely to be brushed aside quickly, became a much more formidable line of dug in but exhausted forces.
One of the most shocking events in the evacuations began on May 27 when the Royal Navy requisitioned small vessels for use in the evacuations. Most of the ships were manned by the Royal Navy, but some ship owners insisted that they would pilot their craft to assist in the evacuation.
American Gen. George Washington, the hero of the Revolution and the country’s first president, spent much of his early career wishing he was a British officer, working as an unpaid aide, and then traveling approximately 450 miles just to earn his “Lobsterback” coat.
Before he was a hero to the American people, he was a hero to Royal Governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddie. Dinwiddie was the lieutenant governor when he ordered Washington on one of his first major missions, a diplomatic undertaking to tell French forces in the Ohio Valley of Virginia to please, “GTFO. K, thanks. Byeeee!” on behalf of the governor.
The French, secure in their fort and coveting the rich farmland for themselves, invited Washington in for dinner and then told him that these fine cuts of meat were all he was ever going to get from the Valley. It’s unknown if they even let him take his leftovers with him in a simple brown bag.
Fort Necessity, where Washington was forced to surrender to a larger French force.
(Photo by Ikcerog)
The pamphlet went super viral and was a hit in the U.S. and Britain, where a number of distinguished men were known to drop monocles and women suffered the vapors when they read it. The French threat in the valleys had apparently been allowed to grow much too large, and something needed to be done about it.
Washington was sent back, this time at the head of a 160-man force. They snuck up on a French encampment in the night but were spotted in the half-light of dawn, May 28, 1754. Someone fired a shot and a battle quickly raged. Washington was successful in the initial engagement, but was forced to surrender to a larger body of French forces on July 3.
There were about to be Redcoats for days, man.
(Photo by Lee Wright)
Washington bounced back from this setback, even without the benefit of a montage, which had not yet been invented. The battles in the Virginia wilderness triggered a war between the French and British that raged across the world. For the colonies, this fight would center on alliances with the Native Americans and control of valuable territory.
And Washington, recently promoted, ambitious, and knowledgeable of the area, was perfectly positioned to aid a British victory. He applied for a commission in His Royal Majesty’s Army, ready to lead loyal subjects of the crown to their destined glory!
Colonel of Militia George Washington, just a few years before he became a general and showed all his Lobsterback detractors what was really up.
(Charles Willson Peale)
At the time, officers in the British Army were often placed above their colonial counterparts, regardless of rank. Rather than suffer the indignity of reporting to officers he outranked, he became an unpaid aide to the British commander, Maj. Gen. Edward Braddock.
Washington’s advice to Braddock was often timely, accurate, and ignored until the Battle of Monongahela. On the Monongahela River, Washington was suffering from dysentery but took command after Braddock was shot. While the British lost the battle, Washington’s actions were credited with saving hundreds of soldiers from capture and death, and he once again became a hero. Braddock, who later died of his wounds, even gifted Washington his commander’s sash, a red length of fabric signifying command.
Woodcut of Braddock’s death. He actually died a little after the battle, but never let the facts get in the way of a good woodcut, guys.
Washington, once again a hero and now wearing a pimp red sash, traveled to Boston to meet with Governor William Shirley, the new acting commander-in-chief now that Braddock was dead, to ask for a commission in the Royal Army. Shirley thanked Washington for his service but turned him down. He did decree that militia officers outranked royal officer of lower ranks, so that was something.
Remember when Somali pirates made headlines for seizing an oil tanker? That batch of Somali pirates was pretty smart. Others have managed to be very dumb. How dumb were they? Well, some pirates tried to hijack a pair of U.S. Navy warships.
According to a United States Navy release, on March 18, 2006, the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) were patrolling off the coast of Somalia as part of Task Force 150 to deter piracy. During their patrol, they were approached by a vessel towing a number of skiffs.
A boarding party from the Gonzalez was sent to investigate, but noticed a number of people were brandishing rocket-propelled grenade launchers. The pirates on board the skiffs then opened fire on the Cape St. George, inflicting minor damage.
The Cape St. George and the Gonzalez, as well as the boarding party, proceeded to return fire, using what a contemporary CNN.com report described as “small arms.” The main pirate vessel was set afire and sank. Two smaller skiffs were captured, along with 12 pirates and one body. A Somali pirate group would claim that 27 “coast guardsmen” had been sent out.
The Virginian-Pilot reported that the wounded were first taken to the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA 4) for treatment. The pirates who survived this near-catastrophic failure in their victim-selection process were eventually released and repatriated back to Somalia.
Four years later, the guided-missile frigate USS Nicholas (FFG 47) also came under attack, according to a CBS News report. The BBC reported that five captured pirates were given life sentences for piracy.
The United States military’s code of conduct implores captured service members to continue to resist by any means possible. This often means reprisals from one’s captors. Therefore, surviving one stint in a POW camp can be excruciating.
To do it twice is unimaginable — except these three American servicemen did it.
1. Wendall A. Phillips
Phillips was assigned to the Air Transport Command as a radio operator on C-47 aircraft flying from bases in England.
While in Europe Phillips survived five separate crashes. During the last one, in late 1944, his aircraft was shot down. Though he walked away from the crash, he was unable to evade the Germans and was captured.
He and his fellow crewmembers were taken to a German POW camp in Belgium.
Phillips had no intention of sticking around though. After just 33 days Phillips and two other POW’s made a break for it.
Phillips simply snuck away while no guards were around. Finding a hole in the electric fence around the camp, Phillips and the other two men made good their escape and quickly found a place to hide.
Phillips travelled for three days before he linked up with the French Underground. The resistance fighters helped Phillips make it back to American lines.
After returning to American forces, Phillips was reassigned to the China-India-Burma Theater flying “the Hump” to bring supplies to forces fighting the Japanese.
Once again, Phillips’ airplane crashed and he was captured by the enemy.
According to an article in The Morning Call, Phillips endured torture at the hands of the Japanese — they even forcibly removed his fingernails trying to get information out of him.
Phillips would not escape this time but he would survive his ordeal as a POW; he was released with the Japanese surrender in 1945.
2. Felix J. McCool
When Gen. Wainwright conveyed the American surrender in the Philippines to President Roosevelt, he said, “there is a limit to human endurance, and that limit has long since been passed.” But Gen. Wainwright was certainly not speaking for one Marine sergeant, Felix J. McCool.
McCool was still recovering from wounds he had received earlier in resisting the Japanese when he, the 4th Marine Regiment, and the rest of the defenders of Corregidor were rounded up and shipped off to internment.
Just getting there was bad enough as the captives were crammed into cattle cars so tightly that when men passed out or died they could not even fall down.
But for McCool, being a Marine meant that he was not out of the fight. He did everything in his power to resist his Japanese captors.
While working as forced labor on an airfield McCool and his fellow prisoners created a tiger trap on the runway — they later watched as a Japanese airplane crashed and burned due to their handiwork.
McCool also managed to smuggle in medical supplies to help the sick and wounded.
He did this despite the constant threat of beatings and even summary execution. He carried on despite the horrendous conditions in the camp.
But there was worse to come.
McCool next endured a brutal voyage to Japan aboard a Japanese prisoner transport vessel, known as a “hell ship.” McCool survived the hellacious conditions only to be put to work in an underground coal mine. There he continued his resistance by sabotaging the work and keeping the faith with his fellow prisoners.
After thirteen months in the coal mine, McCool was freed by the ending of the war in the Pacific.
He returned to the United States and decided to stay in the Marine Corps. Then in 1950, now a Chief Warrant Officer, he found himself fighting the North Koreans.
McCool became part of the fateful Task Force Drysdale, an ad hoc, mixed-nationality unit that was attempting to fight its way toward the beleaguered Marines fighting at the Chosin Reservoir. When the task force was ambushed and separated along the roadway to Hagaru-ri, McCool was once again taken prisoner.
McCool and his fellow captives were marched far north through brutal cold with no rations. Once in their internment camp, the conditions hardly improved. Besides the brutal treatment, the men were also subjected to communist indoctrination and propaganda.
McCool’s resistance earned him the ire of his captors and they threw him in the Hole — a barely three foot square hole in the ground. But he endured.
McCool was repatriated with many other Americans during Operation Big Switch after the end of hostilities.
According to his award citations, McCool spent over six years as a prisoner of war between his two internments.
He later wrote a book about his experiences and the poetry that he wrote to keep himself going during those terrible times.
3. Richard Keirn
Richard Keirn was a young flight officer on a B-17 when he arrived in England in 1944. On Sept. 11, 1944, he took to the skies in his first mission to bomb Nazi Germany. It would also be his last.
Keirn’s B-17 was shot down that day and he became a POW for the remainder of the war. Released in May 1945 after the defeat of Germany, Keirn returned to the United States and stayed in the military. He became a part of the newly formed U.S. Air Force.
In 1965, Keirn embarked for Vietnam, flying F-4 Phantom II’s.
Russia almost blew the United States away with a nuclear strike in 1995 after mistakenly thinking it was under attack. If it weren’t for Russia’s then-president Boris Yeltsin, America as we know it wouldn’t exist. Under the “launch-on-warning” policy used by both nations, Russia had 30 minutes to decide to nuke us but Yeltsin only had five.
Here’s how this monumental mistake almost took place:
The U.S. adopted the iconic symbol from the British in the late 1800s for Naval Chief Petty Officers to wear as it represents the trials and tribulations they are forced to endure on a daily basis. Chiefs regularly serve as the “go between” for officers and junior enlisted personnel.
The adaptation consisted of adding the U.S.N. to the anchor, but these letters which aren’t referring to the branch of service like one might think — United States Navy.
The “U” stands for Unity as a reminder of cooperation, maintaining harmony, and continuity of purpose and action.
The “S” meanings Service, referring to our fellow man and our Navy.
Lastly, the “N” refers to Navigation, to help keep ourselves on a righteous course so that we may walk upright.
Earning a rank of a chief (E-7) comes with several years of dedicated service, an intense selection process and be eligible for promotion from the current rank of Petty Officer First Class (E-6).
The Navy has four different chief ranks.
The fourth chief rank refers to the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy or MCPON. Only one enlisted Master Chief Petty Officer can hold this position at one time — they’re the most senior enlisted person in the Navy.
For decades before 9/11, Americans talked about how they hadn’t been attacked at home since Pearl Harbor, but that actually wasn’t true.
The California coast was attacked less than three months later, and two additional attacks were launched in 1942 alone. Here are five times that America was attacked at home in World War II after Pearl Harbor:
1. Japanese submarines shell California oil refinery
In February 1942, Japan landed its first attack on the American mainland. Submarine I-17 surfaced off the coast of California and proceeded to shell oil processing facilities in Ellwood, a city north of Santa Barbara. The Ellwood attack was believed to have been intentionally timed to take place during one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s fireside chats.
The attack did little real damage. An oil derrick and a pump house were both hit but no personnel were injured or killed and refining operations continued throughout the war.
Luckily for America, the commandos had been recruited from the civilian population and the Nazi party and they were inept. One of the team leaders had slept through much of the 18 days of special training.
The first team was spotted by the Coast Guard while burying their supplies on the New York beach. They got away, but both teams were hunted down by the FBI before they launched any successful operations.
3. A Japanese submarine shells military defenses in Oregon
An I-25 submarine ordered to patrol the American coast surfaced during the night of June 21, 1942, and shelled the coastal defenses at Fort Stevens, Oregon. Most of the rounds buried themselves in the sand on the shore and the damage to the U.S. was mostly on morale.
4. A Japanese plane drops bombs on a logging town
In September 1942, the submarine I-25 tried again, this time with a plane equipped with incendiary bombs. Many submarines at the time carried a single float plane used to search for targets or collect battle damage assessments.
The pilot assigned to I-25, Nobuo Fujita, had proposed that these planes could be used in an offensive capacity.
The Imperial Navy brass agreed to the plan and he was allowed to drop incendiary bombs deep in the forests of southern Oregon. The attack was launched on Sept. 9, 1942, and the early stages were successful. The pilot delivered two incendiary bombs that detonated and spread small fires across hundreds of square yards.
Unfortunately for the Japanese, they had little knowledge of the weather conditions in their target area. The woods had been unseasonably wet from recent rains and thick fogs, so the fires failed to spread.
Still, the FBI and the U.S. Army worried that another attack would be more successful.
The Japanese did indeed try again on Sept. 25, but the fires failed to spread once again.
Only 350 bombs actually made it to the states and spread far and wide, hitting states like Michigan, Iowa, and Kansas. Most failed to start large fires. The only known fatalities from the weapon was when a pregnant woman and her five children came across an unexploded bomb in Oregon.
It exploded while the family was looking at it, killing all six.
Power struggles and war have existed since the dawn of humanity. Even today, we struggle with international relations and division within our own country. On numerous occasions, however, twisted political leaders have risen to power. Dictators like Genghis Khan and Adolf Hitler crossed far beyond the boundary of war and genocide, initiating unspeakable atrocities. While we hope history never repeats itself, it’s important that we don’t forget our past either – even the ugliest parts. These dictators were among the evilest despots in world history. Which do you think is the most terrifying?
1. Qin Shi Huang
Reign: 247-210 B.C.
Qin Shi Huang was, you guessed it, the first emperor of the Qin dynasty. The grade school taunt, “first is the worst” comes to mind because he was an absolutely brutal ruler. If scholars disagreed with him, he sentenced them to death. Any books that criticized his views were burned.
He also was responsible for the first version of the great wall, which was a small version of the one we know today, and for the construction of a massive mausoleum including an army of life-sized terra-cotta soldiers. Many conscripts died during the wall’s construction, but wall duty was the better option; those who worked on the mausoleum were automatically killed after their job was complete to keep the tomb on the down-low. In addition to all the casually ordered death, he opted to castrate prisoners of war and force them into slavery.
2. Julius Caesar
Reign: A.D. 37-41
Julius Caesar, also known as Caligula, wasn’t always despised. At the beginning of his rule, he freed wrongfully imprisoned citizens and nixed excessively high sales tax, but as time went on, his health suffered. Historians believe he may have suffered from several small strokes and possibly depression, and his personality changed drastically. He killed his rivals and forced their parents to watch, among other malicious acts. His political actions were increasingly bold. He was eventually overthrown by a group of 60 senators…and in this case, overthrown means murdered. He was stabbed 23 times, ending his pivotal role in Roman society.
3. Attila the Hun
Reign: AD 434-453
The Hunnic Empire was located near present-day Hungary, and it was home to the infamous Attila the Hun. He liked to invade other empires. A lot. He successfully led invasions of the Byzantine empire, devastated the Balkans, and attempted many failed, yet extremely destructive, raids on the Western Roman Empire, Roman Gaul, and Italy. While he didn’t ultimately win, his aggressive tactics and eagerness to fight made him a formidable opponent. He died shortly after razing much of Italy to the ground, and likely would have continued to plunder his way across the continent had he remained alive. Surprisingly, he died off the battlefield from unspecified internal bleeding on the night of his marriage (one of several).
4. Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan was born to be tough. His father, chief of his tribe, was killed when Khan was only nine by poisoning, and the fatherless boy was raised in poverty. He was raised by his mother who taught him the importance of strong political alliances, and while he was captured by his father’s former allies for some time, he escaped and began to unite the Mongol tribes on his own. He proceeded to conquer much of China and Central Asia, and his methods were heartless. He killed civilians en masse more than once, including a massacre of the aristocrats of the Khwarezm Empire. He had so many wives and concubines that up to eight percent of men living in the region of the former Mongolian empire are genetic descendants of Khan.
There were honestly too many empires to remember them all, but Timur was responsible for founding the Timurid Empire. He led ruthless military raids throughout much of western Asia, covering the area of modern-day Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. His military conquests weren’t the scary part, though. As a leader, he was heartless. To end a rebellion after he successfully invaded the city of Delhi, he ordered a bloody massacre. When it was over, he mounted thousands of heads up on minarets. He also had a tower built out of live men, glued together with bricks and mortar.
6. Vlad III
Reign: 1448; 1456-1462; 1476
Vlad III was known as Vlad the Impaler for a reason. According to his reputation, when he first became ruler of Wallachia he invited his rivals to a formal dinner. When they arrived, he stabbed and impaled them all. Needless to say, he wasn’t the best host. Impaling became his favorite means of execution. While he did attempt to stabilize the tumultuous nation, he did so by bloody and lawless methods. He was also known as Vlad Dracula, based on his family name. You can see where this is going. Because of his lust for blood, the legend of the vampire Count Dracula was born. Thanks, Vlad.
7. Queen Mary I (aka Bloody Mary)
Religious wars and persecution were always a thing, but Queen Mary I took it to the next level. She was the only child of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon and a devout Catholic. When Mary I became Queen of England, she wanted to share her beliefs with all of England. By share, I mean mandate. She married Philip II of Spain, who was also Catholic, and began a campaign of murdering hundreds of Protestants. Hanging sounds almost gentle compared to her methods; she had them all burned at the stake.
8. Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin, always had rebellious political views. He was outspoken about his communist views and pushed for socialism to replace capitalism. In 1917 after the Russian Tsar was overthrown and a provisional government was put in place, Lenin saw his chance. That October, he led a revolution of his own and took power. He redistributed land throughout the country and withdrew from WWI, but it all went downhill from there. His approach to his opponents was merciless, killing thousands in concentration camps and disregarding the famine and poverty his people endured.
According to the BBC, “During this period of revolution, war and famine, Lenin demonstrated a chilling disregard for the sufferings of his fellow countrymen and mercilessly crushed any opposition.”
9. Joseph Stalin
Lenin’s successor, Joseph Stalin, wasn’t any less aggressive. Stalin was a highly significant figure during the early-mid 20th century, but his methods have been condemned for obvious reasons. First, his Five-Year plans contributed to wide-spread famine. Then, he began “The Great Purge”, to rid Russia of the so-called enemies of the working class. Over a million people were imprisoned, with over 700,000 executed. He was also responsible for mass repressions, deportations, and ethnic cleansing. Some people today, especially in Russia, still believe that some of his political views have merit.
10. Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini, like many members of this list, didn’t grow up in the most peaceful environment. He had always been an outspoken political activist, but when he was wounded in WWI, he gathered other disillusioned war vets into violent groups known as the Blackshirts. This was the beginning of fascism, an extreme-right totalitarian party. He began dismantling Italy’s democratic government piece by piece until he had complete power.
By 1936, he had become an ally of Hitler, bringing anti-Semitism to Italy. Despite surviving many assassination attempts, he was eventually caught and executed alongside his mistress and hung upside down from the roof of a gas station in Milan.
11. Adolf Hitler
The infamous Adolf Hitler wormed his way into power as the chancellor of Germany in 1933. and then as Führer just a year later. He was largely responsible for WWII after he invaded Poland in 1939, and was the primary instigator of the Holocaust. Within two years, Hitler’s Third Reich empire included most European countries. He proceeded to order the systematic destruction of any people who did not match his vision of an “ideal master race”, throwing Jews, Slavs, and anyone else he considered socially undesirable into concentration camps.
There, his followers conducted mass genocide on his orders, killing over 19 million. That’s not including the millions of soldiers and civilians who died in WWII. He’s likely responsible for the greatest amount of human loss and destruction orchestrated by a single man in all of history.
12. Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong was an influential communist leader of China who ruled with an iron fist. He was known for his political intellect and strategies and he made some positive changes, like modernizing China and improving education, health care, and women’s rights. Unfortunately, his regime was also totalitarian and repressive. He ordered the destruction of many religious and cultural artifacts, took control of all industry and agriculture, and snuffed out any opposition like a candle. His harsh policies encouraged forced labor and led to the death of over 40 million people through starvation and mass executions.
13. Idi Amin
General Idi Amin overthrew Uganda’s government in a military coup, instating himself as the new “president.” Almost overnight, he became known for his cruelty. Known as the “Butcher of Uganda,” his rule was exceptionally immoral and murderous. During his eight years in power, he massively mismanaged the economy, persecuted multiple ethnic groups, drove Uganda’s Asian population out of the country, and killed with reckless abandon. Somewhere between 100,000-500,000 people were killed by his command.
You may never have heard of Basil Zaharoff. He’s not the Lord of War depicted by Nic Cage in the 2005 film; Zaharoff was actually around much, much earlier. Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, the “Lord of War” the Nic Cage movie is based on, has nothing on the original “Merchant of Death.”
It didn’t matter that they didn’t often work as directed.
Basil Zaharoff, the world’s richest arms dealer… eventually.
In the days before anyone actually cared about international arms trafficking, men like Zaharoff were renowned for their salesmanship. The Greek gun dealer and industrialist would become one of the richest men to live in his lifetime, selling weapons to anyone who was willing to purchase them, even if they were on opposing sides of a conflict. But his business cunning didn’t stop with getting people to buy. He was also adept at edging out his competition, selling the latest and greatest in military tech.
By the late 1880s, countries like the U.S., Britain, the Ottoman Empire, Germany, and Russia all sought out the Maxim Machine Guns, which Zaharoff had just gotten the rights to produce, along with the new submarines he was suddenly able to sell. While many of the world’s major powers eventually lost interest, the sub was especially interesting to Greece, the Ottoman Empire, and the Russian Empire.
Isaac Peral’s submarine in 1886.
Until this time, the use of submarines was intermittent and untrustworthy in combat. But when a Spanish sailor created one that was actually functional, useful, and fired weapons without killing the crew, it raised some eyebrows. After Zaharoff was able to sell one to the Greek Navy, it wasn’t long before the Ottoman Turks, Greece’s longtime nemesis, noticed. The arms dealer was able to convince the Turks the submarine was a game-changer. He later told the Russian Tsar the same thing, and that Russia needed two of its own to balance power in the region.
The only thing was, no one needed Isaac Peral’s submarine. While it was an advanced invention, none of the models Zaharoff sold to the Greeks, Turks, or Russians actually worked as advertised. It still had a few bugs to work out, and besides – Zaharoff didn’t have the actual submarines; he was working from stolen plans.
None of the submarines actually worked like Peral’s original.
How you walk when you sell five useless submarines to three countries who will never tell out of sheer embarrassment.
For all his failures of morality, Basil Zaharoff didn’t stoop to cheating the Allies out of much-needed cash after World War I broke out. Far from it. He used his skills as a merchant and salesman to further the Allied cause, ensuring Greece would stay in the Entente alliance and convincing the new Greek government to open a front against the Ottomans.
Of course, after the war ended, he went right back to his old tricks. He was selling weapons until the day he died in 1936, providing weapons to the Spanish government during the Spanish Civil War.
In the annals of military history, the Korean War is unique in the sheer numbers of human wave attacks that defenders were forced to confront. Like the Japanese in WWII, the Chinese and North Korean forces were keen on assaulting defensive positions with overwhelming numbers. Unlike the Japanese, however, this was a preferred tactic rather than an act of desperation.
American and United Nations forces would pay dearly to hold their positions against these attacks. Many men gave their last full measure of devotion to secure the safety of their comrades. For some men, that last full measure involved fighting to the death in hand-to-hand combat. In the image above, we see a granddaughter of one of these men accepting the Medal of Honor on his behalf. These four heroes really gave everything they could.
1. Jack G. Hanson
In the early morning hours of June 7, 1951, the communists launched an all-out assault at a strategic hilltop held by F Company, 31st Infantry Regiment.
Manning a machine gun covering the main approach was Pfc. Jack Hanson. As the attackers rushed forward, he poured devastating fire into the ranks. The maelstrom of bullets going both ways wounded the four riflemen holding the position alongside Hanson.
As they were evacuated, Hanson was told to relocate to a more tenable position. Meanwhile, the charging enemy forces were threatening to overrun.
Disregarding the order, Hanson held his position to continue engaging the enemy. As others fell back, they reported that Hanson was single-handedly putting up a dogged defense. He never arrived at the fallback position.
Near dawn, his company counterattacked. When they regained their previous positions, they found Pfc. Hanson lying in front of his gun emplacement. His machine gun ammunition was depleted and in his right hand was an empty .45 caliber pistol. In his left hand was a blood-soaked machete. All around him were the bodies of 22 slain enemies.
On Sept. 1, 1951, the communists launched an offensive on a position held by F Company, 2nd Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment. Assisting in the defense of the sector was Pfc. Anthony Kaho’ohanohano and his machine gun squad.
As the enemy surged into the position, Kaho’ohanohano realized it was untenable and ordered the withdrawal of the rest of the squad. He then rushed to retrieve ammunition and grenades, shrugging off his shoulder wound, and returned to his original position to cover the retreat of friendly forces.
His accurate fire drew the attention of the charging enemy, who focused their efforts on taking out the lone defender. He blasted away with his machine gun until his ammunition was depleted. He threw all of the grenades he had, but the enemy was still coming.
Undaunted, Kaho’ohanohano grabbed his entrenching tool and stood to meet his foes. He fought valiantly until the enemy’s numerical superiority overwhelmed him and they overran his position.
His staunch defense inspired his comrades and allowed them time to regroup to launch a coordinated counterattack. When friendly forces retook the position, they found thirteen dead communists around him. Kaho’ohanohano was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
3. Herbert K. Pilila’au
On Sept. 13, 1951, the Americans launched an effort to take a heavily fortified and well-defended ridge. The area eventually gained the infamous nickname, “Heartbreak Ridge,” due to the desperate fighting that went on there.
Just four days into the battle, a young draftee from Hawaii, Herbert Pilila’au, would exemplify the courage of those who fought on Heartbreak Ridge.
On that day, Pilila’au and the rest of C Company, 23rd Infantry Regiment, charged up the slopes of the ridge, intent on taking Hill 931. However, his platoon’s attack bogged down and they set in a defensive perimeter while the remainder of the company set in elsewhere.
With the help of supporting fire, the platoon was able to hold back probing attacks. Before long though, the North Koreans attacked in force and Pilila’au’s platoon attempted to rejoin the rest of the company.
Pilila’au, his squad leader, and the company artillery observer remained behind to cover the withdrawal. As the other two called for fire onto the encroaching enemy Pilila’au poured withering fire into the enemy with his BAR.
Despite friendly artillery landing all around him, enemy forces charging forward, and dwindling hopes of a successful retreat, Pilila’au remained in his position to ensure his comrades were secure.
When he expended the last of his BAR ammunition, he met the enemy advance with grenades. When those were gone, Pilila’au grabbed his trench knife and charged from his position to battle his foe hand-to-hand.
From their now secure vantage point, his fellow soldiers watched Pilila’au charge headlong into the communists, stabbing and punching as he went until he was overwhelmed and felled by an enemy bayonet.
When American forces retook the position the next day, they found the bodies of 40 dead enemies around Pilila’au.
For his courageous actions on Heartbreak Ridge, Pilila’au received the Medal of Honor.
4. Demensio Rivera
On May 23, 1951, a dense fog rolled into the positions held by the men of G Company, 7th Infantry Regiment. Hiding in the fog was an overwhelming enemy force, approaching for an attack.
One of the men holding the line against the Communist onslaught was Pvt. Demensio Rivera. With little to go on other than shadows in the fog, Rivera engaged the onrushing enemy with deadly accurate rifle fire. When his rifle jammed, he discarded it and fought on with his pistol and hand grenades.
When an enemy attempted to infiltrate the position through a nearby defilade, Rivera left the safety of his position and killed the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.
As the enemy continued to press the attack Rivera expended his pistol ammunition and all of his grenades but one.
With a mind on nothing other than devotion to duty, Rivera pulled the pin and waited for the enemy to storm his position. When that attack came Rivera calmly dropped the grenade among himself and his attackers, knowing full-well it would be the end of him.
After the grenade’s detonation, friendly forces rushed to Rivera’s position. To their surprise, Rivera was still alive, though gravely wounded. He was surrounded by the bodies of four enemy soldiers.
Rivera’s selfless actions in the face of overwhelming odds earned him the Medal of Honor.
Confederate Col. John S. Mosby was one of the world’s greatest guerrilla leaders, deploying cavalry against Union forces in lightning raids. In one impressive raid, he even managed to kidnap the Union general who commanded forces sent to stop him.
The engagement took place in March 1863, when Mosby was new to his command. He and his men were interrogating prisoners when a Union deserter laid out the location of the brigade’s picket lines and other defenses.
As it turned out, the Union 2nd Vermont Brigade had moved camps, but its general decided to stay at a local doctor’s house about three miles from his closest regiment. It was the 2nd Vermont that had so often sent its cavalry forces to try and catch Mosby — and Mosby saw an opportunity to end the harassment.
Mosby created a daring plan to slip through the nearby picket lines and kidnap both Brig. Gen. Edwin Stoughton, the commander of 2nd Brigade, as well as the colonel who commanded the brigade’s cavalry regiment.
Surprisingly, both the men of the 2nd Brigade and officers in nearby units had predicted that Stoughton would be captured if he didn’t move his headquarters, and Stoughton himself expressed concern about the thin manning of the picket lines.
The deserter stayed with Mosby’s Rangers for a year before he fell in combat.
Stoughton’s fall was, for obvious reasons, very quick. His capture was an embarrassment for the nation and his rank had not yet been confirmed by the Senate as a brigadier general. Lincoln withdrew his nomination. When Stoughton was traded back to Union lines two months later, he found that he had no military rank or position.
Presidents of the past had some interesting hobbies. Abe Lincoln could kick your ass if he wanted to — and that’s exactly what he did wrestling in more than 300 matches. He only lost once. Calvin Coolidge installed an electric horse at the White House because he missed the joy of riding. And Dwight D. Eisenhower was a prolific painter, often giving his latest magnum opus to his closest friends. But before that, the OG President George Washington put them all to shame with his thriving whiskey empire in the final years of his life.
As was the norm during the 18th century, Washington was known to sip low-alcohol “Small Beer” for hydration — including while leading the Virginia militia in the French and Indian War. He wrote his own recipe upside down on the last page of one of his notebooks. He also famously ran up an epic bar tab in celebration of writing the Constitution. So when James Anderson, Washington’s Scottish farm manager, approached him with an offer he couldn’t refuse, it was only natural for Washington to transform Mount Vernon into the epicenter of whiskey making in the United States.
Anderson leveraged his expertise distilling grain in Scotland and told Washington that Mount Vernon’s crops and copious water supply could produce a profitable whiskey business. The construction began over the winter of 1797 to 1798, and the distillery was built with large river rocks taken from the Falls of the Potomac and sandstone cut from Mount Vernon. Inside the 75-by-30-foot walls were five copper pot stills, a boiler, and 50 tubs for cooking the mash. It had a second floor for storing extra equipment needed for a sophisticated whiskey production and had sleeping rooms for the workers.
Under Anderson were six enslaved men named Daniel, Hanson, James, Nat, Peter, and Timothy, who brought Washington’s whiskey into being. They were all trained specifically for this operation, and it wasn’t out of the norm for other slaves to be skilled in the trades. On Washington’s gristmill-distillery complex, more than 50 enslaved men and women worked as coopers mending metal, carpenters building and repairing tools, blacksmiths for locks and horseshoes, grooms for the horses, textile workers for clothing, dairy maids to care for the estate’s cows, and gardeners for Mount Vernon’s gardens and orchards.
The average distillery of the era had only one or two stills and stilled for a month — Washington’s operation produced whiskey year-round. Washington was able to do this by favoring the innovation of Oliver Evans’ automated gristmill system, which mechanically milled grain and flour without the need of manual labor. This enabled the gristmill to produce 5,000 to 8,000 pounds of flour and cornmeal per day. And nothing went to waste. Even the slop from the distillery was given to Washington’s hogs in a pigpen located just outside.
The recipe for Washington’s most common whiskey was 60% rye, 35% corn, and 5% malted barley. Rather than being aged, bottled, and branded like the spirits of today, it was poured into wooden whiskey barrels and distributed to merchants at their request. By 1799, the same year of Washington’s death, his side hustle was producing 11,000 gallons of whiskey and pulling in a $7,500 profit.
Washington’s distillery was re-created in 2007 thanks to the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, and it’s become an iconic tourist attraction where visitors get the chance to taste George Washington’s Rye Whiskey in person. It took a silver medal in the 2019 American Craft Spirits Association Awards and is recognized as the official spirit of the commonwealth of Virginia. If whiskey isn’t your thing, they also offer brandy and rum, suitable options for anybody looking to toast one of America’s founding fathers. At the very least, treat yourself to some of Washington’s pancakes.