It was the Red Army’s “Iwo Jima” moment, Soviet troops fixing the flag of the Soviet Union on top of the most infamous symbol of Hitler’s rise to power. On May 2, 1945, Soviet photographer Yevgeny Khaldei snapped the now-famous photo of Alyosha Kovalyov and Abdulkhakim Ismailov raising the hammer and sickle over the Reichstag.
But the truth behind the photo, who was in the photo, and who actually raised the Soviet victory banner, was clouded in the fog of war and muddled by the Russian propaganda machine for decades. The first to raise the flag were a Kazakh, Lt. Rakhimzhan Koshkarbaev and Pvt. Georgij Bulatov, a Russian from Sverdlovsk.
At first, the Kremlin announced that Georgia-born Meliton Kantaria and Russian Mikhail Yegorov were the men in the photo. The men were hailed as heroes and lived the rest of their lives in the glory created by Soviet propaganda.
Only after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 did the truth come out. Kovalyov and Ismailov were really the ones who hoisted the flag on the building… in the photo. But they weren’t the first to raise one. One story has it that a Sergeant Mikhail Menin, part of a five-man fire team led by Vladimir Makov raised a flag on the building first.
In 2007, the Russian Institute of Military History announced that honor went to Koshkarbaev and Bulatov. The only problem was they hoisted the red banner at 10:30 at night. No one believed these two, however – it was too dark for photos.
A documentary film titled “The Motherland Calls” about Kazakhs in the Great Patriotic War (the Soviet term for WWII), relayed anecdotal evidence from other Red Army veterans that described Koshkarbaev and other men from the 674th regiment moving on the parliament building – including the Soviet filmmaker and combat cameraman Roman Karmen.
Karmen recalled filming “the Kazakh officer” as a Red Army combat cameraman in Berlin.
“You see, we received an order from Moscow: the Victory Banner over the Reichstag should be hoisted by representatives of Georgia and Russia, but it was difficult to stop. I was told to cut the frames [of Koshkarbaev], but they are preserved, in the archives.”
Kovalyov and Ismailov were pressured by the the KGB to stay quiet about their role in the flag raising. Bulatov was found hanged in his apartment in 1955.
Soviet leadership began pressuring their troops to capture the building in preparation for the International Workers Day celebrations for May 1st. The Soviets tried to drape red banners on the building via aircraft, but came up short when the banners were caught on the girders of the roof.
But as of May 30th, Hitler still controlled the Reichstag.
The German parliament building, Hitler’s rubber stamp, was defended by 1,000 German troops, so Soviet leadership ordered nine divisions to attack the building. Red Army troops used mortars fired horizontally to punch through bricked-up doorway throughout the building. They fought room by room until Soviet fire teams could make their way to the stairs and the roof of the building.
By May 2nd, the only Germans left in the building surrendered from the basement. That’s when the photographer Yevgeny Khaldei made his way up to the roof and enlisted Kovalyov and Ismailov to help raise the now-famous red banner. He burned through a whole roll of film taking the image.
Coffee is, without question, one of the most popular drinks in the entire world. Service members around the globe wake up every morning to enjoy a tasty cup of Joe and drink it throughout the day to get a critical mid-day boost.
It’s reported that coffee was discovered centuries ago on the Ethiopian plateau — which covers the majority of the country and the Horn of Africa — by a goat herder named Kaldi. After his goats ate the beans from a nearby tree, they had crazy energy that kept them from falling asleep. Humans gave it a shot and, unsurprisingly, felt the same things.
Since then, the bean has been sold throughout the world. People of all ages consume countless gallons of the special drink we commonly refer to as a “cup of Joe.” But have you ever wondered where that nickname came from?
Turns out, it was used long ago as a way to talk sh*t about a man who changed Naval history forever.
Way back in the day, drinking alcohol on Navy ships was the norm for sailors. However, during President Woodrow Wilson’s administration, Josephus Daniels was appointed as the newest Secretary of the Navy.
After he took the position, Daniels decided that the United States needed to clean up a negative image surrounding sailors. To do this, he increased the number of religious chaplains in service, (officially) banned prostitutes from Naval bases and, worst of all, banned personnel from consuming alcohol on vessels.
Although sailors hated the idea (big shocker), General Order 99 was issued on Jun. 1, 1914.
Because of the alcohol ban, sailors found their beverage options very limited on ships — but they had plenty of coffee to sip on. In the absence of anything stiffer, a cup of black coffee was strongest option for sailors. So, they began referring to it as a “cup of Josephus Daniels” as a bitter reminder of the man who took the booze away.
As time passed, the insult was shortened to, simply, a “cup of Joe” — a term we use today.
In 1952, an accident at Canada’s Chalk River Laboratories near Deep River, Ontario caused a partial meltdown in an experimental nuclear reactor. Hydrogen explosions followed and hundreds of thousands of gallons of radioactive water flooded the core, heavily damaging the reactor. When the Canadian government turned to U.S. nuclear experts for help, “Father of the Nuclear Navy” Rear Admiral Hyman Rickover sent his protégé – Lieutenant James Earl “Jimmy” Carter – to lead a team of maintainers into the reactor core to shut it down.
The admiral was famous for the demands he put on the people who worked for him. His unorthodox methods almost kept him from making flag rank, but President Truman intervened on his behalf. It was a good call: the Navy’s 300 nuclear warships have never had a single nuclear incident.
Rickover’s team had access to the latest in nuclear energy technology because they were developing nuclear-powered ships for the U.S. Navy (the first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus, was completed in 1955). The Navy knew the technology the Canadians were using and how best to fix it.
Rickover volunteered Carter to the Canadians to take the failing reactor apart so it could be replaced, a testament to the extraordinary faith and training the U.S. Navy places in its sailors – and to the good judgment of Adm. Rickover. First, the reactor had to be shut down, then it could be disassembled and replaced.
Carter, then 28 years old, had been in the Navy for six years. He was assigned to the Naval Reactors Branch of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in Washington, D.C. Rickover’s demanding perfectionism was as instilled in Carter as it is today’s nuclear sailors.
Rickover (left) served 61 years on active duty and saw Carter get elected President.
In his book “Reflections at Ninety,” Carter recalls preparing for the task. The team built a replica of the reactor on a nearby tennis court to practice their next move and track the work they’d already finished. Every pipe, bolt, and nut was rebuilt exactly as it was in the damaged reactor area.
Lieutenant Carter divided himself and his 23 guys into teams of three. Each worked 90-second shifts cleaning and repairing the reactor as per what they practiced on the tennis court. A minute and a half was the maximum time the human body could handle the amount of radiation in the area.
By today’s standards, it was still way too much radiation – Carter and his men were exposed to levels a thousand times higher than what is now considered safe. He and his team absorbed a year’s worth of radiation in that 90 seconds. The basement where they helped replace the reactor was so contaminated, Carter’s urine was radioactive for six months after the incident.
It makes sense that the ship named after President Carter would be a Seawolf-class nuclear submarine, as Carter helped develop the nuclear Navy and was the only U.S. President to be qualified for submarine duty. The USS Jimmy Carter was commissioned in February 2005.
The effects of this exposure eventually caught up to him. Carter developed cancerous tumors on his liver and brain at age 91 but was screened as cancer-free a year later.
Think of a military helicopter. Think of it in combat. Is it a Black Hawk dropping off operators in urban combat? A Chinook picking troops up from a remote ridge or rooftop? Maybe you’re old school and you see a Piasecki H-25 or H-19 Chickasaw from the Korean War. But few people will think all the way back to World War II when German and American helicopters all served on the front lines.
The Sikorsky R-4 helicopter was one of America’s only helicopters to see active service in World War II, acting predominantly as a rescue and transportation asset in the China-Burma-India Theater.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
America’s military helicopter program was largely carried by two companies, both prominent helicopter manufacturers today who, oddly enough, are now competing to create the Army’s next generation of vertical lift aircraft. Sikorsky’s founder, Igor Sikorsky, was a Russian-American immigrant who wanted to help his adopted country fight in World War II.
He received financial backing from friends to start manufacturing aircraft, predominantly fixed-wing planes, for the U.S. military. But, off to the side, he was developing new helicopter designs including the VS-500, an aircraft that used one large rotor blade to generate lift and another, smaller rotor blade mounted on a long boom to generate anti-torque. This is the same blade configuration now used on everything from the UH-60 to the AH-64 Apache.
The VS-300 prototype quickly gave way the R-4, a two-seater helicopter that would serve most predominantly with the U.S. Army but also the Navy, Coast Guard, and the Royal Air Force. It first began rolling off the production line in 1942 and was primarily used for observation and to ferry supplies.
The German-made Flettner 282 helicopter was employed against Allied naval assets near the end of World War II, but was then captured by Allied troops. In this photo, it’s undergoing testing with the U.S. military.
But, the helicopter was also employed in two daring rescue missions in the challenging terrain of the China-Burma-India Theater. The helicopters could just barely make it through the high mountain passes that planes could easily fly over, but the rotary aircraft could land in small clearings that were impossible for planes to stop in or take off from.
Other helicopters were in development during the war. The Bell Aircraft Corporation, later known as Bell Helicopters and now Bell Flight, created the Bell Model 30 that would see limited use on the home front, but it would not be deployed overseas.
Meanwhile, Germany’s helicopter program was much more advanced than America’s or the Allies’. They debuted experimental helicopter designs before the war and even flew prototypes in front of adoring crowds for weeks in 1938.
The Focke-Angelis Fa-223 helicopter was a German machine popular during the war. It had a heavy lift capability for the day that allowed it to re-position artillery in forward positions.
(U.S. Air Force)
This pre-war research led to the Fa-223, the “Dragon.” Five types were planned with missions from anti-submarine, to search and rescue, to cargo carrying. But it really predicted future developments when it was used to recover crashed aircraft and to move artillery batteries to inaccessible mountaintops where they would have greater range and better defenses.
Meanwhile, the Flettner-282 Hummingbird was designed to seek out enemy submarines at sea and other threats. It was completed late in the war with early models going through testing in 1943. But the first 24 were completed in time for limited deployments to the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Aegean Sea.
Samuel Woodfill already had a lengthy career in the U.S. Army by the time the United States declared war on Germany in 1917. The son of a Mexican-American War and Civil War veteran, he enlisted in 1901 at the age of 18 and left his native Indiana.
After basic training, Pvt. Woodfill found himself assigned to the 11th Infantry Regiment stationed in the Philippines. He saw action in various campaigns against the rebellious Moros and earned accolades as a crack shot and for his “honest and faithful service.” In 1910, Woodfill left the Philippines for a number of duty stations. Over the next seven years, he would see service in Alaska, Kentucky, and on the Mexican border. But he would not see any more combat in that time.
Then, everything changed. America declared war on Germany. Woodfill, then a sergeant, attended an officer training course and received a temporary wartime rank of 2nd lieutenant. Soon after, he was given command of a machine gun company of the 60th Infantry Regiment, 5th Division. Finally, in April 1918 his unit sailed for France.
However, the 5th Division stayed in the rear until October 1918 when they were sent to the front to take part in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
Woodfill was leading his company in an attack near the village of Cunel when they came under heavy German machine gun fire from multiple positons. He ordered his company to take cover while he moved forward alone to scope out the situation.
The three German positions were well concealed in some bushes, an old barn, and a derelict church, respectively. Woodfill took aim at the machine gunner firing on his men in the church tower about 300 yards away. Unable to make out the gunner, he simply took aim at a position behind the muzzle flash and pulled the trigger. The gun fell silent. This was repeated four more times, as each German crewmember stepped forward to take their place on the gun.
Woodfill dropped another five-round clip in his Springfield and moved on to the next target. A single shot at the German in the barn put an end to the firing from that position.
He next maneuvered on a third machine gun position. In doing so, he took cover in a shell hole filled with lingering mustard gas. He approached to within ten yards of the position. Then, in rapid succession, he dispatched three of the crew members with his rifle. A fourth, a German officer, charged Woodfill and engaged him in hand-to-hand combat. He overcame the officer and killed him with a M1911 pistol.
With this line of machine guns silenced, Lt. Woodfill’s company continued their advance until they were again held up by a German machine gun nest. The officer once again raced forward to single-handedly attack the position. He killed the entire machine gun crew with his rifle before capturing three ammunition carriers from the position.
As the advance continued, Woodfill’s men again ran into murderous German machine gun fire. And once again their leader charged forward to handle the situation. Woodfill dispatched this crew with five shots from his rifle before drawing his pistol and charging the position to take on the remaining men. He killed one man with his pistol before grabbing a nearby pick axe and bludgeoning the other to death.
By this time, Woodfill was suffering heavily from exposure to mustard gas and was limping from a shrapnel wound. He was evacuated from the front lines and sent to Bordeaux to recover.
On Jan. 22, 1919, Woodfill was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions the previous fall. The next month, Gen. John Pershing personally presented the award to the young lieutenant.
In 1921, Gen. Pershing bestowed two more honors on Woodfill. When asked that year to name the outstanding American soldier of the Great War, Pershing surprised everyone by naming Lt. Samuel Woodfill, claiming he had always considered him “America’s Greatest Doughboy,” over the likes of Alvin York, Charles Wittlesey of the Lost Battalion, and even Eddie Rickenbacker.
Pershing then named Woodfill as a pallbearer, this time along with Alvin York, for the internment of the first Unknown Soldier.
The legendary soldier, having reverted to his pre-war enlisted status, retired from the Army as a Master Sergeant in 1923. However, he served his country again during World War II. Then commissioned a Major, he trained and inspired young officers as they prepared for the great challenges ahead.
Woodfill’s final service to his country was to once again act as a pallbearer, this time for his former commanding officer and supporter, Gen. Pershing. Woodfill himself passed away at the age of 68 in August 1951.
They watched for bubbles to surface as the man with a crude scuba mask swam across the basement pool of a prominent Washington hotel 75 years ago this week.
That top-secret World War II-era experiment, seeking to develop the sabotage skills of America’s first elite swimmer-commandos, was the critical opening chapter in the evolving history of the U.S. Navy SEALs.
That afternoon, covert operatives watching Christian Lambertsen’s underwater swim were focused more on whether the air bubbles would break the surface and betray his mission. Nobody saw any.
Last week, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel above Rock Creek Park, in the same room that once housed the pool, a crowd gathered to commemorate that fateful event.
They included some prominent former SEALs — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Joseph Kernan, and Rep. Scott Taylor, Virginia Republican — in addition to veterans of the fabled World War II espionage unit and predecessor to the CIA, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Society, which sponsored the affair.
Combat historian and best-selling author Patrick K. O’Donnell discussed Lambertsen’s newly revealed story. In his 2015 book, “First SEALs: The Untold Story of the Forging of America’s Most Elite Unit,” Mr. O’Donnell explored what triggered Washington’s scramble for swimmer-commandos and traced it back to an incident in the waters off the coast of Egypt less than two weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
On the night of Dec. 19, 1941, the British navy suffered a devastating sabotage attack. A tanker and two battleships were sunk in Alexandria Harbor, the home of the British navy’s eastern Mediterranean fleet.
Perplexed British intelligence officers soon determined who did it: Six Italian swim commandos, or “frogmen,” using underwater breathing devices, had covertly infiltrated the harbor. The news rattled the British and U.S. governments.
“As a result of [the Italians’] daring attack, the balance of maritime power in that part of the world shifted, setting off an underwater arms race,” Mr. O’Donnell wrote.
Because America had no special operations units in 1942, officials turned to the OSS to create them.
Launched by the legendary Gen. William Donovan, whose statue now stands outside CIA headquarters, the OSS in its heyday deployed more than 13,000 operatives, a third of them women, in addition to four future CIA directors.
Pioneers of intelligence collection and unconventional warfare, OSS agents were, in Gen. Donovan’s words, “glorious amateurs” who undertook “some of the bravest acts of the war.” Agents quickly dove into developing underwater combat swim technology for its Maritime Unit, or MU.
Finding that the Navy lacked equipment, the OSS enlisted Mr. Lambertsen. At the time, he was a young civilian medical student at the University of Pennsylvania who had developed what he called an underwater “rebreather,” cobbled together from an old World War I gas mask, a bicycle pump, and other parts.
Mr. O’Donnell said the early secret tests on the rebreather were dicey. Once, OSS scientists filled an airtight chamber with poisonous gas, a dog, a canary, and Mr. Lambertsen.
“First the canary and then the dog fell over, as expected (they were not wearing rebreathers), but when Lambertsen leaned over to check the animals, he fell over too,” Mr. O’Donnell writes. “Fortunately, Lambertsen survived, and development of the device continued.”
Experiments continued at the Shoreham hotel because its basement pool was one of the largest in the city at the time.
Soon, the OSS and Mr. Lambertsen were supervising the manufacture of America’s first rebreather for military use, in addition to wetsuits, swim fins, face masks, motorized surfboards, floating mattresses, and even one-man submarines.
The OSS MU then kicked into high gear, recruiting a motley, street-smart, distinguished crew of lifeguards, doctors, Olympic-caliber swimmers, and surfers, a roster that included future San Francisco 49ers receiver and kicker Gordon Soltau and Marine Sterling Hayden, who went on to Hollywood fame in Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove” as the paranoid, nuclear-war-starting Gen. Jack D. Ripper and as Capt. McCluskey in “The Godfather.”
The unit conducted some of the war’s most perilous missions across Europe and Asia, conducting sabotage, gathering intelligence, supplying resistance movements, capturing high-value targets, and infiltrating enemy coastlines using floating mattresses.
The SEALs, which stands for “sea, air, land,” were formally established by President Kennedy in 1962. Today, they rank as some of the world’s most elite troops partaking some of the riskiest missions.
But the role of the OSS is not forgotten. The Maritime Unit that got its start in a Washington hotel pool began to formulate the capabilities of today’s SEAL teams, according to naval historians.
As for Mr. Lambertsen, he would become known as the “Father of American Combat Swimming” after coining the term “scuba.”
“The OSS Maritime Unit is a case study in innovation and American exceptionalism,” Mr. O’Donnell said. “A small group of men with hardly any funding but a lot of courage took an idea and forged a reality that lives on today.”
In 2016, after years of lobbying by the OSS Society, Congress awarded OSS veterans the Congressional Gold Medal. The society is now fundraising to build a National Museum of Intelligence and Special Operations in Northern Virginia. Charles Pinck, the society’s president, said the museum’s purpose will be to “honor Americans who served at ‘the tip of the spear’ and inspire future generations of Americans to serve their country.
The USS Philadelphia, a 1,240-ton, 36-gun sailing frigate, was built by the residents of Philadelphia who collected $100,000 to fund her construction during one week in June 1798. She was completed in November 1799 and was commissioned under the command of Capt. Stephen Decatur Sr.
Three years later, during the First Barbary War, the Philadelphia ran aground in Tripoli harbor and was captured. A year after that, Capt. Decatur’s son, Lt. Stephen Decatur Jr., devised a plan to keep the enemy from using the ship.
He was going to board her and retake her.
British Lord Horatio Nelson, then a vice admiral, would call the raid that followed “the most bold and daring act of the Age.” It would also make Lt. Decatur a national hero in the fledgling United States — its first military hero since the Revolution.
As darkness fell on Feb. 16, 1804, Lt. Decatur and eighty volunteers, most of whom were Marines, sailed into Tripoli harbor aboard the USS Intrepid, a captured Tripolitan ship that had been disguised with short masts and triangular sails. She flew a British flag. On her deck were Sicilian volunteers who spoke Arabic while the Marines, dressed as Maltese sailors and Arab seamen, huddled below decks. The Intrepid had sailed with the USS Syren, which remained outside the harbor but would supply supporting fire if needed.
To avoid calling attention to the raid, the Marines were told that the use of firearms was prohibited.
As the Intrepid approached the Philadelphia, one of the Arabic-speaking volunteers called out that their ship had lost her anchors. They wanted to use the harbor to rig a replacement but needed a place to tie up for the night. Before her capture in 1803, the Philadelphia’s commander, Commodore William Bainbridge, had jettisoned some of the ship’s guns and three anchors, moved other guns forward, and had had her foremast cut down in an unsuccessful attempt to free her from the reef she was on. He had then tried to scuttle the ship but that, too, failed, and he and his crew became prisoners.
Bainbridge later called his capture “humiliating.”
The Philadelphia had not yet been fully repaired, and her upper yardarms and sails had also been removed.
The guard aboard the Philadelphia gave the disguised Intrepid permission to tie up alongside. When she did, Decatur yelled “Board!” He and his volunteers flooded aboard the captured US vessel armed with pikes and cutlasses.
“Not a man had been seen or heard to breathe a moment before,” the Intrepid’s Surgeon Mate Lewis Heermann later wrote; “at the next, the boarders hung on the ship’s side like cluster bees; and, in another instant, every man was on board the frigate.”
In ten minutes of bloody, hand-to-hand fighting, the US volunteers killed twenty of the Tripolitan crew and captured one. The rest had fled the ship by jumping overboard. One American had been wounded.
Decatur had hoped to sail the Philadelphia out of the harbor after he had taken her but quickly realized that’d be impossible because of her condition. He also realized the smaller Intrepid would not be able to tow the Philadelphia. To keep the ship from being used against American vessels, there was only one alternative and his orders had been clear: If he couldn’t bring her out of the harbor, he was to burn her.
Decatur’s men fired the ship.
As the flames grew, the Americans returned to the Intrepid. Lt. Decatur was the last man to leave the Philadelphia, which he did with a dramatic leap into the Intrepid’s rigging. As the Intrepid pulled away and headed toward the harbor entrance, the flames spread throughout the Philadelphia. The guns still aboard her, which were primed and ready, began firing in the heat, some of the discharges striking the town. The ship also began drifting as her ropes gave way. She finally grounded herself, still burning, on rocks near the entrance to the harbor. By then, the enemy in the town had realized what was happening and began firing on the Intrepid from the shore and preparing to launch small boats.
The American Syren replied with fire from the harbor mouth as Decatur and the Intrepid sailed out of the harbor, the American crew cheering.
In the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the battleships USS California (BB 44), USS West Virginia (BB 48), and USS Nevada (BB 36) were severely damaged while the battleships USS Arizona (BB 39) and USS Oklahoma (BB 37) were sunk.
Four of those ships would eventually be salvaged, three of which returned to service, thanks to the efforts of brave Navy divers.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the oldest living diver to have worked on that immense project, 103-year-old Ken Hartle, died on Jan. 24. He had been a ship-fitter when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and as a result, was unable to join the Navy until 1943 when his skills were necessary to repair ships that had suffered battle damage.
He later volunteered to be a Navy diver.
According to the Naval History and Heritage Command website, Navy divers carried out over 4,000 dives, covering 16,000 hours to salvage the ships at Pearl Harbor. The operations were not without risk. The Union-Tribune report listed a number of dangers Hartle and fellow divers faced, including getting trapped in wreckage, the “bends,” and attacks from sea creatures — all while wearing uninsulated canvas suits and using 200-pound copper helmets and having breathable air pumped down to them.
Hartle was nothing if not a survivor. During his life, the Union-Tribune reported that he was kicked by a mule at age 3, stabbed in the neck during a brawl at age 9, survived a rattlesnake bite, a scorpion sting, a car accident that threw him several hundred feet, six bypass surgeries, two bouts with cancer, and a fall while trimming trees at age 97.
A memorial service for Hartle will be held on Mar. 4.
The United States Army has a little-known fleet of fixed-wing cargo planes. Currently, the major player in that fleet is the C-23 Sherpa, but throughout the years, there have been some other planes that proved very capable of handing the Army’s needs. One such plane was the C-7 Caribou.
Like the C-23, the C-7 Caribou filled a vital niche for the Army. Instead of providing that support in the deserts of the Middle East, however, it proved to be a valuable cargo asset in the jungles of Vietnam. The C-7 could carry four tons of cargo or 32 troops, had a top speed of 216 miles per hour, and could go 1,308 miles.
The Army had taken a look at the Air Force’s C-123 Provider and C-130 Hercules and quickly realized that there was a big gap in cargo-delivering capabilities between these massive planes and the small loads carried by helicopters of the time (the famous UH-1 Huey had flown in 1956, but was trickling into service). So, they sought a small transport plane to fill that gap.
A Canadian company, de Havilland Canada, ended up fielding a design that would fit the bill for the Army. It was unique in that it could take off and land given just 1,000 feet. It could pull this off despite the fact that it had less horsepower in its two engines than in a single R-2800, the engine that powered World War II planes, like the F6F Hellcat and the P-47 Thunderbolt.
The Army bought 173 C-7s and used them in Vietnam until 1967, when the Air Force took these planes on in exchange for dropping performance restrictions of Army helicopters. The C-7s continued to serve until 1985, when the C-23 replaced them. Some C-7 stayed in service with Australia until as late as 2009!
Learn more about this impressive cargo plane in the video below.
These days, having the guts to do something just means someone is brave enough to take on what seems to be an overwhelming undertaking. Any herculean task could require guts: quitting a job, suing city hall, or voting third party could all require a gut check by today’s standards. In days past, however, a gut check was only required by the soldiers who were about to fight in combat.
For the record, it still is.
Armies in the days of yore – before the 20th Century – faced very different problems than the ones deployed American troops face today. Where we have been known to wince every time we see a runner missing his reflective belt or wonder why I always get the goddamned vegetarian MRE, the Army of the pre-World War I days was more worried about things like clean drinking water, cholera, and dysentery.
It’s amazing how they can smile even when the stupid chow hall is out of Diet Coke *again*
In days gone by, if someone asked a soldier if they had the guts to fight the coming day or the next day, it wasn’t just an affirmation of macho willpower, it was a real question of a soldier’s ability to maintain his position and discipline in the ranks instead of running off to the latrine every ten minutes to evacuate his bowels.
The asker’s “gut check” was real – and literal – checking to see if his comrade in arms was suffering from diarrhea or a similar illness of the bowels that would keep him from performing at the front lines. Maintaining the integrity of certain infantry formations used to be integral to the survival of the whole unit.
“Jesus, what is that smell, Kenneth?”
At the time of the U.S. Civil War, microbes were only just being accepted as cause for disease. In that war, 620,000 men were killed, but disease actually killed two-thirds of those men. A single illness such as measles could wipe out entire units. Battlefield sanitation was the order of the day, but if Civil War troops chose to ignore an order, that would be the one. Latrines were dug near camps, wells, and rivers as horse and mule entrails and manure permeated their camps.
As a result, dysentery was the single greatest killer of Civil War soldiers. Having the guts to fight only meant you were one of very few troops not suffering from the trots.
Charles Carpenter, or “Bazooka Charlie” as he’s now remembered, served as an Army pilot in the Second World War, tasked with locating enemy positions from the air for artillery bombardment. Aircraft like Carpenter’s unarmed L-4 Grasshopper were perfect for low-level, low-speed reconnaissance, but ol’ Bazooka Charlie aspired to do more than spot enemy tanks… he wanted to destroy them himself.
The L-4 Grasshopper military aircraft was just a Piper J-3 Cub with some added plexiglass
The Army’s L-4 Grasshopper, which is more commonly known by its civilian moniker, the Piper J-3 Cub, was an American design out of the Piper Aircraft firm that first went into production in 1938. Its simple strut-braced monoplane design made the aircraft extremely manageable at the sort of low, loitering speeds needed for a reconnaissance or military liaison aircraft. The Cub was so well suited for the role that the American military would eventually order more than 5,400 of the newly dubbed “L-4 Grasshoppers” for the fight.
But the Grasshopper’s performance and capabilities left a lot to be desired compared to some of the more legendary World War II planes like the acrobatic Spitfire, the powerful P-51 Mustang, or the forward-reaching B-29 Superfortress. The aircraft had room for one pilot and one passenger and was almost identical to the civilian-market cub, with the exception of a plexiglass skylight and rear windows for improved visibility in combat environments. With just the pilot on board, the Grasshopper would top out at 85 miles per hour, had a service ceiling of 12,000 feet, and could remain airborne for around three hours. It was also capable of flying very slowly–with a stall speed of just 38 miles per hour–which made it ideally suited not just for recon patrols, but for artillery spotting duties.
Of course, with a trained observer onboard carrying a 25-pound radio, the aircraft was often stuck operating while exceeding its intended weight parameters, but the plucky Grasshopper proved capable for its role, even if it wasn’t quite the war machine other aircraft of the day had become.
Charles Carpenter turned his Grasshopper into a tank-buster
Charles Carpenter signed up to serve in 1942, shortly after the United States entered the war. He was assigned the role of Grasshopper pilot and became an artillery spotter for the 4th Armored Division of General George Patton’s 3rd Army. Initially, the job was fairly safe–German troops rarely fired upon the unarmed scout aircraft for fear of giving away their position, which gave Carpenter a great deal of latitude when it came to performing his duties. As the war stretched on, however, Carpenter began to grow weary of his artillery spotter role, and began looking for ways to play a more active role in the fighting.
It wasn’t long before Carpenter found his way into the fight, jumping on a .50 caliber machine gun during an engagement with Nazi troops. After firing for a few minutes, Carpenter chose to lead a group of soldiers into the German-held town they’d come from and, despite not being their commander, the troops followed. In the midst of the fighting, Carpenter ordered the tank he’d jumped on to open fire on another vehicle that soon proved to be American. He was promptly arrested after the incident and threatened with a court martial… That is, until General Patton himself intervened on the young pilot’s behalf. It was after that close call that Carpenter decided to keep his fighting in the air.
Inspired by stories he’d heard from other unarmed scout aircraft, now Major Charles Carpenter decided to follow suit, strapping not one but six M1A1 bazookas to the wing struts of his Grasshopper. Aided by an ordnance tech and a crew chief, the bazookas were wired into the cockpit of the airplane and could be fired by flipping switches either individually or all at once. Each bazooka could fire a single rocket-propelled anti-tank grenade that could penetrate as much as three inches of armor plating. That was enough to take out a tank if you hit it in the right places (like on top) but would be practically useless against the Nazi armor when engaging head-on.
Bazooka Charlie and Rosie the Rocketeer
With his Grasshopper now equipped with enough firepower to rain holy hell down on his enemies, Carpenter took to calling his aircraft “Rosie the Rocketeer,” in honor of the cultural icon representing women working in factories and shipyards back home in the States. His plane wasn’t the only thing to get a new nickname though, and soon after he began flying with his bazookas Charles Carpenter became better known among the troops around him as Bazooka Charlie.
Carpenter’s first kill came quickly, eliminating a German armored car before upgrading some of his bazookas to the more capable M9 platform, which could fire the M6A3 High Explosive Anti-Tank rounds he’d need to go after bigger prey. Soon, the Germans began to realize that the crazy Grasshopper scouting them was just as capable of destroying vehicles as the artillery he guided, prompting them to fire on him any time he appeared in the sky.
“Word must be getting around among those Krauts to watch out for Cubs with bazookas on them,” Carpenter said at the time.
“Every time I show up now, they shoot with everything they have. They never used to bother Cubs. Bazookas must be bothering them a bit.”
Despite the hail of gunfire, Carpenter would dive his aircraft directly at Nazi tanks and open fire with his bazookas at only about 100 meters off the ground. Then he’d pull straight up, hoping to get back out of range of the enemy gunfire before they managed to shoot him down.
The “Mad Major” goes on the offensive
These exploits soon earned Bazooka Charlie yet another nickname: The “Mad Major.” Although Carpenter had been inspired by other pilots who had armed their aircraft, his wild successes at fighting armored vehicles inspired other artillery scout and reconnaissance pilots to follow suit, but according to press coverage at the time, the other pilots “found that driving their frail aircraft into a hail of German small arms fire was extremely unhealthy.” As a result, most returned to their less-dangerous observation duties.
Whether you knew him as Bazooka Charlie, the Mad Major, or just as Major Carpenter, the man tended to live up his larger-than-life reputation. At one point, he destroyed a German column advancing toward Allied troops and instead of flying back to base, he chose to land his aircraft in a nearby field to scout out the damage he’d wrought. While doing so, he managed to take an additional six German soldiers prisoner with a rifle he’d found on the ground–which, it probably goes without saying, was not a common practice among artillery scout pilots.
“Some people around here think I’m nuts,” Carpenter once said, “but I just believe that if we’re going to fight a war, we have to go on with it 60-minutes an hour and 24-hours a day.”
Not long after, Carpenter would match some of the exploits found among Spitfire pilots in the Battle of Britain, despite flying an aircraft that was never meant for combat. During a patrol, Carpenter found an American infantry unit pinned down by German soldiers and he sprung into action, engaging the German positions with his on-board weapons. When he ran out of firepower, he flew straight back to base and had the ordnance team re-arm his Grasshopper for another jaunt.
After expending all of his rockets again, he returned once more for re-armament. After flying three combat sorties into the fight, Carpenter had managed to destroy two German tanks and break up the Nazi attack. British pilots defending against Nazi bombers in the Battle of Britain would often fly multiple sorties a day in order to beat back the overwhelming Luftwaffe numbers, though they often used amphetamines to push through the exhaustion.
By the time World War II came to a close, Charles Carpenter was officially credited with killing six Nazi tanks, making him an official “tank ace,” though many claim his unofficial number was actually much higher. According to some accounts, Carpenter and his airplane Rosie the Rocketeer took out at least 14 Nazi tanks, a number of other armored vehicles, and dozens of enemy soldiers. He never took so much as a scratch from enemy fire, earning him one more nickname among the Allied troops he fought alongside: the Lucky Major.
With the war at an end, Carpenter was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and awarded a Silver star, a Bronze Star, and an Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster for his heroic service, but with no more Nazi tanks to fight from the sky, the legendary pilot hung up his flight suit and went right back to work in the profession he had prior to the war, as a high school history teacher.
The call rang out in the firehouse of Rescue Company 1 reporting a jumper at the Ritz-Carlton hotel. Ed Loder, a 41-year-old firefighter with 20 years on the job, threw on his gear and pulled himself into the driver’s seat of their fire engine. The sirens wailed as they sped down the narrow city streets of Back Bay, an affluent neighborhood in Boston. Loder steered the rig in front of the hotel, jumped out, and was handed a set of binoculars from the hazmat truck.
Against the dark sky he located a distressed woman on the 16th floor, sitting with her feet dangling over the ledge of a windowsill. A negotiation team of the Boston Police Department pleaded with the woman from inside the hotel room, but she wasn’t complying. Loder soon joined the other firefighters on the roof.
“We could look over the edge of the roof and see her, but she couldn’t see us because she wasn’t looking up,” Loder told Coffee or Die Magazine in a recent interview. “She was looking in the room and talking to the cops.”
The woman had a razor in her hand. This rescue wasn’t going to be easy.
Boston firefighter Ed Loder talking to other firefighters on the ground while a building is ablaze. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.
While other firefighters searched for a viable anchor point, Loder tugged ropes through the carabiner on his bumblebee suit. The nearby ductwork was unusable, but a window through an electrical structure on the roof was perfect. Loder tied in his line.
Their plan was to have the police distract the woman long enough for Loder to complete the rescue.
“They got her attention and the minute she looked inside of the room, I went off the roof,” Loder told Coffee or Die. “When I went off the parapet I naturally swung and kicked her in the side and she went into the room.”
The police officers immediately jumped on top of her and placed handcuffs around her wrists to prevent her from harming herself or anyone else. Loder, however, was left swinging outside and hollered for one of the officers to pull him in too.
A newspaper clipping about the incident at the Ritz-Carlton, showing Boston firefighter Ed Loder after he made a daring rescue of a suicidal woman. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.
The Boston Globe would describe the heroic nighttime rescue that occurred on May 30, 1990, as “Mission Impossible.” Bill Brett, a Globe photographer, was a witness alongside 300 other spectators on the ground. “I never expected someone to come down and knock her in the window,” Brett said. “He drops down, and boom, she’s inside! Down where I was, everybody cheered; the crowd clapped and yelled; it was unbelievable, like a movie.”
For this action, the Board of Merit awarded Loder the Walter Scott Medal for Valor, the second highest in the fire service. But as he puts it, it was just another day on the job at Rescue Company 1.
The War Years
Ed Loder grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He had long admired the World War II veterans who took jobs with the fire department down the street from his home. In fact, he wanted to be them.
The Boston Fire Department is rich with tradition and history that date all the way back to 1631. America’s first publicly funded fire department saw numerous innovations over the next handful of centuries. The first leather fire hoses were imported from England in 1799; all fire engines were equipped with aerial ladders by 1876; and radios were installed in all fireboats, cars, and rescue companies by 1925.
A train collision that occurred in the Back Bay of Boston in 1990. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.
In 1970, when 21-year-old Fire Fighter Edward Loder was appointed to Ladder Company 2 in East Boston, the Boston Fire Department was in the midst of the “War Years.” Between 1963 and 1983, there was at least one major fire every 13.6 hours. On average, a fire company reacted to as many as five to 10 fires in one tour of duty. Loder joined the fire service to be in on the action, and like the majority of other sparkies rising through the ranks, that’s exactly what he got.
Over the next decade, Loder responded to a variety of emergency situations as a part of Ladder Company 2, and later Ladder Company 15 in the Back Bay. He was there for a big oil farm fire in Orient Heights and a ship fire from Bethlehem Steel, but the most memorable for him was the 1800 Club, partly owned by former Red Sox player Ken Harrelson. The entertainment complex along the waterfront burned to the ground, with an estimated loss of id=”listicle-2648495230″ million.
Even some calls he didn’t participate in had an impact. After ending his shift on the morning of June 17, 1972, Loder and his wife went out in the afternoon, only to be stopped by a familiar face.
“We ran into this cop that I knew and he said to me, ‘What are you doing here?'” Loder remembered. “He had this look on his face that I’d never seen before.”
The seven-story Hotel Vendome had caught fire and collapsed on top of Ladder Company 15’s truck. Nine firefighters were inside the hotel, and tragically, all nine lost their lives.
Boston firefighter Ed Loder, kneeling second to left from Pickles, the “Dandy Drillers” Dalmatian. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.
The following year he responded to the worst plane crash in Boston’s history. Delta Airlines Flight 723 hit a seawall while trying to land at Logan International Airport. All 89 passengers and crew were killed.
“I remember saying to myself, ‘Geez, is this what the fire service is all about?’ It didn’t bother me in a way, but it was like a shock and awe after a little bit, and you adapted to it,” Loder said. “I said, ‘I don’t think there is anything else on this job that I could come across that’s probably going to bother me.'”
The days and nights spent on the job weren’t all tragic or intense. Every October throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Boston Fire Department raised awareness through Fire Prevention Week with a squad dubbed the “Dandy Drillers” performing high-wire aerial exercises around the city.
“We took two 100-foot aerial ladders, we put them together at the tips, we tied them together up at the top, and hung a 150-foot piece of rope down the middle of it,” Loder told Coffee or Die. “I used to do the upside-down no-hands exercise. We had platforms attached to these aerial ladders probably 20 feet in the air, and we’d jump off of that into the life nets. We would also have 10 guys on each ladder that would hook into the ladder and lean out with no hands. I understand it was the only type of thing in the country.”
Boston City Hospital Rescue
After 12 or 13 years with various companies, Loder transferred to Rescue Company 1, where his reputation grew to legendary status. At one rescue, a deranged man was on the roof of Boston City Hospital. The man had hurled several brick-sized boulders at pedestrians standing on the sidewalk and at cars driving by on Massachusetts Avenue.
“If you come out, I’m gonna jump,” the man told the cops as they tried to talk him off the ledge.
Ladder Company 15, Loder’s old team, had arrived just as Rescue Company 1 pulled up to the scene. “Throw your aerial up on the side of the building,” Loder told them. “That way there if they chase him over here, he will see the aerial and he’ll go back.”
Boston firefighter Ed Loder, right, was awarded the Walter Scott Medal for Valor and four Roll of Merit awards, including one for a water rescue in the Charles River. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.
Loder took charge and ordered Ladder Company 17 to be posted on the other side to sandwich the man in between.
In the meantime, Loder went up the aerial ladder to get a better view of the rooftop and the distraught man.
“I’m gonna jump,” the man said once more.
“I looked at him and said, ‘What are you gonna do that for, you’re going to make a mess down there if you jump,'” Loder said.
The man ran to the edge only a few feet from where Loder was positioned. “We’ve been here for an hour playing with you — it’s lunch time, I’m hungry and want to go get a sandwich. How about you go inside the hospital and get something to eat?”
A screenshot from the Boston Globe newspaper showing Boston firefighter Ed Loder holding a man by his shirt with his fingertips while suspended 100 feet in the air.
“Fuck you,” the man hollered, as he climbed over the side and proceeded down a conduit pipe attached to the hospital building.
Arm by arm, the man took off his coat, threw it to the ground, and said for the final time, “I’m jumping!”
From the side of the aerial ladder, Loder reached out with both his arms and grabbed the man by his shirt. Dangling 100 feet in the air, Loder screamed at the aerial operator to lower the ladder.
“Instead of lowering the aerial, he hits the rotation on the turntable and slams me and the guy in the side of the building,” Loder said, explaining that the operator likely panicked during the split-second action. “He dropped the aerial down to maybe 10 to 15 feet off another roof that was there, and I let him go. I couldn’t hang on to him anymore.”
Paul Christian, left, Boston fire commissioner between 2001 and 2006, and Ed Loder wearing Liar’s Club golf shirts. Photo by Matt Fratus/Coffee or Die Magazine.
A row of cars with the doors ripped off and the metal frames crumpled are remnants of a previous fire academy training class. There in the parking lot sits a small and unassuming office trailer known as The Liar’s Club. Since 1968, retired Boston firefighters have been meeting here every Wednesday morning to share stories, reminisce, and — sometimes — tell a few lies.
Driving up to the Liar’s Club in Loder’s pickup, we didn’t get very far before the first young fire captain approached the driver’s-side window, wanting to shake Loder’s hand. With some 43 years on the job, Loder is the most decorated firefighter in Boston Fire’s nearly 400-year history. Not that he boasts about the glory.
Inside, beyond the coffee and donuts, an old retiree says, “You know he’s one of the most decorated in the fire service?” while Loder rolls his eyes in the background.
In the back room, nicknamed “Division 2” in homage to the two districts between which the city is split, I listen as Paul Christian, the former Boston fire commissioner, shares a story about the old days.
An infamous photograph snapped by a Boston newspaper photographer of Ed Loder wearing Sperrys on the job. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.
“Today they have to put bunker gear on, put the boots on, put the hood on, put this on, put that on, get up on the truck, put their seatbelts on,” Christian said, in reference to the new OSHA regulations. “When I came on the fire department, you had to run to the piece [fire truck] while you jumped on with your coat while you’re going down the street. You’re putting on your belt, and the best you could do was kick your shoes off and put your boots on.”
Sometimes they forgot — and a Boston news photographer was there to snap the picture to prove it. “I get a call from headquarters and they wanted to know who the guy was with the Sperrys on,” Loder said and laughed. “Of course everybody said that nobody knew nothing, but it was me.”
Loder just celebrated his 72nd birthday and continues to give back to the fire service, teaching classes to the next generation. All the medals and the accolades later, Loder maintains that he was just doing his job.
Army Maj. Charles E. Capehart was leading a cavalry force at midnight on July 4, 1863, after the Battle of Gettysburg when he saw a column of retreating Confederates through the darkness. Heavy rains and a lack of light created dangerous conditions for horses at night, but Capehart led a charge that allowed the destruction and capture of most of the Confederate equipment and troops.
Seaman Willard Miller and his younger brother, Quartermaster 3rd Class Harry Miller, were Canadians who enlisted in the Navy and volunteered for a risky operation at the start of the Spanish-American War. The Navy wanted to cut off Cuba’s communications with the rest of the world, requiring a raid on two underwater cables.