This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion

Throughout the bloody and horrific history of human warfare, there are tons of stories of heroism in the face of great danger. Troops all over the world have been willing to risk life and limb to ensure the safety of others and that’s worth celebrating. Everyone knows about war heroes like John Basilone, but how many of you know about Susan Travers? If you don’t, you should.

Susan Travers, quite simply, was one badass woman. She left behind a pampered life and a wealthy family to do something great. One thing led to another and she eventually became the only woman to ever be allowed to join the prestigious French Foreign Legion, which only allowed male foreign nationals.

Here’s how she went from the daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral and heiress to being one of the most badass women in all of history:


This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
A Finnish ski patrol, lying in the snow on the outskirts of a wood in Northern Finland, on the alert for Russian troops, January 12, 1940.
(Imperial War Museums)
 

The Winter War

Travers initially joined up as a nurse, but quickly realized she didn’t like the sight of blood or sickness and subsequently became an ambulance driver with the French Expeditionary Force. She was sent to Finland to assist during their Winter War against the Soviets, but everything changed when France fell to the Nazis.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
Parade of the 13th DBLE through Roman ruins in Lambaesis, Algeria.

 

General De Gaulle’s Free French Forces

When the Nazis took France, Travers went to London to get in the fight. There, she was attached to the 13th Demi-Brigade of the French Foreign Legion. It was there she shed her disgust for blood and gore and became accustomed to the rough life of a warfighting badass. She earned the nickname “La Miss” from her male comrades. This was when she started driving for higher-ups.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
General Dwight D. Eisenhower with Gen. Pierre Koenig, Military Commander General of Paris, and Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley. August 27, 1944.
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

 

1st Free French Brigade

After spending several months as a driver for senior officers and demonstrating her extreme aptitude for navigating the most dangerous conditions, including minefields and rocket attacks, she was assigned as the driver for the Commanding Officer of the 1st Free French Brigade, Colonel Marie-Pierre Koenig.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
Free French Foreign Legionnaires “leap up from the desert to rush an enemy strong point”, Bir Hacheim, June 12, 1942.
(Photo by Chetwyn Len)

 

Fort of Bir Hakeim

It was in May, 1942, when Rommel’s Afrika Korps geared up to attack the Fort at Bir Hakeim. Koenig ordered all the women to evacuate, but Travers refused to leave, becoming the only woman among at least 3,500 men. Rommel assumed the fort would be taken in 15 minutes but, instead, the Free French held out for fifteen days.

Eventually, their supplies ran low, and Koenig led a breakout, trying to evade minefields and German tanks. Being the Colonel’s driver, Travers truly led the breakout; however, the convoy was discovered when one of the convoy’s vehicles ran over a landmine. Travers stepped on the gas.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
Susan Travers in Northern Africa.

 

A “delightful feeling”

Upon discovery, the convoy fell under heavy machine gun fire, and Travers just kept laying on the accelerator. She’s quoted as saying,

“It is a delightful feeling, going as fast as you can in the dark. My main concern was that the engine would stall.”

She broke through the German lines, creating a gap through which the rest could follow. After they made it to Allied lines, she discovered the vehicle had at least 11 bullet holes in it and sustained severe shrapnel damage. After that, Koenig was sent to Northern Africa to continue the fight while Travers remained with the Legion, seeing action in Italy, Germany, and France. She was eventually wounded when she drove over a landmine.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
In 2000, she published her memoirs.

 

French Foreign Legion

In May of 1945, Travers applied to become an official member of the French Foreign Legion. She “failed” to mention her gender and they accepted her into their ranks. This made her the first — and only — woman to ever join the French Foreign Legion.

She eventually was sent to Vietnam during the First Indo-China War and, by the end of her career, earned the Medaille Militaire, the Croix de Guerre, and the Legion d’honneur (the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits).

MIGHTY HISTORY

The highest-ranking African American in the American Expeditionary Force

When people think of African Americans serving in WWI, the famous Harlem Hellfighters often come to mind. What may come as a surprise is that the highest-ranking African American in the American Expeditionary Force, Otis Beverly Duncan, was not part of this unit.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
Duncan as a Major (Public Domain)

Otis Beverly Duncan was born on November 18, 1873 in Springfield, Illinois. His family was a long-established African American family in the city. In fact, his maternal great-grandfather, William Florville, was Abraham Lincoln’s friend and barber. Duncan attended public school and went on to work as the business manager for an African American newspaper in Springfield called the State Capitol. In 1897, he went to work in the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, a precursor to the State Board of Education. Duncan would remain in the department for the rest of his career.

Wishing to expand his public service, Duncan joined the Illinois National Guard. Illinois was unique during the Jim Crow era in that it was one of the few states that organized and paid for the training of an all-black regiment in its National Guard. Duncan joined the unit, the 8th Infantry Regiment, as a Lieutenant. He continued his National Guard service alongside his civilian career and rose through the ranks. By 1904, Duncan had reached the rank of Major. In 1916, the 8th Infantry Regiment was called up for national service during the Pancho Villa Expedition into Mexico. During the campaign, Duncan served on the regimental staff.

When America entered WWI in April 1917, the 8th Infantry was still in national service and was reorganized as the 370th Infantry Regiment. The 370th was one of the few black units to join the AEF and retain most of its all-black command structure. As the unit made preparations to deploy, Duncan was promoted to Lt. Col. and given command of the 3rd Battalion. When the regimental commander, Col. Franklin A. Denison, was relieved of his command and replaced by a white officer, Duncan became the highest-ranking African American in the AEF.

In May, the 370th arrived in France. However, the Army’s racist policies restricted black units from fighting alongside white units on the front. Like the Harlem Hellfighters, the 370th was assigned to the French Army. Duncan and his battalion became part of the French 10th Army in the Argonne Forrest. During the fighting, their German enemies gave them the nickname the “Black Devils” for their ferocity in combat.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
Duncan (center) with other black officers wearing their Croix de Guerre (National Archives and Records Administration)

Despite being faced with racism from their own army and bitter fighting from their enemy, the men of the 370th succeeded in pushing the German lines back. They were among the first allied troops to cross into occupied Belgium before the war ended. Duncan’s battalion pursued the Germans all the way until the Armistice on November 11.

Duncan was one of 60 officers in the 370th who were awarded the French Croix de Guerre for valor. “We have given our full contributions to this war, that we have fought, bled, and died for the grand and noble principles of the war,” he wrote in a letter home.

On February 17, 1919, the 370th returned home to a welcoming parade in Chicago. Many African Americans from Springfield made the trip north to attend it. When Duncan and the other Springfield natives returned to their hometown, they were greeted by Governor Frank O. Lowden and a celebratory banquet at the Leland Hotel.

For his successful command of the 3rd Battalion during the war, Duncan was promoted to Colonel and given command of the regiment. He was tasked with reorganizing the reformed 8th Infantry back into the Illinois National Guard. He also resumed his civilian career.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
Duncan was featured in the New York Tribune on February 10, 1919 (Library of Congress)

Col. Duncan retired from public service in 1929. He died eight years later on May 17, 1937 and was buried at Camp Butler National Cemetery in Springfield. Col. Duncan broke a color barrier at a pivotal moment in American and world history and blazed a trail for colored military leaders in the wars to come.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This pilot in his pajamas shot down an enemy fighter at Pearl Harbor

Comfort is important when doing a hard job. If it’s hot on the work site, it’s important to stay cool. If it’s hazardous, proper protection needs to be worn. And comfort is apparently key when the Japanese sneak attack the Navy. Just ask Lt. Phil Rasmussen, who was one of four pilots who managed to get off the ground to fight the Japanese in the air.

Rasmussen, like many other American GIs in Hawaii that day, was still asleep when the Japanese launched the attack at 0755. The Army Air Forces 2nd Lieutenant was still groggy and in his pajamas when the attacking wave of enemy fighters swarmed Wheeler Field and destroyed many of the Army’s aircraft on the ground.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
Damaged aircraft on Hickam Field, Hawaii, after the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

There were still a number of outdated Curtiss P-36A Hawk fighters that were relatively untouched by the attack. Lieutenant Rasmussen strapped on a .45 pistol and ran out to the flightline, still in his pajamas, determined to meet the sucker-punching Japanese onslaught.

By the time the attack ended, Wheeler and Hickam Fields were both devastated. Bellows Field also took a lot of damage, its living quarters, mess halls, and chapels strafed by Japanese Zeros. American troops threw back everything they could muster – from anti-aircraft guns to their sidearms. But Rasmussen and a handful of other daring American pilots managed to get in the air, ready to take the fight right back to Japan in the Hawks if they had to. They took off under fire, but were still airborne.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
Pearl Harbor pilots Harry Brown, Phil Rasmussen, Ken Taylor, George Welch, and Lewis Sanders.

They made it as far as Kaneohe Bay.

The four brave pilots were led by radio to Kaneohe, where they engaged 11 enemy fighters in a vicious dogfight. Even in his obsolete old fighter, Rasmussen proved that technology is no match for good ol’ martial skills and courage under fire. He managed to shoot down one of the 11, but was double-teamed by two attacking Zeros.

Gunfire and 20mm shells shattered his canopy, destroyed his radio, and took out his hydraulic lines and rudder cables. He was forced out of the fighting, escaping into nearby clouds and making his way back to Wheeler Field. When he landed, he did it without brakes, a rudder, or a tailwheel.

There were 500 bullet holes in the P-36A’s fuselage.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
Skillz.

Lieutenant Rasmussen earned the Silver Star for his boldness and would survive the war, getting his second kill in 1943. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1965, but will live on in the Museum of the United States Air Force, forever immortalized as he hops into an outdated aircraft in his pajamas.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
(U.S. Air Force photo)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Today in military history: German sub is captured with Enigma machine onboard

On May 9, 1941, the German U-boat U-110 was captured by the Royal Navy, and with it, a number of German cipher documents and an intact Enigma machine.

The Enigma was a brilliant piece of German enciphering machinery that allowed their military to send messages securely. The Germans were so efficient with Enigma that they even had a method for changing the cipher system daily. The device was exceptionally sophisticated, mechanically scrambling the 26 letters of the alphabet based on the daily cipher code. In order to decrypt an Enigma-encoded message, one would need both a machine and the daily cipher.

Later named “Operation Primrose,” the U-boats’ capture remained a secret for months while codebreakers at Bletchley Park got to work. Using the documents on board, they were able to crack a hand-cipher system that was used as a backup to Enigma. In other words, they had access to German messages in plain text and in cipher text, which allowed them to decrypt future messages.

Codebreakers at Bletchley Park, including the now-famous Alan Turing and fellow code-breaker Gordon Welchman, were able to use critical intelligence like that obtained from U-110 to invent a machine known as the Bombe, which automated much of the Enigma decryption work.

With this information, the Allies were able to strategically respond to Enigma-encrypted messages and deliver decisive blows to the Nazi war force.

The work of Bletchley Park, including Turing’s role there in cracking the Enigma code, remained classified until the 1970s, but it has been estimated that the work of the code-breakers shortened the war by several years and saved countless lives.

Featured Image: U-110 was captured by HM Ships Bulldog, Broadway, and Arbretia. (Royal Navy Photo)

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Here’s what US intelligence knew about Hitler in 1943

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
Via Flickr


One of history’s most brutal tyrants was a diagnosed schizophrenic on a mission to avenge his childhood years of repressed rage, according to Henry Murray, an American psychologist and a Harvard professor.

In 1943, the US Office of Strategic Services, a precursor to the CIA, commissioned Murray to study Adolf Hitler’s personality to try to predict his behavior. In his 229-page report, “Analysis of the Personality of Adolf Hitler,” Murray described Hitler as a paranoid “utter wreck” who was “incapable of normal human relationships.”

“It is forever impossible to hope for any mercy or humane treatment from him,” Murray wrote.

After a frustrating childhood, Hitler felt obligated to exert dominance in all things.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
Bundesarchiv

Hitler suffered from intolerable feelings of inferiority, largely stemming from his small, frail, and sickly physical appearance during his childhood.

He refused to go to school because he was ashamed that he was a poor student compared to his classmates.

His mother appeased him by allowing him to drop out.

“He never did any manual work, never engaged in athletics, and was turned down as forever unfit for conscription in the Austrian Army,” Murray writes.

Hitler managed his insecurities by worshiping “brute strength, physical force, ruthless domination, and military conquest.”

Even sexually, Hitler was described as a “full-fledged masochist,” who humiliated and abused his partners.

Much of his wrath originated from a severe Oedipus complex.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
Hitler’s parents. | Wikimedia Commons

As a child, Hitler experienced the Oedipus complex — love of mother and hate of father — which he developed after accidentally seeing his parents having sex, Murray’s report says.

Hitler was subservient and respectful to his father but viewed him as an enemy who ruled the family “with tyrannical severity and injustice.” According to the report, Hitler was envious of his father’s masculine power and dreamed of humiliating him to re-establish “the lost glory of his mother.”

For 16 years, Hitler did not exhibit any form of ambition or competition because his father had died and he had not yet discovered a new enemy.

Hitler frequently felt emasculated.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
Bundesarchiv

Another blow to Hitler’s masculinity: He was “incapable of consummating in a normal fashion,” old sexual partners shared with Murray.

“This infirmity we must recognize as an instigation to exorbitant cravings for superiority. Unable to demonstrate male power before a woman, he is impelled to compensate by exhibiting unsurpassed power before men in the world at large,” he writes.

As mentioned, when Hitler did have sexual relations with a woman, he exhibited masochistic behaviors. Hitler was said to have multiple partners, but eventually married his long-term mistress, Eva Braun, hours before the two committed suicide together in his Berlin bunker.

He suffered from indecisiveness and collapsed under pressure.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
Wikimedia Commons

Even at the peak of his power, Hitler suffered from frequent emotional collapses from a guilty conscience.

“He has nightmares from a bad conscience, and he has long spells when energy, confidence, and the power of decision abandon him,” Murray writes.

According to Murray, Hitler’s cycle from complete despair to reaction followed this pattern:

• An emotional outburst, tantrum of rage, and accusatory indignation ending in tears and self-pity.

•Succeeded by periods of inertia, exhaustion, melancholy, and indecisiveness.

•Followed by hours of acute dejection and disquieting nightmares.

•Leading to hours of recuperation.

•And finally confident and resolute decision to counterattack with great force and ruthlessness.

The five-step evolution could last anywhere from 24 hours to several weeks, the report says

He was ashamed of his mixed heritage.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
Hitler speaks to Joseph Goebbels. | Bundesarchiv

Hitler valued “pure, unmixed, and uncorrupted German blood,” which he associated with aristocracy and beauty, according to Murray.

He offered the following explanation of Hitler’s contempt for mixed blood:

• As a boy of twelve, Hitler was caught engaging in some sexual experiment with a little girl; and later he seems to have developed a syphilophobia, with a diffuse fear of contamination of the blood through contact with a woman.

• It is almost certain that this irrational dread was partly due to the association in his mind of sexuality and excretion. He thought of sexual relations as something exceedingly filthy.

Hitler denied that his father was born illegitimately and had at least two failed marriages, that his grandfather and godfather were Jews, and that one of his sisters was a mistress of a wealthy Jew.

He focused his hatred on Jews because they were an easy target.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
Hitler marches to the Reichstag in Berlin in 1933. | Bundesarchiv

Murray explains that Jews were the clear demographic for Hitler to project his personal frustrations and failings on because they “do not fight back with fists and weapons.”

The Jews were therefore an easy and non-militarized target that he could blame for pretty much anything, including the disastrous effects after the Treaty of Versailles.

Anti-Semitic caricatures also associated Jews with several of Hitler’s dislikes, including business, materialism, democracy, capitalism, and communism. He was eager to strip some Jews of their wealth and power.

He was moody, awkward and received compliments on his eye-color.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
Marina Amaral

According to Murray’s report, Hitler received frequent compliments on his grayish-blue eyes, even though they were described as “dead, impersonal, and unseeing.”

He was slightly below average in height and had a receding hairline, thin lips, and well-shaped hands.

Murray notes that the merciless Nazi leader was known to offer a weak handshake with “moist and clammy” palms and was awkward at making small talk.

Sources say Hitler appeared to be shy or moody when meeting people and was uncoordinated in his gestures. He was also incredibly picky about his food.

Here’s Murray’s full report:

Analysis of the Personality of Adolph Hitler by Amanda Macias on Scribd

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Medal of Honor recipient who held off 9 German attacks has died

The Congressional Medal of Honor Society announced that Medal of Honor recipient Wilburn K. Ross died on May 9, 2017. According to a press release, Ross, who was working in a shipyard before he was drafted, was 94 years old and is survived by six children.


According to his Medal of Honor citation, Ross’s company — assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division — had taken heavy casualties in combat with elite German troops near St. Jacques, France, on Oct. 30, 1944 – losing over 60 percent of the troops. Ross then set his machine gun 10 yards ahead of the other Americans and used it to hold off German forces for eight attacks – receiving less and less help as the other troops ran out of ammunition.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
Troops from the 3rd Infantry Division in Nuremburg. (US Army photo)

Ross, too, was running low. After the eighth attack, Ross was also out of ammunition. As American troops prepared for a last stand, salvation came in the form of a resupply of ammunition. Ross was able to use that ammunition to defeat the ninth and final German attack.

A profile of Ross on a VA loan site adds some more background. Ross was a dead shot, practicing a trick shot that involved using a .22 rifle to light a match. He later described how he had selected his position beforehand. He also related that he had no idea that a dead soldier he’d been shooting over wasn’t dead at all – it was an Army lieutenant who was alive, and who reported Ross’s actions.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
The Medal of Honor

Ross would be presented the Medal of Honor on April 14, 1945. During his service in World War II and in the Korean War, he’d be wounded four times. He served in the Army until 1964, when he retired  as a Master Sergeant. Afterwards, he settled down in DuPont, Washington, where he raised his kids. A park in that town was named in his honor, and includes a monument that displays his Medal of Honor citation on a plaque.

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These battleship vets bring the USS North Carolina back to life through combat stories

The USS North Carolina was what they called a “fast” battleship, designed for long range shooting matches with other ships of war. She was faster than any other ship in the U.S. fleet when she was built.


“I was 17 when I came aboard this thing,” says James Bowen, a World War II veteran and USS North Carolina sailor. “I saw that thing and said ‘Nothing can hurt me on that thing.’ So I think of this as my second mother.”

“It brings back a lot of memories, if you walk around the ventilators,” says Louis Popovich, another USS North Carolina veteran. “It’s amazing how you can be reminded of an area by breathing some of the air.”

By the end of WWII, submarine warfare and aircraft carriers made the more expensive heavy gun warships like North Carolina all but obsolete. The last use of a battleship in combat was in Desert Storm, but by then they were firing Tomahawk missiles. Slowly over the next 50 years, the battleships of WWII were decommissioned one by one.

The North Carolina was opened to the public in 1963 and is now moored at Wilmington, N.C, where those interested in hearing more stories from the men who fought aboard her can visit.

While the ship will be there for the foreseeable future, the veterans’ firsthand stories will not. An estimated 430 WWII veterans die every day and by 2036, they will all be gone — but not forgotten.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Nazi rescued 200,000 Chinese civilians from a massacre

It’s a difficult thing to heap praise on a Nazi, but with German businessman John Rabe, it’s hard not to. Rabe was sent to Nanjing (then called Nanking) to work for the German corporation Siemens AG. There were many foreigners living in Nanking at the time, as it was the capital of Nationalist China.

By the time the Japanese Army was sent to capture Nanking in 1937, the high-ranking Nazi party boss had been in the country for nearly 30 years and was ready to flex that power. As the Japanese rained death on the city, there was one area left untouched by the devastation along with hundreds of thousands of civilians.


Rabe was a die-hard Nazi. He joined the National Socialist movement in its earliest days, but he was not prepared for the massacres and atrocities committed by the German-allied Japanese forces. When it became clear the Japanese were going to capture Nanking, Rabe organized an International Safety Zone inside the city – despite being told to leave by Japanese officials.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion

There’s no time for war, John Rabe has sh*t to do.

For his dedication to the Chinese people of the city, the Japanese were humbled. They respected his loyalty to the people he lived alongside for three decades. An angry Japanese mayor, installed after the capture of the city, railed Rabe for staying, wondering why he would ever choose to stay. Rabe replied that he was treated well and respectfully by the Chinese people and he wouldn’t leave their side in an emergency.

He took a step back, mumbled some words about Samurai obligations, and bowed deeply,” Rabe said of the mayor.
This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion

In every photo of John Rabe, his face says “take your bullsh*t elsewhere.”

This average-sized, bespectacled, bow-tied man was a force to be reckoned with. He was determined to protect his Chinese workers and keep them safe. More than that, he established a two-and-a-half-mile international safety zone in the embassy area that housed an estimated 250,000 Chinese civilian refugees. For two days, Rabe ushered civilians into his own house and urged them to be quiet. He even sent a telegram to Hitler himself to persuade the Japanese to recognize and protect the Safety Zone.

But even that couldn’t entirely stem the tide of the Japanese atrocities. As the streets and ponds of Nanking filled with corpses, John Rabe decided to do the one thing he could beyond protecting the International Safety Zone: Go out into the streets and personally protect civilians.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion

Did you see that coming? I didn’t.

Rabe would chase Japanese soldiers away from women being raped, going so far as to physically remove them from a room. He was completely unarmed, with only his signature Nazi swastika armband to protect him. He was appalled at the Japanese treatment of the Chinese civilians. Homes were burned, women were gang-raped, mutilated, and killed, and businesses were looted.

The Japanese troops feared the Nazis in Nanking, so much so that Rabe was able to chase them away from nearly every situation while protecting the hundreds of thousands of civilians in his Safety Zone. Because of Rabe, scores of Chinese civilians survived what became known as the “Rape of Nanking,” and he is remembered and revered in the city to this day, the city where his remains are buried.

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This Marine earned two medals of honor by age 19

Vietnam-era Marine and Hue City veteran John Ligato once remarked that the most ferocious fighting machine the world has ever seen is the 19-year-old pissed off Marine. In the case of John J. Kelly, he couldn’t be more right.


This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
Look at this handsome Devil… Dog.

Kelly joined the Marines in May 1917, just one month after the U.S. Congress declared war on Germany. The Chicago native was soon in France with 78th Company, 6th Regiment, 2d Division. That’s where he would earn the Army and Navy versions of the Medal of Honor — at the same time.

In October 1918, Kelly was in Blanc Mont Ridge in France, which the Germans occupied since 1915. The French were joined by two divisions of the U.S. Army and Major General John Lejeune’s 2d Division of Marines — including Pvt. John Kelly.

At the start of the near-monthlong battle, Kelly ran through no-man’s land, 100 yards ahead of an allied artillery barrage — straight toward a machine gun nest.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
Kinda like that, with less shield. (DC Films/Warner Bros.)

He chucked a grenade into the nest, killing one of the Germans. Then he took out the other using his sidearm.

Private Kelly returned to his line — again through the artillery barrage — but this time he brought back eight German soldiers at gunpoint.

The American advance at St. Etienne turned the tide of the Battle of Blanc Mont against the Germans. By Oct. 28, the area they occupied since the very start of the World War was now firmly in Allied hands.

Kelly was awarded both the Army and Navy Medals of Honor by General John J. Pershing, the commander of the American Expeditionary Force, in 1919. With the war over, Kelly left the military and returned to civilian life.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
Kelly receiving his Medal of Honor

He returned to his native Illinois, where he died in 1957.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How WWII soldiers used their downtime to make spectacular trench art

The National WWII Museum in New Orleans has launched a fascinating new exhibition about the arts and crafts soldiers created during World War II, often using castoff war materiel to create beautiful objects treasured for generations.

SOLDIER | ARTIST: Trench Art in World War II is on display now through Jan. 2, 2022, in the museum’s Senator John Alario Jr. Special Exhibition Hall, giving visitors a chance to plan a safe trip after we’ve all had a chance at getting a COVID-19 vaccination.Advertisement

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
Soldier Artist: Trench Art in World War II (National World War II Museum)

The museum opened in 1991, and curators have spent much of the last two decades systematically collecting the more than 150 pieces featured in the show. Most were donated by the original artists or their families.

Time can move slowly between battles, and soldiers have been occupying themselves with creative projects since the beginning of warfare. Trench art came to describe the handiwork during World War I, and the term has survived even though soldiers had far more tools and opportunities during World War II.

The museum has shared some photos from the exhibit, but you’ll have to visit to see the entire collection up close.Advertisement

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
Portable machine shops expanded the tools available for World War II trench artists. (National World War II Museum)

The United States managed to get an enormous amount of support gear into the fields, and soldiers suddenly had access to portable machine shops in almost all theaters of war. More powerful tools led to far more elaborate art.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
This knife’s rotted leather washers were replaced with Plexiglas washers in the field. (National World War II Museum)

Plexiglas was a revolutionary new material that transformed design, repair and maintenance during the era. Here’s an example of a knife repaired with Plexiglas washers. Most American military knives of the era were created with stacked leather washers. Take those to the South Pacific’s heat and humidity, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for handle rot.

This handle features green Plexiglas salvaged from tinted portions of aircraft canopies and red Plexiglas from marker lights.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
This P-38 sculpture made from bullet casings is also an ashtray. (National World War II Museum)

Spent bullets and shell casings were plentiful and sturdy, so these leftovers became a popular medium for trench artists. The P-38 Lightning featured twin booms that lent themselves to bullet art. Abstract representations such as this one are immediately identifiable as the American plane.

Something else that soldiers did with their downtime was enjoy the free cigarettes sent by U.S. tobacco companies, and these sculptures are designed to be used as ashtrays.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
This vase was made from a 105mm shell casing. (National World War II Museum)

Vases made from shell casings were particularly popular during World War I, and the practice continued into World War II. This vase was created in 1943 from a 105mm shell casing.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
This violin was made from wood scraps by an American held in a German POW camp. (National World War II Museum)

This incredibly ambitious project was undertaken by POW 1st Lt. Clair Cline, 448th Bombardment Group, 714th Bombardment Squadron, while he was imprisoned in Germany’s Stalag Luft I during 1944. Cline had serious woodworking skill and created this violin with makeshift tools such as broken glass and table knives.

He scavenged wood bed slats, table legs and aid cartons for materials and put the whole thing together with glue scraped from the bottom of German mess-hall tables. He finished the instrument in time to perform a short Christmas concert for his barracks.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
This swagger stick was made for an American by the German POWs he supervised. (National World War II Museum)

Technician 3rd Grade John D. Sweitzer of the 551st Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Company oversaw a detail of German POWs at the 6960th Ordnance Depot at war’s end. The Germans thought Sweitzer needed to look more like a man in charge, so they made this elaborate swagger stick and gifted it to him.

Sweitzer, who obviously inspired respect even from enemy troops, kept the piece and later donated it to the museum.

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion
There are over 150 pieces on exhibit in the SOLDIER | ARTIST: Trench Art in World War II exhibit. (National World War II Museum)

The rest of the exhibit includes frames, cigarette cases, airplane models and even a vessel for communion wafers. If you’re looking for insight into what troops did before video games and social media, you’ve got almost a year to visit New Orleans and see for yourself.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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5 of the most over-hyped military commanders in American history

These generals may be legends — or seen as awesome commanders — but did they really live up to all their hype?


Under closer examination, there might be some instances where the shine isn’t so bright. We’re about to shatter some long-held prejudices, so buckle up your seatbelt and hang on for the ride.

1. Douglas MacArthur

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MacArthur had his shining moments, but he had his share of miscalculations during his career as well.

“Good Doug” was the guy who pulls off the Inchon invasion or who sees Leyte as the place to return to the Philippines. “Bad Doug” is the guy who, according to U.S. Army’s official World War II history on the fall of the Philippines, failed to take immediate action, and saw them get caught on the ground.

Chicago Bears fans in the 2000s would always wonder which Rex Grossman would show up – “Good Rex” could carry the team, while “Bad Rex” could blow the game. It could be argued that Gen. Douglas MacArthur was much the same.

2. William F. Halsey

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Official U.S. Navy portrait of William F. Halsey, Jr. (US Navy photo)

Let’s lay it out here: Adm. William F. “Bull” Halsey was probably the only naval leader who could have won the Guadalcanal campaign, and for the first year and a half of World War II, he was well in his element. America needed someone who could help the country rebound from the infamous surprise attack at Pearl Harbor and who could inspire his men to go above and beyond.

But the fact is, in 1944, his limitations became apparent. Historynet.com noted his faults became apparent at Leyte Gulf, he “bit” on the Japanese carriers, which had been intended as a decoy. A thesis at the United States Army’s Command and General Staff College stated that Halsey “made several unfounded assumptions and misjudged the tactical situation.”

3. James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart

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While having a number of great moments – like stealing the uniform of the CO of the Army of the Potomac and making off with a huge haul of intelligence – Confederate Gen. Jeb Stuart also was responsible for a big blunder prior to the Battle of Gettysburg.

Lee’s official report on the Gettysburg campaign indicates that “the absence of the cavalry” made it “impossible to ascertain” Union intentions. An excellent dramatization of that is in the 1993 film “Gettysburg,” where Lee rants about possibly facing “the entire Federal army” while chewing out Harry Heth for getting into the fight.

4. Robert E. Lee

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Was Lee a great general? Well, he did beat a large number of his opposite numbers in the East. McClellan, Burnside, and Hooker among them. But like Jeb Stuart, Lee forgot the bigger picture. As Edward H. Bonekemper, author of “How Robert E. Lee Lost the Civil War,” noted at the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable, ”

The Union, not the Confederacy, had the burden of winning the war, and the South, outnumbered about four-to-one in white men of fighting age, had a severe manpower shortage.” The simple fact was that the South needed to preserve its manpower. Lee failed to do so, and many believed, often wasted it.

Ordering Pickett’s Charge was a classic example of wasting manpower. Antietam was another – and it was worse because the victory there allowed Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Nice going, Bobby.

5. George S. Patton

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Yeah, another legend who may be over-hyped.

But Patton, for all his virtues, had some serious faults as well. The slapping incident was but the least of those.

More worrisome from a military standpoint was the Task Force Baum fiasco, as described in this thesis. Patton, not the picture of humility, later admitted he made a mistake.

Patton probably was an example of someone promoted a bit past his level of competence.

MIGHTY TRENDING

6 things you didn’t know about the DEA

The Drug Enforcement Administration is the premier law enforcement agency on the front lines fighting the War on Drugs. The mission of the (DEA) is to enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States and bring to the criminals involved in the growing, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances appearing in or destined for illicit traffic in the United States.

This Federal Law Enforcement Agency recruits, trains, and deploys America’s elite agents into the world’s harshest environments to combat cartels and disrupt their operations. Due to the dangerous nature of their job, 85 agents have sacrificed their lives in service to the United States. Here are 6 things you didn’t know about these clandestine operators fighting the evils of narco-terrorism.


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No one:
Nixon: That’ll teach those hippies!

It was founded by President Richard Nixon

On July 1, 1973, President Nixon merged the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE) and over 600 Special Agents from the Customs bureaus into the consolidated force we know today.

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“Why is the DEA storming the lobby, Karen?” (U.S. Air Force photo)

They provide oversight of legal drugs too

The Drug Enforcement Administration licenses anyone who prescribes or dispenses drugs. However, the license must be renewed every three years. The DEA has strict rules on prescription authority and record keeping. Prescribing personnel who, in the view of the DEA, abuse their privilege, are subject to the full extent of the law and loss of said license.

To date, over 60 doctors and counting have been charged with pushing opioids and healthcare fraud by the Department of Justice. This greed is the root cause of today’s opioid epidemic exacerbated by secondary and tertiary problems as well.

You can rest assured, when medical professionals behave like drug dealers, the Department of Justice is going to treat them like drug dealers. – Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski

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Operation Albatross in Afghanistan, 2007 (usdoj.gov)

 

They were trained for combat by the Army

The drug trade also funds actual terrorists in the middle east, and their source of income had to be destroyed. The U.S. expanded its counter-narco mission in Afghanistan in 2005 with the DEA at the helm. The U.S. military provided air support and cargo planes to the DEA, as well as intelligence and logistics support.

The Army trained agents in spotting IEDs, combat maneuvers, and weapon systems.

 

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“Leyenda” means legend in Spanish. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

Enrique S. Camarena was a Marine

If you’re familiar with the hit Netflix series Narcos, you’ll remember that one of the main characters in season 4 is Enrique S. Camarena, also known as Kiki. The series did not emphasize that he was a U.S. Marine. Oorah.

Prior to joining DEA, Special Agent Camarena served two years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He worked in Calexico as a fireman and then as a police investigator, and was a narcotics investigator for the Imperial County Sheriff Coroner. Special Agent Camarena was survived by his wife, Geneva and three children, Enrique, Daniel and Erik. – dea.gov

This special agent was part of the DEA’s Guadalajara Mexican cartel investigation. He was kidnapped and tortured by drug traffickers on February 7, 1985, for over 30 hours. He was also injected with drugs to ensure he remained conscious. He was a tough one, but even Marines aren’t immortal.

In the wake of his death, Operation Leyenda was formed to solve his murder and was the largest homicide investigation ever conducted by the DEA.

Kiki Camarena was posthumously awarded the Administrator’s Award of Honor, the highest award given by the DEA.

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“I don’t know but I’ve been told, Eskimo p-“
“-STFU CARL!” (U.S. National Guard)

 

They have Spec Ops all over the nation

Special Response Team (SRT) program was created in 2016. The SRT was designed to bridge the gap between tactical operations conducted by field agents and those requiring specialized tactics due to elevated mission risks. SRT operators are highly trained in breaching tactics and an array of weapon systems.

Considered one of the most covert outfits in federal law enforcement, very little is known about DEA SRT capabilities and its operator selection process. – dea.gov

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“This is your new partner, Special Agent Dogg.” (Tech Crunch via Flickr)

The DEA wants to double marijuana production…for research

The agency has increased the amount of marijuana from 978 pounds in 2017 to more than 2,500 pounds in 2018. In 2019, the agency proposed a cannabis quota to more than 5,400 pounds — that’s a lot of weed.

This move is to support federally-sanctioned research in preparation for nationwide legalization — whenever that will be is uncertain.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Green Berets prepared to carry ‘backpack nukes’ on top-secret one-way missions during the Cold War

  • In the Cold War, strategists wanted nuclear weapons they could use without sparking a nuclear war.
  • That led to the development of tactical nuclear weapons for use against targets.
  • Teams of Green Berets trained to carry those nukes to their targets and saw it as a one-way mission.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Throughout the Cold War, as the nuclear arms race became more frantic, a nuclear confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union remained a major concern.

With intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched missiles, and air-dropped bombs, both countries had several options when it came to nuclear warfare.

But the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the closing days of World War II made clear the destructive capability of nuclear arms and the danger of a full-blown nuclear conflict.

As a result, US strategists sought ways to use nuclear weapons without triggering an all-out nuclear war.

The tactical nuclear option

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An M-388 Davy Crockett nuclear weapon mounted to a recoilless rifle at Aberdeen Proving Ground in March 1961. 

In the 1950s, the US military came up with the tactical nuclear option, using weapons with a lower yield and range than their strategic counterparts.

These weapons would be used on the battlefield or against a military-related target to gain an operational advantage. For example, the Air Force could drop a tactical nuclear bomb on a Soviet division invading Poland to stop its advance without triggering a disproportionate response — such as a nuclear attack on New York City.

There were two types of tactical nuclear munitions: The Medium Atomic Demolition Munition (MADM) had a medium-yield payload and required several troops to carry it. The Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SADM) had a low-yield payload but could be carried by one soldier.

The order to use tactical nuclear weapons would still have to come from both political and military authorities. SADMs were subject to the same command-and-control procedures as other tactical nuclear weapons and meant to be used only if there were no other means of creating the desired effect.

Tactical nuclear weapons came in several forms, including artillery shells, gravity bombs, short-range missiles, and even landmines. But perhaps the most interesting iteration was the “backpack nuke,” which was to be carried by Army Special Forces operators.

Green Light Teams

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US officials with an M-388 Davy Crockett nuclear weapon. It used one of the smallest nuclear warheads ever developed by the US. 

Specially trained Green Berets were assigned to Green Light Teams. Their purpose was to clandestinely deploy in NATO or Warsaw Pact countries and detonate their SADMs in a conflict with the Soviets. The Pentagon later included North Korea and Iran on the target list.

Green Light Teams’ main targets were tunnels, major bridges, mountain passes, dams, canals, ports, major railroad hubs, oil facilities, water-plant factories, and underground storage or operations facilities.

In other words, SADMs were intended to either slow down the enemy by destroying or significantly altering the landscape or target the logistical, communications, and operations hubs that are vital to an army, especially during offensive operations.

Green Light Teams primarily carried the MK-54 SADM. Nicknamed the “Monkey” or “Pig,” the device weighed almost 60 pounds and could fit in a large rucksack.

In each team, there was a chief operator who was primarily responsible for the activation of the SADM. He and other members of the team held the codes required to activate the bomb.

Like every Green Beret team, Green Light teams were trained in various insertion methods, including parachuting — both static line and military free fall — skiing, and combat diving.

Free falling was probably the most realistic insertion method other than ground infiltration, but doing it with the device was tough.

During parachute insertions, the chief operator seldom got to jump with the device because it had a high probability of injury for the jumper, and the chief operator was key to mission success.

An operator would have to strap the SADM between his legs like a rucksack, but the device would work against him as he tried to stabilize in the air before deploying his parachute. Even in static-line parachuting, when the ripcord is hooked to the plane, there would still be issues.

Paratroopers will release their rucksacks or other heavy cargo attached to them via a line moments before landing to prevent injuries. But the SADM tended to get stuck between the jumper’s feet in the crucial seconds before landing, resulting in several sprained ankles and broken legs.

Everything closely associated with Green Light Teams was top secret, and the seriousness of the mission followed Green Light operators outside work. They were instructed to travel only on US airliners and never to fly above a communist country in case the plane had to make an emergency landing, which could lead to them being held by local authorities.

No one is coming for us

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Soldiers of the 77th Special Forces Group are towed on skis during training at Camp Hale, Colorado, February 5, 1956. 

A common thread among successive generations of Green Light Teams was their distrust of leadership when it came to their specific mission.

“During training, the instructors had told us we had about 30 minutes to clear the blast radius of the device. We never really believed that,” a retired Special Forces operator who served on a Green Light Team told Insider.

“In every other mission, teams would have an extraction plan. We didn’t. It was all up to us to get the hell out of dodge. But that’s not how the Army works. So that’s why we never really believed that we could get out alive in case we had to use one of those things. It was a one-way mission,” the retired Green Beret added.

There were Green Light teams forward deployed in Europe — even in Berlin — always on standby to launch. Some Green Light Teams even sought to forward deploy inside East Germany to be ready in case the Soviets unleashed their military on Western Europe.

Green Light Teams also deployed to South Korea at different times and were on standby in case tensions with North Korea turned into war.

With the end of the Cold War, the Green Light Teams were deactivated. They were never used in a real-world operation.

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.

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

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