The crazy tactic Finland used to root out and kill Soviet snipers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The crazy tactic Finland used to root out and kill Soviet snipers

Not every infantry troop can be an expert in hunting snipers. For the Finns fighting off the Soviet Union during the 1939-1940 Winter War and it’s later version, the Continuation War, it could be even more difficult. They were given little training, little in the way of weapons, and pretty much little in the way of anything. 

Since the attack from the USSR came so suddenly and the need for reserves so great in the Karelian Peninsula, many Finnish troops just picked up their personal weapons and whatever cold weather gear they had laying around and went off to kill some Russians. 

For the most part, it worked. It worked much better than anyone would expect it to, anyway. The Finns were one of the most adaptive fighting forces anyone could have ever wanted fighting off a massive communist invasion. 

When they couldn’t kill tanks with their home-bought rifles, they used Molotov Cocktails, which did the trick just fine. When they couldn’t match the Soviets in a pitched battle, they just used snipers to kill as many as they could (which was a lot). 

The crazy tactic Finland used to root out and kill Soviet snipers
Finnish soldier with a Molotov cocktail in the 1939–40 Winter War

When the Soviets brought out their own snipers, the Finns adapted to overcome that too. 

There’s no doubt that there were many places in World War II and the surrounding wars where the fighting was harsh and bitter. They fought two wars in the time spanning World War II, the Winter War, from 1939-1940 and the Continuation War, which started when the Germans launched Operation Barbarossa, invading the Soviet Union. 

It’s not cool to be an ally with Hitler’s Germany, but when your only enemy is the Soviet Union and you really want revenge on the communists, it’s the only ally around. 

The USSR fighting Finland wasn’t the bloodiest, but the pure hatred was there. Finns definitely tried to get into the heads of Russian soldiers by taking their frozen corpses and putting them on display to scare the incoming enemy. They used a similar tactic to take out Russian snipers.

The crazy tactic Finland used to root out and kill Soviet snipers
The Marcks Plan was the original German plan of attack for Operation Barbarossa, as depicted in a US Government study (March 1955).

A sniper is a difficult enemy to root out and kill. The whole purpose of a snipers is to move unseen and kill from a distance without being caught. Think about your average individual, pinned down by sniper fire. Will they know to look for the muzzle flash? Will they know to find disturbed snow or vegetation? Would they be able to estimate distance using the crack of the weapon? 

Probably not. Neither did a lot of the hastily trained Finns who were daring and brave, but new to infantry combat. This is where their ingenuity served them well once more. Instead of using a dead Soviet body, the Finns would construct a mannequin to attract the sniper’s bullet. That’s nothing new, soldiers had been doing that for decades.

What is new is the practice of getting a general location of the sniper’s position and then firing a Lahti-39 20mm anti-tank rifle into the vicinity. That’s the solution the Finnish soldiers came up with. 

The crazy tactic Finland used to root out and kill Soviet snipers
Lahti L-39 20mm rifle pressed into service as an anti-aircraft gun to counter Soviet attack aircraft. Photo via imgur

The Finns couldn’t penetrate the armor of the Soviet T-34 tanks, but it was useful in lighting up a bunker, clearing tanks of pesky soldiers before dropping a Molotov Cocktail in them, and for taking down aircraft. If the 20mm Lahti can take down an aircraft and lesser tanks, imagine what it can do to a sniper, no matter how well it’s hidden.

Finland may not have won the the Winter War or the Continuation War, but the Soviet Union paid a heavy price for taking what little of Finland it captured. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how America got revenge for Pearl Harbor

After the Japanese surprise attack on December 7, 1941, America’s rallying cry in WWII was “Remember Pearl Harbor”. The American people didn’t forget it and the U.S. military certainly didn’t forget the mastermind behind the attack. Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was public enemy number 1 in the Pacific.

The crazy tactic Finland used to root out and kill Soviet snipers
Yamamoto salutes his pilots at Rabaul before he takes off on his April 18 inspection tour (Public Domain)

By early 1943, the war in the Pacific was starting to turn. The Japanese had been repelled at Midway and been cleared from Guadalcanal. In fact, Japanese morale was so low that Yamamoto planned an inspection tour of the Solomon Islands and New Guinea in order to oversee an aerial counter-offensive and boost the confidence of his troops. On April 14, U.S. Naval Intelligence intercepted and decrypted Yamamoto’s itinerary, as well as the number and types of planes that would execute the inspection tour.

Yamamoto was scheduled to fly from Rabaul to Balalae Airfield near Bougainville in the Solomon Islands on April 18. He and his staff would fly in two Mitsubishi G4M Betty medium bombers. Escorted by six Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters, the bombers would take off from Rabaul at 0600 and land at Balalae at 0800 Tokyo time. The decision to attack Yamamoto in the air needed to be made at the highest level.

Although no official kill order from President Roosevelt is known to exist, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox left the decision up to Admiral Chester Nimitz. After consulting with Admiral William Halsey, Jr., Nimitz authorized the mission on April 17. Operation Vengeance was a go.

The interception would require a 1,000-mile roundtrip from Guadalcanal. With extra fuel required for combat, the mission was beyond the capabilities of the Navy and Marine Corps Grumman F4F Wildcat and Vought F4U Corsair fighters. Therefore, the mission was given to the 339th Fighter Squadron, 347th Fighter Group. Their Lockheed P-38G Lightning fighters, equipped with drop tanks, were the only ones able to make the intercept.

The crazy tactic Finland used to root out and kill Soviet snipers
P-38 was nicknamed the “fork-tailed devil” by the Germans and “two planes, one pilot” by the Japanese (U.S. Air Force)

18 P-38s were assigned to Operation Vengeance. The mission was led by the 339th Squadron Commander and ace pilot Major John Mitchell. Four pilots, Capt. Thomas Lanphier, Jr., Lt. Rex Barber, Lt. Jim McLanahan, and Lt. Joe Moore, were designated as the “killer” flight. The rest of the pilots served as a reserve and provided cover against the Japanese escort fighters. In order to keep the Navy’s codebreaking ability secret, a cover story was briefed to the pilots stating that the intelligence for the mission came from Australian coastwatchers who had spotted a high-ranking Japanese officer board a plane at Rabaul.

At 0725, the first of the P-38s took off from Guadalcanal. At first, the mission seemed troubled. McLanahan experienced a flat tire during takeoff and Moore’s drop tanks wouldn’t feed fuel. Both killer flight pilots were forced to drop out of the mission. Lt. Besby Holmes and Lt. Raymond Hine covered down on the killer flight and the 16 remaining aircraft set off across the south Pacific.

Flying at low altitude to avoid Japanese radar, Mitchell struggled to stave off boredom and drowsiness. However, he managed to navigate to the intercept point successfully. At 0934, one minute early, the P-38s spotted Yamamoto’s flight high above them at 6,500 feet. The American planes jettisoned their drop tanks and entered a full-power climb after their target. The Zeros, spotting the ambush, dropped their own drop tanks and dove at the P-38s. Mitchell ordered Lanphier and Barber to engage the bombers as he went head-on with the fighters himself.

The crazy tactic Finland used to root out and kill Soviet snipers
All five guns were located in the nose which made the P-38 exceptionally accurate and deadly (Public Domain)

Barber got behind one of the Betty’s and poured .50-caliber and 20mm fire into its right engine, rear fuselage, and tail. When Barber hit the left engine, the Betty started to spew heavy black smoke. The Betty rolled violently to the left, nearly colliding with Barber, and crashed into the Bougainville jungle. Although the Betty was carrying Yamamoto, Barber had no way of knowing it. He quickly scanned for the second bomber and spotted it low over the water trying to avoid an attack by Holmes and Hine.

Holmes managed to land some hits on the second Betty, but he and Hine flew too fast and overshot it. Barber dived in on the action and began his own attack. His hits on the Betty caused bits of metal to fly off which damaged his own aircraft as he flew past. The Betty, which turned out to be carrying Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Matome Ugaki and the rest of Yamamoto’s staff, rapidly lost altitude and crashed into the water.

Although the reserve P-38s were fighting hard to fend off the Japanese escorts, Barber, Holmes, and Hine were attacked by Zeros from above. During the counterattack, Barber’s aircraft took 104 hits. He and Holmes lost track of Hine in the melee, presumably shot down and crashed into the water. With their mission accomplished and fuel at a premium, the remaining 15 P-38s broke contact and flew for home. As they approached Guadalcanal, Lanphier radioed the flight director, “That son of a bitch will not be dictating any peace terms in the White House.”

The crazy tactic Finland used to root out and kill Soviet snipers
The wreckage of Yamamoto’s Betty on Bougainville (Public Domain)

The next day, a Japanese search-and-rescue party located the Betty’s crash site in the jungle and recovered Yamamoto’s body. They noted that his body had been thrown clear from the wreckage, still clutching the hilt of his sheathed katana. Despite Lanphier’s claim to the kill, a Japanese autopsy later revealed that Yamamoto was killed by bullet strikes from behind. This was consistent with Barber’s account of an attack from the Betty’s 6 o’clock versus Lanphier’s account of an attack from the 3 o’clock.

Barber, who had been given half credit along with Lanphier for the kill, petitioned the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records for whole credit. In September 1991, the Air Force History Office advised that enough uncertainty existed for both Lanphier and Barber’s claims to be accepted. The board was split and the decision went to Secretary of the Air Force Donald Rice who ruled that the shared credit would stand. Both Lanphier and Barber argued their cases until their deaths in 1987 and 2001 respectively. “Historians, fighter pilots and all of us who have studied the record of this extraordinary mission will forever speculate as to the exact events of that day in 1943,” Secretary Rice said in 1993. “There is glory for the whole team.”

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That time American and Russian tanks faced off in a divided Berlin

Continuing tensions with Russia over its annexation of Crimea, backing of separatists in Ukraine, dealing weapons to the Taliban, and the hacking of the U.S. elections have led to many people on both sides of the divide saying that current U.S.-Russian tensions are worse than they were in the Cold War.


Apparently, those people have forgotten that U.S. and Russian troops killed each other a few times, conducted a standoff with tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba, and stared each other down in armed tanks in divided Berlin.

The crazy tactic Finland used to root out and kill Soviet snipers
This is one of the most boss photos on this site. (Photo: Central Intelligence Agency)

The incident started on Oct. 22, 1961, when America’s senior diplomat in West Berlin, E. Allan Lightner, Jr., attempted to cross the newly-erected Berlin Wall at a major checkpoint, Checkpoint Charlie. He was stopped by East German authorities who wanted to see his papers, but Lightner insisted that only the Soviets had the authority to check his papers.

He eventually turned back from the border, but Gen. Lucius Clay ordered that the next U.S. diplomat who needed to cross the border would be accompanied by military police in armed Jeeps. The next diplomat did cross the border with the Jeeps.

But Clay still wasn’t satisfied. He sent M48 tanks to the checkpoint and had them rev their engines. The Soviet commander requested permission to call an equal number of tanks out in response and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev approved it.

The crazy tactic Finland used to root out and kill Soviet snipers
American tanks at Checkpoint Charlie in October 1961. (Photo: Central Intelligence Agency)

So T-55 tanks pulled up to the opposite end of the street and, approximately 82 yards away from each other, the two sides threatened each other for 16 hours from Oct. 27-28, 1961.

News crews rushed to the scene and the world watched with bated breath to see if this would be the flame that set off the powder keg and descended the world into nuclear war.

But neither country wanted to fight World War III over paperwork in Berlin. President John F. Kennedy ordered back channels to be opened to reach a negotiation. Khrushchev agreed to a deal where the countries would take turns withdrawing a single tank at a time.

The crazy tactic Finland used to root out and kill Soviet snipers
Soviet tanks withdraw from Checkpoint Charlie at the end of the crisis. (Photo: Central Intelligence Agency)

The Soviets withdrew a T-55 and, a few minutes later, America pulled back an M48. The process continued until Checkpoint Charlie and its Soviet counterpoint had returned to their normal garrisons of a few soldiers on either side.

Today, the intersection has a replica checkpoint and a number of historical exhibits. Aside from the Cuban Missile Crisis the following year, Checkpoint Charlie may be the closest America and Soviet Russia came to blows in open warfare.

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This top-secret jet bomber spied on Americans in Normandy

Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy got a shocking view of the future of warfare in 1944 when, as they were moving supplies from ships to the shore, a jet-powered, Nazi bomber ripped past at approximately 460 mph.


The Arado Ar 234 was the first operational jet bomber and flew at up to 540 miles per hour, so quick that no Allied fighter could match it without going into a dive.

In fact, one flight of P47 Thunderbolts spotted a flight of three Ar 234s 10,000 feet below them in 1945 and attempted to use the Thunderbolt’s high dive speeds for an attack run. The Nazi pilots waited until the Americans had almost reached them and then tore away at full speed as the P-47s coughed on their smoke.

For the air crews assigned to protect the American forces landing supplies in Normandy in August 1944, attacking the Arado was essentially impossible. Loaded with reconnaissance gear, it flew over the beaches at 460 mph while taking a photo every 11 seconds.

The crazy tactic Finland used to root out and kill Soviet snipers
The only known surviving Arado Ar 234 Blitz aircraft now rests at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. (Photo: Michael Yew CC BY 2.0)

At that speed, it could fly over all five original D-Day beaches in less than eight minutes. By the time that fighter aircraft made it into the air to hunt the Arado down, it would already be long gone.

That didn’t quite make the Arado invincible, though. Like the slightly slower British de Havilland Mosquito, a prop-driven British bomber and reconnaissance aircraft that go its speed from its light weight, the Ar 234 was left vulnerable when it was forced to maneuver or slow down for bombing runs.

The crazy tactic Finland used to root out and kill Soviet snipers
The P-51 is one of the only aircraft to shoot down an Arado Ar 234 in flight. It did so thanks to a group of P-47 Thunderbolts that forced the jet-powered bomber into a speed-bleeding turn. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Philip Bryant)

One of the only Ar 234s ever shot down was caught because it was forced into a sharp turn while coming out of a bombing run.

A group of German jets were bombing Allied bridges on the Rhine when a group of American P-47s came at them. The German jets took a tight turn to avoid the P-47s, losing so much speed that they were left vulnerable. American Capt. Don Bryan was in a P-51 nearby and was able to position himself so that the turning German planes had to fly just underneath him.

The crazy tactic Finland used to root out and kill Soviet snipers
Republic P-47C-2-RE Thunderbolts of the 61st Fighter Squadron, 56th Fighter Group. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Force)

Bryan made his attack in a dive which allowed his Mustang to keep up with the German jet while his .50-cal machine guns chewed through the Arado’s right engine. The German pilot was left without momentum, without adequate engine power, and with too little altitude. He went down with his jet.

Adolf Hitler considered the Ar 234 one of his wonder weapons that would save Germany, but it suffered from a number of shortcomings. First, the fragile engines needed an overhaul after every ten hours of flight and were replaced after 25. The jet also needed long runways and large amounts of fuel, two things that were hard for a Luftwaffe on the retreat to provide with regularity.

The crazy tactic Finland used to root out and kill Soviet snipers
An Arado Ar 234B bomber sits in a captured hangar with Junkers Ju 88G. (Photo: U.S. Army)

In the end, the jets were sent on just a few operational missions. The Normandy reconnaissance was the first, and they also did duty over the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge and in the final defense of Germany, flying first against the bridges over the Rhine and later against Soviet troop concentrations.

The only surviving Ar 234 is in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How ‘the Rock of the Marne’ changed World War I in Europe

America’s entry into World War I began with a year-long buildup beginning in April 1917. By late spring and early summer of 1918, that buildup was nearly complete.

In response, the Germans launched a series of offensives, desperate to defeat the French, British and other allies. But ultimately, they would be overwhelmed with the addition of fresh American troops and firepower, according to Brian F. Neumann, a historian at the Center of Military History who compiled the pamphlet: “The U.S. Army in the World War I Era.”


One of the final German pushes occurred in the early morning hours of July 15, 1918, in the Champagne-Marne area of northern France, where German assault troops and artillery pounded the U.S. 3rd Division lines.

The weight of the attack came against Col. Edmund Butts’ 30th Infantry and Col. Ulysses Grant McAlexander’s 38th Infantry. After heavy fighting in the morning, when the 30th Infantry “inflicted horrendous casualties” on the Germans, Butts’ men were forced back to a line along the hills where they stopped the Germans.

The crazy tactic Finland used to root out and kill Soviet snipers

U.S. Soldiers engage the Germans in the trenches during the Champagne-Marne campaign in northern France, July 15, 1918.

(U.S. Army artwork by Travis Burcham)

Elsewhere, five miles beyond the Marne River, McAlexander faced a more precarious position when the adjacent French division hastily retreated, leaving the 38th Infantry’s right flank exposed, Neumann said.

Turning some of the regiment to defend that flank, McAlexander also had to deal with a penetration of his main line. Although fighting on three sides, the riflemen and machine gunners of the 38th Infantry held their ground, earning the sobriquet “Rock of the Marne.”

The 3rd Infantry Division is still known by that moniker, and its soldiers are proud of the heritage that inspired it.

By the end of that July 15th day, the 3rd Division had stopped the German attack.

Together, the 30th Infantry and 38th Infantry had defeated six regiments from two German divisions. One German 1,700-man regiment was so badly cut up that the German leaders could only find 150 survivors by nightfall, Neumann noted.

Bad news also mixed with good that day. Four rifle companies of the 28th Division from the Pennsylvania National Guard had been attached to a French division to the east of the 38th Infantry. When the French retreated, they neglected to inform the Pennsylvanians, and the riflemen became surrounded. Most of them were killed or captured; only a few fought their way to the south to rejoin their parent division.

Heavy fighting involving U.S. forces occurred near Paris in mid-to-late July, in what became known as the Aisne-Marne Campaign.

By the first week of August, the U.S. Army’s I Corps and III Corps had successfully wrapped up that campaign, removing the threat against the French capital and liberating several important railroads for allied use. That effort also eliminated the German high command’s plans for another offensive against the British in Flanders.

The crazy tactic Finland used to root out and kill Soviet snipers

French infantrymen and “Doughboys” of the Army’s 3d Division.

(Illustration by George Matthews Harding)

“More important, the campaign effectively seized the initiative from the Germans and gave it to [French supreme allied commander, Gen. Ferdinand] Foch and his national commanders. The chance had passed for Germany to defeat Britain and France before the United States could intervene in force,” Neumann said.

The leader of the American Expeditionary Force, Gen. John Pershing, finally got his chance to command a large American-led campaign that included many French soldiers. The campaign in northern France, known as the St. Mihiel Offensive, lasted Sept. 12 to 16. Up until that time, U.S. units were used mainly in a piecemeal fashion.

Firepower included over 3,000 artillery pieces, 1,400 planes and 267 tanks, mostly supplied by the French and British, but manned to a large extent by Americans, Neumann said.

Pershing, at the suggestion of Gen. Henri-Philippe Pétain, commander of French forces, developed an elaborate scheme to deceive the Germans into thinking that the first blow would come to the south near Belfort on Sept. 12.

French and U.S. forces under Pershing’s leadership executed a four-hour long artillery bombardment against the German lines, an action commonly considered a prelude to attack by infantry and cavalry forces, Neumann noted.

The scheme worked well enough to get the Germans to move three divisions into that sector, while allied forces, led by both I Corps and IV Corps infantrymen and tankers, began their attack in other more vulnerable areas.

“The Germans put up a determined defense long enough to retreat in good order,” Neumann noted.

On the afternoon of Sept. 12, Pershing learned that columns of Germans were retreating on roads from Vigneulles. The general urged both the 1st and 26th Divisions to continue their attacks through the night to press their advantage. The 1st Division was under IV Corps and the 26th Division came under V Corps.

The 26th Division moved quickly throughout the night, capturing the strategic town of Vigneulles by 2:30 a.m., Sept. 13. The 1st Division then linked up with them, securing nearly all of their objectives, he said.

In two days the U.S. soldiers suffered some 7,000 casualties, while inflicting 17,000 on the German defenders.

By Sept. 15, the St. Mihiel Offensive was successfully concluded. This operation paved the way for further offensives that would doom the German army in the coming months, Neumann said.

Neumann added that the offensive gave Pershing and his staff “experience in directing a battle of several corps, supported by tanks and aircraft.”

Such an operation today is referred to as combined arms maneuver. But back then, it was a new approach to fighting.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the British ate dinner and burned the White House

A few years after the onset of the War of 1812, the British Army marched into Washington D.C and set it ablaze as many Americans fled. The Redcoats then hiked their way to one of the most historic buildings in the world, the White House, and torched it to avenge an American attack on the city of York in Ontario, Canada, just a few years prior.

Before the British arrived, President James Madison had left the area to meet with his military officials. While many fled in terror of the anticipated Redcoats, First Lady Dolley Madison bravely stayed behind, ready to retrieve important documents and irreplaceable valuables.

The crazy tactic Finland used to root out and kill Soviet snipers
President James Madison (left) and his wife, Dolley.

As dawn broke, Dolley and some of the White House staff kept a close eye out as they waited for either Madison or the British to return. Once the British Army came into view, Dolley made preparations to leave.


Instead of taking her personal belongings, Dolley Madison made it her priority to retrieve a full-length portrait of George Washington — to keep it out of British hands. Since the painting was screwed to the wall, members of the White House staff broke the frame and rolled the canvas up.

Dolley managed to escape safely and later met up with her husband at a secondary location.

The crazy tactic Finland used to root out and kill Soviet snipers
The original plans for the White House.

Soon after Dolley’s departure, the British stomped their way to the White House. They went up the iconic front steps and through double doors. Upon entering the house, British troops were surprised to discover that dinner had been laid out for about 40 patrons. So, like any hungry set of soldiers, they sat down to eat. They enjoyed a civilized meal before setting the presidential manor on fire.

President Madison and his wife returned a few days later; the British had already moved on, leaving only ashy rubble in their wake. Most of the walls survived the brutal heat of the flames, but the majority of the President’s home had to be rebuilt.

This historical act of destruction is the first and only time the enemy has successfully brought harm to the White House.

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This is why going mudding in a World War I era tank is a bad idea

The front line of WWI was a dangerous place. From bullets to bombs to poison gas, the death that could be dealt on the battlefield came from many directions.


Mother nature included.

Excessive rains made mobility difficult as troops were forced to navigate through the mud-choked battlefields, making resupply and transport nearly impossible. With both sides bogged down, tanks were thought to enable a breakthrough, but they too soon succumbed to the clutches of mud.

Known as “Mark 1,” the first tank was constructed with 105hp Daimler engine and carried two Hotchkiss six-pound (57mm) guns. The crew consisted four gunners and three drivers, and the tank maneuvered on caterpillar tracks with separate gearboxes.

Soldiers had to endure intense heat in the crew compartment, extreme noise and would sometimes be trapped for days if the tank got stuck.

After multiple design failures, the British considered canceling their tank program, but supporters kept them in the Empire’s arsenal.

Related: Why WWII soldiers nicknamed the Sherman tank ‘death trap’

New tactics breathed new life into the lumbering beasts, focusing them into mass attacks that took advantage of proper terrain.

Check out the History Channel‘s video below to see how these first tanks made an impact on the battlefields of the War To End All Wars.

(History Channel, YouTube) 
MIGHTY HISTORY

How a modern battalion of Army Rangers would perform in Civil War combat

U.S. Army Rangers are some of the most storied warriors in history. The 75th Ranger Regiment traces its lineage back to World War II where it served with distinction in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. Modern Rangers are masters of warfare, using advanced technology and their extensive training to overwhelm their enemies.


But how would a battalion of 600 modern killers do in the Civil War? We started thinking of what this might be like, inspired by the Reddit user who wrote about a battle between the Roman Empire and modern-day Marines. Ironically enough, some of the world’s best infantrymen would make the biggest difference in the Civil War by becoming cavalry, artillery, and doctors.

The Cavalry Ranger on the Civil War battlefield

 

The crazy tactic Finland used to root out and kill Soviet snipers
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Angela Stafford

Rangers who suddenly found themselves at the start of a Civil War battlefield would be able to choose a side and then straight up murder enemy skirmishers. Most Civil War battles opened with small groups of skirmishers taking careful, aimed shots at one another. Rangers equipped with SCAR rifles that can effectively fire up to 800 meters or M4s that are effective past 600 meters would have a greater range than most of their enemies. And the Rangers’ ability to fire dozens of rounds per minute vs. the enemy’s four rounds would be decisive.

But, their enemy would be firing using black powder. Once the artillery and infantry opened up, everything near the front line would quickly be covered in too much smoke for the Rangers to sight targets. Also, the huge disadvantage the Rangers faced in terms of numbers is unavoidable. Attempting to kill each enemy infantryman would quickly eat away at the Rangers’ irreplaceable ammo. So, the Ranger infantry couldn’t fight for long as infantry. Their skills as shock troops would still be invaluable.

The Rangers could jump in their vehicles and begin maneuvering like ultra-fast, mounted cavalry. Riding in Ranger Special Operation Vehicles or Humvees, the Rangers would quickly breach enemy lines and fire on reserve troop formations, communications lines, and unit leaders. The Rangers heavy and light machine guns and automatic grenade launchers would decimate grouped soldiers. Riflemen could dismount and begin engaging the tattered remnants that remained.

Enemy command posts would be especially vulnerable to this assault, giving the Rangers the ability to cut the head off the snake early in the battle.

Alternatively, they could simply wait out the first day and attack at night, sneaking up to the enemy camp on foot using their night vision and then assaulting through to the enemy commanders. This would conserve needed fuel and ammo, but it would increase the chances of a Ranger being shot.

Rangers and indirect-fire

The crazy tactic Finland used to root out and kill Soviet snipers
Photo: US Army Pfc. Nathaniel Newkirk

 

Mortarmen in the Rangers would quickly become a terrorizing force for enemy artillery batteries. Civil War artillery was moved with horses, fired with smoke-creating black powder, and fired only a few rounds per minute. Depending on the artillery piece, their range was anywhere from 500 to 5,000 meters. But, relatively rare rifled cannons could reach over 9 kilometers.

The Ranger mortars would have maximum ranges between 3,500 meters for the 60mm and 7,200 meters for the 120mm mortars. They would have a slight range disadvantage against some guns, but they would have a huge advantage in volume of fire, stealth, and mobility. The mortars could be mostly hidden in wooded areas or behind cover and fired safely, as long as the overhead area remained clear. Since modern mortars create much less smoke, enemy artillery batteries would be unlikely to see them. If the enemy were able to find and engage the mortarmen, the mortars could rush to another firing position and begin engaging the artillery battery again. In a fight of Ranger mortars vs. any single battery, the Rangers would quickly win.

But, the Rangers would be at a huge numerical disadvantage. By doctrine, Ranger battalions are assigned four 120mm mortar systems, four 81mm systems, and 12 60mm for a total of 20 mortars. Meanwhile, 393 guns faced off against each other Gettysburg. The Rangers would have to rely on mobility to stay alive and concentrate their fire when it was needed by friendly infantry.

After the ammo and fuel runs out

 

The crazy tactic Finland used to root out and kill Soviet snipers
Photo: US Air Force Justin Connaher

Of course, a modern Ranger battalion eats through ammunition, fuel, and batteries. The Rangers would dominate a couple of battles before their vehicles would need to be parked for the duration of the war. The ammunition could run out in a single battle if the men weren’t careful to conserve.

When the rifles and vehicles ran dry, the Rangers would still be useful. First, their personal armor would give them an advantage even if they had to capture repeating rifles to keep fighting. Also, all Rangers go through Ranger First Responder training, an advanced first aid for combat. Ranger medics go through even more training, acquiring a lot of skills that are typically done by physician’s assistants. This means any Ranger would be a great medical asset for a Civil War-era army, and Ranger Medics would outperform many doctors of the day. Just their modern knowledge of germs and the need for sterilization would have made a huge difference in cutting deaths due to infection.

Even without supply lines, 600 modern Rangers would have been extremely valuable to a Civil War general. They’d have single-handedly won early battles and remained strategically and tactically valuable for the duration of the war.

But would Rangers ultimately change the outcome of the Civil War? Unless you have a time machine, we’ll just have to settle for debating that in the comments section.

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The first man killed in the Vietnam War was murdered by a fellow airman

On June 8, 1956, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Richard Fitzgibbon died of gunshot wounds sustained in South Vietnam. He was the first casualty of what would be known to history as the Vietnam War.


Except it wasn’t a Viet Cong bullet that killed Fitzgibbon — it was a fellow airman.

Fitzgibbon was assigned to the Military Assistance Advisory Group, training South Vietnamese airmen in Saigon. A crew chief, he confronted the plane’s radio operator when they came under fire mid-flight, making sure the operator did his job.

The crazy tactic Finland used to root out and kill Soviet snipers
An early aircrew patch from MAAG Vietnam.

After the mission, the radio operator stewed over the altercation, heading to a bar to have a few drinks and loosen up. Except he drank heavily, and the incident only intensified his anger.

Later that day, the man approached Fitzgibbon on the porch of his barracks room as he handed out candy to Vietnamese children and shot the crew chief to death.

Fitzgibbon was a Navy veteran of World War II who later joined the Air Force. His son Richard joined the Marines and fought in Vietnam. He was killed in combat near Quang Tin in 1965.

The crazy tactic Finland used to root out and kill Soviet snipers
Richard Fitzgibbon Jr., left, and Richard Fitzgibbon III. The father was killed in Vietnam in 1956, while the son died there in 1965. (Photo from Sen. Ed Markey)

Technical Sergeant Fitzgibbon’s name wasn’t added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall until 1999, after a lobbying campaign from his family, with the help of Senator Ed Markey. The Department of Defense had to first change the criteria for adding a name — specifically identifying the start of the war.

The DoD now recognizes the date the MAAG was set up, Nov. 1, 1955, as the start of the conflict in Vietnam — the earliest date to qualify for having a casualty’s name added to the memorial wall.

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Richard Fitzgibbon’s name on the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

The Fitzgibbons were one of three father-son pairs who died in the Vietnam War.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Bette Davis’ club became the best spot for WWII troops

Veterans and troops always have a go-to spot where they can enjoy themselves after hours. Oftentimes, it’s a bar where they can unwind alongside buddies and take their minds off the stresses that come with military life, if only for a brief moment. Wherever that place may be, when you’re there, you know you can just kick back, enjoy that sweet, refreshing beer, and relax.

Back during World War II, the U.S. was abuzz with patriotism and everyone who could would do their part to serve those who serve. Hollywood celebrities of the time, like Bette Davis and John Garfield, were no exception. In fact, they created a club designed specifically to cater to returning troops. Best part of all: The uniform got you in for free and troops would never spend a single cent when there.


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She would spend almost the entire run of the Second World War supporting the troops at the expense of her infamous Warner Bros. contract.

Located at 1451 Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood, CA was the fabulous Hollywood Canteen. Troops who visited would be greeted with the words, “through these portals pass the most beautiful uniforms in the world.” Anyone was allowed in, but the troops were treated with more esteem than the celebrities who catered to them.

No one dedicated more time and effort to the Hollywood Canteen than Bette Davis herself. The beautiful actress was the president of the Canteen and would often be the first person ready to greet troops as they came through the door. Visiting troops would be escorted to their seat by a lovely celebrity and then offered a fantastic evening.

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Who wouldn’t want a free meal served to you by Rita Hayworth and Marlene Dietrich?

Everything within the Canteen was offered on a donation basis, but the tickets to get were outrageously priced (for those who weren’t in the military). Tickets ran the average civilian — about 4.15 when adjusted for inflation — and they still wouldn’t get the star treatment from the celebrities. Of course, all of that money was funneled back to the war effort.

It operated at a huge loss. It was highly publicized; they welcomed in well over one million troops and spent ,000 (,697.51 AFI) weekly on food alone. As a result, the Canteen relied heavily on donations and good will from wealthy individuals to keep the doors open. The most ardent benefactors were Bette Davis and the many celebrities that came to support the troops — a long list that included everyone who was anyone at the time.

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It’s probably the best business move anyways. Anyone would go bankrupt if they openly offered every troop as much alcohol as they wanted.

The troops were offered nearly whatever they wanted. Chef Milani, one of the earliest celebrity chefs, was world-renown and took great joy in making off-the-wall recipes for the troops. The troops were also offered drinks, cigarettes, and a night of entertainment free of charge.

The only real downside is that since it was unprofessional to offer a bunch of free alcohol to troops (and, as a result, have drunk troops’ photos plastered all over the tabloids), they refrained from openly serving alcohol — but you know it happened anyway. Officers were also discouraged from entering as it was more or less seen as “the enlisted’s paradise.”

In 1944, Warner Bros., who had Bette Davis under contract, made a musical, called Hollywood Canteen, which was set in its namesake club. Nearly every actor and musician who supported the club made a cameo appearance in the film. It was the fourth highest grossing film of that year and 40 percent of the profits were funneled directly back into the club.

When V-J Day finally came, the club’s purpose had been fulfilled. They threw one hell of a party before closing its doors for good. The remaining funds in the Canteen’s account were spread among various veteran organizations.

In 1980, Bette Davis was awarded the Distinguished Civilian Service Medal, the Department of Defense’s highest award for civilians, for her dedication to the troops and for giving them the Hollywood Canteen. The two-time Academy award winning actress and arguably the greatest actress of the classical film era said of the Canteen, “there are few accomplishments in my life that I am sincerely proud of. The Hollywood Canteen is one of them.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how World War II pilots flew the famous C-47 Skytrain

The C-47 Skytrain is arguably one of the greatest planes of all time. When you look at the complete picture surrounding this aircraft — how many were built, how many still fly, and the effect they had on a war — one could argue that the C-47 is the best transport ever built (not to slight other fantastic planes, like the C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster III, and the C-5 Galaxy).

But what’s a plane without a pilot? For every C-47 built, the US needed an able aviator — and there were many built. So, the US developed a massive pipeline to continually train pilots and keep those birds flying.

It make look like a docile floater from afar, but flying a C-47 is a lot harder than you might think. Sure, you’re not pulling Gs and trying to blow away some Nazi in a dogfight. In fact, by comparison, flying materiel from point A to point B looks simple, but cargo planes have their own problems that make piloting them very hard work.

And by very hard work, we mean if you screw up, you’ll crash and burn.


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C-47s performing a simple job — easy flying, right? Wrong. There was a lot that pilots had to keep in mind.

(U.S. Air Force)

Why is that? Well, the big reason is because transport planes haul cargo, which comes with its own hazards. When you load up a plane, it affects the center of gravity and, if the load shifts, the plane can end up in a very bad situation.

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This is what happens when it goes wrong – this particular C-47 was hit by flak, but you could crash and burn from shifting cargo or just by messing up.

(Imperial War Museum)

The United States Army Air Force used films to give the thousands of trainees the information needed to fly the over 8,000 C-47s produced by Douglas — and this number doesn’t include at least 5,000 built by the Soviet Union under license.

Learn how to handle operations in the cockpit of a C-47 by watching the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mln9T6OW3A4

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photograph of U.S.S. Vesuvius, barrels of dynamite guns. (LOC Photo, Public Domain)

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

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

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

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

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Sims-Dudley 4 Inch Dynamite Gun on Field Mount (Wikipedia)

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

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why these engineers burn their battalion colors every year

A unit’s colors are held in near-sacred regard by the chain of command. The seemingly simple piece of cloth is steeped in rich symbolism and represents nearly every award and conflict that the unit has ever seen.

Even simply brushing against the unit colors while it’s hoisted at the battalion building could result in a younger soldier doing push-ups until sergeant major gets tired. And if it’s dropped while the battalion is out for a run, you might as well send that poor soul to the guillotine — at least that’d be quicker.

While the symbol of a unit’s legacy is held in extreme esteem by the troops it represents, the soldiers of the 2nd Engineer Battalion (which is now a part of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division), has a tradition of their own that involves setting fire to their beloved colors.

As odd as it sounds, there’s actually a very valid reason for it, even if it means the battalion needs to get a new one made every 12 months.


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This was the turning point in the war and the engineers found themselves at the worst place at the worst time.

(U.S. National Archives)

This tradition has its roots back in the Korean War’s Battle of Kunu-Ri. The 2nd Infantry Division and UN allies had pushed the North Koreans back to the Yalu River, which separates China and North Korea. The moment China came to North Korea’s aid with a massive army, however, the Americans needed to retreat back south.

The unfortunate duty of pulling rear guard fell solely on the shoulders of the 2nd Engineer soldiers in the little town of Kunu-Ri. It was a lopsided battle that the troops knew they had no chance of winning — let alone surviving. It was a single battalion versus three entire, well-armed, well-trained, and completely fresh divisions.

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This ultimate act of defiance towards an overwhelming enemy still lives on.

It was in the early morning of November 30th, 1950. The remainder of the 8th Army had successfully gotten to safety and the 2nd Infantry Division was slowly making its way out. As each battalion was fighting out, the 2nd Engineers stood their ground to save their brothers.

In this regard, their mission was a success. But by nighttime, their window of opportunity to safely escape had closed. The Chinese had flanked their escape route and their numbers had dwindled. They were down to just 266 out of the 977 men they had at the beginning of the war.

Lt. Col. Alarich Zacherle had to face the grim reality that every commander fears — the complete and utter destruction of his entire unit. The men regrouped for one last time and Zacherle gave the orders. Everything would be destroyed so that it would never fall into the hands of the enemy — nothing was spared.

The last thing to go was the colors. Zacherle made sure that even if they were all defeated and all of their men were lost, the Chinese would never be able to take their battalion colors as a war trophy. They set it ablaze and whoever was left ran like hell.

Their heroic deeds that night saved the lives of many 2nd ID soldiers and held the Chinese off long enough for the Americans to stage a proper defense. Very few men made it out of that battle — it’s been said that just a single officer made it out without being killed or captured.

To honor the men who gave their lives for their brothers, every year on November 30th, the 2nd Engineer Battalion recreates that heart-stopping moment with a solemn ceremony. The memory of the men who fought at Kunu-Li lives on as the names of each and every one of those 977 men are called off in formation by the current 2nd Engineers.

And, just as it happened in 1950, they set fire to their battalion colors in memorium.

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