“Big Wind” is a 92,600-pound beast made from a tank chassis and two turbojet engines that are powerful enough to blow out oil fires like candles on a birthday cake.
While it looks ridiculous and would be nearly useless in a tank fight, this modified military hardware fought some of the largest fires set by Saddam Hussein‘s withdrawing army in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
When oil wells are on fire, the pressure under the earth’s crust keeps the oil rushing to the surface until the well is capped. Crews can’t cap the well until the fire is put out.
Once there, the crew begins pumping water into the exhaust of the idling jet engines before ramping up the jet power. The result is a thick, fast-moving steam that cuts through the oil and smothers the fire. The fire, robbed of oxygen and separated from its fuel, quickly goes out. The “Big Wind” stays in position for another 20 minutes, spraying steam on the hot oil to cool it down.
Then, oil workers begin the dangerous job of capping the well.
Fearful that the occupying Nazi forces in Prague could confiscate a lifetime’s worth of artwork, Jewish painter Gertrud Kauders decided in 1939 to hide her vast array of paintings and drawings.
Nearly 80 years later, in the summer of 2018, Michal Ulvr was leading a demolition team tearing down a decrepit house south of Prague when “about 30 paintings tumbled out and fell onto my head,” he told RFE/RL.
As the day wore on, the crew turned up more stashes of strikingly beautiful artwork as they dismantled the house — some were under floorboards, others behind walls. By the end of the day some 700 paintings and sketches lay out in the open on the worksite as summer rain clouds gathered over Prague.
When Jakub Sedlacek, the owner of the house, was alerted to the strange discovery, he realized immediately what had been uncovered. Sedlacek had been raised on stories of exquisite art hidden inside the family home he recently inherited. A close inspection of the canvases confirmed the family legend was real — many of the paintings were signed “Gertrud Kauders.”
Kauders was born in 1883 in Prague, one of two children in a well-to-do Jewish home. After the Nazis rose to power in neighboring Germany and began a step-by-step takeover of Czechoslovakia, most of Kauders’ family fled the country and urged her to do the same. But Kauders, whose first language was German, refused to believe the Nazis would hurt someone as harmless as her and she chose to stay.
Nazi troops march into Prague Castle as crowds salute them in March 1939.
But as the full horror of the German plans for Europe’s Jews was slowly laid bare, Kauders turned to a close friend, Natalie Jahudkova, for the favor of a lifetime.
Jahudkova was an elegant Russian woman born in 1895 in a small town north of Moscow. She had emigrated to Czechoslovakia in 1920 after catching the eye of one of the Czechoslovak Legionnaires — volunteer soldiers fighting for their homeland during World War I. The legion famously battled their way across Siberia after being caught up in Russia’s civil war.
Jahudkova was one of about 1,000 Russian women who married one of the dashing European fighters and sailed with them from Vladivostok for the newly-founded Czechoslovakia, a country their husbands had helped fight into existence.
Kauders and Jahudkova met while students at Prague’s Academy of Fine Arts. The two became close while taking weeks-long trips with their professor, noted artist Otakar Nejedly, to paint the landscapes and cities of France and Italy.
A city scene that may have been painted during one of Kauders’ and Jahudkova’s trips through Europe.
By 1939, those carefree days of summer painting trips abroad with their famous professor were a distant memory as Nazi bureaucrats and their jackbooted enforcers were busy making life impossible for Czechoslovak Jews. With time running out, Kauders untacked her canvasses from their frames and smuggled her entire life’s work to Jahudkova’s house in the southern Prague suburb of Zbraslav.
A canvas edge, showing where tacks were pulled out so the paintings could be separated from their frames and more easily transported and hidden.
At enormous risk to herself, Jahudkova — probably helped by Kauders — hid some 700 artworks throughout the structure of her house. Jahudkova’s new home was still under construction, making the hammering and labor of the two friends’ secret project relatively inconspicuous.
Soon after the artwork was safely embedded in the Zbraslav house, Kauders was snagged in the nightmarish machinery of the Nazi state. After being identified as Jewish, records show she was arrested and transported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in May 1942. Kauders was held briefly among the starving and sickly prisoners in the camp north of Prague, then transported some 600 kilometers east to Majdanek, an extermination camp in Lublin, Poland.
Smoke rises from the Majdanek extermination camp in October 1943.
Sometime after May 17, 1942, Kauders was killed in the camp and her body burned in ovens built for the industrial-scale murders that would come to be known as the Holocaust.
The house in Zbraslav where Kauders’ work was discovered.
Although a handful of Czech news outlets wrote about the accidental discovery of the artwork in 2018, it was reported at the time that just 30 paintings and sketches were found. Ulvr believes a Czech journalist may have misunderstood his description of the event and assumed the 30 paintings that fell onto his head during the demolition were the entire find.
Photos released to Czech media at the time showed only a handful of sketches and watercolors that are among the least compelling of Kauders’ work.
Natalie Jahudkova’s gravestone stands in a Zbraslav cemetery. It remains a mystery why the Russian emigrant to Czechoslovakia took the secret of Gertrud Kauders’ hidden art to her grave when she died in 1977.
How The Scale Of The Discovery Was Uncovered:
Both Kauders and Jahudkova were childless, but Kauders’ brother had a son, Cornelius, who fled Czechoslovakia for New Zealand in 1939. He had five children, including Miriam Kauders.
Miriam Kauders with a pencil sketch of her father, Cornelius, as drawn by Gertrud Kauders.
Miriam Kauders learned about the 2018 discovery and made repeated inquiries from her home in New Zealand into the whereabouts of what she thought were 30 paintings and sketches by her great aunt.
Though early reports of the find indicated the paintings would be donated to the Jewish Museum in Prague, Miriam Kauders learned the museum had not received the art.
Jakub Sedlacek in August 2020. Sedlacek’s link to Natalie Jahudkova is complex — he is the grandson of a Russian immigrant to Czechoslovakia who was taken into Jahudkova’s care as a child and raised as her own.
After RFE/RL inquired on Miriam Kauders’ behalf, Sedlacek eventually met with its journalists at his home in a quiet Prague suburb.
Then, on September 25, Sedlacek allowed Kauders’ entire collection of some 700 paintings and sketches, laid out like giant packs of playing cards in a Prague storeroom, to be photographed by RFE/RL.
Sedlacek said that before knowing Gertrud Kauders had living descendants he was thinking about monetizing what he knew was a historic art discovery – perhaps through exhibitions.
But after RFE/RL showed documentation proving Gertrud Kauders had living heirs, he said he “wouldn’t be able to live with [himself]” knowing that there were descendants of Gertrud Kauders unhappy with what he was doing with the art.
Jakub Sedlacek leafs through some of the work of Gertrud Kauders. He said stories of what happened to Kauders were his first introduction to evil when he was a boy.
Sedlacek said he is ready to donate the art to a Czech museum if Gertrud Kauders’ descendants give him the power of attorney to do so. Miriam Kauders has also said she would be willing to bestow the art but reserved the right for her and her siblings to keep some portraits of her long-deceased relatives — including their father — for their own walls.
A sketch captioned with the phrase “Were you frightened, little one?” may depict Gertrud Kauders with Cornelius (1916-2002), the father of Miriam Kauders.
Miriam Kauders said her father was known as a humorous boy who was nicknamed “clown” in his school years. But she said his personality darkened after the war and he “never recovered” from the Holocaust, largely because of what the Nazis did to his beloved aunt. He remembered Gertrude Kauders as a kind, gentle woman with an unusually quiet life and “no interest in men.”
A self-portrait of Gertrude Kauders
When photos of Gertrude Kauders’ artwork was shown to Michaela Sidenburg, the chief curator of Prague’s Jewish Museum, she called the discovery “unique in the context of the history of art within the Czech lands” due to the number of paintings and the fact it seems to represent nearly the entire life’s work of a significant artist who largely kept her art to herself.
Sidenberg applauded Sedlacek’s decision to go public with the entire discovery.
“I can imagine all kinds of horrible scenarios where the art was destroyed, or sold in secret, so Mr. Sedlacek absolutely deserves credit for coming forward with this,” she said.
The humble fleet oiler doesn’t get a lot of attention. Today’s version of this vessel, the Henry J. Kaiser-class replenishment oiler, is still relatively slow (capable of reaching a top speed of 20 knots), but it is huge (displacing over 40,000 tons). It makes sense that the ship responsible for hauling gas enough to fuel an entire carrier strike group — both ships and planes — would be a lumbering sea giant.
During the Battle of the Coral Sea, however, one humble oiler did more than provide fuel for the ships in the fight.
That oiler, the USS Neosho (AO 23), saved the American carriers. The Neosho was a Cimarron-class vessel that joined the fleet in 1939. She wasn’t as big (displacing 7,500 tons) or fast (capping out at 18 knots) as today’s oilers, but she was still able to top off the fleet’s tanks.
USS Neosho (AO 23) refuels the carrier USS Yorktown (CV 5) before the Battle of the Coral Sea.
According to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Neosho fulfilled her primary mission prior to the Battle of the Coral Sea, refueling USS Yorktown (CV 5) and USS Astoria (CA 34) afterplanes had carried out strikes against Japanese-occupied Tulagi. It was on the first day of the coming battle, however, that she would do much more than provide fuel.
At the time, the Navy was so short on hulls that she had only one escort, USS Sims (DD 409). A Japanese plane found the Neosho and her lone escort on May 7. The enemy pilot mistook the ship for a carrier. So, the Japanese carriers, Shokaku and Zuikaku, sent their air groups after the oiler. The Sims was quickly sunk and Neosho took seven bomb hits and had a Japanese plane crash into her.
USS Neosho (AO 23) pictured while taking the Japanese attack meant for the carriers USS Lexington (CV 2) and USS Yorktown (CV 5).
The vessel stayed afloat for four days when Allied search planes finally found her. The destroyer USS Henley (DD 391) arrived on the 11th. The 123 survivors that were taken off of the oiler then learned that the United States Navy had turned back the Japanese — in no small part because the Neosho took a strike intended for Lexington and Yorktown.
The Neosho was scuttled, but two other fleet oilers have since borne the name.
During the invasion of Iwo Jima and the assault on Mount Suribachi, a Marine Corps Reserve infantryman and paratrooper carried his weapon — an ANM2 aircraft machine gun capable of firing 1200-1500 rounds per minute — onto the beaches and used it to devastate Japanese pillboxes even though it was shot from his hands…twice.
Marine Cpl. Tony Stein’s family later received the Medal of Honor for his actions on the island.
After the short-lived Marine Parachute Regiment was disbanded, Stein was assigned to the 5th Marine Division and sent to Iwo Jima. Marines in his unit came across a crashed SBD Dauntless dive bomber, a plane known for its slow speed but deadly armament. It’s pilots racked up an impressive 3.2-1 air-to-air kill ratio in the bomber.
The Dauntless’s lethal bite came from its ANM2 aircraft machine guns, .30-caliber weapons based on the M1919 light machine gun. The aircraft version was lighter and fired approximately three times as fast as the standard M1919. A unit armorer enlisted Stein’s help in adding buttstocks, bipods, and sights to the weapon.
The weapons were fitted with 100-round ammo belts carried in aluminum boxes, meaning the weapon could unleash hell for about five seconds at a time.
When the Marines landed at Iwo Jima, Stein pressed forward to where the fighting was hottest and placed carefully aimed bursts into Japanese pillboxes, usually by charging them alone and firing at close ranges against the crews inside.
Of course, with only five seconds or less of fire per ammo belt, he quickly ran dry. He threw off his shoes and helmet for speed and made running trips back and forth to the beach carrying wounded Marines down to aid and bringing ammo belts back. According to his Medal of Honor citation, he made at least eight trips that day.
During the fighting, the Stinger was shot from Stein’s hands twice. But he simply picked the weapon back up each time and kept fighting.
The Marines pushed farther forward than they could hold. When the unit was ordered to withdraw, Stein covered the movement with the Stinger.
As the invasion continued, Stein was wounded on the famous Mount Suribachi and evacuated to a hospital ship. When the regiment took additional casualties, Stein slipped off of the hospital ship and joined his unit once again.
He was with his company when it was pinned down by a Japanese machine gunner on March 1. Stein led the movement to find and destroy it but was shot by a sniper in the attempt. A Medal of Honor for Stein’s actions on the beach of Iwo Jima was presented to his widow in 1946.
In November 1978, 909 members of a fanatical cult died — killing themselves and their children using a cyanide and Valium-laced grape drink — to make a political statement: they would die on their own terms in a “revolutionary suicide.” It would be the largest single loss of civilian life until the September 11th terror attacks.
The People’s Temple, as the cult was called, was founded by Jim Jones, a former monkey salesman and self-ordained minister in 1950s Indianapolis. He later moved the church to California. There, the size of the cult grew to around 20,000.
With that growth, Jones became a public figure and fled to the South American country of Guyana to escape the negative press surrounding the People’s Temple. Jones faced accusations of financial fraud and child abuse and sought to escape what he thought was the persecution from U.S. intelligence agencies.
More than 1,000 members went with him.
Jones and his cult founded Jonestown, an agricultural cooperative on 4,000 acres of poor soil and limited access to fresh water. Temple members worked long days and were punished for disobeying Jones’ orders. They were allowed limited contact with friends and family. Jones even confiscated their passports.
Toward the end of the Jonestown experiment, Jones became inceasingly paranoid as his mental state broke down. Congressman Leo Ryan came to Jonestown to investigate allegations that his contituents’ loved ones were actually hostages there. People’s Temple members asked to return home with the Congressman, who took them back to his plane.
That’s when tragedy struck.
After arriving at the airstrip that took Congressman Ryan to the People’s Temple collective, Jones’ armed thugs gunned down the contingent, along with members of the press and some of the defectors. At the same time, Jones was distributing the poisoned punch (which was actually Flavor-Aid, not Kool-Aid, as the saying goes) to the cult members.
An aerial view of the bodies of the victims of the Jonestown tragedy. U.S. Army personnel from Fort Bragg, North Carolina (NC), are placing the remains into body bags. (Photo by: Staff Sgt. Jose L. Sanchez, Nov. 20, 1978.)
There is evidence that those who didn’t want to imbibe were forced to drink the punch. Jones himself was found dead with a bullet in his head, among the other 900+ bodies.
Within hours of learning about Congressman Ryan’s death, the U.S. State Department received assistance from the 437th Military Airlift Wing at Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina. Charleston C-141 Starlifters led what would be “the most unusual airlift operation since the Berlin Airlift.”
Col. Bruce M. Durvine, vice commander of the 39th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Wing, and members of the 55th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron carry boxes of plastic body bags to an HH-53 Jolly Green Giant helicopter for use in the evacuation of bodies from Jonestown. (Photo by: Staff Sgt. Jose L. Sanchez, Jonestown, Nov. 20, 1978.)
Air Force Combat Controllers were the first American forces on the ground, securing the airstrip area, providing security, and operating the airspace. The Starlifters had to be staged more than 150 miles away from the dirt airstrip where Ryan’s body was found because they were too large for the field.
The military Aeromedical Evacuation Team repatriated eight wounded survivors from the area. It wasn’t until November 20th that Guyanan Defense Forces could reach the Jonestown Compound. The small contingent was overwhelmed by what they found there and asked the Americans to take over.
A U.S. Air Force HH-53 Jolly Green Giant helicopter from the 55th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron stands by to assist in the removal of the remains of the victims of the Jonestown tragedy. (Photo by: Staff Sgt. Jose L. Sanchez, Georgetown, Nov. 20, 1978.)
Jonestown victims’ bodies were to be airlifted to Dover Air Force Base, but first they had to be moved by three HH-53 Jolly Green Giant helicopters to the Starlifter staging area. There were so many bodies, the Air Force ran out of remains transfer cases.
U.S. Army UH-1 Iroquois helicopters are loaded aboard a C-141 Starlifter aircraft for transport back to their home base in the Canal Zone. The helicopters were used during humanitarian relief efforts following the Jonestown tragedy. (Photo by: Staff Sgt. Jose L. Sanchez, Georgetown, Nov. 20, 1978.)
“Stacked like cordwood,” the bodies were in an advanced state of decomposition. It took 30 helicopter sorties carrying 30 bodies each to get the remains to the Starlifters for transport. Each C-141 could handle 81 remains cases — as long as they were stacked on pallets.
The stench of death in the helicopters was so bad, they were deemed medically unsafe. Task Force personnel who handled the bodies burned their clothing on the runway at the end of the mission.
U.S. military personnel place a body bag containing the remains of the victims of the Jonestown tragedy in a coffin for transport to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. (Photo by: Staff Sgt. Pedro J. Gonzalez, Georgetown, Nov. 20, 1978.)
Jeff Brailey, the Army medic who entered Jonestown, wrote a book about his experience, “The Ghosts of November.”
The trenches and battlefields of World War I are some of the last places one would expect to read about women who were decorated for valor. Yet, in the “War to End All Wars,” six women received medals for valor. Three received the Citation Star, the forerunner to the Silver Star, and three others received the Distinguished Service Cross – second only to the Medal of Honor in recognizing valor in action.
All were with the Army Nurse Corps at the time, one of the very few outlets women had to serve in the military. While medical units weren’t supposed to come under fire, these six women were among the nurses who did come under fire – and would distinguish themselves.
According to Military Medical, the first woman to earn a Silver Star (known as the Citation Star in World War I), was Jane I. Rignel. At 7:30 AM on July 15, 1918, Mobile Hospital 2 came under attack. Rignel aided in the evacuation of the patients while under artillery fire – and kept going until the hospital itself was shelled by the Germans.
5. 6. Linnie E. Lecknore Irene Robel
Military Medical reports that these two nurses received the Citation Star for their actions while part of an ad hoc unit known as Shock 134, attached to Field Hospital 127. When the hospital came under fire on July 29, 1918, they continued to treat wounded soldiers who were brought in.
The tale of the Silver Star recipients takes an ironic turn. While the recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross got recognition at the time in publications like the Journal of Nursing, the Citation Star recipients slipped through the cracks. The Silver Stars were eventually presented to the families of Jane Rignel and Linnie Lecknore.
No relatives of Irene Robel have come forward – and her Silver Star remains unclaimed.
A colonist war you never heard of completely impacted the presence of Europeans on the continent during the early days of America.
Don’t mess with a Harvard grad
King Philip spent the majority of his life among English colonists. He was even educated at Harvard and no doubt spoke great English. Yet the alliance between the Indigenous people of North America and the colonists was not unbreakable. Their friendly relations came to an end after the colonists repeatedly violated agreements they had made with the Native Americans.
First, the colonists encroached further and further into Native land. Then, the colonists tried to create a peace agreement that included the Indigenous people of North America surrendering all their guns. Finally, the colonists hanged three Wampanoags who had murdered another Wampanoag for betraying their tribe. King Philip decided the colonists had crossed too many lines and put his foot down: he and his people could take no more. Thus, began King Phillip’s War.
You can’t be a savage and not expect savage in return
Despite being not very well-known, King Philip’s War was the deadliest per-capita war in all of American history. It began when the Wampanoags burned down the Plymouth colony of Swansea, slaughtering many colonists who had lived there. Then, under Metacomet’s orders, another Central Massachusetts tribe called the Nipmuc raided several English colonies. The extreme violence of the raids included the indiscriminate butchering of men, women, children, and even livestock.
In the first six months of King Philip’s War, the English did not have even one victory to show for it. At last, delegates from each of the English colonies met and decided to preemptively attack the Narragansetts, a neutral Indigenous people of North American tribe, with a militia of 1,000 men. Just as the Narragansetts had been slaughtering colonist towns, so the English Militia slaughtered them, leaving 600 dead. It was a turning point in the war for the colonists that the Indigenous people of North America never came back from.
A friendship that was never meant to last
Though King Philip himself was killed in 1676, early in the war, the barbarous fighting continued for three years in total, lasting from 1675 to 1678. When the war ended, the European colonists controlled all the land from the Atlantic Ocean to the Hudson River.
King Philip’s War was a game-changer for the relationship between the colonists and the Indigenous people of North America. Before the war, English colonists and the Indigenous people of North America maintained a decent relationship. The war significantly changed all that. It gutted their alliances and left both sides hostile toward the other both in spirit and in action. This new cutthroat relationship ultimately paved the way for total European domination of North America.
Not everyone can maintain composure when the aircraft he’s in starts to lose control. But that’s just what this Medal of Honor recipient did, despite being severely wounded while it was happening.
Rodney Yano was born on the Big Island of Hawaii nearly two years to the day after the U.S. entered World War II. His grandparents had immigrated to the U.S. from Japan well before that.
According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, he’s one of 33 Asian-Americans to receive the Medal of Honor.
Yano joined the Army in 1961 before graduating from high school. He rose to the rank of staff sergeant and was on his second tour of Vietnam when he became an air crewman with the 11th Air Cavalry Regiment.
On Jan. 1, 1969, Yano was the acting crew chief and one of two door gunners on his company’s command-and-control helicopter as it fought an enemy entrenched in the dense Vietnamese jungle near Bien Hao.
The chopper was taking direct fire from below, but Yano managed to use his machine gun to suppress the enemy’s assault. He was also able to toss grenades that emitted white phosphorous smoke at their positions so his troop commander could accurately fire artillery at their entrenchments.
Unfortunately, one of those grenades exploded too early, covering Yano in the burning chemical and causing severe burns. Fragments of the grenade also caught supplies in the helicopter on fire, including ammunition, which detonated. White smoke filled the chopper, and the pilots weren’t able to see to maintain control of the aircraft. The situation wasn’t looking good.
But Yano wasn’t ready to go down with the ship, as they say. The initial grenade explosion partially blinded him and left him with the use of only one arm, but he jumped into action anyway, kicking and throwing the blazing ammunition from the helicopter until the flaming pieces were gone and the smoke filtered out.
One man on the helicopter was killed, and Yano didn’t survive his many injuries. But his courage and concern for his comrades’ survival kept the chopper from going down, averting more loss of life.
For that, Yano was posthumously promoted to the rank of sergeant first class. On April 7, 1970, his parents received the Medal of Honor for his actions from President Richard Nixon.
In his honor, the cargo carrier USNS Yano was named for him, as well as a helicopter maintenance facility at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and a library at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
When Japanese planes swept Pearl Harbor in the December, 1941, surprise attack that took America into World War II, there were very few U.S. troops able to fight back in any meaningful way. That doesn’t mean resistance was minimal. Once the nature of the attack was realized, American fighting men sprang into action, manning whatever defenses they could. In fact, the Americans drew the first blood of the Japanese-American War, sinking the surveillance sub sent to recon the harbor.
An hour and a half before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were already losing. But any defense in the face of such a surprise attack is worthy of mention — and worthy of full recognition, yet one Air Corps pilot was denied the full measure of recognition.
The modern-day remains of the surveillance sub sunk in Pearl Harbor
(Pearl Harbor Visitors Center)
Sinking the Japanese reconnaissance sub wasn’t the only American resistance to the attack. U.S. troops fired whatever small arms they had at their attackers, sailors manned whatever guns could be brought to bear against the incoming dive bombers, and a handful of American pilots actually got into the air, downing an obscene number of Japanese Zeros, especially considering the odds against them.
Although the Navy was the primary target for the Japanese, once their bombs were expended, Japanese planes made their way to the Army airfields to strafe the men and planes while they were on the ground. This tactic was as successful as the attack on the battleships in the harbor, but just as the USS Nevada attempted to get underway in the face of the surprise attack, American pilots also attempted to take off and get into the fight.
Kenneth Taylor and George Welch
(U.S. Air Force)
Hickam and Ewa Airfields were devastated by the strafing runs of Japanese fighters, so was the Navy’s base on nearby Ford Island. But there was once airfield that remained largely untouched by the incoming enemies, despite the raging aerial battle taking place in the skies above it.
That morning, Army Air Corps pilots George Welch and Kenneth Taylor were recovering off-base from an epic night of drinking, dancing, and playing cards. When they heard of the attack on Pearl Harbor, they dashed off in their car to make way to the airfield at Haleiwa, where they hoped to have fueled and armed P-40 Tomahawks ready to go in defense of the islands. They reached the airfield during the second wave of the Japanese attack and managed to get airborne, still wearing tuxedo pants from the previous night’s revelry.
Hickam Army Air Field under attack, Dec. 7, 1941.
Once aloft, the two airmen were in a target-rich environment, knocking off Zeros as the enemy tried to overwhelm them with sheer numbers. Other airmen managed to take to the skies, downing enemy planes, some of them losing their lives in the process. But it was Welch and Taylor who were making mincemeat out of any enemy foolish enough to approach Haleiwa. Welch and Taylor were credited with at least seven aerial victories and the overall preservation of Haleiwa airfield.
The two men were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for their daring, heroism, and skill in the face of an overwhelming invader. Lieutenant Welch was recommended for the Medal of Honor, but it was denied. Why? Because his commanding officer said he took off that morning without being ordered to do so.
He finished the war with 16 total aerial wins against Japanese planes. Taylor, have been injured while fighting, also received the Purple Heart.
Welch and Taylor during the awards ceremony for their Distinguished Service Cross medals
All told, the Japanese lost 29 aircraft, 65 men, and five midget submarines in the surprise attack. It was a stunning victory, considering the losses suffered by the American forces. But it was the U.S. resolve in the face of a surprise attack that foreshadowed how the rest of the war would go.
At the turn of the 19th century, the United States was by human standards barely a teenager. But held to the much stouter standards of statehood established by European nations that had seeded it, the U.S. was, to use the vernacular, “barely a glint in its pappy’s eye.”
To be sure, America had made good on the democratic ideals that had fueled its revolution and its Declaration of Independence. And it had managed to greatly expand its territory through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. TheCorps of Discovery Expedition, led by the U.S. Army under Capt.s Lewis and Clark, made those new lands a known realm under the Jefferson administration, while mapping the enticing, yet contested Oregon Territory into the realm of the possible.
But 14 years as a nation was, in the eyes of the world, still considered just an experiment under laboratory conditions. How would these “United States” hold up to real-world, geopolitical pressures? The burden of proof belonged to the U.S., and it knew it. The pressure to prove itself incited the sequence of conflicts that we now refer to as the War of 1812.
The War of 1812 was fought on two fronts, representing the two major proving grounds of American legitimacy — the new frontier west of the Mississippi and the open ocean, through which the growing U.S. merchant marine traded the vast natural resources of North America with the wider world. On both fronts, Great Britain was testing its former colonies’ resolve.
Locked into the churn of the Napoleonic Wars, the British were enforcing a naval blockade of France, catching U.S. trade ships in the crossfire. To make matters worse, Great Britain was unapologetically pressing American merchant sailors into service in the Royal Navy, a policy that inflamed the American public and lead to skirmishes like the Chesapeake-Leopold Affair (not pictured below.)
Great Britain was also keen to interrupt American expansion on land, fearing that a Canadian landgrab was imminent. To that end, they provided military support to Tecumsah’s Confederacy, a powerful Native American resistance group in the Old Northwest who sought to block the U.S. from taking further territory from the continent’s original inhabitants.
In spite, or perhaps because, of British military action around its northern and western borders, the U.S. began a concerted, and largely fruitless, effort to invade and capture Canadian territory. At sea, the U.S. Navy engaged in a long series of back and forth battles with the Royal Navy off the U.S. coast. Victories accrued on both sides and public sentiment waxed and waned as both sides claimed the advantage, but the result after 2 years was more or less a draw.
In the face of a stalemate, Great Britain was forced to weigh its distaste for America’s increasingly credible claim of self-sovereignty against the obvious advantages of reopening trade relations. However, the calculus changed when Napoleon’s abdication in Europe suddenly freed up Great Britain’s naval resources, allowing it to redouble its efforts against America. The Royal Navy blockaded the U.S. to near bankruptcy in 1814 and British forces invaded and burned Washington, D.C.
This seemingly clear-cut British victory concluded with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent in December of 1814. But news of the peace travelled slowly in the Age of Sail and out-of-the-loop British forces, attempting to invade Louisiana in January 1815, were roundly defeated at the Battle of New Orleans, giving the U.S. the right to declare a face-saving, buzzer-beater victory.
In the end, everybody got something they wanted from the War of 1812. The British succeeded, at least temporarily, in checking American enthusiasm for territorial expansion, as well as re-establishing itself as the reigning naval heavyweight champion of the world.
But the U.S. had managed to hold its own against global superpowers. Showing a determinist grit beyond its years, it stood up for its right to pursue a national agenda on the international stage. In effect, it had proven to Pappy that it was mature enough to call its own shots.
Ten years ago, the U.S. Air Force lost one of its 21 B-2 Spirit stealth bombers.
The aircraft, #89-0127 “Spirit of Kansas”, belonging to the 393rd Bomb Squadron with the 509th Bomb Wing, from Whiteman Air Force Base, was taking off from Andersen Air Force Base, along with three other stealth bombers, at the end of 4-month deployment in support of U.S. CBP (Continuous Bomber Presence) in the Pacific. Both crew members successfully ejected from the aircraft at low altitude. The B-2 hit the ground, tumbled and burned for a total loss worth about US$1.4 billion, reportedly, the most expensive crash in the history of the U.S. Air Force.
The investigation found out that the root cause of the accident was moisture in the air-data sensors: heavy, lashing rains caused moisture to enter skin-flush air-data sensors that gave wrong inputs to the flight-control computers. The combination of slow lift-off speed and the extreme angle of attack resulted in an unrecoverable stall, yaw, and descent.
Here’s what the U.S. Air Force website reported after the report was released:
Moisture in the aircraft’s Port Transducer Units during air data calibration distorted the information in the bomber’s air data system, causing the flight control computers to calculate an inaccurate airspeed and a negative angle of attack upon takeoff. According to the report, this caused an, “uncommanded 30 degree nose-high pitch-up on takeoff, causing the aircraft to stall and its subsequent crash.”
Moisture in the PTUs, inaccurate airspeed, a negative AOA calculation and low altitude/low airspeed are substantially contributing factors in this mishap. Another substantially contributing factor was the ineffective communication of critical information regarding a suggested technique of turning on pitot heat in order to remove moisture from the PTUs prior to performing an air data calibration.
The pilot received minor injuries, and the co-pilot received a spinal compression fracture during ejection. He was treated at Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii, and released. The aircraft was assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.
At the time of the crash, the B-2 had logged 5,100 flight hours and wasn’t carrying armament.
As the United States came into its own as a world power in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the United States Marine Corps became the primary tool for power projection into troubled areas. The Marines deployed all over the world, fighting everywhere from the Boxer Rebellion in China to the Banana Wars in Central America. During this time, the Marines and a few Army units gained valuable experience. A few USMC legends such as Dan Daly and Smedley Butler gained prominence. It makes sense that in the 1930’s, the Marines published the Small Wars Manual, documenting their experiences and providing guidance for units engaged in such conflicts. Unfortunately, just as the Marines were perfecting their craft, World War II broke out. With the ensuing Cold War, these ideas were very nearly lost to history.
Operations known to the military today as “low-intensity conflicts” were deemed ‘small wars’ by the Marine Corps in the early 20th Century. In the Small Wars Manual, they defined small wars as “operations undertaken under executive authority, wherein military force is combined with diplomatic pressure in the internal or external affairs of another state whose government is unstable, inadequate, or unsatisfactory for the preservation of life and of such interests as are determined by the foreign policy of our Nation.” Also, due to the fact that special operations forces had yet to be conceived, those missions were carried out by the Marines, sailors, and soldiers deployed in small wars. Their missions often ran the gamut from direct action, bordering on conventional warfare to foreign internal defense and unconventional warfare. During the occupation of Haiti, Marines were instated as officers in the Haitian Gendarmerie, which included the likes of a young Cpl. ‘Chesty’ Puller and Smedley Butler.
During these various interventions around the world, the U.S. military gained a wealth of knowledge and experience. They not only learned how to conduct combat operations against weak states and guerrillas, but also how to properly support these operations and how the force could be self-sufficient while deployed for long periods of time in a foreign country. This included everything from what types of weapons troops should carry to how to employ horses and mules for transportation and logistics. The military even learned how to work with the state department and how to establish effective civilian-military relations. The manual also makes recommendations for the best composition for forces depending on the circumstances of the operation and how to employ those forces in all types of situations.
What makes the Small Wars Manual stand out is the practicality which it embodies and the way it almost comes across as a how-to book. Many of the recommendations are not only unique to the manual but also went against the conventional wisdom of the time. Some of it even went against what would have been good order and discipline. In fact, in its recommendations for outfitting infantry patrols, the manual states “personal comfort and appearance must always be of secondary importance as compared with the efficient accomplishment of the assigned mission” and goes on to say “the value of canvas leggings in the field is questionable. The woolen sock pulled over the bottom of the trouser leg is a satisfactory substitute.” Anyone who has served in the last decade and remembers the white sock crisis knows that such a suggestion from an official Marine Corps publication is borderline blasphemy. Beyond this, the manual describes in detail how to field the most effective and efficient fighting force in some of the most austere conditions. There are even details for how to modify equipment to be of the most use in small wars.
After years of occupations, deployments, and fighting the Marines began releasing reports and studies in the 1920’s that would eventually lead to the publication of the Small War Manual. These reports and articles were collected into a single book, “Small Wars Operations” in 1935. An updated, and final, version was released in 1940 as the Small Wars Manual. The following year, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II. Even though much of what the Marines had learned fighting in small wars came in very useful in fighting the Japanese in the Pacific, the shadow of World War II and the Cold War pushed the Small Wars Manual into obscurity. With the exception of a few efforts to at least keep the manual in the Marines repertoire of publications it was mostly lost to history. That is, until it reappeared on Gen. James Mattis’ reading list for officers deploying in the War on Terror. The truly unfortunate part of this is that with a few updates to the weapons and tactics, much of the material covered in the Small Wars Manual could have been used to inform operations in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.
Ernest Taylor Pyle was born on Aug. 3, 1900, at the turn of the 20th century. The famed war correspondent and columnist was better known as “Ernie” and had the reputation as the voice of the American servicemen during World War II. He chronicled the blitz in London and the individual heroism of Londoners, the roles of Vichy French officials in North Africa and their corroboration with the Nazis, and the allied invasions of both Italy and Normandy. One of his most heart wrenching pieces, “The Death of Captain Waskow,” revealed the emotional grief of soldiers when one of their men was killed in combat.
His refreshing writing style informed the general public back home and provided a rare look at the happenings of America’s sons, husbands, and fathers serving overseas.
Pyle’s birthday is now recognized as National Ernie Pyle Day. The day celebrates his wartime columns, his Pulitzer Prize for reporting, and the memory of his legacy, one that ended too soon. On April 18, 1945, Pyle was shot and killed by a Japanese soldier on the island of Ie Shima while he was covering the war in the Pacific. While there is plenty known about Pyle’s exploits from his famous dispatches, here are four lesser known stories of Ernie Pyle’s historic legacy that are worth mentioning on his day of remembrance.
Before Ernie Pyle became a war correspondent during World War II, it could be argued that he had already seen much of what the human experience had to offer from his travels around the globe. He suffered from restlessness, a common affliction for many in his chosen profession. The farm boy from Indiana had a curiosity in service, so he enlisted in the US Naval Reserves during World War I. However, that didn’t get him overseas, which left a burden and lingering question about the adventure waiting for him.
After leaving Indiana University, Pyle cut his teeth as an aviation reporter for the Washington Daily News under the helm of the Scripps Howard newspaper entity. His yarns received many compliments, including one by none other than aviator Amelia Earhart.
“Not to know Ernie Pyle,” she said, “is to admit that you yourself are unknown in aviation.”
“I’ve covered 200,000 miles and been on five of the six continents and crossed both oceans and delved into every country in the Western Hemisphere and written upward of 1,500,000 words in that, daily column,” Pyle wrote in July 1941. “I’ve gone down the Yukon River on a stem-wheeler, and lived with the lepers in Hawaii, and petted llamas in the high Andes, and reveled in the strange lazy beauties of Rio.”
His “Great Experience” halted when his quest of service took him to all three theaters of operations during World War II.
Men of the 133rd Field Artillery Battalion enjoy Cokes on the front, March 17, 1944. Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.
The ,000 Coca Cola Bottle
Coca-Cola was a prized beverage amongst American GI’s serving overseas in Europe during World War II. Pfc. Frederick Williams, a soldier from a field artillery brigade with prior service along the Italian front had returned home. He decided to send two bottles of Coke to his old unit, many of whom hadn’t seen a carbonated beverage for more than a year. The soldiers decided to split one of the Cokes and donate the other in a raffle to raise money for adoption efforts for the children whose fathers were killed in the brigade.
The Cokes were advertised in the brigade’s mimeographed newspaper for 25 cents a piece, and before the week was over the raffle had raised more than id=”listicle-2646905372″,000. Another soldier had received a second bottle of Coke and added the prize to the key. Three weeks passed and the total cash prize climbed to ,000.
“That one Coke was equivalent to the value of 80,000 bottles back home,” Pyle wrote in astonishment as he covered the event. Coke added an additional ,000 to the value and, despite the noble cause, Nazi propagandists used the opportunity to broadcast through the airwaves lies suggesting individual soldiers payed ,000 for one bottle of Coca-Cola.
In peacetime they are nickel-plated and shiny. In wartime they are black with a rough finish. A display at the National World War II Museum shows one of Pyle’s Zippo lighters donated during the war. Photo courtesy of the National World War II Museum.
Ernie’s Zippo Lighters
Readers from the United States and abroad were glued to the words Pyle strung together, including George Blaisdell, the president of Zippo Manufacturing Company. Braisdell sent a letter and 50 Zippo lighters personally addressed to Pyle to hand out to his servicemen friends.
“They’ll burn in the wind, and pilots say they are the only kind that will light at extreme altitudes,” Pyle once wrote. “Why, they’re so popular I had three stolen from me in one year.”
Pyle was an avid smoker, and through the habit he bonded with soldiers over a cigarette. “My own lighter was a beauty, with my name on one side and a little American flag on the other,” Pyle said. “I began smoking twice as much as usual just because I enjoyed lighting the thing.”
Conversations and insights happened while having a smoke that may not have occurred while sitting in a foxhole or over a meal of “C-rations” or in a bunk aboard a navy ship. Pyle’s ability to connect with pilots, infantrymen, medics, and even animals helped his writings convey a sense of identity and commonality to his readership.
Ernie Pyle visits Leathernecks of the 3rd Marine Division, where, along with talking to the veterans of the fight on Bougainville and Guam, he observed the famous Marine Corps war dogs for the first time on Jan. 24, 1945. Shown here talking to “Jeep,” a scout and security patrol Doberman pinscher. Photo by TSgt. J. Mundell, courtesy of the National Archives.
Pyle and the War Dogs
Marines serving in the Pacific theater often named their military working dogs after terms familiar with the US military. Jeep, a black-and-brown Doberman pinscher, was utilized by Marines from the 3rd Marine Division. Pyle learned all about their war dog program, which consisted of 60 dogs, 90 handlers, 10 NCO observers, two K-9 medics, and three kennel supervisors. Jeep’s job as a scout and security patrolman helped the Marines locate sniper positions, search caves and pillboxes, alerted signs of potential ambushes, and ran messages to unit commanders.
Sergeant, another war dog that impacted Pyle and the Marines, was killed after he had been wounded by shrapnel from an air raid. The Marines specifically trained their dogs to run into foxholes when they heard the aircraft, but a lucky shot by the enemy resulted in Sergeant having to be put down.
“It is not belittling the men who died,” Pyle wrote of the tragedy, “to say that Sergeant’s death shares a big place in the grief of those who were left.”