Teddy Roosevelt's prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

When you go to Sagamore Hill — the home (and now museum) that President and Medal of Honor recipient Teddy Roosevelt had on Long Island — you may see a .38-caliber Model 1892 Army and Navy revolver. This was a six-shot revolver chambered in .38 Long Colt.


As a standard revolver, many were produced, but Teddy’s gun was important to him. It had been recovered from the wrecked battleship USS Maine (ACR 1). He famously used the revolver to rally the troops (as seen in artwork about the charge up San Juan Hill), but he also pulled the trigger, taking out the enemy with it at least once during that charge.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
Photo: U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command

 

Roosevelt kept the gun, and after his death in 1919, his house became a museum; the revolver remained in the home for display. It was stolen in 1963 and recovered, but according to a 1990 New York Times article, it was swiped again. Valued at $500,000 at the time, it had not been insured.

Oddly enough, for a revolver that was clearly inscribed “From the Sunken Battle Ship Maine” and “July 1st, 1898, San Juan, Carried and Used by Col. Theodore Roosevelt,” it was missing for 16 years until it was turned in to the FBI’s Art Crime Team.

 

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
Teddy Roosevelt’s M1892 revolver. (FBI photo)

The pistol is now back in the Dagamore Hill museum — presumably well-protected against theft. The thief who took the gun in 1990, though, is still at large.

Below is a video by Brad Meltzer about the gun’s history — and its 1990 theft.

Articles

This is the massive Nazi sneak attack at the Battle of the Bulge

On Dec. 16, 1944, Adolf Hitler launched an ambitious but badly planned counterattack meant to break the back of the Allied forces and allow the Nazis to dictate the peace terms that would end the war.


Instead, it guaranteed his defeat, but not before forcing hundreds of thousands of soldiers on each side to fight in bitter, near-Arctic levels of cold amidst driving winter storms and winds. Managing a surprise attack with dozens of divisions is no easy feat. Here’s how they did it at the Battle of the Bulge.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
American soldiers man a roadblock during the Battle of the Bulge. (Photo: U.S. Army)

First, the Germans initiated a crackdown on all communications. Transmissions related directly to the offensive were limited to the telephone lines and couriers. But American intelligence was also struggling with a general plunge in the volume of intelligence since the Germans had pulled out of France and concentrated in Germany.

In France, German communications were more reliant on the use of radio waves, which could be intercepted. French citizens were also likely to report Nazi movements, providing near real-time intel. On the German side of the border, both of these advantages disappeared.

Worse, the few reports that did indicate a German buildup, such as the statements of captured German deserters, were ignored or brushed off as untrustworthy.

In the days leading up to Dec. 16, these problems were compounded by a dense fog that grounded Allied reconnaissance planes and limited visibility to the point that Allied soldiers were unlikely to spot much German movement, especially in the thick Ardennes forest.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
U.S. medics evacuate a casualty through the thick forest during the Battle of the Bulge. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Despite these advantages, the German troop buildup was a logistical nightmare. Hitler’s plan required 30 divisions, including 12 panzer divisions, and over 1,000 planes be transported to the Ardennes using only trains and horses to limit fuel consumption. In addition to all supplies consumed, Hitler wanted to stage 4.5 million gallons of fuel and 50 trainloads of ammunition for the advance.

All of this buildup had to take place under Allied air attack without the Allies getting wise. Surprisingly, the Germans were mostly successful.

The troop buildup portion was actually more successful than planned with approximately 1,500 troop trains and 500 supply trains carrying 12 armored divisions and 29 infantry divisions to the staging areas for the offensive.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
Army Pfc. Frank Vukasin of Great Falls, Montana, stops to load a clip into his rifle at Houffalize, Belgium, on Jan. 15, 1945, near the end of the Battle of the Bulge. (Photo: U.S. Army from the Eisenhower Archives)

The aerial buildup was less successful. The Germans had 1,250 planes ready before Dec. 16 — 250 less than originally planned.

But the weather turned in the German’s favor in the days before the attack. The heavy fogs that limited reconnaissance flights also grounded most other planes, neutering the Allied air forces and eliminating that advantage.

So, on Dec. 16, the Germans launched their three-pronged attack against what were largely inexperienced and exhausted troops defending the forest. The most combat-ready troops had been moved to other areas to prepare for an Allied invasion across the German borders.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
Infantrymen of the 3rd Armored Division advance under artillery fire in Pont-Le-Ban, Belgium. January 15, 1945. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army)

The Germans further complicated the American’s situation by sending thousands of English-speaking German troops behind American lines in captured uniforms and jeeps to commit acts of sabotage and to spy on the American response.

Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s staff briefing was interrupted that night with word of the German advance, and he immediately pegged it as a massive counterattack with the goal of driving to the Atlantic. He ordered both the 7th and 10th Armored divisions to drive in to help.

Army Gen. George S. Patton, the commander of the Third Army, which contained the 10th Armored Division, was ordered to “attack in column of regiments and drive like hell.”

Many American units were quickly surrounded and forced to fight against a siege by German units. The 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were ordered forward to relieve pressure on the American lines, arriving before the siege was complete.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
American Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe, commander of the 101st Airborne at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The 101st was dedicated predominantly to the defense of Bastogne, a city where seven key highways met, making it crucial for the victory or defeat of the German attack. When the Germans requested the 101st’s surrender from Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe and his staff, the general famously responded with “NUTS!” and continued the defense.

For the first week, the Allies fought desperate defensive and delaying actions against the Nazi juggernaut, usually at a disadvantage in terms of numbers, supplies, and equipment.

But the weather cleared on Dec. 23, and Allied air forces surged into the sky to beat back the Luftwaffe and provide support to the beleaguered forces on the ground. Bombing runs broke up German forces in staging areas while strafing by fighters tore through attacking columns.

A few days later, Patton’s Third Army reached the German lines and cut a path through them. Hitler’s bold advance had fallen well short of its goal of the Belgian coast and German units, overextended and undersupplied, began to be rounded up and captured. By the end of January, the Allies had regained the lost ground and were once again marching towards Berlin.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This top-secret unit killed 5,428 and rescued 574 in WWII

The Office of Strategic Services Detachment 101 was a predominantly Army unit set up to conduct guerrilla operations in Burma during World War II. Originally ordered to conduct limited sabotage and reconnaissance missions, the unit grew to lead almost 10,000 local fighters that killed thousands of Japanese, rescued hundreds of Allied pilots, and enabled the success of Merrill’s Marauders.


 

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
Detachment 101 recruits train in the thick jungles of Asia. (Photo: CIA.gov)

The Coordinator of Information, the organization that would soon morph into the Office of Strategic Services, created Detachment 101 on April 14, 1942, as a sabotage organization with no organized plan or mission.

But the head of the COI, famed “Wild” Bill Donovan, picked a wild Army Reserve officer and gave him broad authority to pick a team and proceed as he saw fit. Maj. Carl F. Eifler had originally joined the military as a child but was discharged in 1923 at the age of 17 when the military figured it out. He became a police officer, customs agent, and Army Reserve officer.

Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Stilwell ran the China-Burma-India theater of the war and was not keen on having Detachment 101 in his battlespace, but he accepted them, partially because he had known Eifler from a previous command. Stilwell tasked the Detachment with shutting down Japanese operations around a key airfield.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
An American member of Detachment 101 plays with a local child in Burma. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The detachment began by sabotaging infrastructure in the area. The first operation, three simultaneous strikes against key bridges, went badly as only one bridge was destroyed and the U.S. teams suffered casualties. The next two operations suffered from rushed planning and little reconnaissance and failed.

But Detachment 101 built relations with the local Kachin people who resented Japanese rule and the mission hit its stride. The American soldiers recruited, paid, and deployed forward with their Kachin Rangers. The Kachins were generally smaller than their American counterparts but were strong and knew the battlefield and jungles much better.

One of the Kachins’ preferred methods for killing Japanese were to set up ambush areas. They planted improvised bamboo spikes known as pungyi sticks in the undergrowth and then carefully placed their weapons in concealment.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
Kachin Rangers stand in formation. (Photo: U.S. Army)

When the Japanese arrived, the Rangers would attack, forcing the Japanese to decide between taking heavy machine gun and rifle fire in the open or diving into the undergrowth where pungyi sticks awaited them.

Initially, there was a small number of U.S. personnel leading a small number of guerrillas, but as the mission became more successful it got better funding and drew more local recruits. One Catholic missionary, Father Dennis MacAllindon, could speak Kachin and helped the Americans recruit.

The joint U.S.-Kachin team branched out into rescuing downed air crews and providing target reconnaissance in the jungle. The Japanese had been careful to operate primarily underground or under dense canopy to prevent being targeted by the Army Air Forces.

So the Kachins carefully watched the Japanese and noted the locations of airfields, supply caches, headquarters, troop buildups, and other threats. American radio operators then relayed this targeting data to bomber units that would strike.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
Carl F. Eifler during his promotion to colonel. (Photo: CIA.gov)

In once case, a Japanese force had hidden their planes in holes covered in sod at an old airbase, making it appear unused from the air. Detachment 101 sent a heads up to the rest of the Army and they bombed the whole thing into ancient history.

Detachment 101 grew to encompass almost 10,000 Americans and locals, still mostly Kachins. When the rest of the Army became serious about retaking sections of Burma, mostly to reopen routes into and out of China, Detachment 101 was a key part of the mission.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
Merrill’s Marauders move through the China-Burma-India Theater on the Ledo Road. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

The famed Merrill’s Marauders formed the core of Operation Galahad, but Kachin forces protected their flanks, guided patrols, and even helped move equipment by elephant.

The Kachin forces and the rest of Detachment 101 were eventually credited with the deaths of 5,428 Japanese troops and the rescue of 574 Allied airmen downed over the Japanese-held area.

But the real significance of Detachment 101 was its ability to force the Japanese out of areas or degrade their operations to the point of irrelevance.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Marine Corps wrote the book on ‘small wars,’ literally

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.


Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
This group of U.S. Marines was part of the international relief expedition sent to lift the siege of Peking in 1900. (National Archives)

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.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
U.S. Marines in the occupation of Haiti in 1915.

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.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
Sandino’s Flag. Nicaragua, 1932. (Marine Corps)

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.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 13 funniest memes for the week of May 4th

It seems like everything on the Korean Peninsula is going well. Rumor has it that US troops will be pulled out of South Korea if the negotiations are a success. So, get all of your soju-fueled bad decisions out of the way now before you get reassigned stateside.


Before you know it, it’ll be too late to get NJP’d for belligerently screaming, “Merica!” at the DMZ. So, make the most of your OCONUS duty station while you can.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

It’s been right in front of our eyes this entire time.

Dennis Rodman used to be a spokesman for McDonalds. Rodman visits Kim Jong-un in North Korea. Under a year later, he opens his country. It all makes perfect sense now.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

(Meme via Salty Soldier)

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

(Meme via USAWTFM)

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

(Meme via Crusty Pissed Off Veteran)

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

(Meme via Air Force Nation)

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

(Meme via Crusty Pissed Off Veteran)

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

(Meme via Five Bravo)

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Cover: Anything that won’t be penetrated by small arms fire. Concealment: Anything that can obscure the enemy’s vision of you. This: None of the above.

It’s like this dude never played a video game in his life.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

(Meme via Military World)

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

(Meme via /r/Military)

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross

“The lights went out, the ship rolled and tossed and suddenly seemed to settle well on her starboard side,” stoker Bert Harris later said. “The Germans had shot us to pieces.”


“Abandon ship!”

HMS Glowworm was lost, but its captain, 35-year-old Lt. Com. Gerard Broadmead Roppe, would win a posthumous Victoria Cross for the action. And, strangest of all, he would get it on the recommendation of the German captain who had sunk his ship.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
Glowworm moving to ram the Admiral Hipper during World War II.

In April 1940, the Glowworm, a Royal Navy G-class destroyer, was part of the escort for the battle cruiser HMS Renown during mine-laying operations in the North Sea. On the night of April 7, 1940, however, the Glowworm, which was armed with four four-inch guns and ten torpedoes, lost a man overboard in rough weather, and fell behind to search for him.

“That was a bad omen,” Harris later said.

Capt. Roppe eventually had to give up the search and was returning to the Renown when, at about 8:30 a.m., April 8, the Glowworm encountered two German destroyers. The German ships, the Bernd von Arnim and the Hans Ludemann, were escorting the 14,000-ton German heavy cruiser Admiral von Hipper, under the command of Capt. Hellmuth Heye. The cruiser was transferring German troops to Trondheim, Norway, as part of the German invasion.

The Glowworm and the German destroyers exchanged fire, with the Glowworm scoring a hit on one of the two ships before the German ships fled into a squall with the Glowworm in pursuit. But when the Glowworm came out of the squall, she suddenly found herself within range of the Admiral von Hipper and facing that ship’s eight eight-inch guns

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
The HMS Glowworm burning after taking heavy fire.

The Hipper opened fire with the Glowworm at 9,200 yards (8,400 meters), and its fourth salvo struck the smaller ship. The Glowworm began making smoke and used the cover to dart back into the squall as the bigger ship continued firing. The Glowworm struggled to get within range of the Hipper. By then, her radio room, bridge, and forward 4.7-inch gun had been destroyed. Her engine room and her rangefinder had been hit, and the small ship was ablaze. The upper yard of her mast had collapsed, falling across wires and short circuiting the ship’s siren that wailed unheeded.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
The Hipper attacking Glowworm from the Hipper’s crew’s perspective.

Knowing he had no chance again the Hipper, Capt. Roppe determined to cause as much damage to the larger ship as he could.

Unbelievably, he attacked.

At 10:10, Capt. Roppe fired his ship’s five torpedoes at a range of 870 yards (800 meters), but all five missed their target. Unable to evade the larger ship, he ordered the Glowworm to ram, and the British ship struck the German cruiser near her starboard bow, gouging a large hole in the side of the German ship. The Glowworm scraped along the side of the German ship before pulling clear and coming to rest in the water, flaming and with its siren still wailing.

Related: This naval battle helped set the stage for two world wars

The Glowworm‘s wheelhouse, transmitting station, wireless office, and the captain’s cabin that was functioning as a first aid station had all been hit and destroyed. There was a huge hole in the side of the ship near the engine room and her superstructure was in shambles.

Capt. Roppe gave the order to abandon ship.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
British destroyer HMS Glowworm recoiling from German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper after ramming her off Norway in April 1940.

As men were jumping over the side, Harris said, Petty Officer Walter Scott stayed on the only Glowwworm gun that was still operable and “kept that gun going for quite a time.”

In all, 111 members of the Glowworm’s crew were lost, including Capt. Roppe, but with a gallantry that was lost as the war advanced, the Hipper’s Capt. Heye rescued thirty-one survivors of the British ship and congratulated them for the fight they had put up.

“(He) told us that our Captain had been a very brave man,” said Harris.

The Hipper completed her mission, dropping troops at Trondheim, but then returned to port for repairs. She was out of action for a month. From there, Capt. Heye sent a Victoria Cross recommendation for Capt. Roppe to the British War Office.

And Capt. Roppe got it.

Articles

That time the Air Force landed bombers on tank treads

During the Cold War, the U.S. Air Force experimented with a seemingly crazy idea for dispersing the weight of their heaviest bomber across the tarmac of airports and bases. They would fit the bombers with tank tread-inspired landing gear.


The B-36 Peacemaker was the largest plane ever built by America. Originally designed before the Pearl Harbor attacks, the B-36 was supposed to be a cross-ocean bomber that could drop 10,000 pounds of ordnance on Berlin or Japan while taking off and landing in the U.S.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
Convair XB-36 takeoff during its first flight on March 29, 1950. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

When flying shorter routes, the plane could carry as much as 86,000 pounds.

The massive B-36 was slowly developed throughout World War II but was finished too late for the war. The first bomber rolled off the line six days after the Japanese surrender. But the plane’s capabilities, carrying 10,000 pounds of ordnance to targets thousands of miles away, made the plane perfect for a nuclear strike role in the Cold War.

There was one big problem, though. The B-36 was extremely heavy, about 419,000 pounds when fully armed. And all that weight initially sat on two smaller tires in the front and two larger ones under the wings.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
Convair XB-36 in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The weight on each tire was so great, the Peacemakers risked sinking into the concrete if they were parked for too long on most airstrips.

So the Air Force tried out a novel solution. They installed tank tread landing gear under the nose and both wings of the plane, allowing the weight to be spread over a much larger area.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
Side view of Convair XB-36. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Initial tests of the system were successful, but the Air Force scrapped it anyway. It focused on improving more airstrips rather than putting the bulky system on production B-36s. It did start buying the planes with four smaller wheels under each wing instead of the single large one, which also helped with the pressure per square inch on airfields.

The weight-to-surface-area problem would come up again with the B-47, the Peacemaker’s successor. B-47s dispersed during the Cuban Missile crisis sunk into the concrete of Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts and pilots had to hire a tow truck driver to pull them out of the holes they created.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Seattle’s 6 secrets of surviving atomic attacks

Do you know what to do when the bombs fall? When the Soviet planes fill the skies and create an endless rain of hellfire on the cities of America? If not, the Seattle Municipal Archives have you covered, because they have a pamphlet from 1950 that is here to save your life. Here’s how you can earn your “Atomic Warfare Survival Badge.”


Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
Got all that? If you’re having trouble reading this,u00a0don’t worry. We’re going to go through these tips and provide a little commentary on each, below.
(Seattle Municipal Archives)

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

(Library of Congress)

Try to get shielded

If you have time, get down in a basement or subway. Should you unexpectedly be caught out-of-doors, seek shelter alongside a building, or jump in any handy ditch or gutter.

We’ve previously talked about Civil Defense hearings in 1955 where the public found out that ditches along the interstate were the best the government could do for many people in the event of an attack. Yes, basements, subways, and even ditches can effectively cut down on the amount of radiation that hits your skin, and they can drastically reduce the amount of flying debris and other threats you are exposed to.

But, remember, you’re likely going to need to spend a lot of time in your shelter (more on that in number 4), and so “any handy ditch” is unlikely to have the water, food, and sanitation facilities you need to survive.

Drop flat on ground or floor

To keep from being tossed about and to lessen the chances of being struck by falling and flying objects, flatten out at the base of a wall, or at the bottom of a bank.

So, yeah, this is basically the same as the first entry, but it’s telling you to lay flat wherever you hide. Again, not bad advice. This could help protect you from debris and can reduce the chances that you’ll become flying debris. But, again, you’ll be highly exposed to radiation both during the initial blast and from the ensuing fallout.

Bury your face in your arms

When you drop flat, hide your eyes in the crook of your elbow. That will protect your face from flash burns, prevent temporary blindness and keep flying objects out of your eyes.

So, sure, this will reduce damage to your eyes and face, but no, it will not fully protect you. Your arm is likely not capable of fully covering your face. Whatever is left exposed will certainly be burned by the flash. There’s no way around this, but it does help if you quickly pivot away from the flash when you see the bomb go off and you’re dropping to the ground. But you’ll still be burned, probably quite badly, on whatever skin is facing the radiation.

Don’t rush outside right after a bombing

After an air burst, wait a few minutes then go help fight fires. After other kinds of bursts wait at least 1 hour to give lingering radiation some chance to die down.

This is likely the most overly optimistic of the tips here. Yes, radiation will die down over time after a bomb is dropped, but one hour is nowhere near enough time. Someone does have to fight the fires and give medical aid to the wounded, and if you want to do that, thank you for your sacrifice.

And it is a sacrifice, because every moment you spend outside, exposed to all the radiation, is dangerous. Radiation can stay at acutely poisonous levels for hours and can cause harm for days or weeks after the bomb drops. It’s not “lingering radiation” after one hour, it’s lethal radiation.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

(Aarton Durán, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Don’t take chances with food or water in open containers

To prevent radioactive poisoning or disease, select your food and water with care. When there is reason to believe they may be contaminated, stick to canned and bottled things if possible.

Hahahaha, don’t eat anything after a blast. Any food or water that was buried at the time of the blast may still be safe, assuming you don’t get irradiated dust onto it while accessing it. But containers stored in a kitchen or almost anywhere above ground will become contaminated.

But, it’s the container that is almost guaranteed contaminated. If you absolutely have to eat food that was exposed, you can handle it carefully and wash the container before opening and get mostly safe food or water out of it. But cans and bottles do not make the contents safe on their own.

Don’t start rumors

In the confusion that follows a bombing, a single rumor might touch off a panic that could cost your life.

That’s legit. But go ahead and expect that everything you hear from others for a few weeks after the bomb drops is just a rumor. No one knows anything, and you’re all on your own for days, weeks, or even months after the explosions.

Sleep tight!

Articles

This shocking video illustrates the huge number of WWII fatalities

A new data-driven video produced by Neil Halloran illustrates the massive number of fatalities of Second World War like never before.


The video, which was released on Memorial Day, “uses cinematic data visualization techniques to explore the human cost of the second World War, and it sizes up the numbers to other wars in history, including recent conflicts,” according to a press release. “Although it paints a harrowing picture of the war, the documentary highlights encouraging trends in post-war battle statistics.”

The video features a number of eye-opening insights, such as the relatively small number of German losses during the initial invasions, or the huge numbers lost — both civilian and military — by the Soviet Union during the war. At one point, the chart showing Soviet deaths continues to grow higher, leaving the viewer to wonder when it will ever stop.

“As the Soviet losses climbed, I thought my browser had frozen. Surely the top of the column must have been reached by now, I thought,” a commenter wrote on Halloran’s fallen.io website.

From Fallen.io:

The Fallen of World War II is an interactive documentary that examines the human cost of the second World War and the decline in battle deaths in the years since the war. The 15-minute data visualization uses cinematic storytelling techniques to provide viewers with a fresh and dramatic perspective of a pivotal moment in history.

The film follows a linear narration, but it allows viewers to pause during key moments to interact with the charts and dig deeper into the numbers.

Now watch:

The Fallen of World War II from Neil Halloran on Vimeo.
MIGHTY HISTORY

3 historic wars that are still technically alive today

International diplomacy is a sort of constantly evolving, tangled mess. So much so that, in some cases, we could technically still be at war with a country that we’re now allied with. For instance, America never ratified the treaty that ended World War I, but invading Germany to finally settle the century-old grudge match would get fairly complicated since it’s now a NATO member. Here are three wars that we never bothered to wrap up on paper (but please don’t try to go fight in them):


Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

U.S. Army infantrymen fight during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of World War I.

(U.S. Army)

America never agreed to the final terms of World War I

Yup, we’ll just go ahead and knock out this one that we hinted at in the intro. America signed, but never ratified, the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I.

Oddly enough, though, this wasn’t because of issues with the lay of the land in Europe as the war closed, or even land claims or military restrictions around the world. The actual issue was that American President Woodrow Wilson wanted to establish the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations, and he used the treaty to do it.

But isolationists in Congress didn’t want America to join the league, and so they shot down all attempts to ratify the treaty at home. And America only officially adopts treaties when ratified, not signed, so America never actually agreed to the final terms of World War I.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

Gurkha troops march to escort Japanese prisoners of war at the end of World War II in 1945.

(Imperial War Museums)

Japan and China never made peace after World War II

There are a number of still-simmering tensions between combatants from World War II, including the Kuril Islands Dispute between Russia and Japan.

(This author even once made the error of saying that Russia and Japan were still at war, which is only sort of right. While the two countries never agreed to a treaty ending the conflict, they did agree to a Joint Declaration in 1956 that had a similar effect. Essentially, it said they couldn’t yet agree to a treaty, but they were no longer fighting the war.)

But there was an Allied country that never reached peace with Japan: China. And China arguably suffered the worst under Japanese aggression. But, because of the civil war in China at the time, there were two rival governments claiming to represent China, and no one could agree on which government to invite. So China didn’t take part in the peace process at all.

So China and Japan never technically ended their hostilities, and Japan’s almost-peace with Russia is not quite finished either.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visits the Demilitarized Zone on the Korean Peninsula in 2015.

(Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

The Koreas are, famously, still at war.

The ongoing state of conflict on the Korean Peninsula is probably the most famous issue on this list. The Korean War sort of ended on July 27, 1953, when the United Nations and the Delegation of the Korean People’s Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteers signed the Korean Armistice Agreement which instituted a truce between North and South Korea.

But, importantly, no national government agreed to the armistice or the truce. The militaries involved essentially agreed to stop killing each other, but the larger governments never came together to hash out the real peace. And this is a problem since the two countries have a much more tense relationship than any other group on this list.

America and Germany are not suddenly going to revert back to 1918 and start killing each other again. But South and North Koreans at the border still sometimes shoot at one another, and people have died in border clashes.

Articles

The famed Olympic torch relay was actually created by the Nazis for propaganda

On August 1, 1936, Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler opened the 11th Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany.


In doing so, he  inaugurated what is now a famed ritual of a lone runner bearing a torch carried from the site of the ancient games in Olympia, Greece into the stadium.

“The sportive, knightly battle awakens the best human characteristics. It doesn’t separate, but unites the combatants in understanding and respect. It also helps to connect the countries in the spirit of peace. That’s why the Olympic Flame should never die,” he reportedly said.

If that sounds like PR for the Nazi Party, that’s because it was.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
Crowds give the Nazi salute as Hitler enters the stadium. | Bundesarchiv

The relay “was planned with immense care by the Nazi leadership to project the image of the Third Reich as a modern, economically dynamic state with growing international influence,”according to the BBC.

Or, in other words, Hitler wanted the games to impress foreigners visiting Germany.

The organizer of the 1936 Games, Carl Diem, even based the relay off the one Ancient Greeks did in 80 BC in an attempt to connect the ancient Olympics to the present Nazi party.

“The idea chimed perfectly with the Nazi belief that classical Greece was an Aryan forerunner of the modern German Reich,” according to the BBC. “And the event blended perfectly the perversion of history with publicity for contemporary German power.”

And according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Hitler’s torch run, “perfectly suited Nazi propagandists, who used torch-lit parades and rallies to attract Germans, especially youth, to the Nazi movement.”

The torch itself was made by Krupp Industries, which was a major supplier of Nazi arms.

Here’s a view of one of the Olympic torch bearers:

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
National Archives and Records Administration

And here’s a view of the last bearer ahead of lighting the Olympic flame:

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
The last of the runners who carried the Olympic torch arriving in Berlin to light the Olympic Flame, marking the start of the 11th Summer Olympic Games. Berlin, Germany, August 1, 1936. | National Archives and Records Administration

Unsurprisingly, the 1936 Olympic Games were not without controversy.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later
Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals in Berlin — despite the racist ideology. | Wikimedia

Despite Hitler’s aforementioned pitch that “the sportive, knightly battle … unites the combatants in understanding and respect,” the Nazis tried to keep Jews and blacks from competing in the games.

The official Nazi Party paper, the Völkischer Beobachter , even put out a statement saying that it was “a disgrace and degradation of the Olympic idea” that blacks and whites could compete together. “Blacks must be excluded. … We demand it,” it said, according to Andrew Nagorski, who cited the article in his book “Hitlerland.”

Various groups and activists in the US and other countries pushed to boycott the games in response.

The Nazis eventually capitulated, saying that they would welcome “competitors of all races,” but added that the make-up of the German team was up to the host country. (They added Helene Mayer, whose father was Jewish, as their “token Jew” participant. She won the silver medal.)

During the games, Hitler reportedly cheered loudly for German winners, but showed poor sportsmanship when others won, including track and field star Jesse Owens (who won 4 gold medals) and other black American athletes. According to Nagorski, he also said: “It was unfair of the United States to send these flatfooted specimens to compete with the noble products of Germany. … I am going to vote against Negro participation in the future.”

Ultimately, the most disconcerting thing about the 1936 Olympics is that the Nazis’ propaganda push was actually effective on visitors and athletes — despite all the racism and anti-Semitism.

William L. Shirer, an American journalist living in Berlin at the time, and later known for his book “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” noted his disappointment with the fact that tourists responded positively to the whole affair. And according to Nagorski, an older American woman even managed to kiss Hitler on the cheek when he visited the swimming stadium.

But perhaps the most chilling line cited by Nagorski came from Rudi Josten, a German staffer in the AP bureau who wrote: “Everything was free and all dance halls were reopened. … They played American music and whatnot. Anyway, everybody thought: ‘Well, so Hitler can’t be so bad.'”

World War II officially started a little over three years later in 1939.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 well-known ways the White House stays secure

The little old building on the back of the $20 bill is known all around the world as the residence and workplace of the leader of the free world. Being said leader of the White House is a dangerous prospect: There have been thirty-three known attempts at the lives of sitting U.S. presidents. Four of those attempts, unfortunately, were successful.

It stands to reason that measures must be taken at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to prevent any attacks on the lives of the president, the first family, and anyone else who serves there. But protecting the president requires far more than just armed guards and motion-activated cameras.

The true extent of the protection at the White House has never been — and shouldn’t ever be — released to the public. While the White House is open about sharing some of its protective measures, it should be assumed that the men and women of the Secret Service have thought of ways to counter or deal with literally any other scenario a would-be threat could conjure up.


Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

You really don’t want to try your luck at finding out what the President’s bathroom looks like.

21-day advanced tour notice

When you think of a “secure location,” the last place you think of is somewhere that’s so widely visited that it offers tours in eleven different languages. But not just anyone can easily mosey on into the White House.

In order to be given the tour of the highest office in the land, you must submit an application at least 21 days before your scheduled visit. This gives the security an accurate headcount and the ability to perform background checks on visitors. For obvious reasons, the tour is also guided through only select portions of the White House.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

If gas stations and banks have them, you can assume the White House has better.

(Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead)

Bulletproof windows

Windows are typically vulnerable to firearms. Funnily enough, in any photo you see of the White House, you’ll also see countless windows. Even the Resolute Desk is positioned with the President’s back turned to a bunch of windows in the Oval Office.

Thankfully, they’re some of the most impenetrable windows known to man. In November 2011, an attacker fired seven rounds from a semi-automatic rifle into the White House, but not even consecutive shots could shatter a window.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

“There he is! Get him!”

Infrared sensors

Every inch of the perimeter is surrounded in infrared lasers that detect even the most minuscule threat against the White House. These aren’t the lasers that you’d see in old spy films that challenge intruders to a deadly game of limbo. No, these blanket everything to include the sky, the surface, and even underground.

With that level of security, you’d expect swarms of agents to descend on even the smallest intruders — like a wayward squirrel. Well, it happens all the time. But it’s better to be aware of every single squirrel than to let a single threat wiggle by.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

In this photo are at least seven SAM batteries (probably), so the White House itself wouldn’t need one.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher)

Surface-to-air missiles

Washington D.C. is a no-fly zone. Any plane not scheduled or following the strict path into Ronald Reagan National Airport are first given a warning. If they don’t show any sort of compliance immediately, they’ll be taken down by one of the countless surface-to-air missiles located around the capital.

While it’s known that many missile batteries are located in Washington D.C., it’s more of an urban legend that there’s an Avenger missile system on top of the White House itself. That remains unproven, but the White House does have those high-tech laser systems that can detect any possible threat from a mile out, alerting other missile systems that then take down the threat.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

Which probably means the guy who had fun with the drones might now be in charge of them. Or not. We’ll never know.

(United States Secret Service photo)

Drones

In January, 2015, an unnamed government employee and amateur drone hobbyist was having fun with his drone outside the White House lawn after his shift. It was able to fly through the detection systems fairly easily until it hit the ground and set off countless alarm systems, sending every single agent into a frenzy. The man wasn’t charged because he was an employee at the White House and because it highlighted a major security fault in the systems at the time.

Since then, the White House has employed drones of their own to act as both roving security cameras and to take down any other drones that come into area. Coincidentally, the same drones that the Secret Service now uses are the same that the hobbyist used.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

Everyone always looks through the fence, but never stops to admire the awesomeness that is the fence itself.

The fence

With all of these security measures in place, the most obvious one is actually the most effective, historic, and iconic: the fence that surrounds the White House. First erected in 1801 by President Thomas Jefferson, it has seen many changes over its lifetime. What was once a simple barricade to keep the president’s livestock on the property has now become an 11-foot tall, vehicle-stopping, climb-resistant, behemoth of steel and rebar.

Not only is the newest fence crowned with spikes to deter attempts at climbing, it also alerts agents the moment anyone puts pressure on it to ensure nobody makes it over.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the US used an island-hopping campaign in World War II

In World War II’s Pacific Theater, the United States had a big problem: the operating area was humongous. In one sense, it’s no surprise — the Pacific is the world’s largest ocean and they needed to get across that ocean in order to defeat Japan. But Japan had also occupied a lot of bases in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands during the inter-war period (and illegally fortified them). Finally, the Allies needed a way to deal with the fierce Japanese force, but they needed to do so without endangering the “Germany first” grand strategy for defeating the Axis.

This problem proved extremely difficult. The Japanese, at Guadalcanal, in the Philippines, and elsewhere, had proven to be fierce fighters on the ground. It was painfully obvious that fighting island to island on a campaign across the Pacific would take a lot of time and cost many lives. But at the same time, the Japanese bases had to be neutralized.

In 1943, after Guadalcanal had been cleared, Admiral William F. Halsey and General Douglas MacArthur began planning the next phase of the offensive in the massive ocean, with the ultimate objective of taking out Rabaul, Japan’s major base in the south Pacific.


The first plan they came up with would have required additional forces drawn from efforts in Europe. That, of course, didn’t fly with politicians.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers fly over an atoll in the Pacific during the island-hopping campaign.

(US Navy)

Instead, the answer to the Pacific question was to grab a few key bases and then use air power and submarines to cut off the other Japanese installations from resupply and reinforcement. The term for this was “island hopping” or “leapfrogging.”

There were two primary benefits to this strategy: First, it could be accomplished with fewer troops. Second, it meant the cut-off enemy forces couldn’t be pulled back to reinforce important objectives, like the Philippines.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

Bases seized by the Allies were used to launch strikes that targeted enemy supply lines. One of the most famous actions was the Battle of the Bismarck Sea.

(USAF)

The targeted bases in the island-happen campaign were selected for two purposes: First, they were the jumping-off points for the next “hops” towards Japan. Second, they served as bases for forces that had the job of plastering the now-isolated garrisons left behind. This was what John Glenn did while serving in World War II.

While plans originally called for capturing Rabaul, the decision was made to bypass it after successfully seizing some other locations where Allied forces could build airfields.

Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

John Glenn’s World War II service included a combat tour striking bypassed Japanese garrisons in the F4U Corsair.

(US Navy)

The island-hopping strategy worked. In less than four years, the United States had forced Japan’s surrender. While much of history focuses on the hotly-debated use of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the ability for America to deliver those weapons hinged on some very strategic leapfrogging.

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