This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

At just 18 years old, Hjalmar Johansson was given a choice: either serve in the infantry or work as a nose gunner in a B-24 bomber. Johansson decided he would be best in the air and was quickly assigned to a ten-man aerial crew headed off to fight in World War II. His first flight in a war zone was over Italy, during which his aircraft was to bomb enemy petroleum plants. His squadron started taking heavy anti-aircraft fire, which punctured a hole in his bomber’s wing.

Then, out of nowhere, German fighter planes flew into position. headed straight toward the American bombers. Johansson, sitting in his front gunner’s position, squeezed his machine gun’s trigger, sending hot lead at his sworn enemy.

Just as Johansson was making a dent in the German forces, one of his weapon systems jammed. Soon after, his second gun went down. He was left without defenses.

Nobody could’ve prepared for for what happened next…


Also Read: Watch rare footage of a Kamikaze attack caught on film

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

POWs at Stalag 11B at Fallingbostel in Germany welcome their liberators, 1945.

With his plane’s wing on fire, Johansson thought to himself, “I’m not going home in this plane.”

The captain gave the order to bail out. Johansson quickly put on his parachute, leaped out of an open door, and careened head-first toward the ground.

He deployed his chute, hit the dirt, and located his tail gunner — just as small arms fire rang out in their direction. He could hear Germans shouting nearby. Johansson was captured, transported to an interrogation center, and then locked in solitary confinement.

He was officially a POW.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp
Hjalmar Johansson personal dog tags.

 

While confined, Johansson vowed to not give the Germans any information besides name, rank, and serial number. Soon after, Johansson and other POWs were loaded on a train and transferred to a permanent prison camp. The brave nose gunner estimated he and the others were on that transport train for roughly one-week.

For the next several months, Johansson ate nothing but weed soup and his body was riddled with lice.

“We didn’t live through it, we existed through it,” Johansson recalls.

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For months, Johansson and the rest of the POWs endured brutal beatings and freezing temperatures. Then, one morning, after all hope seemed lost, the brave POW noticed the prison’s guards had disappeared. The Americans looked out to find that Russian Army had broken through.

Russian forces tore down the barbed wire that held the men captive for so long and opened the prison’s front gates. Johansson tasted freedom for the first time in six months. He was finally sent back home to New York City, where he would spend his life working hard and retelling his incredible story.

Hjalmar Johansson passed away on June 30, 2018, at the age of 92.

Check out the History Channel’s video below to hear this incredible story from the legend himself.

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This special instinct can help troops survive an ambush

In the spring of 1970, U.S. forces attempted to fracture an NVA supply line in the Vietnam jungle, as 79 soldiers from Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry came under a vicious attack and became trapped in a heavily bunkered NVA fortification — unable to escape.


With nowhere to run, the troops began taking heavy casualties.

The hellish area was covered in thick towering trees which ruled out any possibility of dropping off extra supplies or evacuating the wounded. The only way to get to the ambushed men was from the ground.

Related: These are the most terrifying Vietnam War booby traps

If these ground troops were to lose this area to the enemy, the hope of an offensive victory would have died. The men at the point of attack managed to pull their wounded brothers out of harm’s way and quickly render care. The American forces formed a secure perimeter with the men they had left.

“Human instinct tells you to stay on that ground don’t move, return fire, don’t move,” Ken Woodard of Charlie Company explains during an interview. “You can get killed.”

The men did just that, without being ordered.

They were then able to create a base of fire putting rounds down range — buying time.

Also Read: These were the terrifying dangers of being a ‘Tunnel Rat’ in Vietnam

Monitoring the radio 2.5 miles away was Alpha Troop who closely studied how Charlie Company was maneuvering and volunteered to go in as a quick reaction force.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp
Alpha Troop in Vietnam (Source: John Poindexter)

Led by Capt. John B. Poindexter, the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (Alpha Troop) loaded up onto their Sherman tanks and armored personnel carriers and went in to help Charlie Company.

Not long after, the 11th ACR reached their brothers-in-arms in time and completed their rescue mission

Check out American Heroes Channel‘s video how these brave Americans reacted to being trapped by enemy fire.

(American Heroes Channel, YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

The Merchant Marine in World War II was supposed to just tool around the world’s oceans, delivering supplies to ports and troops in Europe, Africa, and the Pacific while the real fighting was done by sailors, soldiers, and Marines. But due to German U-boats and other attackers, the mariners actually operated in an extremely dangerous niche.


This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

A U-boat reloads new torpedoes during World War II.

One of the biggest dangers was of U-boat attack, when even a single boat could wipe out an entire convoy, provided that the boat was able to surface and attack using its deck gun.

The mariners were in danger from the moment they lost view of the land. U-boats would typically attack deep into the Atlantic, but they liked to remind Americans that they weren’t safe at any time, so some U-boats were sent to hunt right off the coast.

Regardless of when the attack came, most merchant vessels didn’t have any kind of sonar or radar, not even all Navy vessels had those detection systems in World War II. So, unless your ship was in a large convoy with a naval escort, you won’t know a U-boat was there until it attacked.

German sailors manning deck gun in preparation for attack in North Atlantic Sea. HD Stock Footage

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When the U-boat attack got under way, it played out in one of two ways. If there were no threats of a U-boat in the area, you would find out you were under attack when a black hulk slowly surfaced in the nearby waves, a few sailors poured out of it, and the deck gun began firing on your ship.

These were often capable of sending 3.5-inch rounds into the hull of your thin-skinned cargo vessel, allowing water to pour into the lower decks and slowly send you deep into the sea. And since the attacking vessel is a tiny U-boat and not an enemy destroyer or cruiser, there’s no way to get rescued. You have to paddle your lifeboats through a sea filling with oil from the sinking ship, potentially as it’s on fire.

And, believe it or not, that’s, by far, the preferred option.

That’s because the other likely method of attack from a U-boat comes via its torpedo tubes, which means there’s no surfacing ship, no scramble of sailors to warn you. You might, might notice a darkness in the water before a stream bubbles starts racing towards your ship.

If you look a few feet ahead of this stream of bubbles, you’ll see the 21-inch diameter, almost-24-foot-long metal tube barreling towards your ship at nearly 35 mph. It will reach you. It will hit you. And its 600-pound (or heavier) warhead will rip apart the hull.

What happens next depends almost entirely on what cargo is being carried. Got a bunch of foodstuffs like grain and fruit? The boat will sink fairly slowly, and you’ll have a chance to escape. But if you were carrying lots of heavy war materiel, like tanks and planes or, worse, industrial goods like iron and coal, you’re pretty much screwed. The weight and density will take the ship down in minutes.

But the worst came when the ship was carrying fuel or oil. The massive explosion from the torpedo warhead would often rupture any tanks on the targeted vessel, providing a massive burst of heat as the pressure wave mixed the targeted fuel with the outside air, virtually guaranteeing massive fireballs and explosions as the torpedo exploded.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

The Allied tanker Dixie Arrow sinks after being torpedoed in the Atlantic Ocean by a German submarine.

(U.S. Navy)

When you’re on a tanker and the tanks suddenly explode, there’s not a lot to be done. The steel around you has likely been twisted, the decks are burning hot and searing your flesh, and the blast wave has likely scrambled your brain. If you’re lucky enough to survive, you now have to overcome your scrambled brains, make it through the burning corridors, and then try to get in a boat and get away from the deck before the suction takes you under.

If you did make it out of a shipping ship, your ordeal isn’t over. Traditionally, combat ships would rescue survivors from enemy vessels once hostilities were over. If a cruiser sinks a destroyer, then once the destroyer crew surrenders the cruiser crew would begin taking on the survivors and would later take them to POW camps.

But U-boats barely have enough room for the crews. They can’t take on survivors. So, after sinking anything from a fishing trawler to a destroyer to a passenger ship, the U-boat crew typically can’t do much more than offer some loaves of bread or water before sailing away. They wouldn’t even tell other Allied ships where to pick up the survivors, at least not at first, since that would give away the location of the subs.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

Surrender of German U-boat, U-858, 700 miles off the New England Coast to two destroyer escorts, May 10, 1945.

(U.S. Navy)

Even if your ship was in a convoy, there was no guarantee that you could be picked up by friendly ships since a U-boat wolf pack could sink the entire convoy, leaving dozens of life boats in its wake, filled with slowly dying soldiers desperate for water or food.

To add insult to injury, Merchant Marine members were rarely paid for any period where they weren’t actively crewing a ship, and no, lifeboats don’t count. So their harrowing trial to survive at sea is performed for free, solely for the hope that they’ll survive.

And throughout all of this, the U.S. would often keep the sinkings of ships secret, reporting just a couple of ship losses every week while dozens might have gone down.

Luckily for mariners, British innovation and American industry eventually gave the sub hunters the edge over the submarines, culminating in “Black May” 1943 when German losses got so steep that subs essentially withdrew from the Atlantic, allowing the Merchant Marine to finally sail largely in peace.

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6 reasons the Vikings were so successful at raiding villages

Imagine one day you’re sitting along the coast of Northern England, taking a rest from farming in a bog, fishing, or whatever it was ancient villagers did up there back then. Chances are good you had a hard day of farming or catching fish and the end of the day was a welcome respite, even though you knew you’d probably have to go right back out and do the same thing the next day. But maybe you wouldn’t, because Viking raiders were going to burn everything you love and there’s nothing you could do about it.


That got real dark, real fast. Just like a Viking raid.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp
“It’s a special operation because we steal the gold and it becomes ours.”

 

They were like today’s special operators

Viking raids usually consisted of a small number of ships and limited manpower, headed for a very specific, small objective. They weren’t out to capture towns or topple governments, they wanted food, booty, women, plunder, gold… you get the idea. The effectiveness of their raids hinged very much on their ability to surprise the opposition. They would move just over the coastal horizon, with their sails drawn down to mask their approach. Once inland, they would hit hard and fast, leaving before reinforcements could be brought to bear.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp
There should be about 4,000 more arrows in this painting.

 

 They weren’t trying to sink ships.

You can’t sell or reuse a sunken ship, after all. Though Viking naval combat was not very common, it happened. And like their land attacks, Viking longboats would swarm a target to overwhelm it, or they would attempt to ram the enemy in the open sea. Rather than have a distant naval battle, Vikings threw that doctrine out, preferring to move in close and kill the enemy crew with archers, hidden behind a hastily constructed shield wall.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp
Pictured: all the f*cks the Vikings gave for military doctrine.

 

 Ambushes!

In an age where tight formations and discipline in combat were all the rage, it was unlikely anyone expected a Viking horde to ambush their army as it marched through the woods. But here they were. Vikings used to lie in wait in the wooded areas along the roadsides, in order to get the drop on an enemy unit.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp
Shield Walls help. (screen capture from YouTube)

 

 Adapting to the battle quickly.

Even the best plan can get tossed out the window once the sh*t hits the fan. The Vikings weren’t perfect and would occasionally get their asses handed to them. On the occasion where that occurred, they adapted to the situation as quickly as they could. Once confronted by real opposition, raiders would take on infantry formations, especially the wedge, with berserks at the tip of the spear. They would then drive this into an enemy formation, negating the enemy’s use of their archers or other ranged weapons.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp
A book is a terrible defensive weapon.

 

 Nothing was sacred. Sometimes literally.

These days, we talk about military norms that we all hold to be true – doctrine – as if it came from the gods themselves. Well, the Vikings didn’t care much for your gods or your doctrine and pretty much flaunted both. They shook off the sacrilege of sacking religious sites because religious sites are where the best loot was kept. They shook off the doctrine of combat formations, fighting seasons, and times to do battle because that’s when you were expecting them and it’s so much easier to surprise you.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp
“Reach out and crush someone.”

 

 They wanted to get in close.

Many, many weapons of the middle ages were ranged weapons, designed to get into action at a distance and keep the enemy from smashing your squishy skull in. The longer one army could pummel another with arrows and boulders, the less likely their infantry or cavalry would die fighting. The Vikings, on the other hand, like the up-close-and-personal touch of smashing in your squishy skull and designed their battle tactics to get all up in your face, scare the crap out of you, and either kill you or make you run away.

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9 military ‘ghost bases’ you’ve probably never heard of

During the Wild West, many towns popped up along the trail and eventually went on to become ghost towns. Military bases, though, have sometimes become “ghost bases” – abandoned and left to rot.


Some of these ghost bases are near cities like the Big Apple. Others, like Johnston Atoll, are pretty far off – a nice getaway spot, if not for the history of being used as a storage center for Agent Orange and other interesting stuff.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp
Barrels of Agent Orange being stored at Johnston Atoll. (U.S. government photo)

The climates can be very different – from the burning sands of Johnston Atoll to the frozen flatlands of North Dakota, where America briefly operated a ballistic-missile defense system known as SAFEGUARD.

One base in Croatia that once was home for almost 50 fighter jets was abandoned during the Yugoslav civil war of 1991 – and the wrecks are mostly used by folks seeking some adventure. That base still gets “official” use for law enforcement training.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp A damaged runway at the Zeljava Air Base in Croatia. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

You can even check out one abandoned facility that will soon fall into the Pacific. No, not Johnston Atoll (it was a re-claimed coral atoll built over the years long before China did the same thing in the South China Sea), but instead the Devil’s Slide bunker on the California coast. A lack of maintenance and the natural process of erosion will eventually send this coastal-defense bunker tumbling from commanding heights and into the Pacific.

But if you want one “ghost base” that has captured imaginations worldwide, you can go to either the Ukraine or Siberia to see the Duga Radar Array – an early-warning system meant to detect American missiles. Or just pick up the video games “Call of Duty: Black Ops” and “Stalker” to see representations of the array used.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp
The Duga Radar Array near Chernobyl. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

So, take a peek at this video that tells more about these and some other “ghost bases” – and tell us which “ghost base” you would like to know more about.

Articles

This is why grunt gear isn’t for the average man

Throughout military history, the gear our ground troops wear has depended on different aspects, for instance: the available technology, budget, and the weather (for the most part).


The needs of the mission and the environment determine what gear our infantrymen haul on their backs, around their waists, and even what they stuff into their many cargo pockets.

But the endgame of the mission always remains the same — win the war at all cost.

Related: These were the terrifying dangers of being a ‘Tunnel Rat’ in Vietnam

Today, the modern battlefield of Iraq and Afghanistan has prompted our military to change what our troops take with them. “SAPI” plates (Small Arms Protective Insert) were added to help protect the service members vital organs from small arms fire.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp
All that gear adds up. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago)

Travel back in time where medieval Knights wore several layers and different types of heavy body armor to protect themselves from sharp swinging swords to the accurately shot arrows. These fearless men would spend countless hours training while cloaked in their protective garments, acclimating their bodies for war.

Fast forward to the rice patties of Vietnam where Marines, Sailors, Airmen, and Soldiers bravely left the wire typically sporting only their thin layered green t-shirts due to the constant humidity of the jungle while still toting pounds of extras.

Also Read: That time American POWs refused a CIA rescue mission in Vietnam

One 155-pound TV show host wanted to experience just how heavy the gear of an American GI in Vietnam was. So after donning the full Vietnam War style combat load — complete with ammo, an M-16 rifle, an individual medical bag, and 2 quarts of water — the TV show host’s total weight amounted to just under 235 solid pounds of gear. It was an 80-pound difference.

Check out the Smithsonian Channel‘s video below to see this TV show host play grunt for an afternoon.

(Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

The most ‘Murican moments of every presidency, part three

Not every President of the United States has a memorable administration. And, for some of these presidents, it’s probably best that people forget their time in office. That being said, no president is trying to be remembered as the worst president of all time. They might not even be thinking about being the best of all time – many are just playing the hands they were dealt, for better or for worse. How they play that hand determines their legacy.

Some are just better players than others.


This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

No matter what their legacy ends up being in the annals of American History, each Presidency had its high points, whether it be a moment of patriotism, like James Madison’s administration, or a moment of love of country, like Andrew Jackson’s. They might even have, simply, the less-celebrated “holding it together and not freaking out while keeping a straight face,” like John Tyler’s administration.

The point is, they all have their moments that truly embody the American spirit — and these are those moments.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

Fat-president jokes are so 1880s.

Grover Cleveland #2

Cleveland is the only President of the United States to serve two non-consecutive terms. This would be like George H.W. Bush coming back and taking the White House from Bill Clinton in 1996 — unthinkable in our day and age, but technically possible. It wasn’t so improbable in Grover Cleveland’s era. The Democrat’s first term saw him get badly-needed upgrades to coastal defenses and the U.S. Navy through a Republican Congress, which was no small feat, even back in 1885. But it was his skill as Commander-In-Chief that got him re-elected in 1892.

This time, he wasn’t just thinking about the defense of the United States. He wanted American ships that could take the U.S. Navy on the offensive and commissioned five battleships and 16 torpedo boats, effectively doubling the battleship capability of the U.S. Navy. These ships would later be used to defeat Spain in the Spanish-American War.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

Every photo of William McKinley makes him look like he’s disappointed in you.

William McKinley

The president that built the bridge to the 20th Century, William McKinley was the last Civil War veteran — and the only enlisted Civil War veteran — to ride his military service to the White House. He was elected to two terms in the nation’s highest office but was assassinated just six months into his second. It was a tragic end to a good career but, fortunately, he was able to start the American Century with a bang.

Actually, it’s more like a lot of bangs. McKinley sent the USS Maine into Havana harbor to protect U.S. interests in the middle of a Cuban slave revolt against Spanish rule. When the Maine exploded in Havana harbor, he commissioned a court of inquiry to determine if the Spanish were at fault. Even though modern evidence later revealed that an onboard accident destroyed the American ship, McKinley’s court determined a Spanish mine was at fault. McKinley asked Congress for a declaration of war against Spain, which the United States won in less than a year, capturing Guam, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and for a while, Cuba as American territories.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

It’s difficult to choose the most American moment from the presidency of the most American man who ever lived.

Theodore Roosevelt

President McKinley is more often than not overlooked by history, not because he was inconsequential (he wasn’t) but rather because he’s in the shadow of one of the giants of history. In the U.S., there was only one man who could do what TR did – regulate monopolies while taking on big business, preserve national parks, and clean up our food and drugs while instituting the income tax and the inheritance tax — aka the “Death Tax.” These ideas seem counter to today’s right-left politics, but Roosevelt could do it and if you called him a flip-flopper, Teddy would have words (and probably fists) with you.

Roosevelt’s most American moment came as part of his “Big Stick” foreign policy and was an addendum — corollary, actually — to the Monroe Doctrine. When Venezuela refused to pay its foreign debt in 1902, Italy, Germany, and Britain blockaded its ports and tried to force payment through an international court. Where the Monroe Doctrine warned Europe to stay out of the United States’ backyard, the Roosevelt Corollary warned Europeans that the United States military would be the guard dog keeping them out.

At Roosevelt’s order, the U.S. Navy met the blockade around Venezuela and forced them to back down. The parties then settled into arbitration.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

You see, this cat Taft is one bad mother.

William Howard Taft

Taft and Roosevelt were close friends and saw eye-to-eye on most issues facing the United States at the time of Taft’s election. Taft was pretty much Roosevelt’s hand-picked successor to the office and, even though the two men were different in tone and constitution, much of what Roosevelt started was picked up under Taft. One of the first uses of the Roosevelt Corollary was in Nicaragua, under Taft’s orders.

Nicaragua was quickly falling into total chaos. The government was facing a powerful rebellion backed by American diplomats. Meanwhile, the elected government was heavily indebted to Europeans. When the government executed two Americans, the U.S. cut ties and aided rebel forces in the capture the capital of Managua. The U.S.then forced Nicaragua to take a loan so Europeans couldn’t get their hands on a potential new canal site (the Panama Canal was under construction at the time). American troops essentially took control of the entire country for the next 20 years.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

“He kept us out of war.” Lolz

Woodrow Wilson

As the first professor elected to the U.S. Presidency, Wilson was a far departure from the days of Roosevelt and Taft. History is beginning to question some of Wilson’s decisions regarding domestic policy, but one thing we can’t question is his resolve to protect Americans and American interests. When Pancho Villa killed Americans while raiding new Mexico, he ordered America’s premiere military man to follow him into Mexico. Then, Germany started messing with the U.S.

In the ultimate series of boneheaded provocations, Germany, in the middle of World War I kept poking the United States. After British spies intercepted a telegram from the German Ambassador to the leaders of Mexico promising an alliance if the United States entered the European War and the torpedoing of the Lusitania liner that killed hundreds of Americans, Germany sunk a number of American ships. Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war and the United States entered World War I.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

He wasn’t nicknamed “The Regulator,” but it would’ve been cool.

Warren G. Harding

The United States helped win the war in Europe but was left with many, many questions in its wake. Harding’s administration was determined to get the United States back in order in the post-WWI years. Beyond the drawdown of American troops from Europe and Cuba, a reduction in the overall military, and arms reduction agreements with major world powers, Hardings most American moment has to be the rejection of the League of Nations.

The United States did not sign the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I because of the agreement to the creation of the League of Nations. Instead it conducted separate agreements with Germany, Austria, and Hungary. Harding was elected on a platform of opposing the League. In the end, the League was a failed body — but was it because of the lack of U.S presence or despite it?

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

Meanwhile, nothing about Calvin Coolidge’s look is all that cool… but stick around.

Calvin Coolidge

“Silent Cal” really believed that most things, from flood control to business, would work itself out and the Federal government wasn’t there to handle every single problem faced by the states. What Coolidge did believe in was the rights of Americans, regardless of race — a big deal for 1923. The 30th President didn’t care what color anyone was and let it be known that Americans were Americans. Period.

He granted Native Americans citizenship and used his first inaugural address to remind the government of the rights of African-Americans and that the government had a public and private duty to defend those rights. He even thanked immigrants for making the United States what it was and called for the U.S. to welcome and protect immigrants.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

One of the few presidents whose major life achievements came before and after being president.

Herbert Hoover

Everything great about Herbert Hoover (and there’s a lot. Seriously, look it up) happened outside of his Presidency. Hoover was a tireless, dedicated public servant who spent much of his life in service to others both before and after taking office. Unfortunately for Hoover, history will forget everything but his response to the Great Depression, which was abysmal and engulfed most of his time in office. His critics had a point.

Internationally, Hoover was the last U.S. President who didn’t really need to pay close attention to the rest of the world. His most American moment was winding down the interventionist wars in Latin America which began at the turn of the century. Troops from Nicaragua and Haiti were finally coming home.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

Franklin Roosevelt ran his Presidency like he had the Konami codes to the White House.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

If only every leader could as capable as FDR, the only President to serve more than two terms. If there’s one President that had the biggest effect in shaping the United States to look like the country it is today, it would be Franklin Roosevelt. The reason new administrations are judged on their first 100 days in office is because the Roosevelt Administration implemented New Deal reforms to end the Great Depression while ending Prohibition within its first few months.

It wasn’t just his oversight of World War II that made for a great patriotic moment. There are so many moments to choose from throughout his four terms in office. The most exciting moment came in 1943 at the Casablanca Conference where he told Winston Churchill he would only accept the unconditional surrender of each Axis power. In hindsight, it doesn’t seem so powerful a statement, but in 1943, victory for the Allies was far from assured.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

If you f*cked with America while Truman was in charge, he probably sent some guys after you.

Harry S. Truman

Truman prosecuted the end of World War II, the reduction in size of the U.S. Armed Forces, the rebuilding of post-war Europe, the formation of the United Nations, the integration of armed forces, and so much more. It’s hard to believe people thought so little of Truman after he left office given everything we know his administration really did.

His most American moment was the highly-unpopular move of firing General Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War, asserting civilian control of the military and his status as Commander-In-Chief, telling Time Magazine later,

“I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President … I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a b*tch, although he was, but that’s not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.”
This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

The face when someone who already oversaw the destruction of global fascism threatens the Communist way of life.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Of course the man who presided over victory in Europe during World War II is going to ascend to the presidency. But when Ike took office as Chief Executive, the United States was in the middle of a bloody stalemate, leading United Nations forces against the communists in Korea. His solution wasn’t to make a speech at the UN General Assembly or take advice from others. The onetime Supreme Allied Commander would go see for himself.

Eisenhower was barely President-elect when he arrived in Korea after two brutal years of fighting there. He immediately concluded that it would forever be a stalemate no one would really win and then threatened the Chinese Communists with nuclear war if they didn’t hammer out an agreement. The Communists, rattled by Ike’s WWII reputation, believed him and concluded an agreement within 8 months.

Looking to go back in time? Check out part two.

Looking to visit the future? Part four is coming soon!

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this soldier earned the Medal of Honor while stoned

It is absolutely forbidden to do drugs in a war zone. It’s illegal to do drugs as a member of the Armed Forces — it always has been. Still, by the 1970s, marijuana use by U.S. troops in Vietnam was widespread. Tim O’Brien even wrote about it in The Things They Carried. One U.S. troop even earned the nation’s highest honor while high on it.


Peter Lemon was stationed at Fire Support Base Illingworth in Tay Ninh province, South Vietnam on Apr. 1, 1970. It was that day he became one of the youngest-ever Medal of Honor recipients at just 20 years old.

He was born in Toronto, an immigrant who willfully joined the U.S. Army to fight against the spread of Communism. He was from a family of military veterans, after all. He became an American citizen at 11 and enlisted as soon as he could. His optimism about the war in Vietnam quickly fell away after a series of disappointing events: allied troops killing surrendering enemy combatants, the fragging of a hated lieutenant, and the loathing the locals had for American troops.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp
Lemon in Vietnam.
(Photo from Peter Lemon)

So, when things got slow, he and his buddies passed the time by smoking a little pot. After a recon patrol one night, they blew off some steam with a little partying. He had no idea the next day would be the defining event of his life.

“We were all partying the night before,” Lemon said. “We weren’t expecting any action because we were in a support unit. It was the only time I ever went into combat stoned. You get really alert when you are stoned because you have to be.”

His fire base was located near the Ho Chi Minh Trail, admittedly bait for North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops to attack as they entered South Vietnam. There were many fire bases like it, as it was a common tactic to draw out masses of enemy troops. Unfortunately for the tired revelers at Illingworth, the night wasn’t as quiet as they expected.

At 2:06 am, the enemy struck in full force. 400 hardened NVA troops swarmed the 220 Americans at the fire base. The Americans lacked the critical piece to their fire base tactics: air support. The NVA destroyed the base’s communications and rained mortars and artillery on the sleepy Americans.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp
A hastily-constructed fire support base like Fire Support Base Illingworth.

Lemon, despite finishing a joint before bed, jumped out of his rack and manned a heavy machine gun until it couldn’t fire anymore. He did the same with his rifle. Both weapons malfunctioned. When those no longer worked, he switched to tossing hand grenades at the oncoming enemy. The NVA returned with a grenade of their own, injuring Lemon. He managed to take down all but one enemy. As soon as the Communist soldier reached his position, Lemon dispatched him in hand-to-hand combat.

That’s when fate stepped in. The day before, Illingworth received a shipment of 40 tons of 8-inch artillery shells it couldn’t use. The ammo was dumped in the middle of the base, and as soon as Lemon killed his attacker, the shells all detonated. The blast knocked Lemon to the ground and tore apart anyone near it.

Still, he managed to pick himself up, take a buddy to the aid station, and grab more grenades. He was shot by incoming NVA bullets for his trouble, but he pressed on. Then, realizing the base was about to be overrun, he charged the incoming enemy waves, tossing grenades and knocking them down with his fists as he moved, completely routing them.

He then retook another machine gun and fired into the NVA hordes (while standing fully in the open) until he passed out.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp
Lemon manning his machine gun.
(Artist’s rendering)

If all of that wasn’t enough, he refused medical evacuation until his more seriously wounded friends took off first. Lemon, now a motivational speaker, dedicates his Medal of Honor to his three friends who died in the fighting, Casey Waller, Brent Street, and Nathan Mann.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Being assigned to a bomber crew in WWII was basically a death sentence

During the peak of WWII, being a member of a heavy bomber crew meant you were incredibly brave, and you put your country over yourself — it was that dangerous.


Many considered the occupation to be a death sentence. Nearly 71 percent of the bomber’s crew were either killed or labeled as missing in action, which accounts for approximately 100,000 service members.

Related: These Nazi bunkers were one of the most secure outposts of WWII

One of Germany’s primary defenses against allied bombers was their massive array of anti-aircraft guns. The German ground forces commonly fired at the passing bombers even if they didn’t have a clear line of sight due to overcast conditions.

Typically, the bombers had to fly right through the multiple volleys of gunfire, but it was the “waist-gunners” who absorbed the majority of the shrapnel, as they were positioned near an open window in the rear of the plane.

 

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

Damage to the “waist-gunner” area of the bomber accounted 21.6 percent of all the hits the plane took.

The image below shows what areas the heavy bomber was most likely to be hit by the enemies’ air-defense systems according to World War Wings’ video.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp
There didn’t appear to be a single safe place to hide while on a WWII bomber. (Source: World War Wings/Screenshot)

Also Read: These were the real-life Wonder Women who fought in the world’s bitterest wars

Check out World War Wings‘ video below to see all the statistics for yourself.

(YouTube, World War Wings)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Taiwan is preparing for war by training fighter pilots to use freeways as runways

When a civil war between Chinese powers ended with victory for the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1949, the Republic of China’s government retreated to a region of the nation that had only recently been returned from Japanese control, known as Taiwan. They quickly established a provisional capital in Taipei, and so began a half-century long staring contest from across the Pacific Ocean’s Taiwan Strait. Today, tensions remain high between these two Chinese governments, prompting complex foreign relations and sporadic military posturing between each government and their respective allies.


On Tuesday, Taiwan conducted an unusual series of military exercises aimed at preparing the nation to defend itself against a Chinese attack even after its military installations had been rendered useless by wave after wave of Chinese air strikes and naval bombardments. Taiwan knows China could feasibly neuter their military response capabilities fairly quickly, and in order to stay in the fight, they’d need to get creative with how they field their intercept and attack aircraft. When you’re fresh out of airstrips but still have fighters to scramble, what do you do?

You close down the freeways.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

Freeway or Runway? It all depends on the circumstances.

(Photo courtesy of Taiwan’s Freeway Bureau)

“Our national security has faced multiple challenges,” Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen told the press on Tuesday. “Whether it is the Chinese Communist Party’s [People’s Liberation Army] long-distance training or its fighter jets circling Taiwan, it has posed a certain degree of threat to regional peace and stability. We should maintain a high degree of vigilance.”

As a part of the drills, Taiwan launched four different types of military aircraft from portions of highway that were shut down for use as makeshift airstrips. Long stretches of blacktop normally reserved for slow-moving commuters fighting their way through workday traffic instead became packed with American sourced F-16 Fighting Falcons and Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye surveillance aircraft, along with French Mirage 2000s and Taiwan-made IDF fighters. Each aircraft took off carrying a full combat load.

The drills not only demonstrated Taiwan’s ability to scramble fighters and support aircraft from the freeway, it also proved conclusively that Taiwan’s troops can conduct refueling and ammunition replenishment operations right there on the highway, redeploying jets back into the fight quickly even after their air bases have been destroyed.

Taiwan fighters land on highway for Chinese ‘invasion’ wargames

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“There are only a few military air bases which would become the prime targets in the event of an attack. The highway drill is necessary as highway strips would be our priority choice if the runways were damaged during a war,” Air Force Colonel Shu Kuo-mao explained.

Over 1,600 military personnel took part in the drills, along with Taiwan’s new variant of the F-16 that has been called the “most advanced fourth-generation fighter on the planet” by its builder, Lockheed Martin. The F-16V offers advanced AESA Radar sourced through Northrop Grumman, as well as a variety of updates and upgrades to avionics and combat systems meant to make it a formidable opponent for just about anything in the sky that isn’t Lockheed Martin’s flagship fighter, the F-35, or its sister in stealth, the F-22.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

The F-16V is touted as the world’s most advanced fourth generation fighter by Lockheed Martin

(Promotional image courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

The F-16s that took part in Tuesday’s drills notably flew carrying two Harpoon anti-ship missiles, two AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missiles, and two AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles, sourced from the United States, meaning their primary role in a fight would be to engage with encroaching aircraft and vessels, rather than air-to-surface strikes against the Chinese mainland.

With only about a hundred miles separating Taiwan’s shores from China’s, it stands to reason that combat operations would begin with a heavy bombardment of Taiwan’s few operational airstrips. These drills, however, suggest that even such an offensive may not be enough to stop Taiwan from responding with some of the best fighters on the planet.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Warsaw remembers the historic ghetto uprising 75 years later

Commemorations are being held to mark the 75th anniversary the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, when thousands of young Jewish fighters took up arms against occupying Nazi German forces during World War II.

The uprising broke out April 19, 1943, when about 750 Jewish fighters armed with pistols and other light arms attacked a German force more than three times their size.


Many left last testaments saying that they knew they would not survive but that they wanted to die at a time and place of their own choosing and not in the gas chambers at the Treblinka death camp, where more than 300,000 Warsaw Jews had already been sent.

Only a few dozen fighters survived when the Germans crushed the uprising. Most have since died or are no longer healthy enough to attend the observances.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp
With more than 400,000 imprisoned Jews at its highest point, Nazi Germany’s Warsaw Ghetto was the largest in Poland during World War II. The final act of Jewish resistance started 75 years ago, on April 19, 1943, a month before the ghetto was burned down in May of that year.

Polish President Andrzej Duda is scheduled to visit a Jewish cemetery and then take part in the official ceremony at the Ghetto Heroes Monument.

The commemoration comes at a time of heightened tensions between Poland and Israel over Warsaw’s new Holocaust law, which came into effect in March 2018, and led to harsh criticism from Israel, Jewish organizations, and others.

The legislation penalizes statements attributing Nazi German crimes to the Polish state with fines or a jail term. Polish government officials say the law is meant to protect the country from false accusations of complicity.

Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany in World War II and ceased to exist as a state. An estimated 6 million Poles, about half of them Jews, were killed.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

These are some of the most fascinating discoveries of lost ships and planes

There has always been something alluring about lost ships and planes. Maybe it’s the massive treasure some wrecks hold in their belly, or maybe it’s the clues to lost history that some ghost ships provide.


Some of these wrecks were civilian vessels, like the former USS West Point (AP 23), which also had names like SS America. Others were planes that crash-landed like the Akutan Zero did. Mostly, there is just this sense of mystery around them.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp
The ill-fated crew of the B-24D Lady Be Good. (USAF photo)

Take for instance the Lady Be Good, a B-24 Liberator that got lost during a sandstorm that ended up flying two hours south of its base. It was missing for over a decade until discovered by an oil exploration crew. All but one of the crew were accounted for, but when parts of the B-24 were used on other planes, several suffered mishaps. A curse? Or just coincidence?

The Lady Be Good is not the only B-24D on the list – another one, which landed on Atka Island in the Aleutians, also made the list. This time, the plane was found sooner but left in place. It now constitutes part of the Valor in the Pacific National Monument.

Also on the list is an RB-29 called Kee Bird, whose crew survived, but which caught fire during a salvage attempt.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp
The wreck of the SS American Star, formerly USS West Point (AP 23), among other names. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Perhaps the craziest story is that of the Sverdlov-class cruiser Murmansk. This was a powerful ship, with a dozen 152mm guns in four triple mounts, 10 533mm torpedo tubes in two quintuple mounts, 12 100mm guns in six twin mounts, and 32 37mm anti-aircraft guns. However, her end was sad.

Sold to India to become razor blades, she broke from her towline and ended up on the Norwegian coast.

So, check out the video below to see some of the world’s most fascinating ghost ships and planes.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how far ‘Air Force One’ has come since the beginning of powered flight

The Commander-In-Chief is more than just an American leader, the office is of global importance. As the “Leader of the Free World,” the American President has to be able to travel all over the U.S. and around the world – safely. So of course, the United States Air Force has a special plane for the President. This wasn’t always the case, however. What we call “Air Force One” isn’t the name of the plane, it’s the callsign for any plane the POTUS happens to be on (so yes, if President Biden went Groupon skydiving in a decades-old rust bucket Cessna, that plane would be Air Force One for a brief, shining moment).


The specially designed planes commonly seen as a referred to as Air Force One are two Boeing VC-25s, military versions of the 747 with some common and classified special air countermeasures. This also wasn’t always so. Earlier planes used by the President had few special features and were just like any other aircraft. Air Force One was introduced as the Presidential call sign after another plane with the same call sign entered the same airspace as President Eisenhower’s in 1953.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

Although it was after he left office, Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to fly in a powered plane (because of course he was. I’m surprised he didn’t invent powered flight). He flew in a Wright Flyer near St. Louis in 1910.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

The first specially outfitted plane for America’s Chief Executive was a Douglas Dolphin, in service from 1933 through 1939. Built for President Roosevelt, there are no photos of him actually flying in it, but it was there if he needed. The plane was specially outfitted with luxury upholstery and a sleeping compartment.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

FDR was the first president to fly while in office, however. A Pan-Am Boeing 314 called the Dixie Clipper flew him to the Casablanca Conference in Morocco in 1943. German u-boats made travel by sea a risky prospect for American VIPs.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

A modified C-87 Liberator dubbed Guess Where II was specially designed by the U.S. military to ferry President Roosevelt on international trips. It might have been the first official plane specifically designed to be Air Force One, but it was not accepted for this use.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

A C-54 Skymaster was reconfigured by the U.S. Secret Service to be the President’s official mode of international transportation. Nicknamed Sacred Cow, the aircraft was fitted with a sleeping area, radio phone, and an elevator to accommodate President Roosevelt in his wheelchair. He was able to use it only once before he died, on a trip to the Yalta Conference in 1945.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

President Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 into law, creating (among other things) an independent United States Air Force. He also updated the Presidential aircraft, a C-118 Liftmaster, painted with the head of a bald eagle and nicknamed for the president’s hometown of Independence, Missouri.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

When President Eisenhower’s plane (callsign Air Force 8610) was confused with an Eastern Airlines 8610, Ike was flying in a Lockheed C-121 Constellation called Columbine II. After that, any aircraft carrying the President would be called Air Force One. Eisenhower put these presidential aircraft into service, two C-121s called Columbine II and III.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

In 1962, President Kennedy updated the Presidential airplane yet again, this time equipping them with jet engines. The Air Force purchased a Boeing C-137 jet for the purpose. The plane was designed by famed industrial designer Raymond Loewy to much fanfare from the Press and public. The plane, name Special Air Mission (SAM) 26000 served Presidents Kennedy through Clinton and participated in many of the late 20th century’s most iconic moments. SAM 26000 is now on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

Related: President Johnson’s naked press conference and 5 historic events from the first Air Force One

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

The next plane introduced to the President was SAM 27000, which served Presidents Nixon through George W. Bush. SAM 27000 was carrying President Nixon back to California after he resigned the Presidency. As Gerald Ford was sworn into office, the pilots requested their call sign be changed from Air Force One to SAM 27000. SAM 27000’s last flight took George W. Bush to Waco, Texas, where it was decommissioned. The plane is now on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

President Reagan did not make any changes to the Air Force One program, but a new plane was built during his presidency. It would be in service until 1990, when it would carry President George H.W. Bush. The plane now featured defenses from electro-magnetic pulses and secure communications systems. SAM 28000 and SAM 29000 are two military-grade Boeing 747s specially designed to carry the President. The interiors were designed by then-First Lady Nancy Reagan.

This teenage soldier survived 6 months in a Nazi POW camp

The Boeing 747-8 was the Air Force One plane during the most recent Trump administration. 

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