That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff - We Are The Mighty
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That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

The first Royal Marine to receive the Victoria’s Cross earned the medal for gallantry at the Battle of Inkerman during the Crimean War when he lead his men against a Russian patrol despite being completely out of ammo. Since he couldn’t fire, he wrestled the enemy leader and threw him off a ridge.


That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
That’s the mustache of a stone-cold killer. (Regimental oil painting)

John Pethyjohns joined the military in 1844 but, because he couldn’t read, did not know that the enlisting officer had misspelled his name as John Prettyjohns. The former farmworker slowly rose through the ranks and, in November 1854, he was a corporal helping lead a platoon against the Russians.

In the Battle of Inkerman, a large force of light infantry was holding the road that passed between the Russian forces and the town of Inkerman. The Russians had attacked during breakfast but the marines had managed to hold them. Russian sniper fire from nearby caves was starting to tip the battle back to the Russians.

So Prettyjohns’ platoon was sent to clear Russian snipers out of caves near the main battlefield. The platoon sergeant and Prettyjohns led the attacks and cleared some caves, but then they noticed Russian reinforcements approaching up the hill.

The British and Russian armies fight at the Battle of Inkerman The Battle of Inkerman by Victor Adam (Painting: Public Domain)

The Royal Marines were nearly out of ammunition and trapped on the hilltop, but Prettyjohns quickly improvised. He ordered the marines to collect stones and then to the edge of the summit to meet the Russians himself.

When the first Russian crested the hill, Prettyjohns grabbed him and executed a wrestling throw, hurling the Russian down the slope. The other marines, meanwhile, threw their rocks at the Russian patrol, fired a volley of rifle fire, and forced them to withdraw.

When the Victoria Cross was introduced, the marines chose to nominate Prettyjohns for his actions on the hill and he became the first Royal Marine to receive the award. He left the service in 1865 as a Colour Sergeant and died in 1887.

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This awesome ‘trench broom’ terrified Germans in both World Wars

A single weapon used predominantly in World War I and with a limited deployment in World War II was so effective and so terrifying that Germany lodged a diplomatic protest against its use by American forces. It wasn’t the flamethrower or the machine gun. It was shotguns, especially the Winchester Models 1897 and 1912.


That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
A World War II Marine carries a Winchester Model 1897 shotgun. (Photo: U.S. Department of Defense via Wikimedia Commons)

The two shotguns were first entered into combat after America realized how brutal trench warfare really was. The soldiers and Marines serving on the Western Front needed a way to clear attackers from the American trenches as well as to quickly clear defenders from enemy trenches during assaults.

The spread of a shotgun was perfect for this mission, but the Americans didn’t stop at just buying off-the-shelf weapons. The War Department contracted for standard, trench, and riot versions of most shotguns.

Standard shotguns were civilian versions of the weapon, often with a sling added for easy carrying. Riot guns were similar but with shorter barrels. The most heavily modified versions were the trench guns which featured shorter barrels — usually 20 inches or shorter, heat shields, and bayonet lugs.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
The Trench Winchester Model 1897 shotgun features a cut-down barrel, sling, heat shield, and a bayonet lug. (Catalog Illustration: Public Domain)

The Model 97 quickly became one of the most popular shotguns issued, partially because of how well it stood up to the rigorous conditions on the Western Front. Operators could quickly clean mud and water from the weapons and get them ready to fire after a mishap, and the weapon continued to function even if it was dropped or slammed against trenchworks.

But the big reason that the Model 97 became so popular was that it could be “slamfired.” Typically, an operator readies a pump-action shotgun by pumping it to feed a round into the chamber and eject any empty casing currently in it. Then, they pull the trigger while aimed at their target to fire. Repeat.

But when slamfiring, they keep the trigger held back while pumping the weapon. When the new round feeds into the chamber, it will automatically fire. This meant the weapon could be fired as quickly as the operator could pump the handle.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
A standard pump-action Winchester Model 1897 lacks military features like the heat shield and bayonet lug. (Photo: Public Domain)

The Model 97 held six rounds of 00 buckshot, each shell of which held nine pellets. A trained soldier slamfiring could fire all six rounds, 54 total lead pellets, in approximately two seconds. At the close ranges in many World War I trenches, the effect was devastating.

Shotgunners would rapidly clear German trenches, cutting away the defenders. The tactic was so effective that Model 97s picked up the nicknames “trench brooms” and “trench sweepers.”

The German government lobbed an official protest against the weapon, saying that the weapon inflicted unnecessary cruelty. America responded that the claim was hollow coming from the nation that introduced chemical weapons and flamethrowers into warfare.

There are even reports that American soldiers skilled in skeet shooting were placed along the front trenches to shoot enemy hand grenades from the air, deflecting or destroying the devices before they could hurt American troops.

The Winchester Model 97 and Model 1912 would go on to serve similar functions in World War II, again clearing German defenders from trenches and bunkers as well as operating in the Pacific. The two Winchester shotguns were deployed to Korea and Vietnam, though the U.S. was slowly transitioning to newer shotguns by that point.


Feature image: US Army photo

MIGHTY HISTORY

9 books you need to read to understand World War I

November 2018 marks 100 years since Germany signed the armistice that brought World War I to a close. Yet in many ways “the war to end all wars” has never really ceased. From the outbreak of a second world war just twenty years later to the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s and the current perilous state of Turkish Democracy, the smoldering ashes of WWI have ignited time and time again. These nine books — arranged by genre and covering the hostilities from the home front, the trenches, and the hospitals where soldiers were treated for a new injury known as “shell shock” — are essential to understanding how a century-old feud shaped the world we live in today.


That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

(Random House Publishing Group)

1. The Guns of August

By Barbara Tuchman

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and one of the Modern Library’s top 100 nonfiction books of all time, this is the definitive history of the first 30 days of the war—a month that set the course of the entire conflict. Tuchman brings a novelist’s flair to her subject, from the spectacle of King Edward VII’s funeral procession—”The sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendour never to be seen again”—to the dust and sweat and terror of the German advance across Belgium. She captures the war’s key figures with flair and precision and enlivens her analysis with a dry-martini wit: “Nothing so comforts the military mind as the maxim of a great but dead general.” Most astonishingly of all, she creates genuine suspense out of the inevitable march of history, convincing her readers to forget what they already know and turn the pages with bated breath.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

(Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

2. The First World War

By John Keegan

Twenty years after its original release, this gripping chronicle remains the best single-volume account of the war. Keegan, an acclaimed British military historian, brings a refreshingly clear-eyed perspective to some of the 20th century’s most confounding questions: Why couldn’t Europe’s greatest empires avoid such a tragic and unnecessary conflict? And why did so many millions of people have to die? By foregoing radio and telephone to communicate by letter, Keegan explains, world leaders effectively rendered themselves deaf and blind. The problem was grotesquely amplified on the battlefield, where weapons technology had advanced to the point that entire regiments could be wiped out in a matter of hours. No other history brings the war’s mind-boggling magnitude — 70,000 British soldiers killed and 170,000 wounded in the Battle of Passchendaele alone — into sharper focus.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

(Aurum Press)

3. Gallipoli

By Alan Moorehead

As an acclaimed correspondent for London’s Daily Express, Moorehead covered WWII from North Africa to Normandy. But the Australian once swore he’d never write about the most famous military engagement in his nation’s history: the Battle of Gallipoli. He’d heard more than enough stories from ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) veterans back home and had grown bored with the subject. Thankfully, he changed his mind — and his eloquent, elegiac account is a modern day masterpiece. From Winston Churchill’s plan to “launch the greatest amphibious operation mankind had known up till then” to the costly, avoidable blunders that doomed 50,000 Allied troops (11,000 of them from Australia and New Zealand), Moorehead vividly captures the grand ambition and tragic folly of the campaign. His sketch of army officer Mustafa Kemal, later known as Kemal Atatürk, is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand how the seeds of modern-day Turkey’s independence were sown at Gallipoli.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

(Random House Publishing Group)

4. Paris 1919

By Margaret MacMillan

WWI brought about the fall of the Russian, German, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires and displaced millions of people across Europe. Faced with the monumental task of reshaping the world, Allied leaders convened the Paris Peace Conference in January 1919. Over the next six months, delegates from 27 nations redrew international borders, hashed out the terms of Germany’s surrender, and laid the groundwork for the League of Nations. Above all, they aimed to prevent another world war. They failed, of course — Hitler invaded Poland just 20 years later—but this engrossing, comprehensive history debunks the harshest judgments of the Treaty of Versailles and provides essential context for understanding its myriad repercussions. MacMillan covers impressive ground, from the Balkans to Baku to Baghdad, without losing focus on the colorful personalities and twists of fate that make for a great story

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

(Orion Publishing Group, Limited)

5. Testament of Youth

By Vera Brittain

The daughter of a well-to-do paper manufacturer, Vera Brittain left her studies at Oxford in 1915 to join England’s Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) as a nurse in London, Malta, and France. Like so many others of her generation, she felt called to be a part of something larger than herself. By the war’s end — and before she turned 25 — she had lost her fiancé, her brother, and two of her closest friends. Her chronicle of the war years, her return to Oxford, and her attempts to forge a career as a journalist is both an elegy for a lost generation and a landmark of early 20th-century feminism. Upon the book’s original publication in 1933, the New York Times declared that no other WWI memoir was “more honest, more revealing within its field, or more heartbreakingly beautiful”. Eighty-five years later, that assessment still rings true.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

(Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

6. Goodbye to All That

By Robert Graves

This spellbinding autobiography is by turns poignant, angry, satirical, and lewd. It’s also, according to literary critic Paul Fussell, “the best memoir of the First World War.” A lieutenant in the Royal Welch Fusiliers (where he fought alongside his friend and fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon), Graves was severely wounded in the Battle of the Somme and reported killed in action. His family had to print a notice in the newspaper that he was still alive. As befitting a man returned from the dead, Graves breaks all conventions, mixing fact and fiction to get to the poetic truth of trench warfare. Sassoon, for one, objected to the inaccuracies, but Good-bye to All That touched a nerve with war-weary readers and made Graves famous. It has gone on to influence much of the 20th-century’s finest war literature, from Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy to Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

(Penguin Publishing Group)

7. Storm of Steel

By Ernst Jünger

An international bestseller when it was originally published in 1920, this fiercely lyrical memoir is the definitive account of the German experience during WWI. Jünger, a born warrior who ran away from home at the age of 18 to join the French Foreign Legion, fought with the German infantry in the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Arras, and the Battle of Cambrai. He was wounded seven times during the war, most severely during the 1918 Spring Offensive, when he was shot through the chest and nearly died. He received the German Empire’s highest military honor, the Pour le Mérite, for his service. Taken from Jünger’s war diary, Storm of Steel has a visceral, in-the-moment quality that separates it from other WWI autobiographies. Some have criticized it as a glorification of war, while others, including Matterhorn author and Vietnam War veteran Karl Marlantes, think it’s one of the truest depictions of the combat experience ever written.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

(Random House Publishing Group)

8. All Quiet on the Western Front

By Erich Maria Remarque

This iconic German novel was first serialized in 1928, 10 years after the armistice. The book version sold millions of copies and was quickly adapted into an Academy Award-winning film. By then, the Nazi Party was the second largest political party in Germany; Joseph Goebbels led violent protests at the film’s Berlin screenings. Three years later, he banned and publicly burned Remarque’s books in one of his first orders of business as Nazi Germany’s Minister of Propaganda. Why the intense hatred for the story of a young man who volunteers to fight in WWI? Because it is one of the most powerful anti-war novels in Western literature. In Remarque’s downbeat tale, one nameless battle is indistinguishable from the next and the lucky survivors are doomed to lifetimes of disillusionment and alienation. No other book, fiction or nonfiction, conveys the existential horror of trench warfare so clearly.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

(Penguin Publishing Group)

9. Regeneration

By Pat Barker

This audaciously intelligent, powerfully moving historical novel, the first in a trilogy, opens with the full text of Siegfried Sassoon’s letter refusing to return to active duty after receiving treatment for gastric fever. The declaration, which was read in the House of Commons, earned him a mandatory stay at Craiglockhart War Hospital, where he was treated for shell shock by the noted neurologist Dr. William Rivers and became friends with fellow poet Wilfred Owen. From these facts, Barker fashions one of the most original works of WWI literature, intertwining fact and fiction to explore Freudian psychology, the doctor-patient relationship, nationalism, masculinity, and the British class system, among other fascinating topics. Foregoing battlefields and trenches to explore the terrain of the human mind, Barker gets to the essential truth of WWI: No one who lived through it — man or woman, soldier or civilian — saw the world the same way again.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

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Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

Two C-17 Globemaster IIIs from the 437th Airlift Wing prepare to drop Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., April 15, 2016. The mass tactical exercise helped prepare both units for any future real-world scenarios they may face.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Taylor Queen

Members with the 374th Maintenance Squadron pull a C-130 Hercules at Yokota Air Base, Japan, April 15, 2016. The aircraft was pulled as part of the 374th Maintenance Group’s Maintenance Rodeo Competition, which pits squadrons against each other in various tasks to win points toward an award and bragging rights.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Cody H. Ramirez

ARMY:

Soldiers assigned to 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, pilot 32 OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters during a during farewell flight over Fort Bragg, N.C., April 15, 2016. The flyover served as a final “thank you” and farewell to the residents of the Fort Bragg and Fayetteville community.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) photo by Kenneth Kassens

Soldiers, assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade, conduct a simulated air assault operation during exercise #SaberJunction 16 at 7th Army JMTC, Grafenwoehr, Germany, April 18, 2016. The exercise includes nearly 5,000 participants from 16 NATO partner nations and is designed to evaluate the readiness of U.S. Army Europe based combat brigades.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Randy Wren

NAVY:

KUMAMOTO, Japan (April 19, 2016) An MV-22B Osprey aircraft from Marine Medium Tilitrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 attached to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit departs JS Hyuga (DDH 181) in support of the Government of Japan’s relief efforts following earthquakes near Kumamoto. The long-standing alliance between Japan and the U.S. allows U.S. military forces in Japan to provide rapid, integrated support to the Japan Self-Defense Force and civil relief efforts.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Gabriel B. Kotico

ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 20, 2016) Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Nicholas Noviello inspects Sailors’ dress white uniforms in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), the flagship of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group. Ike is underway preparing for an upcoming scheduled deployment.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Theodore Quintana

MARINE CORPS:

Staff Sgt. Dylan M. Worrell observes the terrain at the bottom of a cavern before commencing confined space entry training at a cave on Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Janessa Pon

Lance Cpl. Kevin T. Horton, assault man with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa zip lines into the ocean during a French Commando aquatic training event aboard Fort-Miradou, France.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kassie L. McDole

COAST GUARD:

Crewmembers aboard USCGC Kukui (WLB 203) enjoy the sunset from the fantail while underway in the Pacific Ocean, March 17, 2016. The crew is currently underway for a fisheries and law enforcement patrol in the western and central Pacific.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Melissa E. McKenzie

“We work long days to stay proficient in our craft so that we will be ready to respond when we are needed. We are the Bering Sea Cutter.” – Capt. Sam Jordan, Munro commanding officer.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
U.S. Coast Guard photo

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This is how the Iraqi army beat ISIS in less than a week

Iraqi armed forces have pushed out Daesh from Tal Afar city while some parts of the district bearing the same name remain under the terrorist group’s control, a senior army official said Aug. 27.


“Joint forces of the army and the Hashd al-Shaabi — a pro-government Shia militia — have liberated two neighborhoods of Al-Askari and the Al-Senaa Al-Shamaliya, as well as the Al-Maaredh area, Tal Afar Gate, and the Al-Rahma village in the eastern part of the city,” Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Yarallah, Mosul operation commander, said in a televised statement.

While all parts of the city have been recaptured, fighting for control of some parts of Tal Afar district continues.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
Troops on the streets of Tal Afar, Iraq. Photo courtesy of DoD.

Yarallah said only the Al-Ayadieh area and its surrounding villages in the district now remain in Daesh’s grip, adding the armed forces were advancing “towards the last targets in order to liberate them”.

On Aug. 27, the Iraqi government launched a major offensive to retake Tal Afar, involving army troops, federal police units, counter-terrorism forces and armed members of Hashd al-Shaabi — a largely Shia force that was incorporated into the Iraqi army last year.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
A member of the Iraqi Security Forces establishes a security perimeter around an HH-60M Black Hawk helicopter. Photo by Capt. Stephen James.

Ministry of Displacement and Migration official Zuhair Talal al-Salem told Anadolu Agency 1,500 people fled the district’s surrounding villages and areas.

“The displaced people were transferred from security checkpoints to Nimrod camp, where they are receiving relief assistance,” Al-Salem said.

 

 

Nimrud camp in the southeast of Mosul is said to have a capacity to house 3,000 families.

The ministry transferred some 500 displaced families to the camp after checking their names August 26 in the district of Hamam al-Alil, south of Mosul.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The time Colonel Sanders shot a man in a gunfight over a sign

The world of American small business was a very different place a hundred years ago. Business in America has always been a sort of fight to the death, but in the days before we were all connected by things like the internet, television and the rule of law, things could go south in a hurry.

That fact is especially true in the South, which has always moved at its own pace. Back in the 1920s, taking a guy to court to stop painting over your business’ sign wasn’t the easiest way to get things done. Shooting him wasn’t either, but that’s what happened to Harland Sanders. 

Kentucky Colonel Sanders in the 1970s, in character
Kentucky Colonel Harland Sanders in the 1970s, in character. (Dan Linsay, Wikipedia)

Everyone’s favorite chicken mascot used to be a real guy and yes, he did served in the U.S. military — only he wasn’t a colonel. He was an enlisted teamster who lied about his age to join at 16. After a year in Cuba, he returned home and was discharged. 

Like many veterans, he bounced around from job to job before finding his true calling: entrepreneur. He opened a Shell station in North Corbin, Kentucky. This is where he first started serving food to hungry travelers and locals. But he found competition in the oil business could be a little bit aggressive. 

A competing gas station owner named Matt Stewart ran the local Standard Oil station in North Corbin. As a business tactic, he would paint over Sanders’ Shell Oil sign that told motorists where to find the station. He repeatedly warned Stewart to stop, until one day Sanders caught his competition in the act. 

Maybe you’ve heard about the hot tempers of old time Southerners. Harland Sanders was no different. He threatened to shoot Corbin for painting over the sign, which is a nicer way to say what Sanders actually said, which was that he would “blow [his] g-d head off.” 

But when Sanders approached Stewart that day accompanied by two Shell Oil managers, it was Stewart who opened fire on Sanders. Stewart killed one of the managers, while Sanders retrieved the dead man’s gun. Sanders and the remaining manager returned fire, wounding Stewart. 

When the dust settled, Stewart would survive getting shot by Sanders, but he was on his way to prison for murder. Sanders, acting in self-defense, was not charged. With his competition eliminated, Sanders’ business thrived. He was able to pursue his true passion, the one that would soon involve 11 herbs and spices. 

He became a Kentucky Colonel by Gov. Ruby Laffoon in 1935 for founding the restaurant next to his gas station. His colonelship was later reaffirmed in 1949. In the 1950s, he was able to found and grow Kentucky Fried Chicken, his claim to fame. The days of shootouts with the competition long behind him.

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The US is doubling down on its futuristic hypersonic weapons program

While some defense contractors might have been concerned that a new presidential administration might lead to budget cuts, order reductions or the end of some programs altogether, they can rest easy on their piles of money now. 

President Biden will not only keep many of President Trump’s weapons development programs in place, he’s seeking an expansion in many areas. One of the biggest is a 20 % increase in the proposed budgets for hypersonic weapons. 

Since announcing its homegrown sets of hypersonic missiles, Russia has spurred a kind of new arms race with hypersonics. In December 2019, the Russian military announced that it fielded its first regiment of Avangard hypersonic missiles. It also conducted several successful tests on its new Zircon sea-based cruise missile in 2020.

The United States has been eager to catch up in the field of hypersonic weapon development, but its efforts have been hampered by Congress. The Department of the Air Force has six (or more) hypersonic weapon programs in development, according to the Intercept. The House of Representatives has already been highly critical of the Air Force’s hypersonic developments.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
Congress has been skeptical about programs like the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon, seen here mounted on a B-52H prior to launch for a test in August 2020 (U.S. Air Force photo by Matt Williams)

That criticism led to the House forcing the Air Force to cancel one of the two prototypes it already had in development. 

The chief issue with hypersonic weapons is that all the information popularly known about their capabilities comes from Russia, who has a vested interest in making sure outsiders don’t know the full story about hypersonic possibilities – or limitations.

Researcher Cameron Tracy recently published a research paper in the journal Science & Global Security stating that hypersonic weapons’ capabilities may be more hype than hope. More importantly, the paper says existing Air Force intercontinental ballistic missiles may be faster than the new missiles developed by Russia. 

Tracy took the numbers for his research from a publicly available missile vehicle test conducted more than a decade ago, long before Russia revealed the existence of its hypersonics program.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapons Concept (DARPA illustration)

Officials at the Pentagon countered Tracy’s report by saying the most recent data on hypersonic weapons is still classified and that changes in the development of these weapons have revealed the need for further research. They also argued that the United States would use these weapons using different tactics than Russia or China and that technology is much different than ballistic missiles systems. 

Russian weapons move so fast – anywhere from Mach 6 and higher – that a plasma cloud forms in front of the missile as it travels. This cloud can absorb radio waves, making it practically invisible to active radar systems.

If the United States’ early warning systems do get wind of a hypersonic weapon, reaction times limit response capabilities. Aegis missile interceptor systems aren’t fast enough to catch up to a theoretical hypersonic attack.

In the case of the Zircon missile, detecting it would give American units just 60 seconds to respond. Most estimate that the United States would need to destroy the weapons at their launch sites or simply place a target in its projected path. 

Russia has 15 corvettes in Navy service that could carry up to 25 Zircon missiles. Just six of these missiles could sink a carrier like the USS Gerald R. Ford. 

Although the Department of Defense has stated its intent to use different tactics with hypersonic weapons, it has not since revealed how its research could help provide a potential defense against them.

Feature image: DoD

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This is what made the M1919 Browning machine gun so deadly

John Browning’s most famous creation, at least in the United States, is the ubiquitous Model 1911. It’s everywhere, and probably within reach of well more than a few people reading this article. The 1911’s active service life in military organizations is pretty much over. However, another of Browning’s continues to serve — the Model 1919 Machine Gun.


That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
GIs from the 77th Infantry Division man a machine gun nest on the island of Shima, May 3, 1945. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Model 1919 was essentially an air-cooled Model 1917. It was chambered in the powerful and effective .30-06 round, modernized following extensive ballistic testing in the post-World War I years. Unlike most ground-mounted WWI-era machine guns, the 1919 was air cooled, had a heavier barrel, and was easier to maintain under combat conditions than its water-cooled cousins.

It didn’t require all the accouterments of a water-cooled gun, such as a bulky water jacket, water, and a condensing can. The 1919 was originally fed by a cloth belt and designed for vehicles—or a very solid (and heavy) tripod. It had a reasonable rate of fire at 500 rounds per minute on average. By WWII, it was the standard U.S. light machine gun, serving alongside Browning’s M1917 and the legendary Browning M2 HMG.

Like most of Browning’s designs, the 1919 was very reliable for the day and age in which it was produced (insert Glock joke here). It was also apparent early on that the 1919 was versatile. By the end of WWII, it was mounted on tanks, in aircraft, and found in various calibers, including .303 British. It served in virtually every Allied army, and if you dig hard enough, you can even find pictures of enemy troops using captured 1919s. It was very effective against personnel, and when loaded with armor-piercing ammunition, it was also effective against thin-skinned armored vehicles.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
The Model 1919 was essentially an air-cooled Model 1917. It was chambered in the powerful and effective .30-06 round, modernized following extensive ballistic testing in the post-World War I years. (Photo: Terra Piccirilli, Recoilweb)

In the air, the modified M1919 was called the ANM2. This variant was specifically modified for aerial warfare, boasting a blistering rate of fire at 1,200-plus rpm. The improvements in aircraft technology and design during the period meant rifle-caliber machine guns were only effective when their throw weight could be boosted by increased rates of fire, and by mounting anywhere from two to six of the guns. Feeding them with the most destructive type of ammunition available, generally one form or another of API-T (Armor Piercing Incendiary Tracer), helped.

While the ANM2 served valiantly, it was not as effective as its Browning M2 brethren as an anti-aircraft machine gun. In the decade before WWII, fighter aircraft were increasingly fitted with heavier machine guns, generally .50 BMG Browning variants in the U.S., or 20mm (or larger) cannons in Europe. It wasn’t the fault of the ANM2 that it was less effective against aircraft; it was the fault of the ordnance officers who decided to mount it in aircraft in the first place.

In the infantry role, the M1919 was successful within its limitations. Keep in mind the M1919 was designed in an era when the belt-fed machine gun was essentially a static weapon. The exception to this trend at the time was the MG08/15, which was an intentional departure designed specifically to make the infantry machine gun more portable and useful. By WWII, the MG08/15 concept (a highly mobile, portable general-purpose machine gun [GPMG]) evolved into the MG34 and eventually the MG42 in German service. This is where the M1919’s combat failings became apparent.

Although accurate, reliable, and possessing a good sustainable rate of fire, it was clumsy and awkward on a mobile battlefield compared to the MG34 and MG42. The tripod was large and unwieldy, and it was not always easy to emplace. U.S. troops frequently had to improvise with the 1919, more or less propping it up against or on the WWII equivalent of “a rock or something” when the tripod simply wouldn’t work under the conditions.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
The M1919 Browning machine gun was very effective against personnel, and when loaded with armor-piercing ammunition, it was also effective against thin-skinned armored vehicles. (Photo: Terra Piccirilli, Recoilweb)

As a result, the M1919A6 was developed. This variant added a buttstock and a bipod to the M1919 in attempt to turn it into a light machine gun, more like the MG34 or MG42. However, it was still about a pound heavier than the standard M1919 without the tripod, weighing in at 32 pounds. It was an improvised solution akin to adding a bipod and a buttstock to a boulder. It was still awkward; although it was a bit less unwieldy and more stable, it appeared far too late in the war to have much of an impact.

Again, don’t blame the gun, blame the ordnance weenies.

Until the M60 (a less-than-fantastic GPMG, but a product of the “made here” school of ordnance development) was made widely available during the Vietnam War, the U.S. infantry were saddled with the M1919 and M1919A6 combination.

As a vehicle-mounted machine gun, the 1919 excelled. As a matter of fact, it does such a good job it’s still in service in many places across the globe. It’s been modernized, now using disintegrating link belts instead of old-fashioned cloth belts. Most 1919s still in service were converted to 7.62 NATO, as well, to ease the strain on logistics. Notably, however, one 1919 variant, the M37 Coaxial MG, was somewhat notoriously problematic, again mostly because some people just can’t resist fixing something that works.

There have been some interesting variants of the 1919 over the years. Several ANM2s were converted into a variant called the Stinger. The Stinger was basically a scavenged aircraft-mounted gun with a bipod, carry handle, and buttstock. The extremely high rate of fire was welcomed (for the six or so guns which appear to have actually made it into combat), but the Stinger only served in limited numbers. Its primary claim to fame was being the weapon “Terrible” Tony Stein used during the combat action that earned him a Medal of Honor on Iwo Jima.

If you ever get a chance to fire a ground-mounted M1919, we highly recommend you do so. As it was originally designed, it’s accurate, reliable, and very easy to shoot. As a machine gun for a fixed position, it can easily hold its own against any gun of its era. It’s easy to manipulate, strip, and clean, and it’s very robust in its most common and most current variant, the 1919A4. However, remember it’s almost a 100-year-old design; don’t expect it to perform like a modern machine gun.

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Go behind the scenes with the military side of “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff


“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” was an ambitious project for Tina Fey to undertake for a couple of reasons: First, it’s a drama and not a comedy. Second, she plays a journalist embedded with the U.S. military in Afghanistan, which means the movie tees up a lot of military details that Hollywood has a history of getting wrong — much to the chagrin of the military community.

But fortunately for Ms. Fey, the production team behind “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” knew a few things about making a movie that deals with military subjects, not the least of which was understanding how to navigate the Pentagon’s approval process.

“Because of this script we had a need from the beginning to get the U.S. military to support the project,” producer Ian Bryce said. “The military does quite well to make these movies great.”

Bryce approached the Department of Defense’s director of entertainment media, Philip Strub, a guy he’d worked with before on other military-related movies. Strub had some reservations about whether “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” ultimately presented the U.S. military in the right light.

“But we talked it through,” Bryce said.

Ultimately Bryce was able to convince Strub that “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” was an accurate, positive portrayal of the American military experience, and so the effort got the green light from the Pentagon for direct U.S. military support. The crew wound up using Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico to replicate Bagram Air Force Base as well as the surrounding lands to replicate the wilds of Afghanistan.

The movie features Air Force pararescue airmen and their assets including H-60 helicopters and CV-22 tiltrotors. And although access to the real people and machinery made the shoot easier (and provided a greater guarantee of accuracy), Bryce pointed out that it still took a great deal of coordination to get the job done while honoring the fact that making movies wasn’t the U.S. Air Force’s primary duty.

“We recognized and embraced the fact that we were guests on a military facility,” Bryce said. “They are doing much more serious stuff.”

Watch:

The digital HD version of “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” has just been released  and contains special features including an interview with the author of the original book, in-depth looks at life in Afghanistan and how war correspondents cope with stress, and deleted scenes. Look for the Blu-Ray version on June 28.

Check out more about “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” here and here.

MIGHTY HISTORY

13 Presidents who narrowly escaped assassinations

Four out of 45 US presidents have been assassinated over the course of American history.


But many more chief executives escaped assassination attempts thanks to heroic bystanders, diligent guards, misfiring pistols, and crazy luck.

Even two presidents who were eventually assassinated escaped previous attempts on their lives.

On a hot August night in 1864, a sniper shot Lincoln’s hat off his head — missing his skull by inches — as he took a solo ride on his favorite horse “Old Abe,” according to 1864: Lincoln at the Gates of History. Lincoln was later shot and killed by Confederate sympathizer, John Wilkes Booth, just five days after the surrender of Robert E. Lee.

Almost a century later, in 1960, retired postal worker Richard Paul Pavlick crammed his car with dynamite and plotted to ram the vehicle into Kennedy’s limo in Palm Beach, Florida, according to Smithsonian Magazine. He was motivated by his intense hatred of Catholics and the Kennedy family but backed off when he saw that the president was with his wife and young children. Pavlick was later arrested and institutionalized until 1966, three years after Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald while visiting Dallas, Texas.

But these 13 other presidents all experienced serious assassination threats and ultimately survived — and these are only the most dramatic, most-publicized instances. Undoubtedly, the Secret Service has thwarted many more over the years.

Here are 13 presidents who escaped attempts on their lives:

1. Andrew Jackson

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

On a misty January day in 1835, Richard Lawrence, an out-of-work house painter who believed he was the 15th-century English king Richard III, walked into the US Capitol Building.

President Andrew Jackson was leaving the funeral of a House representative when the English national confronted him in the East Portico, brandishing a pistol.

He raised the gun at Andrew Jackson and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened.

“Let me alone! Let me alone!” Jackson yelled at Lawrence, according to Smithsonian Magazine. “I know where this came from.”

Lawrence discarded the weapon, produced a second pistol, and aimed the new gun at Jackson. It also misfired.

According to legend, Jackson subsequently flew at the man and thrashed him with his cane. Whether or not that’s true, Lawrence’s assassination attempt was unsuccessful. Smithsonian Magazine reported that National Anthem lyricist, Francis Scott Key, prosecuted his trial, where he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Lawrence spent the rest of his life institutionalized.

As Time reported, the chance that both perfectly functional pistols would misfire was about one in 125,000. Jackson’s survival may have depended on the dampness in the air that day.

2. Theodore Roosevelt

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

President Theodore Roosevelt was saved by the length of his speech after an assassin shot him in the chest with a .38-caliber revolver in 1912.

At the time, Roosevelt was running for the presidency on the Bull and Moose ticket. Saloon-owner John Schrank had begun stalking the former president after having an unusual dream.

According to Killing the President: Assassinations, Attempts, and Rumored Attempts on U.S. Commanders-in-Chief, Schrank wrote, “In a dream, I saw President McKinley sit up in his coffin pointing at a man in a monk’s attire in whom I recognized Theodore Roosevelt. The dead President said, ‘This is my murderer — avenge my death.'”

Fortunately, Roosevelt had his notes with him when he was shot on October 14 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin — 50 pages of them, folded in his breast pocket next to his metal glasses case. These objects slowed the bullet and saved Roosevelt’s life.

The ex-president continued to speak after letting his audience know he’d been shot, according to the Theodore Roosevelt Association:

“Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose. But fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet — there is where the bullet went through — and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best.”

He finished the rest of his speech with a bullet in his ribs, where it remained until his death in 1919.

Also read: The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

3. Herbert Hoover

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

In 1928, President Herbert Hoover was nearly killed while visiting the Andes.

Argentine anarchists attempted to blow up his train, but the would-be assassin was seized before he could plant the bombs on the tracks.

After learning of the thwarted plot, Hoover tore the front page story from the newspaper so his wife Lou Henry Hoover wouldn’t worry, according to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. The 31st president is said to have quipped that while he was unconcerned, “It’s just as well that Lou shouldn’t see it.”

4. Franklin D. Roosevelt

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

17 days before Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first presidential inauguration, the president-elect disembarked from his yacht and made a short speech in Miami, Florida on February 15, 1933. As the Chicago Tribune reported, Chicago mayor Anton Cermak then approached Roosevelt for a short chat afterward.

At that moment, anarchist Giuseppe Zangara opened fire. Roosevelt emerged from the attack unscathed, but Cermak was mortally wounded, along with onlooker Mabel Gill.

It’s unclear who Zangara intended to assassinate. He was arrested and went to the electric chair after ten days on death row.

Ten years later, Soviet officials claimed to have uncovered a Nazi plan to murder Roosevelt and other world leaders at the Tehran Conference, according to Eureka Summit: Agreement in Principle and the Big Three at Tehran, 1943.

5. Harry S. Truman

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
(Photo by Abbie Rowe)

According to the New York Times, Harry Truman’s daughter Margaret Truman Daniel alleged in her father’s biography that a Zionist gang had sent him and several other White House officials mail bombs in 1947. The alleged incident was never publicized and apparently ended with the Secret Service defusing the explosives.

The more famous attempt on Truman’s life came about on November 1, 1950. Puerto Rican nationalists Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola attempted to storm the Blair House, where Truman lived while the White House was being renovated, according to the Harry S. Truman Library.

Torresola and White House police officer Leslie Coffelt died in the attack. Truman commuted Collazo’s death sentence to life, which was then commuted to time served by Jimmy Carter in 1979.

6. Richard Nixon

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

Arthur Bremer, who ultimately shot and paralyzed Alabama governor George Wallace, first considered targeting President Richard Nixon, according to the Washington Post.

A more high-profile Nixon assassination attempt came about on February 22, 1974. According to the LA Weekly, Samuel Byck shot and killed a police officer at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, raced through the security checkpoint, and broke onto a Delta flight to Atlanta. Hours earlier, he had mailed a tape to the Washington Post detailing his plan to hijack an airliner and crash it into the White House, in order to kill Nixon.

Once onboard the aircraft, he shot both pilots, killing one, after he was told that they could not take off. Police shot Byck through the plane’s window, and he killed himself before he could be arrested.

Related: Historians ranked the top 20 US Presidents of all time

7. Gerald Ford

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

President Gerald Ford survived two back-to-back assassination attempts in California during September of 1975.

At a packed park in Sacramento, California on September 5, Manson Family member Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme drew a gun after Ford reached into the crowd to shake her hand.

There was no round in the firing chamber, so the gun misfired and she was grabbed by Secret Service, as NBC reported. After receiving a life sentence, Fromme was released from prison in 2009, two years after Ford’s natural death.

Only a few days later, self-proclaimed radical Sara Jane Moore shot a revolver at Ford in San Francisco on September 22. The shot missed thanks to the efforts of ex-Marine and bystander Oliver Sipple, who grabbed Moore’s arm, according to the San Francisco Gate. Moore was paroled in 2007, a year after Ford died.

8. Jimmy Carter

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

On May 5, 1979, police arrested drifter Raymond Lee Harvey outside of the Civic Center Mall in LA, ten minutes before Jimmy Carter was scheduled to give a speech there.

He had a starter pistol, with several blank rounds, according to the Atlantic. Harvey claimed to be part of a cell that sought to assassinate Carter, but due to his history of mental illness, the men he named as co-conspirators were later released.

John Hinckley Jr., who would later attempt to assassinate Ronald Reagan, also considered shooting Carter in 1980, but backed out, according to the Dayton Daily News.

9. Ronald Reagan

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

Ronald Reagan came close to losing his life in an assassination attempt on March 30, 1981.

As the New York Times reported, John Hinckley Jr. opened fire as the president walked to his limousine from the Washington Hilton around 2:30 p.m. Press Secretary James Brady suffered brain damage from the attack and eventually succumbed to his injuries years later, and Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy and DC police officer Thomas Delahanty were also wounded.

Reagan was shot once in the chest and suffered serious internal bleeding and a punctured lung. He received emergency surgery at George Washington University Hospital, where he remained for several weeks.

After the attack, Reagan famously retained his sense of humor. He’s quoted as telling his wife, “Honey, I forgot to duck” and jokingly asking whether the surgeons due to operate on him were Republicans, according to Time.

Hinckley claimed to have carried out the attack to impress actress Jodie Foster, whom he was stalking. He was institutionalized and released in 2016, after being deemed to no longer pose a threat to others.

10. Bill Clinton

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

President Bill Clinton was the subject of several assassination plots during his stint in the White House.

Three alone occurred in 1994. Ronald Gene Barbour sought to kill the president on his daily jog through the National Mall, according to the New York Times.

Later that year, Frank Eugene Corder rammed a red and white single-engine airplane onto the White House lawn, in an attempt to kill Clinton, according to the New York Times. Corder died when the vehicle “crashed through the branches of a magnolia tree planted by Andrew Jackson and came to rest in a crumpled heap two stories below the Clintons’ unoccupied bedroom.”

A month later, in October, Francisco Martin Duran slipped a suicide note into his pocket and fired numerous shots at the north lawn, according to the Los Angeles Times. A group of tourists ultimately tackled Duran and he was arrested.

An assassination attempt later took place abroad, during Clinton’s visit to Manila in 1996. A bomb was discovered under a bridge that the president’s motorcade was scheduled to travel over. The bomb plot was apparently masterminded by Osama bin Laden, according to the Telegraph.

11. George W. Bush

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

Robert Pickett, an ex-IRS employee with a history of mental illness, fired several bullets at the White House in February 2001, before a Secret Service agent shot him in the knee, according to the New York Times. President George W. Bush was exercising in the residential area of the White House at the time. Pickett was treated in a Bureau of Prisons psychological institution for two years following the incident.

A few years later, in 2005, Bush had a closer call while traveling abroad.

Bush and then-Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili appeared at a 2006 rally in Tbilisi, Georgia. During the event, Georgian national Vladimir Arutyunian tied a red handkerchief around a live hand grenade and threw it at the presidents and other officials, according to the Washington Post.

However, the explosive didn’t detonate. The handkerchief had blocked the grenade’s safety lever. Arutyunian escaped from the rally, and later killed a Georgian agent during his arrest. He was sentenced to life in prison for the assassination attempt.

More: These photos show what our veteran presidents looked like in uniform

12. Barack Obama

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

While Barack Obama was still a presidential candidate in 2008, two white supremacists named Paul Schlesselman and Daniel Cowart conspired to murder 102 African American men — while driving around in a getaway car with the words “Honk if you love Hitler” scrawled on it.

Their conspiracy would culminate with the assassination of Obama. As CBS News reported, police uncovered the detailed plot and arrested the duo long before they were close to launching their cross-country murder spree.

Later, in 2011, Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez open fire on the White House after claiming that Obama was the anti-Christ, according to the Washington Post. He crashed his car while escaping, and was later arrested and sentenced to 27.5 years in jail. The Obamas were not in the White House at the time of the shooting.

In April 2013, a letter addressed to Obama tested positive for ricin, a deadly poison. James Everett Dutschke was sentenced to 25 years in jail for the ricin mailing plot, according to Politico.

Then, in 2015, CNN reported that three men — Abror Habibov, Abdurasul Juraboev, and Akhror Saidakhmetov — had been arrested after plotting to kill Obama and bomb Coney Island in their efforts to join ISIS.

13. Donald Trump

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

At a campaign rally in a Las Vegas Strip hotel-casino, Michael Steven Sandford attempted to grab a police officer’s gun. As he was taken into custody, the British national told officers that he was hoping to assassinate then-presidential candidate, Donald Trump.

The Guardian reported that Sandford has a history of mental illness, which Judge James Mahan acknowledged in his hearing, saying that Sandford needed help and wasn’t a “hardened criminal” — or even intent on assassinating Trump.

“I know saying sorry is not enough,” Sandford told the court, according to the Guardian. “I really do feel awful about what I did. I wish there was some way to make things better. I have cost taxpayers so much money. I feel terrible.”

On May 6, KYT 24 reported that Sandford had been deported to the UK, after being in US custody for about 11 months.

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3 ways Trump’s travel ban is impacting the military

As debate continues on the impact of President Trump’s executive order which halted the Syrian refugee program indefinitely, and placed a temporary 120-day ban on people coming from seven Muslim-majority countries that President Obama listed as “concerning” in 2015, are the ways the U.S. military has been affected.


Also read: How SEALs were caught in ‘ferocious’ firefight during Yemen counter-terrorism raid

Iraqi pilots training in Arizona

Members of Arizona’s Air National Guard have been working with Iraqi pilots since 2012 to fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The program was expected to continue through at least 2020, according to a Department of Defense press release when the program began. Under Trump’s travel pause, no more Iraqi pilots will be able to enter the country.

Arizona Sen. John McCain is working to exempt Iraqi pilots from the executive order, and released a joint statement with fellow Rep. Sen. Lindsey Graham over the weekend.

“At this very moment, American troops are fighting side-by-side with our Iraqi partners to defeat ISIL. But this executive order bans Iraqi pilots from coming to military bases in Arizona to fight our common enemies,” the statement read. “Our most important allies in the fight against ISIL are the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred.”

Interpreters for US troops stuck in limbo

Many combat veterans who worked with interpreters in Iraq and Afghanistan are angry that the travel ban has compromised the safety of those who they say were instrumental in keeping them safe during combat deployments.

Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, sent a letter signed by other members of congress who also served overseas, urging Trump to allow interpreters who had been granted passage to the U.S. to be allowed in.

“Doing so would send a strong signal to those who show such immense courage to advance U.S. security interests at a risk to their own safety, as well as the many veterans and warfighters who’ve relied on the service of these individuals for their own protection and to accomplish their objectives,” the letter said.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
Spc. Alaa Jaza, an Arabic linguist attached to Troop A, 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, advises Iraqi Army soldiers with the 73rd Brigade, 15th Division, on how to set battle positions to avoid friendly fire during a training event at Camp Taji, Iraq, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. | U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cody Quinn, CJTF-OIR Public Affairs

Increased tensions with countries in the Middle East

Several allies in the Middle East sent cables to the White House on Monday, warning that the ban could be used as a propaganda tool for ISIS, and make the area more dangers for U.S. troops and coalition forces.

Qatar was the most critical of the executive order, with a senior official telling U.S. diplomats, “You could not have given our adversaries better propaganda material,” according to CBS News. He mentioned that despite the beginning decline of ISIS, “The timing of this has given the group a lifeline.”

In an interview with CBS, former CIA deputy director Mike Morell echoed the sentiments, saying, “It’s playing right into the ISIS narrative. ISIS has not said anything about this yet, but people around ISIS, who amplify its message, are talking about it, and they are saying, ‘See? We told you, this is a war against Islam.’ So this is going to be a recruitment boon for ISIS.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Navy veteran recounts island-hopping in the Pacific after D-Day

Julius Shoulars is 94 and resides in a cozy second-floor apartment in a Virginia Beach retirement community.

During an oral-history interview, he recounted his service in the US Navy as a coxswain during WWII with the 7th Naval Beach Battalion during the D-Day invasions. He later went island hopping in the Pacific aboard an attack transport and returned to Norfolk after serving in both theaters of war.

He started off with, “Well, I got a letter from Uncle Sam saying to report to Richmond.” It was 1943, and the Maury High School graduate reported for screening.


While seated in a room with other recruits, he recalled that, “they asked for 30 volunteers for the Navy and I raised my hand. In the Navy, you get three square meals, a clean bed to sleep in and water to take a shower each day.”

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

Julius Shoulars, a 94-year-old US Navy veteran, recalls his service during WWII as a coxswain who took part in the D-Day invasion and fought across the Pacific.

(US Navy photo by Max Lonzanida)

Training took him to Camp Sampson, New York and Camp Bradford, Virginia. Bradford was on the Chesapeake Bay, and he recalled mustering at the commandeered Nansemond Hotel in the Ocean View section of Norfolk.

At Bradford, “we were assigned to an experimental outfit called a Naval Beach Battalion. We were issued paratrooper boots, Army jackets, Army pants, Army helmets, and Navy underwear.”

His parents resided in Norfolk, and he visited often. With a smile, he recalled that a friend of his had joined the Army, and left his girlfriend, Ruby back in Norfolk. He was instructed not to talk to her, “but by hell I did. You had to be a fool not to.” This blossomed into a relationship that endured.

By January 1944, they crossed the Atlantic. In England, he recounted, “you know the phrase over here, over paid and over sexed. I think somebody made that up.”

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

An LCM landing craft, manned by the US Coast Guard, evacuating US casualties from the invasion beaches, brings them to a transport for treatment on D-Day in Normandy, France June 6, 1944.

(U.S. Coast Guard Collection in the U.S. National Archives)

At the “end of May 1944, we were transported to ships taking part in the invasion. We headed out on the 6th aboard anything that would float, even fishing boats from England.”

On the morning of June 6th, 1944 at H-hour, troops hit the “blood red” beaches of Normandy, in an operation that liberated Europe.

While crossing the English Channel, he recalled that, “some of the men were happy, some were anxious, some were sad, some were scared to death. I felt it was going to happen, and there was nothing I could do, so why cry or be joyful; just take it.”

His unit was attached to the 29th Infantry Division, who took Omaha Beach on June 6-7, 1944. Nearly a month was spent there directing landing craft, clearing obstacles, moving supplies, and clearing and burying the dead; a solemn task he recalled with tears in his eyes.

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

Shoulars, seated, recalls his service as a coxswain assigned to the 7th Naval Beach Battalion, which went ashore during D-Day in June 1944.

(US Navy photo by Max Lonzanida)

His unit headed stateside, and a period of leave was spent in Norfolk with his parents and girlfriend, before joining the crew of the newly commissioned USS Karnes (APA-175) on the West Coast.

He served 18 months on the Karnes, “island hopping” in the Pacific for a total of 76,750 miles. This took him to Pearl Harbor, Midway, Guam, Tinian, Okinawa, Eniwetok Atoll, Ulithi, Subic Bay and Lingayen Gulf, Philippines, among other ports of call while transporting cargo, evacuating the wounded, and transporting service members.

After the Japanese surrendered, the Karnes made its way back to San Francisco. He boarded a train back to Norfolk and was discharged. One of the first things he did was get married, and “eat a 30-cent hamburger at Doumars.”

Doumars on Monticello Avenue was where he first met Ruby. They didn’t want to get married during the war, for fear of making Ruby a widow. They got married upon his return home and spent 66 years together before she passed in 2013.

As for the friend who instructed him not to talk to her, Julius recalled that, “well, me and him never spoke again.”

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

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These 4 WWII planes were armed with literal tank cannons

The idea of using planes to destroy tanks is not a new one. Although the concept has been perfected with modern aircraft like the popular A-10 Warthog, tank-killing planes flew not long after the invention of both vehicles. In WWII, tank and plane technology advanced rapidly. As tanks became more survivable with thicker armor, planes began carrying heavier and heavier ordnance to kill them. Eventually, armies decided that the best way to kill a tank and other ground targets with a plane was with a tank cannon. Here are four of those planes. Note that planes armed with flak guns like the German BK 3,7 3.7cm gun are not included.

1. de Havilland Mosquito FB Mk XVIII — QF 6-pounder (57mm)

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
A Mosquito Mk XVIII armed with a 57mm cannon under its nose. Note the centerline blister used to accommodate the cannon’s autoloader (Imperial War Museum)

The DH Mosquito was one of the most capable planes of WWII. Famously made mostly of wood, the Mosquito was used as a fighter, bomber, pathfinder, and reconnaissance aircraft. It was said that the only problem with the Mosquito is that the RAF never had enough of them. The Mk XVIII fighter-bomber variant was armed with an autoloading quickfire 57mm anti-tank gun, the same gun used on the Churchill and Crusader tanks. It was designed to attack U-boats and other German ships. Despite the Air Ministry’s doubts over arming the Mosquito with a tank gun, the variant proved to be very effective. On March 10, 1944, Mk XVIIIs from 248 Squadron engaged a German convoy of one U-boat and four destroyers protected by 10 Ju 88 Schnellbombers. Though the U-boat was only damaged, three Ju 88s were shot down. Pilot Tony Phillips shot down one Ju 88 with four 57mm shells, one of which tore off the German’s engine. The Mk XVIII went on to sink at least a dozen German U-boats and surface ships. It was so successful that the British toyed with the idea of mounting a 96mm QF 32-pounder to a Mosquito.

2. Junkers Ju 88 P-1 — Bordkanone BK 7,5 7.5cm

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
Check out the size of that gun (Bundesarchiv)

Like the Mosquito, the Ju 88 was an extremely versatile WWII aircraft. It was used as a bomber, dive bomber, night fighter, reconnaissance aircraft, and even a flying bomb at the end of the war. In 1942, Germany began experimenting with the idea of mounting the deadly 7.5cm PaK 40 anti-tank gun on the Ju 88. Testing was successful and resulted in 40 Ju 88 P-1 variants armed with modified PaK 40s. However, the aircraft proved to be slow and vulnerable on the battlefield because of the gun’s weight. The concept was further developed with the P-2 and P-3 variants. These used the lighter BK 3,7 3.7cm autocannons developed from the 3.7cm Flak 18. Along with the 50mm autocannon-equipped P-4 variant, the higher velocity of the small-caliber guns proved deadly against Soviet armor on the Eastern Front.

3. Henschel Hs 129 B-3 — Bordkanone BK 7,5 7.5cm

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
The BK 7,5 looks even bigger on the smaller Hs 129 compared to the Ju 88 (Bundesarchiv)

Following the successful integration of the BK 7,5 on the Ju 88, the gun was further modified and mounted on the Hs 129. As a dedicated ground-attack aircraft, the Hs 129 was a more appropriate choice to carry the gun. It was also equipped with a new hydraulic-dampening system and an aerodynamic muzzle brake. Attacking from above, it was theoretically capable of destroying any tank in the world at the time. Still, the 7.5cm’s heavy weight made the plane difficult to fly. Although only 25 units were delivered to frontline squadrons before production was halted, the aircraft proved highly effective against Soviet armor.

4. North American B-25G/H/PBJ-1H Mitchell — T13E1 75mm cannon

That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff
The B-25H was armed with four .50 cals in the nose, two on its left cheek, two on its right cheek, and a nose-mounted 75mm tank cannon (U.S. Air Force)

Like the British, the U.S. needed a heavy-hitting aircraft for anti-ship operations. The answer came in the form of a tank cannon on a bomber. Like an early AC-130, the B-25 Mitchell of Doolittle Raid fame was experimentally fitted with the 75mm M4 cannon. Modified from the M3 cannon found on the M4 Sherman tank, it was the largest weapon carried on an American bomber at the time. Modified from a B-25C, the experimental XB-25G proved the flying tank gun concept and led to the development of the B-25G and later H variants. The lighter T13E1 75mm cannon was adapted from the M4 and was loaded by the plane’s navigator. After being signaled that the gun was loaded, the pilot could fire it with a button on his control wheel. An average of four rounds could be fired on a strafing run. The Marine Corps also adopted the 75mm B-25 as the PBJ-1, standing for Patrol (P) Bomber (B) built by North American Aviation (J), not “peanut butter and jelly.” One of the most heavily armed aircraft in the world, it could attack targets with eight forward-firing .50- caliber machine guns, eight 5″ rockets, 3,000 pounds of bombs and its 75mm tank cannon.


Feature image: U.S. Air Force

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