That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

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

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


“Abandon ship!”

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

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
Glowworm moving to ram the Admiral Hipper during World War II.

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

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

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

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

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
The HMS Glowworm burning after taking heavy fire.

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

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
The Hipper attacking Glowworm from the Hipper’s crew’s perspective.

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

Unbelievably, he attacked.

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

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

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

Capt. Roppe gave the order to abandon ship.

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
British destroyer HMS Glowworm recoiling from German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper after ramming her off Norway in April 1940.

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

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

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

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

And Capt. Roppe got it.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

9 of the weirdest military aircraft that actually flew

These aircraft might have the feel of science fiction, but we have it on good authority that every single one of them graced the skies – or at least attempted to get off the ground. Take a look at nine of the weirdest military aircraft that actually flew.


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

Caprioni Ca.60

What the Caprioni Ca.60 lacked in actual flying power it made up for with an overabundance of wings and engines. Even though this aircraft only flew once to an attitude of 60 feet, it still served as a flying boat prototype for a 100-passenger trans-Atlantic plane. The Ca.60 had eight engines and nine wings. Talk about overkill.

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

Convair F2Y Sea Dart

This might look like a top of the line fancy jet ski, but it’s the world’s one and only supersonic seaplane. In the 40s, supersonic jets had a long takeoff roll from aircraft carriers to get airborne. So the Navy decided the best way to shorten the roll was to put skis on the jet. Unfortunately, the engines on the Sea Dart weren’t powerful enough to work well, and violent vibrations grounded the aircraft for good.

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

Curtiss-Wright VZ-7

We love this one for the sheer absurdity of it. It seems like someone decided all a pilot needed to fly was a seat and a set of controls. Enter the Curtiss-Wright. The Curtiss-Wright VX-7 was incredibly dangerous and unique, and “flying JEEP” was apparently easy to fly, it left the pilot open to enemy fire. Unfortunately, the Curtiss-Wright never met Army standards and was permanently grounded.

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

Goodyear Inflatoplane

As if the name “Inflatoplane” isn’t hilarious enough, this aircraft proves that maybe Goodyear should stick to making tires. This experimental project tried to make an all-fabric inflatable aircraft that could be used as a rescue plan. The idea was that the Inflatoplane would be dropped down to pilots behind enemy lines. But the entire project was quickly canceled by the Army because there wasn’t a valid military use for an aircraft that could be “brought down by a bow and arrow.” Nice try, Goodyear.

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

Hiller X-18

Often considered the prototype for the Osprey, the Hiller X-18 was the first testbed for tilt-wing and VSTOL technology. However, the X-18 didn’t handle wind gusts very well, and since the engines weren’t cross-linked, every engine failure resulted in a crash.

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

Lockheed XFV

Ah, Lockheed, you never fail to disappoint. The XFV was Lockheed’s attempt at combining an airplane and a helicopter, and the results were … interesting, to say the least. While the XFV did manage to transition from horizontal to vertical flight, it lacked the speed to really “take off” in the aviation world – not to mention the right kind of pilots who could fly it.

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
McDonnell XF-85

McDonnell XF-85 Goblin

Talk about ambitions. The idea behind the McDonnel XF-85 Goblin was simple enough on paper. The plan was for the XF-85 to be carried in the belly of a Convair B-36 bomber and launched mid-flight to protect the bombers from enemies. Then, it would re-dock with the bomber using a simple retractable nose-hook. Too bad this was all so much easier said than done. On its first test flight, the project was scrapped because it was almost impossible to complete the redocking procedure.

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

North American F-82 Twin Mustang

The other name for the North American F-82 Twin Mustang was the “Double P-51” because it had two cockpits. This aircraft was designed as a long escort fighter for WWII, but the war ended before it got off the ground.

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

Northrup Tacit Blue

If the sight of the Northrup brings to mind old-school box race cars, you’re not alone. Most people think of a pine box racer competition when they see the Northrup Tacit Blue because of its angular lines and low-to-the-ground profile. In actuality, it was a stealth testbed flown in the early 1980s. The aircraft included a quadruple-redundant fly-by-wire system to help keep it airborne.

These nine aircraft experiments prove that just because something can be successfully created on paper doesn’t mean it’s possible to leave the ground. Hats off to all the designers for their ingenuity and the pilots who were willing to give these aircraft a chance.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Warriors In Their Own Words: SOG’s covert operations in Vietnam

The Military Assistance Command — Studies and Observations Group, now better known as SOG, was one of those true dark-arts units that hid dangerous men with dangerous jobs behind a boring name. The missions that these special operators, including a large number of U.S. Army green berets, undertook helped save the lives of infantrymen fighting across Vietnam.

Now, these warriors are telling their story.


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

Then-Sgt. Gary M. Rose, a member of Studies and Observations Group, is led away from a helicopter after heroic actions that would later net him a Medal of Honor.

(U.S. Army)

Warriors In Their Own Words, a podcast that captures the authentic stories of America’s veterans as they tell them, spoke with two members of the unit. You can enjoy their riveting tales in the episode embedded above — but make sure you carve out time for it. The episode is just over an hour, but once you start listening, you won’t want to stop.

J.D. Bath and Bill Deacy describe their harrowing experiences serving in Vietnam with the SOG, and they both tell amazing stories.

J.D. Bath was an early member of SOG, recruited after his entire team was killed in a helicopter crash. He tells of how his SOG team bought pipes, tobacco, and bourbon for local tribes to enlist their help. Later, he and his team came under fire from a U.S. helicopter that had no idea that Americans were so far behind enemy lines. Luckily, another U.S. aircraft threatened to shoot down the helicopter if it didn’t stop immediately.

Bill Deacy, on the other hand, survived multiple firefights and endured a bad case of malaria before ending up on the wrong part of the Ho Chi Min Trail. The Special Forces soldiers planned an ambush against a small North Vietnamese force, and Deacy had no way of warning his men when he spotted a massive column of enemy soldiers approaching just as the ambush was being sprung.

These are incredible stories coming straight from the heroes who were there. We’ll be featuring a story each week, so keep your eyes peeled. If you can’t wait, Warriors In Their Own Words has a massive archive on their website.

MIGHTY HISTORY

10 things every American should know about the Purple Heart

On Friday, August 7, National Purple Heart Day will be observed. Around the country, states, counties, and cities will pause to recognize the service and sacrifice of their citizens. Observed since 2014, National Purple Heart Day is a time for Americans to pause and remember the bravery, courage and sacrifice of the service members who risk their lives for our freedoms.

Here are some things you need to know about the Purple Heart and how this solemn day is observed throughout the country.


Purple Heart Trail 

The Purple Heart Trail was established in 1992 by the Military Order of Purple Hearts. It aims to be a symbolic honorary system of roads, highways and other monuments that give tribute to the service members who have been awarded the Purple Heart medals. Currently, there are designated sections in 45 states as well as in Guam. Additionally, many cities and towns around the country choose to become Purple Heart cities/towns to honor the veterans and service members from the area.

On August 7, gatherings around the country, states, counties and cities will pause in recognition of the sacrifice and service of veterans. Here are more things you need to know about the Purple Heart:

Generally, Major League Baseball teams pay homage to their local Purple Heart recipients during pre-game events and then again during the 7th inning. Because of current conditions, it’s unclear whether or not MLB will continue that tradition.

At local VFWs, American Legions, and other veteran organizations, remembrance meetings will be held for fallen heroes. Special events usually take place to thank active-duty personnel, veterans, and Purple Heart recipients.

The Purple Heart medal is presented to military personnel who have either been wounded in action or killed as a result of enemy action. Since the award was created in 1782, more than 1.8 million Purple Heart medals have been presented.

The Purple Heart has been around for a long, long time.

It’s the oldest military award still presented to service members. The predecessor to the Purple Heart, the Fidelity Medallion, was created in 1780 by the Continental Congress – but it was only awarded to three soldiers that year. Then, two years later, President George Washington created the Badge of Military Merit.

The Badge of Military Merit is considered the first US military decoration and the Purple Heart predecessor.

Washington designed the Badge of Military Merit in the form of a purple heart. He determined that it be given to soldiers who displayed “unusual gallantry in battle,” and “extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way.” Then, the award was primarily forgotten for roughly two hundred years. It wasn’t until the bicentennial of Washington’s birth that Gen. MacArthur made an effort to revive the medal. It was still used to commemorate bravery, but that criteria changed in WWII when it became a way to recognize combat injuries and deaths.

This honor can be awarded to officers and enlisted personnel

The Purple Heart is one of the first awards in military history given to enlisted soldiers, NCOs and officers. Service members of any rank are eligible to receive a Purple Heart.

There is no official record for every Purple Heart medal awarded to American service members.

During the Revolutionary War, there were just 3 Purple Hearts awarded, roughly 320,000 during WWI, and 1 million Purple Hearts presented during WWII. The Korean War awarded 118,600 medals, the Vietnam War 351,000 Purple Hearts, and the Persian Gulf War, which lasted 209 days, awarded 607 Purple Hearts.

The current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been ongoing since 2001, and to date, 12,500 Purple Hearts have been awarded.

The Military Order of the Purple Heart 

Those who are awarded a Purple Heart can join MOPH, an organization that was formed in 1932. It’s the only veteran service organization composed of only “combat” veterans. Currently, there are about 45,000 MOPH members. Find out more about the organization here.

Though Purple Heart Day isn’t an officially recognized holiday, it’s still an important one for our military community. In this time of social distancing, it might not be possible to visit military organizations or museums. Instead, use #PurpleHeartDay to post on social media, hold socially-distant events, and take a few moments of silence to remember those who have paid the price for American freedoms.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 of the ballsiest WWII POW escape attempts – all by the same pilot

William Ash wasn’t going to wait for the United States to enter World War II. He left for Canada from Detroit in 1939 to join the Royal Canadian Air Force to take his own fight to the enemy.


And he lost his American citizenship for his effort.

 

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
Bill Ash at the cockpit of his Spitfire, greeted by the Canadian Prime Minister, Mackenzie King. (Bantom Press)

 

By 1941, the Texas native was in the Battle of Britain, flying his Spitfire fighter over London and the English Channel, taking down Hitler’s Luftwaffe one plane at a time. In 1942, Ash was shot down over the Pas-de-Calais.

He only ever managed to shoot down one bogey.

After his capture in northern France, he would spend the rest of the war as a prisoner, but he wouldn’t make it easy on the Nazis. Instead, Ash became something of an escape artist, attempting to break out of Nazi prison camps so many times, he lost count.

“My idea was always to get on the other side of the wire and run like hell,” he once told a close friend.

His schemes were as simple as running away from a work detail to more complex plans like digging a 100-yard tunnel through a latrine hole.

Here are five of his ballsiest POW escape attempts.

1. The Tourist.

The best way to avoid detection is to simply pretend you belong in whatever place you’re in. After Ash was first shot down, he made his way to Paris with the help of the French Resistance.

Instead of evading into the woods, the pilot attempted to hide in plain sight — by visiting museums, bathhouses, and galleries as if he were simply a tourist.

 

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
Ash’s POW file.

 

He was eventually captured by the Gestapo, who brutally beat the pilot and almost executed him. Luckily for Ash, the Luftwaffe intervened and claimed him as its prisoner, considering his RCAF status.

2. The Latrine Tunnel…probably the grossest escape attempt.

A BBC Magazine story about Ash’s time in camp Oflag XXIB in Poland details this complex escape plan. For three months, a team of diggers would crawl through a trap door in a toilet seat attempting to dig a 100-yard tunnel from the latrine to the woodline.

 

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
Ash in his RCAF Spitfire.

 

It was March 1943 when the POWs made their move through the tunnel. Disguised in modified uniforms and carrying forged passports, 35 of the men escaped the camp. Unfortunately, most were hastily recaptured.

3. Trading Places.

The daring Ash traded identities with another POW, Don Fair, as Fair was being transferred to Stalag Luft IV in modern-day Lithuania. Since the guards of Stalag Luft IV didn’t know he had a record of trying to escape, so they wouldn’t be ready for his many escape attempts.

 

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
Ash’s wartime RCAF Portrait

 

He immediately escaped his new camp and made his way to a beach, where he found a boat. Ash ran into a few guys in the middle of a field, and after telling them he was a downed American pilot, they informed him that they were German soldiers growing cabbages.

4. Why not escape through the shower drain?

Ash’s first major escape attempt involved a shower drain. The idea was to stay put for a while, living under the shower huts until life outside the camp went back to normal. Then he and another prisoner planned to leave without anyone sounding the alarm for missing POWs.

 

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
Ash in 1941 (Bantom Books)

He and his fellow escapee filled their pants full of a high-calorie mixture of chocolate and nuts from Red Cross packages and slipped into a manhole in the shower. When the other POWs emerged to be counted, the Germans noticed the missing men and found them in the manhole.

Ash and his partner couldn’t let the Nazis know about the survival food the men used to prepare for an escape, so they ate it all. They were pulled from the shower with their faces covered in chocolate.

5. Walking Out the Front Door.

At one point, he joined up with a group of Soviet detainees on a slave labor detail. As they walked out of the prison on their way to work, Bill Ash worked his way into the group and attempted to make his exit from from the front gates.

Ash was liberated by Allied forces after a final escape in April 1945. His exploits as an escapee and the unbelievable amount of time he spent in solitary confinement (aka “the cooler) for those exploits may have earned him a spot in Hollywood lore.

According to his New York Times obituary, the character Virgil “the Cooler King” Hilts in the 1963 film “The Great Escape” was famously portrayed by Steve McQueen.

 

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

Ash denied the character was supposed to be him. He maintained that even though the escape from Stalag Luft III depicted in the film was real, he could not have joined it – he was in the cooler at the time.

Ash’s exploits are recounted in 2015’s “Under the Wire: The World War II Adventures of a Legendary Escape Artist and ‘Cooler King.’ ”

Ash died in 2014 at 96.

Articles

How a new generation of Air Force pilots flew a mission for a fallen WW2 brother

On Dec. 23, 1944, 2nd Lt. Charles E. Carlson was killed in action when Nazi planes shot down his P-47 Thunderbolt. Carlson would be missing for almost 73 years until he was identified and buried with full honors at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in Pennsylvania on Aug. 4, 2017.


When the “missing man” formation was flown, it was done by four F-35s.

The F-35s belonged to the 62nd Fighter Squadron, one of 23 assigned to the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, according to the wing’s official webpage. The 56th operates both F-35s and F-16s.

But long before it had the mission to train pilots on the Air Force’s newest multi-role fighter, the 56th Fighter Wing was a combat unit, as was its predecessor, the 56th Fighter Group.

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
2nd Lt. Charles E. Carlson, who was killed in action when his P-47 Thunderbolt was shot down on Dec. 23, 1944. (USAF photo)

A July 28 release by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency noted that Carlson’s remains had finally been identified. It noted that Carlson’s wingman had believed that the pilot got out, but German officials had claimed his remains had been recovered near the crash site.

The release stated that Carlson would be returned to his family for burial. So, how did the F-35s end up flying the missing man formation?

Back in World War II, the 56th Fighter Group was known as the “Wolfpack,” which included the 62nd Fighter Squadron. Among the pilots who flew with that unit was the legendary Robert S. Johnson, a 27-kill ace who later wrote the book, “Thunderbolt!”

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
Four F-35’s participated in a missing man formation fly-over during 2nd Lt. Charles E. Carlson’s funeral in Pennsylvania more than 70 years after being shot down over Germany in World War II when he was assigned to the 62nd FS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jensen Stidham)

According to an Air Force News Service report, it was because Carlson had been a member of the 62nd when he was killed in action. Squadron commander Lt. Col. Peter Lee had been browsing Facebook when he noticed the patch for the 62nd Fighter Squadron.

“I clicked on the link and that’s how I found out. It started with something as simple as a Facebook post…and next thing you know we’re flying four airplanes over and talking with the family,” he said.

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
F-35 Lightning II fighters fly the missing man formation during the funeral of 2nd Lt. Charles E. Carlson. (Youtube Screenshot)

The F-35s flew the missing man formation for Carlson, led by Capt. Kyle Babbitt, who said, “If it had been me on the other side, I would really appreciate this for my family. It’s definitely an honor to take on this responsibility.”

You can see a video about this mission by the 62nd Fighter Squadron below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These are the 8 reincarnations of General Patton

One of World War II’s legendary figures, Gen. George S. Patton, loomed largely in the narrative of the war for many reasons.


While no one would accuse the great general of being humble or unassuming, his ego and pride are well-deserved — to the betterment of mankind and the Allied cause. Patton, with his ivory-handled revolvers and propensity to quote the Hindu scripture of “The Bhagavad Gita,” was as eccentric in life as he was effective in combat.

No example of this was more telling than his belief in reincarnation and his own numerous past lives.

As a child, Patton believed he fought Turkish armies. As he grew into an adult, he still had visions of his death in past lives, from viking funerals to the Battle of Tyre. In 1991, Karl F. Hollenbach compiled Patton’s account of his past lives in a book called Patton: Many Lives, Many Battles. Though the man himself never completely expressed the entirety of his beliefs in reincarnation, he did describe numerous events in detail.

Maybe there was something to the idea. Patton’s prowess on the battlefields made him the most feared Allied general among the Nazi leadership, according the the German POW Lt. COl. Freiherr Von Wagenheim. General Patton’s own intelligence officer remarked that his sixth sense was often way ahead of the intelligence coming in. Perhaps this truly is a skill set acquired across lifetimes of military experience.

1. With Alexander the Great at the Siege of Tyre.

In a poem called “Through a Glass, Darkly,” which Patton wrote while commanding the Third Army in Europe, he described being a Greek Hoplite fighting the Persians under Darius. He helped smash the Persian navy and then laid siege to Tyre. The walls fell after five months as Patton and his fellow Hoplites stormed the city.

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
Pictured: Patton with Alexander? Maybe? #wargasm.

2. Fighting Parthians for Rome.

Patton next talks about slaying Parthians with his Gladius, a sword approximately 25-32 inches long. Since the battle was said to have taken place in the first century B.C., Patton would have been fighting for what was then still the Roman Republic in the Middle East under any number of legendary Roman names: Crassus, Cassius, and Marc Antony to name a few.

In his vision, Patton was wounded and then killed by a number of arrows in his neck.

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
How do you sleep at night after seeing this in your past life??

The general also remembered being stationed in Langres, France — as a Roman legionnaire in Caesar’s X Legion.

3. A Viking on his way to Valhalla.

When Patton was a young adult, he was kicked by a horse, who broke his leg in three places. Close to death from his wounds, Patton had a vision of his death as a Viking raider — where a vision appeared to him on the battlefield, offering to take him to the Viking afterlife.

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
No room for cowards at Crecy.

As a child, Patton claimed to have fought alongside John the Blind of Bohemia, who also met his death at Crecy.

5. An Englishman at Agincourt

The afterlife knows no loyalty in the wars of men, apparently. Less than a century later, Patton was back in the Hundred Years’ War, this time on the side of the English. Patton claimed to have fought with King Henry V at Agincourt.

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

6. A raiding sailor.

Three of Patton’s stanzas describe fighting on ships as he freed captured slaves or prisoners of war, fired into the enemy at point-blank range during a storm, or even was hanged as a pirate or privateer, describing feeling a rope around his neck as the red deck (presumably blood-stained) was set aflame.

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
Better get that respawn ready.

7. Fighting for the House of Stuart

Again pitted against the English, though this time his loyalties were less to a nation than to the House of Stuart. Patton was a Scottish Highlander during the third English Civil War, supporting the Stuarts after the death of Charles I.

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

8. An aide to a Napoleonic Marshal.

Patton describes “riding with Murat” in the poem. Joachim Murat was one of Napoleon’s marshals. Murat was one of the most capable cavalry officers and leaders in service to the French Emperor. He doesn’t specify his role with Murat, but the marshal was pivotal at battles like Jena and the invasion of Russia in 1812.

When the Allies left North Africa to invade Sicily, British General Sir Harold Alexander told Patton that if had been alive in the 19th Century, Napoleon would have made him a marshal — to which Patton replied: “But I did.”

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

At the end of his epic poem, Patton wrote that he would “battle as of yore, dying to be a fighter, but to die again, once more.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This WWII fighter pilot ‘piggy-backed’ his wingman home after he was shot down

It’s not every day a commander is faced with the decision of whether to court-martial someone or to put them in for the Medal of Honor. Such was the situation of a daring pilot of the 354th Fighter Squadron, 355th Fighter Group, Eighth Air Force after a harrowing, unprecedented rescue behind enemy lines on August 18, 1944.


The airman was Lt. Royce “Deacon” Priest, a newly-minted pilot who had just arrived at the 354th in early June. Prior to becoming a full-fledged pilot, Priest trained to fly gliders. He was sent to flight school when it was realized no more Airborne divisions were going to be created. He was also offered admission to West Point but he turned it down to realize his dream of being a fighter pilot.

The 354th was led by a daring but new-to-combat pilot, Maj. Bert Marshall. He just arrived in the squadron in early June after a long stint as a pilot trainer stateside. D-Day was his second mission ever. It was there Marshall scored his first aerial victory, but he would already be an ace by August of that year. He also gained a reputation, as Lt. Priest put it, “for not matching wheels down landings with take-offs.” His aggressive flying style earned him the respect of his men and a promotion to Operations Officer and then Squadron Commander in a very short time.

 

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
A P-51 like those flown by the 354th

On August 18th Maj. Marshall was leading a flight of four P-51 Mustangs on a bombing and strafing mission against German marshaling areas that supplied forces battling the Americans breaking out of Normandy. As they came upon their primary target, they noticed railway cars marked with red crosses and moved on to a better target. About twenty miles away, they found it.

As the fighters swept in to attack, their target of opportunity turned into an ambush. The sides of a rail car fell away exposing a German anti-aircraft battery hidden within. 20mm and 40mm anti-aircraft rounds ripped through the formation. Maj. Marshall’s plane took the worst of it and pulled away smoking badly and fatally crippled. Lt. Priest, flying beside him, saw the whole thing and reported the damage to Marshall. While Marshall looked for a place to belly land his plane Priest pointed out a field nearby and suggested that he would land and pick up Marshall. Marshall was adamant that he take the rest of the flight and get out of there.

However, Priest idolized Marshall, having known of him from his high school and college football days. He couldn’t believe his luck when they were assigned to the same squadron. He wasn’t just going to let him fall into German hands. He radioed the others in his flight to let them know his intention of landing to rescue the commander. When Marshall heard the chatter over the radio he told Lt. Priest he was ordering him not to land and to return to base.

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
A pilot ejects from a dogfight in the skies over Normandy.

Disobeying those orders, Lt. Priest spotted a wheat field nearby that would do nicely as an improvised landing strip. Just before landing, he spotted Marshall tossing a thermite grenade into his plane and then heading toward the field he was landing in.

Once Priest had landed and positioned his plane for a quick take-off he surveyed the area looking for his commander. Instead, he saw a truckload of German infantry approaching. He immediately called the remaining two airborne pilots. They responded that they were inbound and made quick work of the truck and its occupants with the Mustang’s four .50 caliber machine guns but also alerted Priest that more Germans were heading his way. He was running out of time and there was still no sign of his commander.

As he started to consider his options, he saw Marshall come into the field, visibly angry that Priest was even there. Marshall refused to get into the airplane and told Priest to get out of there. Not knowing what else to do, Priest exited the airplane and took off his chute and dinghy signaling that he was not leaving without his commander. Marshall climbed in first followed by Priest. There was barely enough room to close the canopy but the cramped couple managed to take off just in time to avoid the second German patrol.

Once they returned to England and Marshall was less angry, he expressed his thanks for the rescue. Priest told Marshall he was too important to the squadron to allow him to be lost to the Germans.

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
Priest and Marshall

“I must admit I was very concerned regarding my own fate, having disobeyed a direct order, in combat – twice,” Priest wrote in a letter to Bert Marshall’s son. “I wondered if I would be transferred out, taken off combat operations, etc. I did not expect to be decorated.”

But that was what happened. Despite his seemingly reckless rescue of his commander, Lt. Priest was put in for the Medal of Honor. Gen. James Doolittle said he struggled with the decision and ultimately gave Priest the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions because he did not want to encourage other pilots to risk themselves and their aircraft in similar attempts. When presenting the award to Priest, Gen. Doolittle told him he “had never thought about issuing a regulation to ‘not land behind enemy lines to attempt a rescue,’ who would be that stupid? Because what you just did was just crazy to even think about!”

Both Priest and Marshall would finish the war and have long careers in what became the U.S. Air Force. Marshall was awarded the Silver Star for his leadership of the 354th Fighter Squadron in Europe. His son would later write two books about his father’s squadron during World War II.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A brief history of helicopter warfare and the future of air assault operations

Carrying troops into combat, or at least close enough that they can walk to it, was a fairly basic art for thousands of years. Horses or boats did the job until motorized vehicles started to be used in large numbers in the beginning of the 20th century. 

During World War II, airborne and glider troops made mass assaults with thousands of troops possible at long ranges. While this was a huge leap forward, airborne operations came with some major liabilities. As seen during the D-Day landings, the accuracy of these drops was lacking, and troops could end up far from their intended drop zones. Just as importantly, parachutes and gliders were both one-way trips, and troops were largely on their own until their leg counterparts could catch up.

Helicopters promised to change all that. Which helicopter was officially “first” is subject to some dispute, but vertical flight was largely a novelty for many years. Toward the end of World War II, some primitive rotary-wing aircraft saw limited action in the Pacific doing rescue missions, but they were far from a decisive arm.

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
Retired Sgt. Maj. Mike Zacker, secretary of the board of directors and docent at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum and Historical Foundation, poses in front of an HRS-1 at the museum aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., September 2014. Zacker spent 18 years of his 30-year career working on the HRS-1 and similar helicopters. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Christopher Johns.

After World War II, the Marine Corps first saw the utility of helicopters in an air assault role. As the service contemplated how amphibious assaults would remain viable in the Atomic Age, it concluded that the ability to cover much greater distances would be necessary. The Corps stood up Marine Helicopter Squadron One, HMX-1, and experimented with employing helicopters in amphibious warfare, developing the first doctrine on the subject.

The Korean War launched the helicopter from infancy to adolescence. The Marine Corps performed the first mass resupply via helicopter on Sept. 13, 1951. Marine Helicopter Transport Squadron 161 (HMR-161) used HRS-1 helicopters to deliver 74 Marines and more than 18,000 pounds of supplies to an area known as the Punchbowl. A week later, they performed the first combat troop lift, delivering 224 Marines to a hilltop in the area.

It took nearly two more years for the Army to perform its first helicopter assault, but true to form, it was bigger than the Marines’. On July 13, 1953, Army H-19 helicopters of the 1st Transportation Helicopter Battalion lifted more than 800 Republic of Korea troops.

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
An American Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over Vietnam in 1963. Army photo via Wikimedia Commons.

The Kennedy administration’s focus on “brushfire wars” and shift to a doctrine of “flexible response” contrasted with Eisenhower’s “massive retaliation” and gave birth to what the Army would call “air assault.” Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara insisted on increasing the tactical mobility of the US Army. Under Lt. Gen. Hamilton Howse, the Army conducted a series of experiments at Fort Bragg in the early 1960s, leading to the formation of the 11th Air Assault Division at Fort Benning, which soon became the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).

The “1st Air Cav” became one of the most storied units of the Vietnam War, which became known as the “helicopter war.” Given the terrain and the enemy insurgency in that conflict, helicopters — usually the UH-1 “Huey” — gave US forces a tactical advantage. Large insertions of troops into “hot” landing zones would become a trademark of the conflict, and ultimately, more than 5,000 of the roughly 12,000 helicopters used during that war were lost. 

After Vietnam, the Marines returned to their traditional focus on amphibious assault and using helicopters accordingly. The Army returned to focusing on Europe and deterring the Soviet bloc. Helicopters, now mostly the UH-60 Black Hawk instead of the Huey, formed the most mobile element first in “Active Defense” and later in “AirLand Battle.”

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
A UH-60 Black Hawk lifts off during the Ghazni offensive in Afghanistan in support of soldiers from 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Sept. 2, 2018. Army photo by 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

Fortunately, Europe never needed American helicopter assaults to save it, but 1991 gave those aircraft a chance to shine. The 101st Air Assault Division mounted a brigade-sized lift to envelop the northern flank of Iraqi troops defending Kuwait as part of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf’s famous “left hook” attack. The operation validated the utility of helicopter-borne forces in maneuver warfare, as opposed to the counterinsurgency role they served in Vietnam.

In almost a “back to the future” moment, after 9/11, helicopters once again became the preferred tool to maneuver quickly against enemy insurgents, first in Afghanistan and later in Iraq. While generally on a smaller scale than the largest assaults of the Vietnam era, tactical movement by helicopter has been essential throughout what became known as the Global War on Terror. 

Modern helicopter insertions look different from those in Vietnam. Insertions into hot landing zones are rare, and losses are less common. This can be attributed to improvements in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) technology, as well as tactics. While there have been some failures, such as Operation Anaconda, by and large, helicopters have been key to major successes, including the raid that killed Usama bin Laden in 2011.

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
The MV-22 Osprey’s mission for the US Marine Corps is the transportation of troops, equipment, and supplies from ships and land bases for combat assault and assault support. Photo courtesy of the US Navy.

As the military exits Iraq and Afghanistan and shifts toward potential threats in the Pacific, the role of the helicopter will undoubtedly change once again. The mobility helicopters provided in the geographical constraints of Vietnam and Afghanistan seems limited in comparison with the vastness of the Pacific. 

Vietnam-era Hueys could fly around 120 knots for about 275 miles. The Black Hawks that succeeded them in the US Army can reach 150 and about 300 miles in a basic configuration. A big leap in performance will be necessary if rotary-wing aircraft are to remain a part of future war plans.

The Marine Corps, with its amphibious mission, had to face this problem much sooner. The Marines invested in the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor, which cruises nearly twice as fast and flies twice as far as traditional helicopters. The Marines first deployed the Osprey in 2007 and replaced the last of its CH-46 helicopters with it in 2017.

The Army will have to invest in a similar capability to prepare for the type of conflict envisioned in the National Defense Strategy. It is moving ahead with the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft program, which aims to produce an aircraft with the necessary speed and range to fight in tomorrow’s battlefields. Both Bell and a joint Sikorsky-Boeing team are competing, but whichever wins, it’s a certainty that air assault will continue to have a long future.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Usain Bolt stopped an interview for the US National Anthem

It seems like nothing can stop Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man — except for respect. It would be easy to expect the most dominating runner to ever race across the Earth to be the kind of prima donna athlete that keeps us from wanting to meet our heroes.

Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt just isn’t that way.


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

Usain Bolt is a triple world-record holder, an 11-time world champion, an eight-time Olympic champion, and a four-time Laureus Sportsman of the Year. In 2017, at just 31 years old, he retired from the track after a short but illustrious career but can still be found having fun with the sport. At Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, he casually tied the NFL record for the 40-yard dash while wearing sneakers and sweatpants.

He’s a guy who likes to have fun with the sport, but never enjoyed the intense training, interviews, or day-long photoshoots required of athletes of his stature. He does like the competition and the showmanship expected of a man who still owns the world record for the 100-meter, 200-meter, and 4×100-meter competition. He even has an infectious wry smile that often spreads to his competition.

But it looks like he takes sportsmanship seriously when it comes to respect for a national anthem, as shown when he stopped in the middle of an interview to stand for the ‘Star-Spangled Banner.’

In 2012, Bolt competed in the London Olympics to defend his record. He would ultimately take home three more gold medals from the event but what caught many people’s attention was an interview he did with Television Espanola. During the live interview, the U.S. National Anthem began playing in the stadium. Bolt asked if it was live but turned to face the music anyway, standing silently as the loudspeakers played the ‘Star-Spangled Banner.’

The reporter interviewing Bolt followed suit. As soon as the anthem was over, Bolt turned back to the reporter, respectfully apologized, and continued the interview.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Those $200 lightsabers at Disneyland might actually be worth it

The Disneyland iteration of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is finally open. Early reviews — from those who were able to navigate a less-than-stellar ticket reservation system — are positive. An especially bright spot: the souvenir lightsabers available exclusively at the park.

As we’ve reported before, the lightsabers are customizable — guests choose their components and assemble their saber themselves — and pricey. The total price with tax comes to $215.49, exactly $215.49 more than a souvenir coaster from Olga’s Cantina. Still, the sabers themselves and the experience of designing your own are getting rave reviews from the lucky fans who’ve already had the chance to get theirs.


The Los Angeles Times has a good rundown of what the experience is like, and it seems that, in true Disney fashion, narrative is front and center. The story created around Savi’s Workshop, the exclusive home of the customizable lightsaber, is that it has to masquerade as a simple scrap metal shop.

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

Light-up blades come in red, blue, green, and Mace Windu purple.

(Disney Parks)

The employees who work there play along, reminding visitors who say the l-word that they don’t want any trouble from the First Order.

They will help you pick out the pieces of “salvaged” scrap metal you’ll need to build your lightsaber, with drawers full of hilts of four different themes. Pick your hilt and you’ll get a corresponding pin when you set up an appointment to build your saber as part of a group with 13 other “Builders.”

After some practice assembling lightsabers outside — which may be interrupted if Stormtroopers happen to walk by — you’re ushered inside to a room dominated by a large table. You’ll hear a spiel about Jedi history and the power of the Force before guiding you through the process of choosing the remaining parts and assembling your lightsaber.

Once assembled, everyone inserts their assembled blade into a pod for a final ceremony that ends with everyone igniting their lightsabers.

Whether or not that experience and the saber itself are worth the steep cost depends on your budget and how much time you’re willing to spend at Savi’s (line are, predictably, quite long). But if your trip won’t feel complete without bringing a lightsaber home, it looks like Disney has created an attraction that goes beyond a simple gift shop to create an immersive, narrative experience.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

popular

This is what happens when your father was your drill instructor’s drill instructor

If Marine Corps boot camp is a bitter slice of hell, then drill instructors are the demons who dish it.


Now imagine what basic training would be like if your drill instructor was your father’s recruit and knew it. That’s exactly what happened to Reddit user hygemaii.

 

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
Gunnery Sergeant Shawn D. Angell gently corrects a trainee. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

You’d expect one of two things to happen: you get favorable treatment because your father treated your DI to a rose garden — highly unlikely — or you become your DI’s reprisal punching bag for everything your father put him through as a recruit — probably more realistic. Here’s how the story played out, according to hygemaii (mildly edited for grammar and curse words):

Related: 4 of the funniest boot camp stories we’ve ever heard

“My best military story is my own boot camp story. I decided to join the Marine Corps almost on a whim after planning to join the Air Force for most of my senior year in high school.

“Same old story of AF recruiters seeming like they didn’t give a sh-t about their appearance or job and the Marine recruiter putting out max effort all the time and always being presentable. I was a pretty easy mark for the USMC because my dad was in the USMC; I grew up on bases all over the U.S. until we moved to the little farm town in North Florida where I went to high school.

“Since I was 18, I basically did all the paperwork myself, found a job series I liked, signed, the whole nine yards, my dad didn’t know anything until I told him I was going to MEPS and joining the Marines. He was overjoyed, obviously. He loved the Corps and regretted getting out after 12 years.

“Now the story gets funny. My dad was a drill instructor when he was in the Marines. I remembered living on Parris Island but didn’t think much of it. When I got my ship date for boot camp, my dad called some old friends and I ended up in a Company who’s First Sergeant was an old friend of my dad’s — they served on the drill field together all those years ago. So through some sort of crazy coincidence, I end up in a platoon with a drill instructor who was a recruit under my dad (6-7 years prior to me going to boot camp).

That time a Nazi captain recommended a British captain for the Victoria Cross
A Drill Instructor whispers loving words of encouragement to Marines who needed some motivation. (U.S. Marine Corps)

“I have a very distinct name, and on the second day after we got our real drill instructors, as he was going through roll call, the drill instructor suddenly fell quiet. After a couple of seconds, he said my name, perfectly pronounced, and I knew I was f**ked.

“He said ‘[Last name], I bet there aren’t too many [Last names] in the world like that, are there?’ Sir, no sir. ‘Was your daddy a Marine in the 90’s Lastname?’ Sir, yes sir. ‘F**king good, [Last name], good. Get on my quarterdeck now.’

“I spent the rest of boot camp unable to make myself invisible. It spread from my drill instructor to drill instructors from other platoons, even other companies. It was f**king miserable. I felt bad for my rack mate, because at one point for about three days I had to move my entire rack to the quarterdeck and he was just along for the ride, so he caught a lot of it, too.

“It made graduating really special, in retrospect, to finally get the kind words from that drill instructor, but man that sucked. I’m pretty sure this entire thing was set up by my dad and his buddy, but they both deny it, and there’s no way to prove it.

“It was funny seeing my drill instructor stand a little straighter when he saw my dad at graduation.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The UK is sending another warship to the Persian Gulf

The UK is deploying an additional frigate and a support ship to the Persian Gulf region, although the UK Ministry of Defence said the deployments were not related to increasing tensions in Iran.

The Type 45 frigate HMS Duncan is in transit to the region, as the UK announced it would also deploy Type 23 frigate HMS Kent and support ship RFA Wave Knight. The moves were reported first by Times of London reporter Lucy Fisher and confirmed by MoD.

British frigate HMS Montrose successfully stopped Iranian gunboats from seizing a tanker on July 10, 2019.


The MoD issued a release confirming that the ships would be deployed as part of Operation KIPION, its “commitment to promoting peace and stability as well as ensuring the safe flow of trade, and countering narcotics and piracy.”

“RFA WAVE KNIGHT’s role is to deliver food, fuel, water and other essential supplies to [Royal Navy] and Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) ships,” according to the release. The MoD states that the HMS Kent will take over for the HMS Duncan, a warship currently deploying to the Gulf to “maintain a continuous maritime security presence” in the region.

The news caps off over a month of high tensions between Iran, the US and its allies.

Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported that a UAE-based tanker has gone missing in the Strait of Hormuz.

The 190-foot, Panama-flagged Riah oil tanker entered Iranian waters and stopped transmitting location data more than two days ago, according to the AP. Capt. Rajnith Raja from data firm Refinitiv told the AP that losing the signal from the Riah was “a red flag.”

The Riah was last heard from in Iranian waters, near Qeshm Island, the AP reported, citing a US defense official. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the US designated as a terrorist organization earlier this year, has a base on the island.

Escalating tensions: Iran calls on United Kingdom to release oil tanker

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The US official told the AP that the US “has suspicions” that the Riah is in Iranian hands.

On July 4, 2019, the government of Gibraltar, a British territory, seized an Iranian tanker it said was carrying oil to Syria through the Straits of Gibraltar; Iran vowed retaliation, and attempted to block a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz a week later. Britain sent a second warship to the region to replace the HMS Montrose, which had been patrolling the British tanker and prevented the seizure.

Britain has agreed to release the Iranian tanker under the condition that it will not transit to Syria.

In June 2019, Japanese and Norweigian tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman; the US blamed Iran for the attacks, but Iran has denied responsibility.

The US has proposed a plan for a coalition of allies to patrol Iranian and Yemeni waters as incidents in the Gulf increase.

“We’re engaging now with a number of countries to see if we can put together a coalition that would ensure freedom of navigation both in the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandab,” Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said July 2019.

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

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