That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home

North Korea might be a little provocative these days but the 1960’s DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the North’s official name), was the annoying middle child of international Communism.


The 60’s were an important decade in the Cold War because American activity was increasing in Vietnam, and the U.S. would not be able to respond to North Korean provocations in a timely manner. The North felt it had more room for aggression against its southern neighbor their western allies. Just days before they captured the USS Pueblo in international waters, the North sent a special ops unit, “Unit 124,” south with the sole purpose of assassinating President Park Chung-hee.

 

That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home
Honestly, Park wasn’t exactly the defender of freedom either.

Thirty one of the best men from the DPRK’s Korean People’s Army were handpicked to infiltrate South Korea through the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The team trained for two years in everything from land navigation and airborne operations to hand-to-hand combat and special weapons. They spent two full weeks practicing the raid in a full-scale reconstruction of South Korea’s Presidential complex, the Blue House.

That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home
Stay off the lawn.

When the time came, the commandos crossed the DMZ undetected via the sector controlled by the U.S. Army’s 2nd Infantry Division. Seoul was a three-day march away. The death squad moved at night and set up camp before daybreak. The next night, they did the same, this time setting up on Simbong Mountain, where two brothers out collecting firewood stumbled upon the North Korean commando camp.

That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home
Kind of, but with North Koreans instead of gingerbread.

Instead of killing or otherwise subduing the two brothers, the commandos tried to turn the two using a speech about the benefits of North Korean Communism, and then let the two go as long as they promised not to tell the the authorities. Which, of course, they immediately did.

That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home

The Republic of Korea Army (ROKA) sent three battalions into the mountains to search for the North Koreans. The commandos were still able to enter the South Korean capital that night, where they changed into ROKA uniforms and marched as normal ROKA troops to within 100 meters of the Presidential home. That’s when a police patrol stopped them and a suspicious police chief began to question them.

The Communists immediately shot the police chief, then lit up the checkpoint with grenades. They retreated into the woods near the complex and tried to make their way back to North Korea. The ensuing firefight would kill 29 of the commandos, with one captured and one escaping back north. The South Koreans suffered 26 killed and 66 wounded, 12 of those civilians. Four American troops were killed trying to prevent the communists from recrossing the DMZ.

The last commando was killed on January 23, 1968, the same day the Pueblo was captured. Because the event, now known at the “Blue House Raid,” happened three days before the Pueblo incident and 12 days before the launch of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, the raid was largely forgotten by both the U.S. and international media, but was not forgotten by South Korean media. Ever.

If Kim Il-Sung, then the living President of North Korea (now the dead President of North Korea), wanted Park Chung-hee dead, all he had to do was wait 11 years. The head of Park’s own intelligence agency did the job for him, shooting him and three bodyguards at point blank range during a dinner at a safe house. President Park’s daughter, Park Gyun-Hye is the current President of South Korea, which really bothers the North for some reason.

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The Medal of Honor recipient who fought in a bare-handed berserker rage

Sergeant David Bleak was set to go out on a normal patrol. It was 1952 and the young medic was accompanying a U.S. Army recon patrol with the mission of probing Chinese defenses and capturing an enemy soldier for intel and interrogation. What he didn’t know, however, was that by the patrol’s end, he would kill four enemies with his bare hands while saving his comrades.

He would have decades to think about that night after the war.


Bleak rolled out with 20 soldiers in an American-occupied area of North Korea near the front lines. By 1952, the Chinese were fully committed to North Korea, which resulted in what would be, more or less, considered a stalemate for the duration of the war.

“WE HAVE AN ARMY”

The hill they were traversing, Hill 499, was bare. It lacked significant vegetation after all the weeks of fighting in the area and offered little in the way of concealment, but the enemy was out there and the Army needed more information about their positions. The 21-man unit set off at 0430 to see what they could learn while another company distracted the Chinese on the other side of the hill with a frontal attack (where another soldier was earning the Medal of Honor, strangely enough).

Unfortunately, that didn’t prove to be enough of a distraction. Bleak’s formation was spotted as soon as they began to hike their way up. Quickly, the unit came under Chinese small arms fire. A few soldiers were injured immediately. Sgt. Bleak ran up from the rear to treat them just as fast as they were hit.

The mission soon continued, as did Sgt. Bleak.

That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home
“We have an Army!”

Once more they took surprise small arms fire, but this time, Bleak bum-rushed the enemy trench and dove in head-first. He snapped the neck of the first soldier he could get his hands on and then crushed the windpipe of another. As a third Chinese soldier attacked him, Bleak drew his knife and killed him with a stab to the chest.

The medic returned to his unit and began treating the soldiers wounded by the second surprise attack. As he worked, a Chinese grenade bounced off the helmet of a man standing over him. Bleak zipped into action, throwing his body over his fellow GI to shield him from the shrapnel. Luckily, no one was injured.

That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home
“We have a Bleak.”

After succeeding in its mission, Bleak’s patrol was returning to United Nations lines as they were again ambushed — this time, wounding three. Bleak was shot in the leg as he tried to get to those who needed aid. After treating everyone (including Bleak himself), the group went to leave, but one man was so injured that he couldn’t stand. So, Bleak picked him up and carried him out of there. On his way back to base, Sgt. Bleak ran into two Chinese soldiers who tried to assault him with fixed bayonets.

Not one to be easily intimidated, Bleak rushed back at them. Deftly avoiding being bayoneted, he smashed the two Chinese men’s heads together so hard that he broke their skulls. He picked up his patient and returned to friendly lines. Because of Sgt. Bleak, every man of the 20-man patrol that was ambushed multiple times that night came home. Their mission was completed, with captured enemy soldiers and all, and only sustained a few wounds in exchange.

Later the next year, President Eisenhower presented Bleak with a well-earned Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony. Bleak would live on until age 74, dying on the same day as fellow Army medic and Medal of Honor recipient, Desmond Doss.

That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home
Warning: Do not confuse Desmond Doss with David Bleak. David Bleak will f*cking kill you.
MIGHTY HISTORY

The real-life ‘Chappy’ Sinclair from Iron Eagle was an Air Force legend

Airmen and 80s movie buffs are likely to be familiar with the 1986 cult classic Iron Eagle. Sometimes called the “Top Gun of the Air Force,” Iron Eagle did not have the big budget, box office success or star power that its Naval-based counterpart did (although the soundtrack did have its fair share of great songs). However, the film did feature Academy Award winner Louis Gossett Jr. (of An Officer and a Gentleman fame) as Colonel Charles “Chappy” Sinclair, the wise Vietnam Veteran fighter pilot who gave Top Gun‘s Jester a run for his money. Chappy serves as a mentor to the main character, teenager Doug Masters played by Jason Gedrick, and guides him throughout the film.

That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home

Iron Eagle movie poster. (Credit to TriStar Pictures)

As a mentor, Chappy shares his knowledge and experience, gained in the unforgiving skies above Vietnam, with teenage Masters. An accomplished fighter pilot, Chappy helps Masters to acquire intelligence, create a rescue plan and steal two F-16 fighter jets to attack the fictional Middle Eastern country of Bilya where Masters’ father is being held. While these fictional feats are impressive, they pale in comparison to the accomplishments of the real-life Chappy.

Daniel “Chappy” James, Jr. was born on February 20, 1920 in Pensacola, FL. He graduated Tuskegee University in 1942 and received his pilot wings and commission as a 2nd LT at Tuskegee Army Airfield, Alabama on July 28, 1943. He remained at Tuskegee to train pilots for the all-black 99th Pursuit Squadron. Having completed training in the P-40 Warhawk fighter, Chappy trained on the B-25 Mitchell bomber and was stationed in Kentucky and Ohio until the end of the war.

Chappy first saw action during the Korean War. In 1949, he went to the Philippines as a flight leader in the 12th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 18th Fighter Wing at Clark Field. In July of the next year, he left for Korea where he also flew with the 44th and 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadrons in P-51 Mustang and F-80 Shooting Star fighters. During the war, Chappy flew a total of 101 combat missions.

That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home

Chappy poses with his P-51 Mustang in Korea. (Photo from the United States Air Force)

After the war, Chappy continued his Air Force career, holding commands and serving at a number of bases. In 1954, while stationed at Otis Air Force Base, Massachusetts, Chappy was given the “Young Man of the Year” award by the Massachusetts Junior Chamber of Commerce for his outstanding community relations efforts. In June 1957, he graduated from the Air Command and Staff College.

After serving on staffs, and later as assistant director and director of operations for a number of wings, Chappy went to Thailand in 1966 to support combat missions in Vietnam. He became the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing vice commander under triple (then double) ace Col. Robin Olds. Flying from Ubon Air Base in Thailand, the two men created a strong and effective tactical command, earning them the nickname “Blackman and Robin.” In total, Chappy flew 78 combat missions into North Vietnam during the war.

Following his service in Vietnam, Chappy became the commander of the 7272nd Fighter Training Wing at Wheelus Air Base in the Libyan Arab Republic. Following the coup by radical Libyan military officers, including Muammar Gaddafi, the U.S. announced plans to close Wheelus Air Base. Wanting to see how far he could push the Americans, Gaddafi sent a column of armored half-tracks through the base housing area at full speed. Unamused by the stunt, Chappy closed the base gates and confronted Gaddafi. During their confrontation, Gaddafi kept his hand on the pistol in his hip holster. “I told him to move his hand away,” Chappy recalled having had his own .45 strapped to his hip. The future Libyan dictator complied. “If he had pulled that gun, his hand would have never cleared the holster.”

Chappy’s Air Force career saw him serve as principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, vice commander of the Military Airlift Command, commander in chief of NORAD/ADCOM, and special assistant to the Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force. Chappy retired in 1978 as a four-star general, the first African-American to achieve the rank.

That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home

General Daniel “Chappy” James, Jr. Command Photo. (Photo from the United States Air Force)

The next time you watch Iron Eagle, remember General Daniel “Chappy” James, Jr., the trailblazing African-American pilot who served in three wars, stared down Gaddafi, and dared to see just how far he could go.

MIGHTY HISTORY

WATCH: The strange history of Fort Miles

Cape Henlopen, Delaware, located on the Delaware Bay, provides direct access to Philadelphia and Wilmington. Because of this strategic location, the US decided to build Fort Miles here. Construction on the installation began in 1938 in response to World War II. Its primary purposes were to defend both the Delaware Bay and the Delaware River. It also protected domestic shipping from enemies during the war and later, throughout the Cold War.

The Enemies Would Have Never Thought to Look Under the Sand Dunes

Thankfully, Fort Miles never came under direct attack, but the threat of attack during conflicts had always been there. The post became a crucial part of the country’s coastal defense. Around it were massive batteries created to fire on ships and submarines in the Atlantic Ocean. Most of them were build inside of Cape Henlopen’s giant sand dunes to keep them hidden from enemies. Your naked eye would not be able to tell those batteries and bunkers were there.

Of all the coastal batteries at Fort Miles, the four largest are Battery Smith, Battery Herring, Battery Hunter, and Batter 519. And here’s an interesting tidbit about that: Battery 519 does not have a name like the others because it was built too late in the war. World War II utilized all of the batteries. Herring point was also used throughout the Cold War for top-secret military operations.

An Effective Fort Deserves an Effective Team

Because each gun in the batteries was mounted on a railcar, Soldiers could easily position and move them for firing. The guns were also able to turn full circle, 360 degrees, making them difficult targets. If the Germans managed to make it to our shores, we were definitely at the ready.

During its peak use, more than 2,200 service members called Fort Miles home. All that training and not much else to do served its purpose. At the height of the installation, Fort Miles’ coastal artillery units outperformed all other artillery units in the Army. Yet if it hadn’t been for the constant threat of those pesky enemy boats, the Soldiers may have actually had a moment to enjoy the spectacular Atlantic views. No such luck, of course.

Little by Little, Fort Miles Closed

Cape Henlopen State Park, established in 1964, expanded over time as the federal government donated more and more Fort Miles land to the state of Delaware. By 1983, the US government deemed Fort Miles no longer necessary and gave all the land to the state of Delaware, specifically for use as a public park or another kind of public recreational space.

Now, the retired Fort Miles attracts tons of visitors every year, especially military buffs and veterans. Not only is it part of a beautiful coastal park, but it also serves as an educational space. The enormous 15,000 square foot Battery 519 houses a museum and artifacts from the wars Fort Miles has been through. There are hiking trails, an observation tower from the fort that visitors can climb, and beach access. What a great use of an old fort.

Related: Check out these six secret installations that changed history.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Marines just took a look at this Civil War battlefield to learn military lessons for the future

Atop a pristine hill, about 60 gunnery sergeants made life-or-death decisions Sept. 19 morning as modern Marines considered how the Battle of Brandy Station unfolded on June 9, 1863.


The class from the Marine Corps University at Quantico attended a staff ride to Fleetwood Hill, St. James Church, and the Graffiti House as part of its Professional Military Education training.

“We could go to any patch of grass to have a conversation,” said Phil Gibbons, a task analyst for enlisted PME. “But this is really the best place to do it.”

The site, Gibbons explained, provides a near-untouched battlefield, unspoiled by modern development. That, he said, makes it easy to envision troop movements and see the places where key actions occurred.

That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home
Map of the Battle of Brandy Station. Map by Hal Jespersen, www.posix.com/CW

“The modern inconveniences on some battlefields, Manassas, Chancellorsville, are just not there at Brandy Station,” Gibbons said. “There are no modern buildings or monuments obstructing your view. There are no 7-11s in the middle of the field.”

The battle, which involved 18,456 mounted troops and was the largest cavalry clash in North America, also remains largely unknown by today’s students of military history, which also makes it a great teaching tool, said the instructor.

“Many of these Marines are in their 20s and 30s, and today’s generation doesn’t know as much about history as we did growing up,” said Gibbons. “You could take them to Gettysburg, but everyone knows what happened there and how it turned out.”

That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home
Brandy Station Battlefield Historic District, Culpeper County. Photo courtesy of Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

Master Sergeant Gerson Ruiz, a native of Arkansas who has been teaching the staff rides for about three years, agrees that the Brandy Station Battlefield tops the region’s list of battlefields as a case study.

“We try to give them limited information at first,” Ruiz said. “Just what the commanders knew at the time. The ground is the same. So, what would they do? Then, we tell them what really happened.”

One such moment came at about 4:30 a.m. when 22-year-old Confederate Maj. Cabell Flournoy sensed movement in the dense fog down at Beverly Ford, and roused about 150 men of the 6th Virginia, many who rode without coats or saddles into a melee with the 8th New York.

Flournoy’s forces eventually fell back with about 30 casualties, but the confrontation at the Rappahannock River allowed time for word of the advancing Union forces to reach Gen. Jeb Stuart on Fleetwood Hill.

That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home
Fleetwood Hill. Photo by Craig Swain of Marker Hunter blog.

“His quick reaction, getting everyone up and in the saddle and down to the picket line to hold up the federal advance saved everyone’s bacon,” said Gibbons. “There are some great lessons down here. That one changed the whole tide of the battle.”

Historians consider the skirmish a draw, with about 1,090 casualties combined.

“It’s crazy how it was back then,” said Brian Johnson, a gunnery sergeant from North Carolina. “But at the same time, we’re looking at the same concepts though. I guess you could say the weapons are upgraded.”

That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home
Graffiti House, a field hospital during the Civil War. Wikimedia Commons photo by user Cecouchman.

At the Graffiti House, the gunnery sergeants learned more about the history of Brandy Station and the house that served as both a field hospital for the South and a headquarters for the North. Soldiers, both Blue and Gray, left signatures and drawings on the walls of the two-story structure.

Gibbons expressed his appreciation to the staff of the Graffiti House for accommodating the large groups several times each year.

“They’ve never said no to us,” Gibbons said. “What they do here is just fantastic. It doesn’t matter what day we’re coming, they’ll have someone here to lead us on tours.”

The Marine Corps University was founded in 1989; however the military school claims a much longer history, beginning in 1891 with 29 company grade officers attending the School of Application, according to the its website.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Goodyear blimb hunted Nazi subs

Ah, football. Nothing’s sweeter than getting everyone together to drink beer, eat hot dogs, watch sports, and look at corporate slogans painted on a 250-foot weapon of war that floats over them just like it floated over Nazi and Japanese submarines before bombing them into Davy Jones’ depths.

Yeah, that’s right — the Goodyear Blimp used to be a bona fide badass.


That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home

A K-class blimp flies during convoy escort duty.

(National Museum of Naval Aviation)

See, during World War II, America actually still had a pretty robust blimp program. While the rest of the world pretty much abandoned airships after the Hindenburg disaster, the U.S. was able to press forward since it had the bulk of the world’s accessible helium.

And press forward it did. While the more ambitious projects, like experimental, flying aircraft carriers, were shelved in the 1930s, America had 10 operating blimps in the U.S. Navy when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and they were quickly sent to patrol the U.S. coasts, watching for submarines.

The K-class blimps were 250-foot long sacks of helium that carried a control car with the crew inside. A fully staffed crew was 10 men, which included a pilot, gunners, and anti-submarine warriors.

That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home

Crew members load one of the four depth charges onto a K-class blimp.

(National Museum of Naval Aviation)

Yeah, blimps were there to kills subs. The K-class blimps, which accounted for 40 percent of the pre-war fleet and over 80 percent of airships built during the war, usually sported a .50-cal. or two for self-defense and four 350-pound depth charges. They could also be used to lay mines and carry cargo more quickly than their sea-bound brethren and could deploy paratroopers. In fact, the Marine Corps parachute schools in World War II included jumping out of blimps in Lakehurst, New Jersey.

The ability to spot and attack submarines while able to fly out of attack range made airships valuable on convoy duty, where they would hunt enemy subs and report the locations to escort ships. When appropriate, they’d drop their own depth charges against the subs, but re-arming required landing on a carrier, so it was best to not waste limited ammo.

That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home

A crew member checks his .50-cal. machine gun during operations.​

(National Museum of Naval Aviation)

One of the airships’ most famous battles came on the coast of Florida when the K-74 spotted a German sub bearing down on two merchant ships during the night of July 18,1943. There were typically somewhere around 10 German subs off the coast of the U.S. at any time, but the War Department and Navy Department at the time tried to keep it quiet.

K-74 attempted a surprise attack, dropping depth charges right onto the sub from 250 feet in the air, interrupting its attack and saving the merchant ships. Unfortunately, the submarine crew spotted the attacking airship and lit the low-flying vessel up with the sub’s anti-aircraft guns while the airship dropped two depth charges.

That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home

A blimp crashes during a nuclear test. Four K-class blimps were destroyed this way in the late 1950s.

(U.S. Department of Energy)

The consequences were immediate and severe for the blimp. The air envelope was severely damaged and set on fire by the German guns. The crew was able to extinguish the fire, but they could not maintain altitude and slowly settled into the sea. The commander stayed behind to dump classified gear and documents while the rest of the crew escaped in lifejackets.

The commander was separated from his men and rescued the next morning when he was luckily spotted by the crew of another airship.

The crew, all nine of them, climbed onto the airship envelope which floated in the water, and they were spotted the next morning as well. Unfortunately, a shark found them between when they were spotted by a sea plane and when a ship was able to rescue them. The shark attacked and killed one crew member, but the other eight escaped and survived.

It marked the only time an airship was destroyed by enemy fire. As for the submarine, it had received damage from the depth charge attack and was damaged again by a U.S. plane while escaping the east coast. It was forced to stay on the surface of the water en route to Germany for repairs and was spotted by British planes. Bombing runs by the Brits sealed its fate.

Airships were rarely allowed to directly attack submarines, and the attack by K-74 is one of the only documented times an airship directly damaged an enemy sub. In April 1945, K-72 dropped the newest weapon in its arsenal, an acoustic torpedo, into the water against German sub U-879. A destroyer documents a clear underwater explosion but no debris or wreckage was recovered and, so, no kill was awarded.

That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home

An airship crew distributes life jackets while operating over the water.

(National Museum of Naval Aviation)

But the airships were valued anti-submarine tools, often called into hunts to maintain contact with enemy subs as surface vessels danced around to avoid torpedoes.

In fact, two blimps were involved in a disputed submarine battle claimed by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology and a Navy veteran. Hubbard and his crew of PC-815 claimed the destruction of two submarines in a May 1942 engagement where PC-815 dropped its own depth charges while calling for reinforcement. Two Navy blimps, K-39 and K-33, responded and assisted in the search.

Hubbard would later claim one sub killed and the other too damaged to return to port, but the crews of the other vessels disputed the claim and Hubbard did not collect any physical evidence of his kill.

That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home

​Blimps served a number of functions off the coast of Europe, mostly convoy duty, mine sweeping, and cargo carrying.

The airships also engaged in less glamorous work, moving supplies and troops from position to position, out of range of enemy subs but vulnerable to air attack. They were sometimes used for fast trips across the ocean or for ferrying freight from England to other allied outposts like the Rock of Gibraltar.

Some arguments were made that the airships were one of the best options for minesweeping. They were used heavily for this activity off the coasts of Europe where the airships flew over the water, cataloging mine locations and reporting them to surface vessels which could avoid the fields until the Navy was ready to remove them.

That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home

Four K-Class blimps were tested near nuclear blasts to see how they stood up to the over pressurization from the atomic blast. They didn’t fare well.

(U.S. Department of Energy)

In one high-profile mission, airships were tasked with protecting President Franklin Roosevelt’s and Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s convoy to the Yalta Conference in 1945.

After the war, the over 150 airships in the fleet were slowly decommissioned and either retired or sent for other uses. Goodyear used one of the K-class in its commercial fleet, but it proved less than cost effective and was retired in just a year. Four airships were destroyed in nuclear tests and the last airship was retired in March 1959.

MIGHTY HISTORY

An old Saxon poem depicts Jesus as a viking warrior chief

When Christianity was getting its start, the religion didn’t exactly spread like wildfire. In its early days, the world was a tough place to be spreading new ideas. To create converts, Christians had to appeal to many, many different kinds of people for centuries. Selling the “Prince of Peace” to the Germanic-Saxon tribes of Northern Europe was particularly hard, so Christians framed Jesus in a way the locals could better understand.


Saxons were pretty much forced to take on Christianity in the 8th and 9th Centuries after a guy named Charlemagne rolled across Northern Europe with a giant sword he named “Joyous” and forced everyone there to take Communion or take three feet of steel.

But that didn’t mean they were thrilled about it.

That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home

“New Rule: Everyone who says anything about Valhalla gets sent there immediately.”

So, to make the idea of accepting the Christian god more amenable to the erstwhile pagan northerners, Jesus was recreated in a Saxon poem called Heliand, an epic poem that incorporated the Christian ideals with the Germanic warrior ethos – and that’s what caught on like wildfire. Not only did the Saxon warriors begin to accept the tenets of the new religion, the mix of cultures became the foundation of Medieval Europe and the culture of knighthood.

From there, the budding religion blossomed in the north and became widespread among the Saxons and beyond.

That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home

“Excuse me sir, do you have a moment to talk about our lord and savior?”

But it wasn’t just that the idea of God’s son being a warrior chieftain that appealed to the northerners. It was actually just a really rockin’ good poem for the time. It was so popular, in fact, that multiple copies of Heliand still survive. If we’re being honest with ourselves, no matter what we think of the Christian religion, the stories are pretty good. Of particular interest in the Heliand are the stories of Genesis, the Revolt of the Angels, the story of Cain and Abel, and the Destruction of Sodom.

Imagining the same characters from these Biblical stories in a different setting would changes the way we see Christianity, even today.

That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home

All I’m saying is I would read more of the Bible if all the characters were vikings.

Another reason it caught on so fast was that it was written in a way familiar to the Saxons. It’s the largest known work ever written in the Old Saxon language and it was written in the epic poem style that was already popular with those people at the time. Jesus became a chieftain, prayers became runes, and the last supper became “the last mead hall feast with the warrior-companions.”

The poem still exists in many forms, with manuscripts being held by the British Museum, the Catholic Church in Vatican City, Germany’s Bavarian State Library, and more. You can buy an English-language copy of the Heliand on Amazon, which includes lines from the life and times of Jesus like:

The Chieftain of mankind is born in David’s hill-fort.
• The three foreign warriors present their gifts to the Ruler’s Child.
• John announces Christ’s coming to Middlegard.
• Christ the Chieftain is immersed in the Jordan by His loyal thane John.
• The Champion of mankind fights off the loathsome enemy.
• Christ, the might Chieftain, chooses His first warrior-companions.
• The mighty Rescuer calls twelve to be His men.

Now admit that Christmas and Easter just got a whole lot cooler.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The “Souvenir King” was one of the best soldiers on the Western Front

War trophies and battlefield loot were especially common during the two World Wars. However, one allied soldier’s hijacking habits during WWI earned him the nickname the “Souvenir King”. Despite his lack of military discipline, the Souvenir King was also one of the bravest soldiers in the trenches.

Private No 2296 John Hines, also known as Barney, was born in Liverpool, England in 1873. From a young age, Hines was a rebel. At the age of 14, he ran away from home to join the Army before his mother caught him. Undeterred, he joined the Royal Navy two years later and served on a gunboat during the Boxer Rebellion chasing pirates in the China Sea. The next year, he was discharged and began a globetrotting expedition in search of gold.

While searching for his fortune in South Africa, the Boer War broke out. Unofficially, he served as a scout for many British units during the war. Afterwards, Hines continued his quest for gold in the United States, South America, and New Zealand. Coming up dry each time, he made his way to Australia and found work at a sawmill before WWI broke out in August 1914. Though he was now in his early 40s, Hines tried to enlist but was rejected for medical reasons. Still, he jumped from recruiting post to recruiting post until he was accepted in 1916 as part of a reinforcement for the Australian 45th Battalion.

That time North Korean commandos tried to assassinate the South Korean president at home
Soldiers pose with a Lewis Gun like the one that Hines used (Public Domain)

In France, Hines found a distaste for the standard-issue Lee-Enfield .303 rifle. Instead, with his large stature and immense strength, Hines preferred to go into battle with a pair of sandbags filled with Mills bomb hand grenades. Seeing the potential of a soldier like Hines, his commanding officer gave the Souvenir King a Lewis machine gun. This turned out to be a match made in heaven. “This thing’ll do me,” Hines assessed in his Liverpudlian accent. “You can hose the bastards down.”

Hines’ fearlessness and excitement on the battlefield also earned him the nickname “Wild Eyes”. “I always felt secure when Wild Eyes was about,” Hines’ commanding officer said. “He was a tower of strength in the line—I don’t think he knew what fear was and he naturally inspired confidence in the officers and men.” Of course, Hines’ strongest reputation was still as the Souvenir King.

Annoyed by the harassing sniper fire from a German pillbox, Hines charged the position, leapt on its roof and performed a war dance taunting the Germans to come out. When his taunts went unanswered, Hines lobbed a handful of Mills bombs through the gun port. Shocked and disorientated, the 63 German soldiers that survived came out and surrendered to Hines who proceeded to collect souvenirs of badges, helmets, and watches before marching them back to the Australian lines. Hines would squirrel away any battlefield loot that he could get his hands on.

On another occasion, Hines came across a heavily shelled German aid station. Ironically, the only survivor was a British soldier who Hines scooped up and bravely carried back to allied lines. Sadly, the Tommy died before they returned. After delivering his fallen comrade to friendly hands, Hines returned to aid station and looted it. Still, he set his sights higher.

At Villers-Bretonneux, Hines acquired a piano which he managed to hold on to for a few days before he was forced to give it up. Another large souvenir was a grandfather clock. However, after its hourly chimes started to draw German fire, Hines’ battle buddies ironically destroyed it with one of Hines’ favorite weapons—Mills bombs. At Armentieres, Hines found a keg of Bass Ale which he rolled back to friendly lines. However, he was stopped by military police who wouldn’t let him take the keg back to the trenches. In classic Hines style, he returned with a friend to drink the whole thing on the spot.

Perhaps Hines’ finest souvenir hunt came at Amiens. After disappearing for a few hours, Hines was caught by British soldiers looting the vaults in the Bank of France. The Souvenir King had already stuffed his pockets full of banknotes and packed another million Francs in a set of suitcases. Unable to press charges against an Australian soldier, the Brits turned him back over to the Aussies. Hines later boasted that, while the heist cost him 14 days’ pay, he had been allowed to keep the loot stuffed in his pockets.

Hines wasn’t invincible though. At Passchendale, he was the only survivor of a direct hit on his Lewis gun nest. Despite being thrown 20 meters and having the soles blown off of his boots, Hines crawled back to his gun and returned fire until he passed out from his leg wounds. At Villers-Bretonneux, Hines threw a trench party catered with champagne and tinned delicacies that he had looted. He and his friends even dressed up in top hats and dress suits. Take a wild guess as to how they got their hands on those. However, following the party, Hines was wounded above his eye, in his leg, and received a whiff of deadly gas. Despite his protests, the wounded and nearly blinded Souvenir King was taken to a hospital at Etaples.

Still, Hines continued to display unusual bravery and valor. A few days after he was admitted, the Germans bombed the hospital and caused over 3,000 casualties. During the bombardment, Hines crawled out of bed and found a broom for a crutch. Despite his own injuries, Hines spent the entire night carrying the other patients to safety. After the war, Hines was invalided and returned to Australia.

He lived in a lean-to made of cloth bags on the outskirts of Sydney. The lean-to was surrounded by a fence on which he hung his various souvenirs. He lived off of his Army pension and worked various odd jobs. However, Hines found renewed fame in the early 1930s when several magazines and newspapers published stories about his wartime exploits and current living conditions. Several veterans sent him money and the government doubled his pension. Still, the Souvenir King remained humble, donating a suitcase of vegetables from his garden to fellow soldiers being treated at Concord Repatriation Hospital in Sydney.

When WWII broke, despite being in his 60s, Hines volunteered for combat. When he was rejected, he tried to stowaway on a troop ship before his was found out and returned to shore. Hines died on January 28, 1958 at Concord Repatriation Hospital. The legacy of the Souvenir King lives on in the famous photo of him surrounded by his loot at the Battle of Polygon Wood.

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Hines counting stolen money at Polygon Wood. Note the looted German hat, weapons, and other personal equipment (Public Domain)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the Queen of England took a member of Parliament hostage

They do things a little differently over in Britain. They say the U.S. and the UK are two nations separated by a common language — but we’re also separated by food quality and bizarre traditions. Just as the English might be a little concerned when the Leader of the Free World pardons a turkey every year, we’re a little leery when we see Queen Elizabeth II holding a member of Member of Parliament hostage — as she does every year.


It’s now more a Parliamentary tradition more than the political necessity it once was, but every year, the English monarch does take a member of Parliament hostage.

While this may seem like a strange tradition for one of the world’s top ten powers, remember that the United States purposely keeps a lower-ranking member of the Presidential Cabinet away from the State of the Union Address just in case everyone in that room dies somehow.

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For example, this would have been your President if something like that happened at the 2018 State of the Union Address. If you know who that is without looking it up, you are 70 percent more ‘Murica than everyone else.

Related: What a ‘designated survivor’ does during the State of the Union

At the opening of Parliament every year, the reigning monarch delivers a speech from the throne. It’s just one part of a grand tradition that really showcases a lot of British governmental history. But before she gets to the throne, a number of fascinating events take place. They first ensure there aren’t any Guy Fawkes impersonators loading gunpowder in the cellar, then the members (called “Peers”) assemble. Then, before the monarch leaves the palace, one of the members of the body is taken hostage to ensure the safe return of the Queen.

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“Let us all be prepared to ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuumble.”

(Crown photo)

The reason for this was that Parliament hasn’t always been a welcoming place for the monarch. In fact, a very long war resulted from this division that left Britain under the rule of a de-facto military dictatorship for a few years. King Charles I was actually beheaded in 1649 as part of that Civil War.

Nowadays, Parliament keeps Charles’ execution warrant displayed in the monarch’s dressing room as a reminder of what can happen if the Queen oversteps her authority.

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Savage.

Once the monarch’s crown and regalia arrives and the Hostage MP is under guard, the Queen departs Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster (where Parliament meets). The Commons are called to assemble in the Lords chamber, where the monarch will deliver her speech.

The sitting monarch has not entered the Commons chamber since Charles I burst in, trying to arrest five members of Parliament whom he believed were using a Scottish invasion as a pretext to rally the people of London to rise against him. We already covered where this took the English Monarchy and Charles I personally.

Savage.

Once assembled in the House of Lords’ Chamber, the Queen will give a speech, written by the Prime Minister and the cabinet, outlining the body’s agenda for the coming year. The whole procession is then done in reverse, with the monarch departing Westminster for Buckingham Palace.

Once the Queen has safely returned to the Palace the Hostage MP is released, presumably unharmed.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later


Thirty-three years ago, the Star Wars program was easily the most elaborate and complex defense system ever conceived.

“I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete,” President Ronald Reagan said on March 23, 1983. The speech announced the creation of a new missile defense called the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which quickly became known as Star Wars.

It envisaged a vast network of laser-armed satellites, air-based missiles, and ground-based interceptors missiles and electromagnetic railguns. These would be used to intercept incoming nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles from the Soviet Union and other enemies, all coordinated through advanced sensors linked to supercomputers, and protect the United States from direct nuclear attack. By being able to neutralize at least most of the incoming nuclear warheads, the U.S. hoped to show the Soviet Union that any potential nuclear confrontation was hopeless.

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Graphic of how SDI would work.

The United States and the Soviet Union had flirted with anti-ballistic missile systems in the past.

The U.S. developed the Nike Zeus series of missiles in the early 1960s, which had some ABM capability, and the Soviet Union installed similar missiles around Moscow as protection against limited nuclear strikes. Neither could begin to effectively cope with large-scale nuclear attacks, and the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty of 1972 strictly limited the number of missile interceptors allowed. The U.S. closed its only missile defense system, called Safeguard, in 1976 after it had only been in operation for a few months and at enormous expense. But by the early 1980s, concerned with advancements in Soviet missiles, the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff revisited the idea, and presented it to Reagan. The idea of a defensive measure to nuclear war beyond simply building more nuclear warheads appealed to to the president.

The technical hurdles for a defense shield like Reagan proposed would be on a scale exceeding any defense project attempted before. The majority of the technology involved, such as weaponized lasers and electromagnetic railguns firing projectiles at extremely high speeds, did not even exist yet and might not be developed for decades. It entailed hundreds, if not thousands of advanced satellites and radars to even begin to aim all the weapons required to make a dent in the Soviet’s vast arsenal. Reagan himself admitted that SDI could easily take until the end of the century to be put into place.

The skepticism towards the program was intense from the beginning. Besides the clear violations of the ABM treaty such a system would represent, it would also extend the arms race even deeper into space.

Swarms of hunter-killer satellites and space-based lasers would be a frightening new frontier, and the Soviet Union would almost certainly try to respond in kind. The projected costs of the system ran into the hundreds of billions of dollars, and the inevitable cost overruns would balloon the Star Wars program to a huge percentage of the U.S. military budget. In the event of an a nuclear attack, unproven technology would have be coordinated on an unprecedented scale and work perfectly the first time. The hurdles involved were well-nigh insurmountable. Nevertheless, by 1987 more than $3 billion was being appropriated annually by Congress to start developing the technology, roughly $6.5 billion in today’s dollars.

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There has been much debate about what sort of affect the Star Wars program had running up to the end of the Cold War, but there is little doubt that the Soviet Union took the program very seriously, and were genuinely concerned about an expanded arm’s race which had immense costs they could not begin to afford. But by the end of the Cold War, a missile-defense system on the scale of SDI was still a pipe-dream. In 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the idea was scaled back to a much more limited system capable of defending against small-scale strikes.

The simple fact was that the program was never going to be feasible against as many weapons as an opponent like the Soviet Union could put into play. By 1986 the Soviet’s had over 40,000 nuclear warheads stockpiled, including nearly a thousand ICBM’s with up to 10 warheads a piece that could shower and overwhelm any target within 30 minutes of launch. Soviet submarine’s armed with nuclear missiles could get close enough to U.S. coasts that their payloads could strike hundreds of targets faster than any conceivable system could detect and intercept them. Even if SDI could stop 90 percent of the Soviet’s warheads, the 10 percent that made it through would leave the United States in radioactive ruin.

Though scaled back, development on weapons envisaged in Star Wars continued throughout the 1990s. Its legacy can be seen in today’s Missile Defense Agency. The MDA has cost more than $100 billion since 2002, and the test results of its missile interceptors have been decidedly mixed.

After more than three decades of advances in technology, however more modest our nuclear defense program is now, it still might not be any more realistic than its Cold War forebears.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 4 most dangerous D-Day missions

“Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well-trained, well-equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.”

As the sun set on the blood-stained beaches of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944, Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s message to the thousands of Allied troops dispatched to carry out the largest amphibious landing in military history rang true.

The invasion, codenamed Operation Neptune and remembered as D-Day, sent roughly 156,000 British, Canadian, and American troops to the Nazi-occupied French coast by air and sea, beginning the multi-month Battle of Normandy and the liberation of Western Europe from Hitler’s Wehrmacht. This week, as millions gather in Normandy to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, National WWII Museum senior historian Rob Citino emphasized that the impact of the landings came at a tremendous human toll. By the end of the Normandy campaign, hundreds of thousands of Allied and Axis soldiers and civilians had died and been wounded, with those involved in the initial landings suffering disproportionately.

“Certain sectors and certain minutes, casualties were 100 percent,” Citino said.

Citino described the most perilous jobs American troops performed to help make the D-Day landings a World War II turning point. “It was bad enough but would have been worse,” he says.


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A paratrooper with a Thompson M1 submachine and heavy equipment.

(The National WWII Museum)

1. The Pathfinders

The earliest paratroopers of the US Army’s 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions jumped into enemy territory in the dark, facing unrelenting attacks with little back-up and a lot of pressure to light the way.

Strategy and scope: Upwards of 13,000 American paratroopers would jump in the early days of Operation Neptune, the Allied invasion of well-guarded Normandy.

Minutes after midnight on June 6, around 300 101st Pathfinders, nicknamed “the Screaming Eagles,” went in first. Paratrooping in lean, highly-trained formations, the Pathfinders were not out to engage in combat. They were to quickly set up lights and flares to mark drop zones for paratroopers and landing paths for the gliders preparing to land.

General Eisenhower’s advice to the 101st ahead of D-Day? “The trick is to keep moving.”

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Pathfinders with the 82nd Airborne Division jumped from C-47 transports into occupied France under the cover of darkness.

(The National WWII Museum)

The Pathfinders paved the way for waves of paratroopers to follow, but paid a heavy price.

Threats and losses: The equipment they carried — from parachutes and life jackets to lighting systems they were to set up once on the ground — made their packs so heavy that they had to be helped onto the planes.

Then there was the jump.

Amid the bad weather and limited visibility that night, some were blown wildly off course after leaping from the C-47 Skytrains. Even those who managed textbook landings into the intended locations were at risk.

“It’s the loneliness — out there all by yourself with no one riding to your rescue in the next 10 minutes if you get in trouble. You’re against all the elements,” Citino said.

Impact: While the Pathfinders saw heavy losses, they ultimately enabled more accurate, effective landings and ability for Allied troops to withstand counterattacks.

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They climbed 100-foot cliffs under fire to take out key German artillery pieces aimed at the beaches.

(National Archives)

2. The Ranger Assault Group scaling Pointe du Hoc

Strategy and scope: Once dawn broke on June 6, 1944, a force of 225 US Army Rangers of the 2nd and 5th Ranger battalions began their attempts to seize Pointe du Hoc. Their mission: Scale the 100-foot rock and upon reaching the cliff top, destroy key German gun positions, clearing the way for the mass landings on Omaha and Utah beaches.

The multifaceted naval bombardment sent the highly trained climbers hauling themselves up the cliffs using ropes, hooks, and ladders. Two Allied destroyers would drop bombs onto the Germans in an attempt to limit the enemy’s ability to simply shoot the Rangers off the cliffs.

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The sheer cliff walls the Rangers scaled, shown about two days after D-Day when it because a route for supplies.

(US Army)

The Rangers climbed the cliffs in sodden clothes while Germans above them shot at them and tried to cut their ropes.

Threats and losses: Beyond the challenging mountain climbing involved in getting into France via the cliffs along the English Channel, the Rangers faced choppy waters and delayed landings, which increased the formidable enemy opposition.

Nazi artillery fire sprayed at the naval bombardment. Landing crafts sank. Those who made it to the rocks were climbing under enemy fire, their uniforms and gear heavy and slippery from from mud and water. Germans started cutting their ropes. Rangers who reached the cliff top encountered more enemy fire, along with terrain that looked different from the aerial photographs they had studied, much of it reduced to rubble in the aftermath of recent aerial bombings. And they discovered that several of the guns they were out to destroy had been repositioned.

Impact: The Rangers located key German guns and disabled them with grenades. They also took out enemy observation posts and set up strategic roadblocks and communication lines on Pointe du Hoc. The 155mm artillery positions they destroyed could have compromised the forthcoming beach landings.

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US soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division aproach Omaha Beach in a landing craft.

(The National WWII Museum)

3. The first troops on Omaha Beach

Members of the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions and the US Army Rangers stormed the beach codenamed “Omaha” in the earliest assaults. These were the bloodiest moments of D-Day.

Strategy and scope: Beyond enemy fire, the Allies were up against physical barricades installed to prevent landings onto the six-mile stretch of Hitler’s “Atlantic Wall.”

To break through, infantry divisions, Rangers, and specialist units arrived to carry out a series of coordinated attacks, blowing up and through obstacles in order to secure the five paths from the beach and move inland.

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American troops approach Omaha Beach on June 7.

(The National WWII Museum)

A fraction of the first assault troops ever reached the top of the bluff.

Threats and losses: In pre-invasion briefings, troops were told there would be Allied bombing power preceding them and that the Germans would be largely obliterated and washed ashore, Citino said.

While there were aerial bombings, the impact was not as planned. Some of the B-24s and B-17s flying overhead missed their targets. German troops sprayed guns and mortars with clear views of the soldiers, stevedores, porters, and technical support charging the narrow stretch of beach. Men waded through rough, cold water from Allied landing crafts under withering heavy fire. The dangers continued with mines in the sand.

The scene was similarly gruesome for combat engineers moving in with Bangalore torpedoes to blow up obstacles. Meanwhile, amphibious tank operators tried to shield Allied infantry and medics came ashore to try to administer emergency care while facing counterattacks and navigating around the dead and wounded.

Impact: A fraction of those who landed reached the top of the bluff. Some company headcounts went to single digits. But the troops who helped secure Omaha and the five paths off the beach in the coming days cleared the way for massive tanks, fuel, food, and reinforcements important to the rest of the campaign.

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Soldiers prepare to deploy a barrage balloon on Utah Beach during the Normandy invasion.

(The National WWII Museum)

4. The 320th Balloon Barrage Battalion

These combat troops landed on Utah Beach and set up key lines of defense to prevent Luftwaffe raiders from strafing the incoming army of troops and supplies.

Strategy and scope: The Allies knew that as soon as the landings began, German air attacks would present a major threat to the masses of troops arriving in thousands of landing crafts. To defend against air raids, they turned to defensive weaponry units, including the 621 African-American soldiers in the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, to land with 125-pound blimps and work in teams to anchor them to the ground. Each blimp was filled with hydrogen and connected to small bombs that could denote if enemy aircraft made contact with the cables.

Threats and losses: They came ashore on Utah Beach from some 150 landing crafts on the morning of June 6, facing the dangers of fellow infantry and the added threats that came with maneuvering heavy cables and balloon equipment on the beach under fire. They set up barrage balloons, digging trenches to take cover as waves of fellow soldiers landed.

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The landings would have been even more deadly without the defensive balloons set up by the 320th.

(Army Signal Corps)

The air cover allowed Allied troops to move inland with less threat of being bombed or strafed by German planes.

Impact: As landing craft after landing craft came ashore on and after D-Day, the 320th’s balloons gave Allied troops and equipment some protection, allowing them to move inland with less threat of being blown into the sand by German fighters.

The hydrogen-filled balloons they deployed along the coast created barriers between the Allied troops and the enemy aircraft out to decimate them. Citino said that their actions setting up the defensive balloons under enemy fire were “as heroic as it gets.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the US Navy captured its first enemy ship in 129 years

In the early days of the U.S. Navy, boarding and capturing enemy vessels was common practice. As naval firepower increased, the practice became to sink the other ship rather than capture it. Then in 1944 with some daring actions–and a stroke of luck–the U.S. Navy captured a German U-boat, its first such accomplishment since the War of 1812.


The German U-boat, U-505, was known as a hard-luck case, though it could also be said that it was a boat that wouldn’t sink. On her fourth patrol of the war, a British Hudson bomber scored a direct hit in an attack run so low that the explosion caused the plane to crash as well. The captain gave the order to abandon ship but the technical crew insisted on staying aboard to save the vessel. After two weeks of repairs, the U-boat was able to limp back to Europe and had the honor of being the most heavily damaged submarine to ever return to port.

Despite numerous abortive cruises due to French saboteurs, U-505 finally sailed for another patrol; this time, however, it earned another dubious honor when her skipper became the first–and only–known submarine commander to crack and commit suicide while under attack.

Finally, in the spring of 1944, fully-repaired and under the command of a new captain, U-505 set a course for the coast of West Africa for an 80-day war patrol.

Also heading towards West Africa during that time was Task Group 22.3, commanded by Captain Daniel Gallery from his flagship, the escort carrier USS Guadalcanal. Task Group 22.3 was employed as an anti-submarine Hunter-Killer group as part of the Battle of the Atlantic. Along with Guadalcanal the group also consisted of five destroyer escorts.

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Hunter-Killer Task Group 22.3 had one mission: take out German U-boats. (Museum of Science+Industry Chicago)

During Task Group 22.3’s second Hunter-Killer cruise, Captain Gallery had an important revelation. A long-running battle with U-515 ended when the U-boat was too heavily damaged to continue and surfaced so its crew could abandon ship. As the Germans abandoned ship, the task group blasted it until it finally sank. Gallery realized that if he had a trained boarding party ready they could quickly board a scuttled U-boat and save it from sinking. As the task force returned to port, Gallery began making preparations for just such an event during the next sortie.

On June 4, 1944, Task Group 22.3 found the perfect prey. As U-505 was returning from its war patrol, it inadvertently stumbled right into the middle of the task group. The sub tried to dive but the clear waters allowed the Guadalcanal’s aircraft to maintain visual contact and use their guns to mark the submarine’s location in the water. The task group’s destroyer escorts then moved in for the kill.

USS Chatelain began its attack by launching its Mark 4 Hedgehog anti-submarine weapon at the U-boat. When those failed to score a hit, Chatelain repositioned and dropped a pattern of depth charges against the sub.

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Task Group 22.3 attacks the German U-505. (Museum of Science+Industry Chicago)

A U-505 surviving crewmember, Hans Goebeler remembered the attack vividly. “They really gave it to us,” he said. “The explosions were the biggest I ever heard.” The depth charges caused severe internal and external damage to the U-boat. With all hope seeming lost, the commander gave the order to surface and abandon ship–just as Gallery had anticipated.

As the sub came to the surface, the American ships and aircraft raked it with gunfire, hoping to quickly drive off the German sailors before they could properly scuttle the ship. The fire had the intended effect. The Americans killed one German and wounded two others as the rest of the crew quickly jumped overboard to escape the maelstrom of bullets.

Normally the American destroyer escorts would have moved in to finish off the U-boat and send it to Davy Jones’ Locker but Captain Gallery’s decision to try to capture a German submarine called for a different action. As the Germans fled the sinking sub, a nearby destroyer escort, the USS Pillsbury, launched a boarding party to rescue the stricken vessel. The other ships picked up their new German POWs.

Led by Lt. Albert David, the boarding party plunged through the conning tower and into the submarine. It was a race against time–the ship sinking beneath them was rigged with scuttling charges that could explode at any moment. The boarding party quickly found the open sea strainer, an 11-inch pipe pouring water into the submarine, and capped it. To their relief, the party found that in their haste to abandon ship, none of the Germans had taken the time to arm the scuttling charges. Most of the submarine was below the water with just the front portion and most of the conning tower still visible. The sub was hanging on by an air bubble in one of the dive tanks.

The boarding party quickly secured the biggest prize of all: U-505’s log books, charts, codes, and its Enigma machine. The ship was still in danger of sinking, however, and with little working knowledge of German submarines, the task of salvaging U-505 fell on the task group’s chief engineer, Commander Earl Trosino. As Gallery would later say when the situation was the most precarious, “thanks to Trosino’s uncanny instinct for finding the right valves, and his total disregard for his own safety, we succeeded in saving U-505.”

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Task Group 22.3 takes great risk to capture U-505–and the wealth of intelligence on board. (Museum of Science+Industry Chicago)

With the submarine secured, the task group took it under tow and headed for Bermuda. The intelligence gained from the capture of U-505 was invaluable. By maintaining strict secrecy of the operation, the Germans were never aware that the Americans had captured their U-boat intact with its precious cargo of information. The entire task group was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for their actions. Lt. David was awarded the Medal of Honor for his part in leading the boarding party.

Articles

This is how Patton smashed his way out of Normandy

When Allied troops landed in Normandy, Gen. George Patton had two jobs. One had been to lead the fictional First United States Army Group, a part of Operation Fortitude, to deceive the Germans as to the Allies’ actual intentions against Normandy. His second was training his real unit, Third Army.


Once the Allies had secured a beachhead, Patton took Third Army to Northern France where it became operational on August 1, 1944. By the time Third Army went into action, the Allies had spent nearly two months fighting for a breakout to no avail.

The thick Norman hedgerows and stiff German resistance had slowed progress to a crawl. Patton had other ideas.

Following on the heels of Operation Cobra opening a path, Patton turned Third Army “east, west, and south behind the German lines and went looking for trouble.”

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As Third Army broke free of the restrictive hedgerows, Patton showed that he was truly a master of maneuver warfare and combined arms tactics.

Patton would use armored reconnaissance scouts to range ahead of his forces to find the enemy. Once found, he used his armored divisions to spearhead the attacks. Armored infantry, supported by tanks and self-propelled artillery, would attack in force.

Every breach in German lines was exploited by more armor which kept the Germans from being able to effectively regroup.

Patton also pioneered the use of tactical air support, now known as close air support, by having tactical fighter-bombers flying cover over his advancing columns. This technique is known as armored column cover and used three to four P-51s or P-47s, coordinated by a forward air controller riding in one of the tanks on the ground.

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P-51 fighters. Photo from DoD.

Patton’s Third Army headquarters also had more staff dedicated to tactical air support and conducting air strikes against the enemy than any other formations in Europe.

Making the best of these new techniques, much like the Germans had with the Blitz, Patton’s first moves were to drive south and west to cut off the Germans in Brittany and open more ports on the coast to Allied shipping.

Using speed and aggression, Third Army had reached the coast in less than two weeks.

Those forces then turned around 180 degrees and raced east across France.

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The 28th Infantry Division on the Champs Élysées in the “Victory Day” parade on 29 August 1944. Photo under public domain.

Patton’s forces moved so fast that normal tactics were insufficient.

Light aircraft that normally served as artillery spotters were pressed into the airborne reconnaissance role.

To keep up with his troops, the 4th Armored Division’s commander, Maj. Gen. John Wood, would often task one of his aerial artillery observers, “Bazooka Charlie” Carpenter, to fly ahead to his armored columns so he could personally deliver orders.

Carpenter was famous for mounting bazooka’s on his light aircraft and attacking German armor – just the kind of fighting man Patton wanted in his army.

As Patton’s troops pushed east, they continued to drive the Germans back. Along with actions by the Canadians and Poles to the north, they were beginning to form a pocket around the German Army Group B.

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General Eisenhower reviews damage (including a wrecked Tiger II) in the pocket at Chambois. Photo under public domain.

The neck of the pocket was closing at Falaise, which was held by the Canadians. Patton was driving his men hard to effect a link-up and trap Germans attempting to retreat from Normandy.

Much to Patton’s dismay, Gen. Omar Bradley, commander of the Twelve US Army Group, called him off. Due to the fact that his forces were fighting the Germans all over Northern France, Patton could only commit four divisions to blocking German escape to the south. Bradley was worried that stretching Patton’s line further could lead to him being overrun by German forces desperate to escape the trap.

As Bradley would put it later, “I much preferred a solid shoulder at Argentan to the possibility of a broken neck at Falaise.”

Undeterred, Patton consolidated his forces and continued his drive out of Normandy.

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Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, Lieutenant General George S. Patton, and Major General Manton S. Eddy being shown a map by one of Patton’s armored battalion commanders during a tour near Metz, France, November 13, 1944.

With the Germans retreating from the area, Patton set his Third Army to give chase.

Depleted German units were easily overcome.

The 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, recalled to England the month before, lamented that Patton continually overran their drop zones and kept them out of the action.

On August 25, 1944, the 4th Infantry Division, a lead element of Patton’s Third Army, arrived at the outskirts of Paris. Allowing the French 2nd Armored Division to take the lead in the liberation of their capital, the division moved into the city.

Just five days later, Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Northern France, was declared over.

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Operation Overlord in full swing on the beaches of Normandy. Photo under public domain.

Patton, however, was not done. He had his eyes set on Germany and continued to push his forces.

As Third Army drove hard towards the French province of Lorraine, they finally outran their supply lines. On August 31, Patton’s drive ground to a halt. Patton assumed that he would be given priority for supplies due to the success of his offensive, but was dismayed to learn that this was not the case.

Eisenhower favored a broad front approach and allocated more incoming supplies to Montgomery for his bold plan – Operation Market Garden.

Despite their success in defeating German units all across France and driving further than any other force, the men of Third Army would have to wait for their chance to drill into Germany.

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