That time terrorists seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

That time terrorists seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca

1979 was a tumultuous year in the Islamic world. The year opened with the overthrow of the Shah and a revolution in Iran. The year ended with chaos in Islam’s holy city of Mecca when radical terrorists took over the Grand Mosque.


The terrorist group, led by Juhayman al-Otaybi, believed that the Mahdi (Arabic for “the redeemer”) arrived on earth in the form of al-Otaybi’s brother-in-law, Muhammad Abdullah al-Qahtani.

On the morning of Nov. 20, 1979 al-Otaybi led some 500 armed insurgents into the mosque just as the Imam was preparing to lead 50,000 followers in their morning prayers. The terrorists killed two unarmed policemen before barricading the gates and taking up defensive positions around the mosque and in the minarets.

That time terrorists seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca
That’s… unexpected.

Within hours, a large force of police from Mecca assembled and attempted to retake the mosque. However, they were outgunned and exposed and were forced to fall back after taking heavy casualties.

Soon, Saudi Army and Saudi National Guard troops joined the surviving police and cordoned off the mosque. The remainder of the city was evacuated by that night. However, further response was delayed due to several issues: Two important Saudi princes were out of the country and unable to give direction. Additionally, violence inside the Grand Mosque is strictly prohibited by Islamic Law. Any kind of violent action required the issuance of a fatwa from the ulema – Islamic intellectuals – to allow for troops to retake the mosque.

In the meantime, Saudi, Pakistani, and French Special Forces arrived in the area to prepare for retaking the mosque.

According to Lawrence Wright, since non-Muslims are barred from entering the holy city of Mecca, the three French commandos converted to Islam in a brief ceremony before continuing with their mission.

With the approval of the ulema to commit violence against those holding the mosque, Saudi forces attempted another assault against the insurgents. Again, the Saudi’s were thrown back with heavy losses. The insurgent snipers in their perches easily picked off approaching troops.

After their second defeat, the Saudis turned to the French to devise a plan that would allow them to retake the mosque.

The French solution was to use gas – pumped into the underground tunnels beneath the mosque – to incapacitate the insurgents so assault forces could then make their way in and kill the terrorists. Unfortunately, the twisting, expansive nature of the tunnels failed to keep the gas concentrated enough to work.

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Smoke rising from the Grand Mosque during the assault on the Marwa-Safa gallery, 1979.

Eventually, Saudi forces drilled holes in the walls and used tear gas and grenades to drive the insurgents away from their strongpoints. In conjunction with Pakistani Special Forces, the assault was renewed.

Those caught in the open were quickly killed. However, many insurgents retreated into the catacombs below the mosque and put up a staunch defense. The Saudi and Pakistani forces fought a bloody battle, oftentimes indiscriminately killing insurgents and hostages alike, in order to retake the mosque.

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Saudi soldiers fighting their way into the Qaboo Underground beneath the Grand Mosque of Mecca, 1979

The siege and battle had lasted more than two weeks and resulted in 255 killed inside the mosque on top of some 127 military personnel killed. Total casualties, including wounded, exceeded 1,000.

68 insurgents, including their leader al-Otaybi, were captured following the battle. Al-Qahtani, the supposed Mahdi, was killed during the recapturing of the mosque.

The insurgents were shown no leniency and were found guilty of seven crimes: violating the sanctity of the Grand Mosque, violating the sanctity of the month of Muharram, killing fellow Muslims and others, disobeying legitimate authorities, suspending prayer at the Grand Mosque, erring in identifying the Mahdi, and exploiting the innocent for criminal acts.

They were divided up into four groups and sent to four cities around Saudi Arabia. The convicted were then publicly executed by beheading.

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Surviving insurgents in custody of Saudi authorities.

The seizure of the Grand Mosque also had the effect of drastically changing policies in Saudi Arabia. Even though the attack was carried out by religious fundamentalists, the king turned to more religion in society to placate any more fundamentalism. These fundamentalist reforms hold sway in Saudi Arabia to this day.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 incredible facts about ‘Flying the Hump’ in World War II

“The Hump” was the nickname Allied pilots gave the airlift operation that crossed the Himalayan foothills into China. It was the Army Air Force’s most dangerous airlift route, but it was the only way to supply Chinese forces fighting Japan — and things weren’t going well for China.

World War II began in 1937 for Chiang Ki-Shek’s nationalist China. By the time the United States began running supplies to the Chinese forces fighting Japan, the Western part of the country was firmly controlled by the invading Japanese. The Japanese also controlled Burma, on India’s Eastern border, cutting off the last land route to the Chinese. Aid would have to come by air and American planes would have to come from the West — over the “Roof of the World.”

But getting there was terribly inefficient.


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The state of China in 1941.

As a matter of fact, the original plan to bomb targets on the Japanese mainland involved flying B-29s loaded with fuel over the Hump from India into China. But when the planes landed at Shangdu, they would often have to take on fuel to ensure they could make the flight home, as recounted by then-Army Air Forces officer and later Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in the film The Fog of War.

Beyond the inefficiency of flying the Hump, it was incredibly dangerous. More than 1,000 men and 600 planes were lost over the 530-mile stretch of rugged terrain, and that’s a very conservative estimate. It was dubbed the “Skyway to Hell” and the “Aluminum Trail” for the number of planes that didn’t make it.

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Some 14 million Chinese died and up to 100 million became refugees during the eight years of fighting between China and Japan.

1. Flying the Hump was central to winning the war.

When reading about World War II’s Pacific Theater, what comes up most often is the gallantry and bravery of Marines, Sailors, and Coasties who were part of the island hopping campaign. We also hear a lot about the bomber groups of airmen who devastated the Japanese home islands. What we seldom hear about is the U.S. Army in the China, India, Burma theater who were busy building a 1,000-mile road and flying over the Himalayan foothills to keep China in the fight.

And this was vitally important.

China is a vast country and when the Communists and nationalists joined forces to take on the Japanese, they were a massive force to take on. Three million Chinese soldiers kept 1.25 million Japanese troops in China, away from the ever-creeping Allies who were taking island after island, slowly getting closer to the Japanese mainland.

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China was fighting for survival.

2. Extreme weather took down more U.S. pilots than the Japanese.

Forget, for a moment, that American pilots were flying planes dubbed “The Flying Coffin” — the Curtiss C-46 Commando — at times. The mountain ranges of the Himalayas caused jetstream-strength winds and dangerous weather at extreme altitudes. And when that doesn’t take you, a Japanese Zero will be there to try.

Pilots would plod along at ground speeds of around 30 miles per hour while the wind lifted their planes to 28,000 feet and then back to 6,000 shortly after. If pilots weren’t fighting ice storms or thunderstorms, they were fighting the Japanese.

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Where dreams (and air crews) go to die.

3. Many pilots flying the Hump were newbies.

Although the China National Aviation Corporation ran the route before the war and its pilots continued to run cargo over the Hump, the Army’s pilots were newly-trained flying officers with little experience flying in anything, let alone extreme weather. Even General Henry “Hap” Arnold — the only General of the Air Force ever bestowed such a title — got lost due to lack of oxygen flying the Hump.

This may have added to the fatality rate on the route — a full one-third of the men flying it died there.

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There’s reality.

4. If the weather didn’t get them, the terrain might.

Pilots traversing the route had to fly the Kali Gandaki River Gorge, a depression much wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon. The mountains surrounding the gorge were 10,000 feet higher than most of the planes could fly. The pass to escape the gorge was 15,000 high — but pilots couldn’t often see it.

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It looks cold even in black and white.

5. Inside the plane wasn’t great either.

Pilots were issued fleece-lined jackets, boots, and gloves to keep their extremities from freezing during the flight. Lack of oxygen could cause pilots to veer off-course and into an almost certain death. C-46 cargo planes did not glide, their heavy engines causing an almost immediate dive. Once out of fuel, crews would have to bail out with minimal protection, cold weather gear, and nine rounds of a .45-caliber pistol.

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When you’re flying your next Hump mission and just want to see the sights before you die.

6. That last bullet is for you.

Whether crashing or bailing out into the freezing cold or jumping into enemy-held territory, there would be no search and rescue mission coming for crews flying the Hump. A rescue crew would be subject to the same extreme cold weather and fuel issues as any other plane. In enemy territory, Japanese patrols would capture American pilots, torture them, then kill them. Part of the training regimen for Hump pilots included the right way to use the last bullet on oneself.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how 2 Delta Force snipers earned the Medal of Honor in Somalia

27 years ago, the Black Hawk Down incident was unfolding on the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, when a pair of US Army MH-60 Black Hawks were shot down by Somali militia toting rocket propelled grenades.


Of the many incredible stories of bravery and brotherhood that emerged from the day, one in particular stood out enough that two of the soldiers within would posthumously receive the Medal of Honor for their heroism and sacrifice.

In August of 1993, a task force consisting of members of America’s elite special operations units were deployed to Somalia after a deadly IED attack on American military personnel who were, at the time, in country conducting a humanitarian mission.

Known as Task Force Ranger, the deployment package consisted of Rangers from the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, Night Stalkers from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and operators from Delta Force, among many others.

Attached to the Delta contingent were a pair of sharpshooters — MSG Gary Gordon and SFC Randy Shughart. Both Gordon and Shughart were old hands in the special operations community, the former having served with 10th Special Forces Group before being selected to join Delta Force, and the latter having served with the 75th Ranger Regiment.

On Oct. 3, an operation was launched with TF Ranger running the show entirely. It would be known as “Gothic Serpent,” though in later years, it would more popularly be known as the Black Hawk Down incident. The mission’s primary intent was to capture a pair of high-ranking officials of the Habr Gedir clan, led by warlord Mohamed Farrah Aided.

The events of Gothic Serpent were documented in Mark Bowden’s best seller, “Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War,” and helicopter pilot Mike Durant’s book, “In The Company of Heroes.”

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Members of Task Force Ranger pose for a picture in Somalia, 1993 (Photo US Army)

Delta operators and Rangers would be inserted from the air by Night Stalkers in MH-60s near the target building, secure the site and capture the high value targets. A convoy of Humvees and trucks would roll in immediately after to pick up the assault team and the prisoners back to the Mogadishu International Airport, where TF Ranger maintained its headquarters and garrison.

Things began going awry during the mission, however, and Somali irregulars and militia began amassing in considerable numbers, putting up an unexpectedly ferocious fight. Things went south, entirely, when Super 61, one of the Black Hawks attached to the assault element, was shot down killing both pilots and seriously injuring its crew chiefs and two Delta operators in the main cabin during the crash.

Though the momentum of battle was still on TF Ranger’s side, it was firmly lost when a second Black Hawk — Super 64 — was shot down just 20 minutes after Super 61. A nearby Black Hawk, callsign Super 62, circled near the crash site to provide covering fire. Gordon, Shughart and SFC Brad Hallings, another Delta sniper, were aboard Super 62, picking off targets one by one.

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Gary Ivan Gordon during his service with Delta Force (Photo US Army)

The three operators realized that it was highly likely that one if not all of the crew in Super 64 had survived the crash, at least initially. They quickly resolved to request an insertion near the crash site to set up a defensive perimeter to war away an angry lynch mob of Somali civilians and militia starting to stream towards the site. Should the militia get their hands on the survivors, a horrible fate worse than death would potentially await them.

When Gordon radioed in the request, it was nixed twice. Commanders, back at the airport, figured that the three operators would be of more use in the air to Super 64, than on the ground. Repeating his request a third time, Gordon and Shughart were given the go-ahead to insert at the crash site.

Knowing that a supporting ground element wasn’t anywhere nearby, both snipers were fully aware that this would essentially be a suicide mission. Their objective: to buy the crew of Super 64 a little more time until help arrived, even if it meant giving up their lives in the process.

Super 62 swooped in low near the crash site, Gordon and Shughart jumping out with Hallings staying behind to man a minigun in place of an injured crew chief. Super 62 took to the skies again, covering the two operators on the ground as they fought their way to the fallen Black Hawk. Super 62 would soon have to return to base after being hit by an RPG – thankfully, they made it.

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Arriving at the crash, the two snipers were proven right when they discovered pilot CW3 Mike Durant alive and conscious, and the other members of the crew – Ray Frank, Tommie Field and Bill Cleveland – still clinging to life, though barely so. They worked quickly to extricate the Night Stalkers from the carcass of the Black Hawk, giving Durant a gun to use defensively while they engaged the oncoming mob.

Dropping targets with the efficiency and effectiveness Delta operators are known for, Shughart and Gordon inflicted major casualties on the mob. Gordon was the first to fall, having succumbed to numerous wounds sustained in the fight. Shughart was killed soon after, having depleted most of his ammunition. Durant was taken alive as a prisoner of war, while the rest of Super 64’s crew tragically died, either due to their injuries from the crash or torture inflicted by the mob.

Gordon and Shughart’s sacrifice was not in vain — Durant would survive his ordeal in captivity, and would later return to fly with the 160th SOAR before retiring. The two operators were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor the following year in 1994, a token of remembrance for their incredible valor and sacrifice in the midst of battle that fateful October day.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The stunning combat history of the Tuskegee Airmen

In 1941, the U.S. Army Air Forces started an experiment that would help change the face of warfare: They invited 13 black cadets and officers to train as pilots and additional students to train as navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, and other support staff to Tuskegee, Alabama.


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Office of War Information poster celebrating 99th Pursuit Squadron contributions to the victory at the island of Pantelleria.
(Charles Henry Alston)

The Tuskegee pilots faced long odds. The American military was segregated for all of World War II — and many people at the time thought that black people lacked the mental capabilities necessary to pilot sophisticated planes. It would take a sequence of overwhelming successes for the brave Tuskegee Airmen to deconstruct that fallacy.

They got some lucky breaks, like when first lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited the school and accepted a black instructor’s offer take her on a flight over the base, but their real chance to prove themselves came overseas, when Tuskegee-trained pilots were assigned to fighter, pursuit, and bomber units in Europe, There, they faced off against Italian and German pilots.

Their first taste of combat came in May, 1943, when the 99th Pursuit Squadron was sent against Italian fighters over Tunisia. They tangled with Italian fighters — neither side suffered losses. But their efforts in the sky were part of what forced the Italian garrison at Pantelleria to surrender on June 11.

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Black mechanics work on a P-40 Warhawk assigned to a “Tuskegee Airmen” unit in World War II.
(U.S. Air Force)

The first shootdown by a member of the 99th came later that month when Lt. Charles B. Hall flew an old P-40 against a German fighter and downed it. Despite this early success, the 99th came under political fire as its partnered fighter squadron complained about their performance.

The complaining commander failed to note, however, that the 99th was excluded from mission briefings, was intentionally based dozens or hundreds of miles further from the front lines, and that they were forced to fly older planes.

Despite the political pressure at home, where publications like Time Magazine repeated criticisms with little investigation, the 99th was sent to Italy and allowed to continue flying.

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A Curtiss P-40E Warhawk similar to the ones used by the 99th Pursuit Squadron early in their combat service.
(U.S. Air Force)

It was here that the men really began carving their place in history. As the critics sharpened their knives, the 99th sharpened their skills. Over the plains and hills of southern Italy, they escorted bombers and provided cover for beach landings and infantry assaults.

In Italy, their partnered fighter group folded the Tuskegee fliers into operations, allowing the black pilots to fly on more equal footing. In just a week of fighting in January, 1944, the 99th shot down 12 German fighters.

Then, three black fighter squadrons arrived in Italy as the 332nd Fighter Group and the 99th was soon folded in with them. The 332nd was assigned to escort heavy bombers and was given new P-47s and P-51 Mustangs for the mission.

It was in these operations that the planes were given their distinctive “Red Tail” paint job and that the pilots would make history.

The primary job of the 332nd was to protect bombers going deep into German territory, a mission that required them to fly past hostile air defenses and then grapple with enemy fighters, often while outnumbered, in order to ensure that the bombers could deliver their ordnance and successfully return home.

And the 332nd was great at it. They were so good, in fact, that a legend arose that the 332nd never lost a bomber under their protection. They actually did lose 25 aircraft over 200 missions, but that was leaps and bounds ahead of the norm in the 15th Air Force where an average fighter group lost 46 bombers.

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A “Red Tail” P-51 Mustang flies during a heritage flight at an air show.
(U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Ben Bloker)

The Tuskegee men’s success was so well known that bombers’ would sometimes specifically request the 332nd for dangerous missions, but they were never told that their escorts in the “Red Tails” were black. In fact, the 332nd flew the deepest escort mission the 15th Air Group ever flew, a 1,600-mile round trip to bomb a tank factory in Berlin.

Over the course of the war, Tuskegee pilots flew over 15,000 combat sorties, downed 111 German aircraft, and destroyed over 1,000 railcars, vehicles, and aircraft on the ground. They even once damaged a large torpedo ship so badly that it had to be scuttled.

The 332nd’s performance was widely reported in the closing days of the war, and it led to a larger discussion in the mid- to late-1940s about whether it made sense to keep the military segregated.

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A U.S. F-16 Viper flies in 2006 with the distinctive “Red Tail” paint job used on aircraft flown by Tuskegee Airmen in World War II.
(U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Lee Harshman)

Military segregation had previously been questioned in the 1920s, but a racist and later discredited report released in 1925 had claimed that black pilots were naturally inferior. The combat performance of the 332nd combined with the valor of the 92nd Infantry Division made those erroneous claims even harder to believe.

The U.S. military was officially integrated in 1948. The 332nd still flies and fights today with black and white pilots working side-by-side as the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The heroic gunslinging lawman who took down the Indian Territory’s most wanted

Indian Territory following the American Civil War was a vast and open area where criminals, outlaws, and thieves found refuge. Much like no man’s land during World War I, whenever lawmen, cowboys, and posses entered, a gunfight was almost guaranteed. On its eastern border sat a frontier town called Fort Smith, Arkansas. The Fort Smith federal court was responsible for bringing justice over a jurisdiction that spanned nearly 75,000 miles.

The Five Civilized Tribes also called Indian Territory home. The Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole Indians lived where Oklahoma is today, and they had their own police, courts, and governments. The tribes could arrest only those who belonged to their communities and not outsiders such as white and Black men who committed crimes.


Standing at 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighing nearly 180 pounds, a former slave named Bass Reeves became one of the first Black deputies hired to the US Marshals Service. Reeves had served as the bodyguard of George Reeves — the son of William and a Texas slave owner — who joined the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Accounts vary — one story goes that he knocked out his owner with his fist after a dispute over a card game, while another said he ran away after hearing rumors of slaves being freed.

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Bass Reeves was born a slave but became the first Black deputy to serve west of the Mississippi. Screenshot from YouTube.

Either action was punishable by hanging, and Reeves feared the outcome, so he fled to the Indian Territory for sanctuary. As a runaway he lived among the Seminole and Creek Indians, learning their languages and culture. The tribes taught him ancient stalking and tracking techniques, improving his expertise as an outdoorsman. He later developed priceless skills such as shooting a .44 Winchester rifle and reloading a revolver, a must for all Old West gunslingers to master. He was an ambidextrous gunfighter, talented both in draw speed and accuracy, and over his career he would never once be wounded by an outlaw’s bullet.

When the 13th Amendment was passed in 1865 abolishing slavery, Reeves’ newfound freedom allowed him to relocate to Arkansas. There he married and had 11 children. Prior to his hiring as a deputy with the US Marshals at Fort Smith, Reeves used his knowledge of the land, his dexterity learned from the tribes, and his intuition to guide federal lawmen into the Indian badlands scouting for wanted outlaws.

The US Marshals’ policy required at least one other deputy or Indian scout to join a patrol since the wasteland was as unpredictable as it was dangerous. When Reeves took the job in 1875, more than 100 deputy marshals had been killed in apprehension attempts; thus Reeves took a different approach. He donned several different disguises, in similar fashion as the Lone Ranger, to gain a tactical advantage over the miscreants he identified for arrest.

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Bass Reeves — in the front row and far left with cane — served as a lawman in the American Indian territory of Muskogee, which is today’s Oklahoma. Photo courtesy of history.net.

He disguised himself as a tramp on the run from the law. He told two wanted brothers his story, glorifying his 28-mile journey on foot before pulling out his revolver and taking them into custody. He convinced a woman that he was avoiding a nearby posse, and she fed him a fresh meal and even offered him a bed to sleep in at her house overnight. In the middle of the night, he walked into her son’s bedroom, put handcuffs around his wrists, and was on horseback the next morning riding toward the jail.

His fearlessness never wavered, even when he was bedridden battling pneumonia. On Feb. 3, 1906, a Black man named Frank Brown chased his wife through town while armed with a knife. The wife burst through Reeves’ front door to hide from her husband. Brown followed her, screaming that he was going to kill her and brandishing his knife.

“Reeves reached under his pillow and secured his ever trusty revolver, with which he soon persuaded the wife-chaser that he was under arrest,” The Wichita Eagle reported that Sunday. “Reeves held his gun on the man while he sent his wife after a posseman, who took Brown to federal jail.”

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Belle Star was arrested by Bass Reeves in 1883 and charged with horse theft. She was one of many notable American outlaws Reeves apprehended. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Accounts of his arrests frequented the newspapers, each as astonishing as the next. Reeves didn’t take bribes nor was he appreciative of any favoritism. After his son, Bennie, murdered his wife, Reeves issued a warrant for his arrest. His son was convicted and sentenced to serve a life of imprisonment in Leavenworth.

Bass Reeves served as a deputy for more than 30 years and retired from federal law enforcement at age 67. He worked a brief two-year stint as a city policeman in downtown Muskogee, Oklahoma, where crime was low because of his presence, before he died in 1910. Throughout his career he made an estimated 3,000 arrests, personally killed 14 outlaws in self-defense, and has since become an icon of both the Old West and pop culture.

Al Burton, the author of Black Gun, Silver Star: The Life and Legend of Frontier Marshal Bass Reeves, wrote, “Bass Reeves is the closest real person to resemble the fictional Lone Ranger on the American western frontier of the nineteenth century.”

In addition to inspiring books and movies, Reeves’ likeness was recently featured in the HBO series Watchmen, bringing his no-nonsense persona to the opening of the fictionalized comic-book story.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The spies who helped win the Revolutionary War

“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

So wrote 21-year old Nathan Hale before being hanged for espionage by the British on Sept. 22, 1776. Hale had originally been encouraged to join the revolution by an old Yale classmate, Benjamin Tallmadge.

Tallmadge and Hale had been close during their time at Yale and often exchanged letters. Three years after their graduation, Tallmadge wrote to Hale, newly an officer in the American forces, saying, “Was I in your condition, I think the more extensive service would be my choice. Our holy Religion, the honor of our God, a glorious country and a happy constitution is what we have to defend.”


Hale agreed with Tallmadge’s sentiment and soon accepted an assignment to do more than just fight–he would spy from behind enemy lines. Although Hale’s venture into espionage ended rather poorly, Tallmadge’s revolutionary feelings did not subside. Soon, he would find himself at the center of the American Revolution’s most important spy ring.

The Culper Ring, founded and supervised by Tallmadge, operated from late October in 1778 until the British evacuated New York in 1783. Although the ring was active for all five of these years, its most productive period was between 1778 and 1781.

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Benjamin Tallmadge with his son, William.

After Tallmadge brought the ring together, it was led by Abraham Woodhull and Robert Townsend, codenamed “Samuel Culper, Sr.” and “Samuel Culper, Jr.” respectively. The codename “Culper” came straight from George Washington himself, a slight alteration of Culpeper County, Virginia where Washington had worked as a surveyor in his youth.

The ring was highly sophisticated, using methods still familiar today. Couriers, invisible ink. and dead drops were the norm. Some messages were hidden in plain sight, coded within newspaper advertisements and personal messages. Supposedly, one woman, Anna Strong, was even able to use the clothes she hung to dry to send messages to other members of the ring. Codes and ciphers were standard practice. These methods enabled agents to send Tallmadge apparently innocent letters. Tallmadge could pick out individual words to decode messages.

While Woodhull and Townsend ran the show, many agents, couriers, and sub-agents were also involved. Caleb Brewster, Austin Roe, Anna Strong and the still-unidentified ‘Agent 355’ all played vital roles. Other members included Hercules Mulligan and his slave Cato. Mulligan warned in January, 1779 of British plans to kidnap or kill senior American leaders including Washington himself. Cato delivered the vital message.

Other agents included Joseph Lawrence, Nathan Woodhull (Abraham’s cousin), Nathaniel Ruggles, William Robinson and James Rivington. So solid was the ring’s security that its very existence remained unconfirmed until the 20th century. Even Washington himself couldn’t identify every Culper agent. Its strict security preserved both the ring and the lives of individual members, boosting their confidence in themselves and each other.

The Culper Ring’s successes, what spies call coups, were many. They warned of a surprise attack on newly arrived French troops at Newport, Rhode Island. The forces, properly warned, were able to foil British plans to devastate their men while they recovered from their transatlantic voyage. The Culper spies uncovered British plans to destroy America’s nascent economy by forging huge amount of Continental dollars. Continental dollars were soon withdrawn from circulation, replaced with coins by 1783.

Without the Culper Ring, Washington may have fallen for a raiding operation meant to divide his forces. In 1779, General William Tryon raided three main ports of Connecticut, destroying homes, goods in storage, and a number of public buildings. Tryon was attempting to split off a portion of Washington’s forces to allow British forces to rout the Americans.

Washington did not ride out to meet Tryon. Instead, Tryon’s forces rampaged through civilian land and the general was criticized by both American rebels and those who supported the British as barbarous.

By far the Culper Ring’s most important coup was exposing General Benedict Arnold. Arnold, whose name has entered the American language as a metonym for treachery, was in contact with British spy Major John André and planned to surrender West Point to the British. The Culper Ring warned Tallmadge of a high-ranking American traitor, but lacked his identity. Tallmadge identified Arnold when André was captured and later hanged for his treason. Although Arnold escaped with his life, West Point remained safe from the British.

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Benedict Arnold in 1776

Abraham Woodhull’s sister Mary is sometimes credited with exposing Major André and thus Benedict Arnold. André (alias John Anderson) fled when he realized he was under suspicion. Unlike the Culper Ring’s, André’s security was lax. That cost André his life, Arnold his reputation, and ultimately helped cost the British Empire its American colony.

Stopped by three soldiers, André first tried to bribe them to let him go. Instead of taking the bribe, the soldier, now actively suspicious rather than idly curious, searched him and found incriminating papers. The letters proved conclusively that André was a British spy. The information contained in André’s letters was almost useless to the British; their commander General Clinton already had it. They were, however, extremely valuable to Tallmadge.

André’s captured messages were in Benedict Arnold’s handwriting, making it suddenly clear who was leaking high-level information. Arnold fled for his life, going to England, then Canada. After alienating a number of business partners in New Brunswick, Arnold returned to England. André was not so lucky to escape the American forces–he would make a useful reprisal for the hanging of Tallmadge’s dear friend, Nathan Hale. Caught dead to rights by the Culper Ring, André would soon be dead, period.

Hale had been hanged on Sept. 22, 1776 at the tender age of 21. He died bravely, with composure, courage and dignity. André faced the gallows equally bravely on Oct. 2, 1780. Before his death he received a visitor: Colonel Tallmadge.

The two spent part of their time together talking. At one point André asked Tallmadge whether his capture and Hale’s were similar. Tallmadge, remembering his dead friend and perhaps feeling guilty at encouraging him to take a more active revolutionary role, replied, “Yes, precisely similar, and similar shall be your fate…”.

The British evacuated New York in mid-August, 1783. On Nov. 16 of the same year, Washington himself visited to mark the seventh anniversary of the American retreat from Manhattan. While there he met someone to whom he and his new nation owed a personal and national debt: Culper agent Hercules Mulligan.

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

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How one commander tried to get his men to leak D-Day plans

British Lt. Col. Terence Otway and his men were to be charged with assaulting the Merville battery on June 6, 1944, at the height of the D-Day invasions of occupied France. For their mission – as well as the overall invasion – secrecy was of the utmost importance, so Otway wanted to ensure his men held that secret close and wouldn’t divulge anything under any circumstances.

So he turned to one of the oldest tricks in the intelligence-gathering book to test their mettle: using women to try to draw the information out of them.


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The Merville Gun Battery. (Wikimedia Commons)

Otway and the British 9th parachute battalion were going to assault the series of six-foot-thick concrete bunkers that housed anti-aircraft guns, machine gun emplacements, and artillery from a special artillery division. In all, 150 paratroopers would attempt to take down 130 Germans in a hardened shelter. Since the assault would come just after midnight and well before the main landings, operational security was paramount. The Lieutenant Colonel decided to test his men to see if they could be trusted with the information.

According to the 2010 bookD-Day: Minute by Minute, Otway enlisted the help of 30 of the most beautiful women of the Women’s Auxiliary Airforce and sent them out to the local pubs with the mission of trapping his men into divulging their secret plans. It was an important test; if the men of the 9th weren’t able to take down those guns, the entire landing might be in jeopardy.

D-Day
A memorial to the commander of the 9th at the former location of the battery (Wikimedia Commons)

But Otway would be pleased with the discipline of his men. Throughout the nights, they caroused as they always had, drinks in hand, singing the night away. But not one of Otway’s men ever gave up their secret. The attack would go on as planned. His 150 now-proven loyal men landing in the area by parachute and by glider that day in June. Even though the winds disbursed the fighters throughout a large area, they still managed to take down the gun site, albeit taking heavy casualties in the process.

After the Merville Gun Battery was down, the exhausted and depleted British paratroopers then moved on to secure the occupied village of Le Plein. Their assault on the guns cost them roughly 50 percent of their total strength – but they were able to accomplish their mission because of the total secrecy surrounding it from lift off to completion.


Feature image: “The Drop” by Albert Richards (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

MIGHTY HISTORY

How ‘the Rock of the Marne’ changed World War I in Europe

America’s entry into World War I began with a year-long buildup beginning in April 1917. By late spring and early summer of 1918, that buildup was nearly complete.

In response, the Germans launched a series of offensives, desperate to defeat the French, British and other allies. But ultimately, they would be overwhelmed with the addition of fresh American troops and firepower, according to Brian F. Neumann, a historian at the Center of Military History who compiled the pamphlet: “The U.S. Army in the World War I Era.”


One of the final German pushes occurred in the early morning hours of July 15, 1918, in the Champagne-Marne area of northern France, where German assault troops and artillery pounded the U.S. 3rd Division lines.

The weight of the attack came against Col. Edmund Butts’ 30th Infantry and Col. Ulysses Grant McAlexander’s 38th Infantry. After heavy fighting in the morning, when the 30th Infantry “inflicted horrendous casualties” on the Germans, Butts’ men were forced back to a line along the hills where they stopped the Germans.

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U.S. Soldiers engage the Germans in the trenches during the Champagne-Marne campaign in northern France, July 15, 1918.

(U.S. Army artwork by Travis Burcham)

Elsewhere, five miles beyond the Marne River, McAlexander faced a more precarious position when the adjacent French division hastily retreated, leaving the 38th Infantry’s right flank exposed, Neumann said.

Turning some of the regiment to defend that flank, McAlexander also had to deal with a penetration of his main line. Although fighting on three sides, the riflemen and machine gunners of the 38th Infantry held their ground, earning the sobriquet “Rock of the Marne.”

The 3rd Infantry Division is still known by that moniker, and its soldiers are proud of the heritage that inspired it.

By the end of that July 15th day, the 3rd Division had stopped the German attack.

Together, the 30th Infantry and 38th Infantry had defeated six regiments from two German divisions. One German 1,700-man regiment was so badly cut up that the German leaders could only find 150 survivors by nightfall, Neumann noted.

Bad news also mixed with good that day. Four rifle companies of the 28th Division from the Pennsylvania National Guard had been attached to a French division to the east of the 38th Infantry. When the French retreated, they neglected to inform the Pennsylvanians, and the riflemen became surrounded. Most of them were killed or captured; only a few fought their way to the south to rejoin their parent division.

Heavy fighting involving U.S. forces occurred near Paris in mid-to-late July, in what became known as the Aisne-Marne Campaign.

By the first week of August, the U.S. Army’s I Corps and III Corps had successfully wrapped up that campaign, removing the threat against the French capital and liberating several important railroads for allied use. That effort also eliminated the German high command’s plans for another offensive against the British in Flanders.

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French infantrymen and “Doughboys” of the Army’s 3d Division.

(Illustration by George Matthews Harding)

“More important, the campaign effectively seized the initiative from the Germans and gave it to [French supreme allied commander, Gen. Ferdinand] Foch and his national commanders. The chance had passed for Germany to defeat Britain and France before the United States could intervene in force,” Neumann said.

The leader of the American Expeditionary Force, Gen. John Pershing, finally got his chance to command a large American-led campaign that included many French soldiers. The campaign in northern France, known as the St. Mihiel Offensive, lasted Sept. 12 to 16. Up until that time, U.S. units were used mainly in a piecemeal fashion.

Firepower included over 3,000 artillery pieces, 1,400 planes and 267 tanks, mostly supplied by the French and British, but manned to a large extent by Americans, Neumann said.

Pershing, at the suggestion of Gen. Henri-Philippe Pétain, commander of French forces, developed an elaborate scheme to deceive the Germans into thinking that the first blow would come to the south near Belfort on Sept. 12.

French and U.S. forces under Pershing’s leadership executed a four-hour long artillery bombardment against the German lines, an action commonly considered a prelude to attack by infantry and cavalry forces, Neumann noted.

The scheme worked well enough to get the Germans to move three divisions into that sector, while allied forces, led by both I Corps and IV Corps infantrymen and tankers, began their attack in other more vulnerable areas.

“The Germans put up a determined defense long enough to retreat in good order,” Neumann noted.

On the afternoon of Sept. 12, Pershing learned that columns of Germans were retreating on roads from Vigneulles. The general urged both the 1st and 26th Divisions to continue their attacks through the night to press their advantage. The 1st Division was under IV Corps and the 26th Division came under V Corps.

The 26th Division moved quickly throughout the night, capturing the strategic town of Vigneulles by 2:30 a.m., Sept. 13. The 1st Division then linked up with them, securing nearly all of their objectives, he said.

In two days the U.S. soldiers suffered some 7,000 casualties, while inflicting 17,000 on the German defenders.

By Sept. 15, the St. Mihiel Offensive was successfully concluded. This operation paved the way for further offensives that would doom the German army in the coming months, Neumann said.

Neumann added that the offensive gave Pershing and his staff “experience in directing a battle of several corps, supported by tanks and aircraft.”

Such an operation today is referred to as combined arms maneuver. But back then, it was a new approach to fighting.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

America almost conducted a doomed invasion of France in 1942

In the lead up to American involvement of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt committed his administration to a “Germany-First” policy if the U.S. entered the war. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, it shook his commitment, but he stuck to it. Although, in his rush to take the pressure off the U.K. and the Soviet Union, he almost pressed American forces into a doomed invasion.


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Workers assemble fighter aircraft at Wheatfield, New York.

(Public Domain)

The American war machine had to shake itself awake at the start of 1942. While the industrial base had achieved some militarization during Lend-Lease and other programs, it would need a lot more time to produce even the tools necessary to make all the vehicles, uniforms, and even food necessary to help the troops succeed in battle.

And those troops needed to be trained, but almost as importantly, many of the military leaders needed to get seasoned in combat. There were generals with limited experience from World War I and plenty of mid-career officers and NCOs who had never fought in actual battle.

But there was limited time to ramp up. England was barely staving off defeat, beating back German attack after attack in the air to keep them from crossing the English Channel. And the Soviet Union was facing 225 German divisions on the Eastern Front. According to Rick Atkinson’s An Army at Dawn:

If Soviet resistance collapsed, Hitler would gain access to limitless oil reserves in the Caucasus and Middle East, and scores of Wehrmacht divisions now fighting in the east could be shifted to reinforce the west. The war could last a decade, War Department analysts believed, and the United States would have to field at least 200 divisions….
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Russian anti-tank infantrymen in the important Battle of Kursk. Soviet troops were reliant on American arms for much of World War II, but there sacrifice in blood inflicted the lion share of casualties against Nazi Germany.

(Cassowary Colorizations, CC BY 2.0)

To get the pressure off the Soviet Union and ensure it survived, thereby keeping hundreds of German divisions tied up, Roosevelt committed U.S. forces to a 1942 invasion. And his top officers, especially the new Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, Adm. Ernest J. King, told Roosevelt that the American invasion had to be made at France.

And this made some sense. While Great Britain was lobbying for help in North Africa in order to keep Italy from taking the oil fields there, invading North Africa would pull few or no troops from the Eastern Front. And while the oil fields in North Africa were important, the Italian military hammering there was less of a threat than the German attacks on the Soviet Union.

And attacks into Europe could be driven home straight into Berlin. A landing in France or Denmark would be about 500 miles or less from Hitler’s capital as soon as it landed, a serious threat to Germany. But a landing in Africa would be 1,000 miles or more away and would require multiple amphibious landings to get into Africa and then on to Europe.

King and other senior leaders like Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George C. Marshall thought it would be a waste of time and resources.

And so planning went into effect for Operation Sledgehammer, the 1942 Allied invasion of France. But the British officers immediately started to campaign against the attack. They had already been pushed off the continent, and they knew they didn’t have the forces, and that America didn’t have the forces, to take and hold the ground.

Germany had over 24 divisions in France. For comparison, the actual D-Day landings and follow-on assault in 1944 were made with only nine divisions with additional smaller units. And that was after the military was able to procure thousands of landing craft and planes to deliver those troops. In 1942, many of those tools weren’t ready.

And, the timeline forced planners to look for a Fall landing. The Atlantic and the English Channel in the Fall are susceptible to some of the worst storms a landing could face. High winds and surging seas could swamp landing craft and destabilize the naval artillery needed to support landings.

Worse for Britain: a failed landing across the channel in 1942 would result in bodies floating in that body of water by the thousands or tens of thousands. And if Germany successfully bottled the landing up and then slaughtered the Allied troops day by day, then those bodies could have been visible on the English coast for days and weeks.

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Americans with the 45th Infantry Division prepare equipment in Sicily for movement to Salerno.

(U.S. National Archives)

So Britain renewed its lobbying for an invasion of Africa, instead. Churchill led the campaign, pointing out that German troops there could be bottled up and potentially even captured, the Suez Canal would be re-opened, and Americans could get combat experience in a theater where it would have a balance of forces in its favor rather than fighting where it could be overwhelmed before it could learn valuable lessons.

And so Operation Sledgehammer was shelved in favor of Operation Torch, the November 1942 invasion that landed on multiple beachheads across the northern coast of Africa. America would learn tough lessons there, but was ultimately successful.

Unfortunately, that hope of isolating and capturing the German force would be partially prevented by a German escape at Messina where many Nazi troops made it across to Sicily. But the Allies took the oil fields in Africa, took Sicily, and landed in Italy, building the experience needed to land in France in 1944.

Meanwhile, America sent as much industrial support to the Soviet Union as it could to keep it from falling, and it was successful, largely thanks to the heroic sacrifices of the Communist troops who turned back the Axis troops at Stalingrad, Kursk, and other battles.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Army built this computer simulation of Stalingrad to teach its future leaders

It was one of the most devastating urban fights in history, inflicting nearly 2 million casualties and leaving a city in shambles.


For eight months the battle of Stalingrad raged, with the Red Army and German Wehrmacht delivering horrific blows to each side — sometimes gaining only yards of territory with each engagement.

 

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(WATM Archive)

Though fought nearly 75 ago, Army researchers say the battle has lessons for its combat leaders even today.

That’s why the Combined Arms Center based in Leavenworth, Kansas, has created a “virtual staff ride” of the wartorn city in hopes of preparing soldiers for the kinds of warfare they may see again today.

“Through digital rendering of Stalingrad as it existed in 1942, the historic battlefield comes to life, allowing leaders at all levels to study timeless lessons on tactical, operational, and strategic aspects of war,” the Combined Arms Center says. “This virtual staff ride also provides important insights into military operations, leadership, and the human dimension of warfare through focused study and detailed analysis of one of the most significant battles of World War II.”

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Stalingrad’s 140,000 building were left in shambles after the battle, making it difficult for Army researchers to simulate what the city would look like. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Researchers used a wide range of imagery, documents and news reel footage to build the Stalingrad scenario, which is included in the Army’s Virtual Battlespace 3 gaming platform. One of the challenges included how much of the city to build into the simulation since much its 140,000 buildings were destroyed during the fight, with software builders settling on a city that was about 50 percent destroyed.

The simulation includes “more than 150 pages of information including instructor notes, battle timeline, vignettes, character studies, maps, photos, and other data.”

Another cool thing about the virtual Stalingrad battle scenario is that the software can be used for a variety of unit formations — everything from a corps or division-sized maneuvers to company-level engagements.

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The German army quickly made it to the center of the city in Stalingrad, but it was eventually cut off from resupply and forced to surrender in early 1943. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

“For example, units can follow the 14th Panzer Division as it advanced on the Dzerzhinsky tractor factory,” the Combined Arms Center says. “Also, leaders of battalion- and company-size units can focus on the tactical elements of urban combat such as the week long fight for the grain elevator.”

“Free movement through the dense urban terrain of Stalingrad allows leaders at all echelons to understand the decisions, doctrine, and logistics that shaped the battle for both the Soviet Red Army and the German Army,” the researchers added.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the weapon that won the revolutionary war

When our nation was young and yearned to be free from the shackles of tyranny, she relied on its patriots to defend the hopes and dreams of generations to come. In a time when the promises of their generals could not be counted on, the infantryman relied on this weapon the most.


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The Brown Bess. (Military History)

The ‘Brown Bess,’ or the Long Land Pattern Musket, and its variations were designed and produced from the year 1722 into the mid-1800s by the British Empire.

It was used in service by both sides during the Revolutionary War and most civilians already had one in their home, as American colonies required, by law, that every male own one for militia duties. The fact that Continental Army troops and militia recruits would bring their rifles from home was paramount to success in the war.

The English had standardized armaments while the Colonies welcomed anything that fired into service. This created a logistical nightmare in getting munitions to the frontline (get your sh*t together, supply!). American troops would scavenge these muskets from battles or from compromised British supply lines.

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The Brown Bess weighs 10.5 lbs. and is 58.5 inches long, with 42 of those inches accounted for in the length of the barrel alone.

The musket was mostly inaccurate, which is why it was utilized by tightly packed lines of infantry that fired only when dangerously close to the enemy. Its max effective range at the time was about 100 meters in good weather. Its smooth bore and flint lock firing mechanism made it difficult to fire in the rain – if it fired at all.

To make matters worse, fighting in a tight firing line added the additional danger of incurring concussions from musket fire immediately to one’s left and right.

Later models would see a steady increase in range, the replacement of the flintlock with a percussion cap, and manufacturing standardization. However, those changes wouldn’t be made until long after the rebellion was won.

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The firing rate is, technically, 3 to 4 rounds per minute, but in the face of a bayonet charge, one would be lucky to fire a second shot before engaging in hand-to-hand combat.

The Brown Bess fired an 18mm musket ball made of lead with the option of fixing a bayonet to defend against infantry and cavalry charges.

(lastswordfighter none | YouTube)

 

The Brown Bess may have been inaccurate, susceptible to misfires, and costly to reproduce, but in the hands of patriots, standing shoulder to shoulder, each volley brought the upstart nation a step closer to independence.

Articles

These Brits debunk the deadly M1 Garand ‘ping’ myth

The beloved M1 Garand Rifle carried the deadly end of American foreign policy from U.S. shores into Europe and the Pacific in World War II and into the forests of Korea the following decade.


But the iconic rifle is typically discussed alongside its “fatal flaw” — it emitted a distinctive ping when the clip, usually an eight-round strip, was ejected with the final cartridge it held. As the theory goes, that ping told the enemy that a rifle was empty, giving them a chance to leap up and kill the now defenseless American.

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Military legend R. Lee Ermey discusses the M1 Garand. (Photo: YouTube)

But as YouTuber “Bloke on the Range” shows in the video below, it’s actually very unlikely that the enemy would gain any real advantage from the M1 Garand’s sound.

And many veterans of World War II interviewed after the wars said they actually preferred to have the sound as a useful reminder to reload.

To get a grip on the controversy, imagine being a young G.I. in combat in World War II. You’re moving up on a suspected Japanese position with a fully loaded M1 Garand. You catch a bit of movement and realize the small mounds on the ground in front of you are actually enemy helmets poking up from a trench.

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U.S. Army troops fighting in the streets of Seoul, Korea. Sept. 20, 1950. (Photo: Public Domain)

You drop into a good firing position and start throwing rounds down range. With seven shots, you kill one and wound another. Your eighth shot reinforces the man’s headache, but it also causes the ping, telling the attentive third Japanese soldier that you’re completely out of ammo.

The theory states that that’s when the third soldier jumps up and kills you. But there are a couple issues with the theory.

First, in the chaos of combat, it would be uncommon for an enemy to hear the clip ejecting over the sound of the fight. Second, soldiers typically fight as a group, so the G.I. in the hypothetical should actually have five to nine other soldiers with him, and it’s unlikely that more than one or two of them would be out of ammo at the same time.

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Pictured: A bunch of Marines on Iwo Jima not fighting on their own. (Photo: US Marine Corps)

Third, as the Bloke demonstrates, it doesn’t take long for the shooter to reload, putting them back in the fight and ready to kill any enemy soldiers running to take advantage of the ammo gap.

ArmamentResearch.com found a 1952 Technical Memorandum where researchers asked veterans who carried the rifle what they thought of the ping. Out of 315 responders, 85 thought that the ping was helpful to the enemy, but a whopping 187 thought it was more useful to the shooter by acting as a useful signal to reload.

An article by a Chief Warrant Officer 5 Charles D. Petrie after he reportedly spoke to German veterans of D-Day who found the idea of attacking after a ping laughable. They reported that, in most engagements, they couldn’t hear the ping at all, and the rest of the time they were too aware of the rest of the American squad to try to take advantage of it.

See the full video from Bloke on the Range Below:

YouTube, Bloke on the Range

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 times Iran’s navy got beat down in the Persian Gulf

The Iranian Navy sure does talk a big game for the sheer number of times it got slapped around in its home waters. When Iranian sailors captured U.S. Navy sailors in 2016, the usual response would have been a short, potent facepunch from a nearby carrier group. When President Obama opted not to slap them around, what should have seemed like a close call instead appears to have artificially inflated some Iranian egos, because traditionally, Iran is not good at Navy things.

Iran has been hit or miss on the water (usually miss) since they lost to the outnumbered Greeks at Salamis in 480 BC. Its biggest naval win came against Iraq on Sept. 28, 1980, a day they still celebrate as “Navy Day” because no other engagement would qualify. Ever since, Iran has been threatening anyone within earshot with its aging, rusted patchwork of garbage scows it calls a navy.


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Anglo-Soviet Invasion of Iran, 1941

During World War II, the Allied powers thought neutral Iran was more likely to aid the Axis powers than the allies when push came to shove. Since Iran’s rich oil fields were not something anyone wanted in Hitler’s hands, the Soviets and the British Empire invaded Iran in August 1941. The British Commonwealth ships steamed into Abadan Harbor and promptly lit up the Iranian fleet, killing its leadership and deposing the Shah. The two allied powers then divided the country between them.

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Operation Prime Chance 1987

After Iran crippled the Iraqi Navy during the early days of the Iran-Iraq War, the Iranians pretty much had free rein to wreak as much havoc as they wanted on Iraqi shipping – even if those ships weren’t flagged as Iraqi. The Iranians began targeting tankers and container ships flagged as neutral countries in an effort to choke Iraq into submission. Pretty soon, other countries were reflagging their ships as American, both to deter the Iranians from attacking or laying mines and benefitting from U.S. protection.

The Iranians did not stop mining the Gulf, so the United States began setting up oil platforms as maritime staging areas for special operations missions. Operating from these bases, the Navy took down a number of Iranian minelayers while protecting international shipping lanes.

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Operation Nimble Archer, 1987

U.S. forces attacked and burned Iranian oil platforms after Iran fired a missile at a Kuwaiti tanker, hitting it and wounding dozens of sailors. The Navy determined the attack came from an otherwise-unoccupied oil platform, which they next surrounded, boarded, and destroyed – using both Navy SEALs and accurate fire from four destroyers as well as aircraft.

The special operators who boarded the platforms also seized valuable classified intel, as the platforms were controlled by the Revolutionary Guards Corps.

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PRAYING MANTIS

Operation Praying Mantis, 1988

In 1988, it wasn’t a flagged merchant who hit an Iranian-laid mine. This time it was a US Navy ship, the USS Samuel B. Roberts. Unfortunately for Iran, Ronald Reagan was still President, and the USS Enterprise carrier group was in the area. An entire battalion of United States Marines assaulted an oil platform being used to stage Iranian attacks in the Gulf. When the platform tried to fire on the Americans, they were punished for the effort from US Navy destroyers and Cobra helicopters.

The Iranians responded by sending an Iranian missile boat, the Joshan, straight at the U.S. fleet. When Joshan missed that shot, the American fleets overwhelmed the ship with missiles and guns, sending her to the bottom. Meanwhile, Iranian aircraft and destroyers joined the fray, one destroyer was sunk the other was heavily damaged, and the Iranian fighters were no match for US Navy A-6 Intruders.

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