That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they'd stop stripping the Parthenon - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon

One of the many reasons to fight to rid yourself of dominance by a foreign power is the preservation of your culture. For the Greeks, this happened very literally. In the 1821 Greek War of Independence, the Greeks went so far as to send lead to the Ottoman armies so they could make bullets and stop stripping the Parthenon for lead.


It’s fair to say that some Greek gave his enemy the bullet to kill him and his buddies. That’s how important a cultural icon like the Parthenon is.

Greece was under Ottoman rule for a few centuries by the time they declared independence. But even after almost 400 years, the Greeks were not about about to forget that they aren’t Turkish.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon
If you ask if kebab is Greek or Turkish, you might start another war.

Greek culture is strong and many, many independence movements had come and gone before this one. But by the 1820s, the Ottoman Empire was in the throes of a very slow decline. This was Greece’s best chance and they took it. Uprisings began all over Greece. Eventually, a makeshift Greek navy formed and managed to keep Ottoman reinforcements away.

Cities in Crete and Macedonia soon followed and Turkish garrisons in major cities came to find themselves surrounded by unhappy — and often armed — masses. When the Greeks were forced to lay siege to the Parthenon, they were very careful not to destroy any of the antiquities or the site itself.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon
Which is not what usually happens. Ask the Trojans.

The defending Turks were on high alert. They started breaking down the walls in the Acropolis, hoping to break down the lead shielding and melt it into bullets. That when the Greek attackers either offered to send them lead to make bullets or just sent them ammo so they would stop destroying it.

Ottoman principalities then joined the effort to suppress the revolution. Mehmet Ali of Egypt sent land and naval forces to put the Greeks back in their place. By 1826, it looked bad, very bad. That’s when Western Europe came to help.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon
Which is not what usually happens. Ask the Indians.

England, France, and Russia all had an interest in the Empire’s continued decline and opted to help liberate the birthplace of Western Civilization. They all sent naval forces into the region, but it was France’s sizable contribution of a ground force that pushed the Egyptians out of the region, brought the Sultan to the bargaining table, and negotiated Greek independence in 1832.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘grunt’

Major H.G. Duncan of the United States Marine Corps once defined a grunt as, “a term of affection used to denote that filthy, sweaty, dirt-encrusted, footsore, camouflage-painted, tired, sleepy, beautiful little son of a b*tch who has kept the wolf away from the door for over two hundred years.”


While this is true, we often think of the term as being synonymous with infantryman — you know, the guy who kicks in the doors and blows things up — but the fact of the matter is that terms like this and ‘POG’ have relatively unknown origins. If you were to ask a service member about these terms, the response is typically a definition, not a history lesson.

 

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon
This is a grunt. He’s tired of your whining. (image via Reddit)

Related: The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

Some say the term started in Vietnam when POGs needed their own term to describe the dirty, smelly infantrymen who made fun of the troops who sat in air-conditioned buildings all day instead of getting stuck in the jungle. Legend has it that the first POG to use the term was making a reference to the same term as used in the early 1900s to describe those who performed the less desirable jobs, which were typically physically demanding but not mentally stimulating. In this story, the first grunt to hear the term was unfamiliar with its history and instead took it as a compliment.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon
Let’s be real, grunts do the things you’d rather lie about doing when you go home.

But, much like the term ‘POG,’ ‘grunt’ can also be thought of as an acronym. This origin story takes us back to the second World War when infantry united sustained extremely high casualty rates, forcing troops from rear-echelon units (often referred to as rear-echelon motherf*ckers or REMF) forward they were quickly trained, often in-theatre, to be foot soldiers. These troops were categorized as “General Replacement Unit, Not Trained,” or GRUNT.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon
Some of these REMFs hadn’t even shot an M1 rifle before. (Image via Pinterest)

Also read: 6 ways for a POG to be accepted by grunts

Whichever piece of history you find to be more believable, the fact remains that infantry soldiers and Marines really do a lot of grunt work. These days, you might find infantrymen who have spent just as much time with a mop or broom than with their own rifles. Being just as accustomed to the smell of Pine-Sol as spent brass.

No matter the case, infantrymen tend to see their nickname as a compliment — unlike those uptight POGs.

popular

Real versus reel: Four ways ‘Braveheart’ was different in real life

In 1995, Mel Gibson starred in and directed the war epic Braveheart, which follows the story of one of Scotland’s greatest national heroes, Sir William Wallace. Wallace almost single-handedly inspired his fellow Scotsmen to stand against their English oppressors, which earned him a permanent spot in the history books.

Among critics, the film cleaned house. It went on to win best picture, best director, best cinematography, and a few others at the 1996 Academy Awards. Although the film has received its fair share of acclaim, historians don’t always share the same enthusiasm. The movie steers away from what really occurred several times.


Victorian depiction of the Battle of Stirling Bridge (public domain/ Wikimedia Commons)
Battle of Stirling… Fields?

After a few quick, murderous scenes, Wallace joins a small group of his countrymen, ready to ward off a massive force of English troops that are spread across a vast field. In real life, this clash of warriors didn’t happen on some open plains — it occurred on a narrow bridge.

The battle took place in September of 1297, nearly 17 years after the film. Wallace and Andrew de Moray (who isn’t mentioned in the movie) showed up to the bridge and positioned themselves on the side north of the river, where the bridge was constructed.

The Brits were caught off guard, as Wallace and his men waited until about a third of the English’s total force crossed before attacking. The Scotsmen used clever tactics, packing men on the bridge shoulder-to-shoulder, mitigating their numerical disadvantage.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon
Wallace took all the credit… (Paramount Pictures)
Wallace being knighted

After the Battle of Stirling Bridge, both Wallace and Andrew de Moray were both granted Knighthood and labeled as Joint Guardians of Scotland.

Andrew de Moray died about a month later from wounds sustained during the battle. Despite his heroics, Andrew de Moray gets zero credit in the film.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon
Think about that for a moment… (Paramount Pictures)
Wallace’s affair with Princess Isabelle of France

In the film, Wallace sleeps with Princess Isabella of France (as played by Sophie Marceau), the wife of Edward II of England. According to several sources, the couple was married in January of 1308, which is two years and five months after Wallace was put to death in August 1305, according to the film.

The movie showed Edward II and the princess getting married during Wallace’s lifetime. Now, if Scottish warrior had truly knocked up the French princess before his death in 1305, that would have made her around 10 years old, as she was born in 1295.

Something doesn’t add up.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon
“We’re busted!” (Paramount Pictures)
Edward I dies before Wallace?

Who could forget the film’s dramatic ending? Wallace is stretched, pulled by horses, and screams, “freedom!” as his entrails are removed — powerful stuff. In the film, Edward I (as played by Patrick McGoohan) takes his last breath before the editor takes us back to Wallace’s final moment.

According to history, Edward I died around the year 1307. As moving as it was to watch the two deaths happen, it couldn’t have happened.


-Feature image courtesy of Paramount Pictures

MIGHTY HISTORY

The earliest-born American to be photographed is also a veteran

Conrad Heyer crossed the Delaware with George Washington. He was also the earliest-born person, one of only a handful of Revolutionary War veterans, to be photographed. But there is one important historical inaccuracy in the legend of Conrad Heyer that may not add up.


Heyer was born an American in the Massachusetts Bay Colony (now the State of Maine) around 1749. He sat for this photo in 1852, at age 103. In that time, he saw the young republic finish the British off during the American Revolution and fight them, again, to a draw in the War of 1812. He saw President Jefferson purchase Louisiana and watched President Polk and the U.S. Army defeat Santa Anna in the Mexican-American War of 1847.

In his 107 years of life, he saw 15 Presidents of the United States, 31 colonies and territories become U.S. states, and barely missed the start of the Civil War.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon
TV wasn’t around back then. He had to watch something.

Although this is not the earliest photo of an American, Heyer was the earliest-born American to be photographed (and this is actually a daguerrotype — an early kind of photography).

In the telling of Conrad Heyer’s Revolutionary War tale, however, people have been adding one detail for decades that just might not be true: that Conrad Heyer crossed the Delaware with General Washington in 1776.

Washington’s daring plan to attack Hessian mercenaries in Trenton on Christmas, 1776, was audacious and dangerous. Any troop who fell into the icy river would likely die — and two of the three flat boats set to make the crossing didn’t even make it. Somehow, Heyer was counted among those in Washington’s boat, according to the Maine Historical Society.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon
Look out for icebergs, Conrad.

The Journal of the American Revolution did some digging into Heyer’s story. They went back to the sworn testimony Heyer gave years after the Revolution when applying for a veteran’s pension.

In 1818, Congress allotted funds to give pensions to veterans of the Continental Army who were struggling financially. Applicants had to prove their service either by enlistment documents or sworn testimony of those they served with. Don N. Hagist went back to the National Archives for the Journal of the American Revolution and found Heyer’s original sworn testimony, along with the support of his officers.

Heyer did serve in the Continental Army, but his testimony states he served for a year, starting in the middle of December, 1775. But Heyer says he was discharged in December 1777. This could allow for Heyer to have served at the Battle of Trenton. The records of Heyer’s unit, the 25th Continental Regiment, indicate that the unit served in Canada and was disbanded in New Jersey in 1776.

It looks like the year 1777 was a mistake made by the person who wrote Heyer’s pension deposition, as mentions of Heyer and his unit disappear into history a year earlier.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon
But not the hearts of Revolutionary War re-enactors.

If he was discharged in Fishkill, New York, as records show, then there is little chance he could have been at the Delaware River crossing in time to join Washington by Christmas, even if he did re-enlist.

But by the time he died, his obituary claimed he’d served three years in the Revolution. Heyer, in reaffirming his pension claim in 1855, swore that he served those three years and was also at the Battle of Saratoga, being present to see General John Burgoyne surrender to Horatio Gates and was later part of Washington’s “bodyguard.”

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon
His second exploit worthy of a painting.

This is where Heyer could be correct — there is no complete list of members of General Washington’s guard corps. The guard was hand-picked from members of Washington’s field army.

But never once did Heyer ever swear that he was with Washington at the Delaware Crossing.

See Conrad Heyer’s pension statements at the Journal of the American Revolution.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson

Did friendly fire really kill Confederate Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, or is this just a myth of the Civil War?


We all know the story (or should).

On May 2, 1863, Jackson was conducting a reconnaissance mission in the last stages of the Battle of Chancellorsville when he was accidentally shot by Confederate troops. He would die eight days later, after an operation to amputate his left arm.

 

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon

Today, were someone to be wounded in the left arm and right hand, combat medics would rapidly be working on him to stabilize his condition. Once that was done, a MEDEVAC flight would get him to a combat hospital for further evaluation. Surgery on the arm might not even take place in a combat hospital – Jackson would likely have been transported to a place like Walter Reed for the actual surgery.

He might not lose the arm. He probably would not have died.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon
Army medics unload a mock casualty from a UH-60 Black Hawk medevac helicopter during a training exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center. | U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

But this was 1863, and Jackson died. Why? According to one coroner in a History Channel video, the wounds Jackson received when he was accidentally shot by Confederate sentries while on a reconnaissance mission during the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863, were not the direct cause of his death.

Instead, the blame may very well fall on the poor medical treatment he received after his wounds. The methods used to keep General Jackson under while his arm was amputated using the techniques of the time triggered the pneumonia that killed him, the coroner claims.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon

Is he right? Watch the video for yourself and let us know what you think!

History, YouTube

MIGHTY HISTORY

The insane reason this Pearl Harbor defender didn’t get the Medal of Honor

When Japanese planes swept Pearl Harbor in the December, 1941, surprise attack that took America into World War II, there were very few U.S. troops able to fight back in any meaningful way. That doesn’t mean resistance was minimal. Once the nature of the attack was realized, American fighting men sprang into action, manning whatever defenses they could. In fact, the Americans drew the first blood of the Japanese-American War, sinking the surveillance sub sent to recon the harbor.

An hour and a half before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were already losing. But any defense in the face of such a surprise attack is worthy of mention — and worthy of full recognition, yet one Air Corps pilot was denied the full measure of recognition.


That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon

The modern-day remains of the surveillance sub sunk in Pearl Harbor

(Pearl Harbor Visitors Center)

Sinking the Japanese reconnaissance sub wasn’t the only American resistance to the attack. U.S. troops fired whatever small arms they had at their attackers, sailors manned whatever guns could be brought to bear against the incoming dive bombers, and a handful of American pilots actually got into the air, downing an obscene number of Japanese Zeros, especially considering the odds against them.

Although the Navy was the primary target for the Japanese, once their bombs were expended, Japanese planes made their way to the Army airfields to strafe the men and planes while they were on the ground. This tactic was as successful as the attack on the battleships in the harbor, but just as the USS Nevada attempted to get underway in the face of the surprise attack, American pilots also attempted to take off and get into the fight.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon

Kenneth Taylor and George Welch

(U.S. Air Force)

Hickam and Ewa Airfields were devastated by the strafing runs of Japanese fighters, so was the Navy’s base on nearby Ford Island. But there was once airfield that remained largely untouched by the incoming enemies, despite the raging aerial battle taking place in the skies above it.

That morning, Army Air Corps pilots George Welch and Kenneth Taylor were recovering off-base from an epic night of drinking, dancing, and playing cards. When they heard of the attack on Pearl Harbor, they dashed off in their car to make way to the airfield at Haleiwa, where they hoped to have fueled and armed P-40 Tomahawks ready to go in defense of the islands. They reached the airfield during the second wave of the Japanese attack and managed to get airborne, still wearing tuxedo pants from the previous night’s revelry.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon

Hickam Army Air Field under attack, Dec. 7, 1941.

(U.S. Army)

Once aloft, the two airmen were in a target-rich environment, knocking off Zeros as the enemy tried to overwhelm them with sheer numbers. Other airmen managed to take to the skies, downing enemy planes, some of them losing their lives in the process. But it was Welch and Taylor who were making mincemeat out of any enemy foolish enough to approach Haleiwa. Welch and Taylor were credited with at least seven aerial victories and the overall preservation of Haleiwa airfield.

The two men were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for their daring, heroism, and skill in the face of an overwhelming invader. Lieutenant Welch was recommended for the Medal of Honor, but it was denied. Why? Because his commanding officer said he took off that morning without being ordered to do so.

He finished the war with 16 total aerial wins against Japanese planes. Taylor, have been injured while fighting, also received the Purple Heart.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon

Welch and Taylor during the awards ceremony for their Distinguished Service Cross medals

(U.S. Army)

All told, the Japanese lost 29 aircraft, 65 men, and five midget submarines in the surprise attack. It was a stunning victory, considering the losses suffered by the American forces. But it was the U.S. resolve in the face of a surprise attack that foreshadowed how the rest of the war would go.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Meet the prolific Confederate spy dubbed the ‘siren of the South’

Belle Boyd’s spying career began with a gunshot.


In July 1861, Union troops arrived in Boyd’s town and she wasn’t too happy about it. Since her father was a member of the Confederate 2nd Virginia Infantry Regiment, Boyd (born Isabella Maria Boyd) was “supporting the troops” with Confederate flags in her bedroom.

The Union troops tried to confiscate the flags, then threw up the Stars and Stripes over her house. An argument ensued, a soldier cursed at her mother, and then Boyd pulled out a pistol and shot the guy. She was later cleared of wrongdoing — because in the 1860s it was totally cool to shoot people who cussed at women — but the Union began tracking her activities.

And interestingly enough, she used this to her advantage, and tracked them instead.

From the Encyclopedia Virginia:

Union officials began to monitor Boyd’s movements, but she used conversations with her minders to accumulate detailed information on their movements, sending the intelligence in letters to Confederate commanders. After one such letter was intercepted, Boyd escaped punishment by feigning ignorance. Her parents then sent her to live with her aunt and uncle in even tinier Front Royal (pop. 417), forty miles to the south.

In October 1861, after visiting her father’s camp, Boyd began work as a courier between generals Jackson and P. G. T. Beauregard and was detained briefly for her efforts. Her oft-noted charm was a weapon and, occasionally, a liability. After being captured by a pair of Union soldiers, Boyd claimed to have sweet talked them into escorting her back to Confederate lines, where she promptly had them arrested. When Boyd’s identity was revealed to the two hapless soldiers, they recognized it, suggesting that she already had attained something that spies tend to avoid—notoriety.

Notoriety is exactly what she found, as Boyd appears at least a few times in correspondence between senior Union leaders. While she was getting plenty of hate mail from the Union, she was earning respect from senior Confederates, to include Gen. Stonewall Jackson, who made her a captain and honorary aide-de-camp, according to AP.

Perhaps her biggest intelligence “get” came in May 1862, as she spied on a Union general and his staff through a peephole in a closet floor (Great job securing the SCIF, guys). Union forces had recently captured Front Royal, Virginia, but the general was about to pull a large portion of his forces east. It wasn’t long before the town was back in Confederate hands, thanks to Boyd’s messages.

You can check out more about her exploits here

MIGHTY HISTORY

The “Father of the Air Force” challenged the limits of freedom of speech and lost

Gen. William “Billy” Mitchell was an Army officer at the beginning of the 1900s who campaigned for a separate Air Force that would revolutionize warfare. While most of his predictions about American airpower ultimately came true, Mitchell was dismissed as a radical in his day and convicted of insubordination.


Mitchell joined the Army in 1898 during the Spanish-American War, seven years before airplanes were a thing and 11 years before the military bought it’s first one.

Mitchell rose through the ranks quickly and was named deputy commander of Army Aviation shortly after his promotion to major. He requested permission to become an Army pilot, but as a 38-year-old major he was declared too senior in age and rank to become a pilot.

So he paid for his own lessons out of pocket. By 1917 he was an accomplished aviator and was promoted to brigadier general. He took command of all U.S. Army aerial combat planes in France and led 1,481 planes into combat against the Germans at the Battle of St. Mihiel.

After the war Mitchell continued pushing for a separate Air Force and claimed that a flight of bombers could destroy any battleship in existence, a claim he proposed testing by bombing actual battleships captured in World War I.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon
The USS Alabama is hit by a white phosphorous bomb dropped during a demonstration. Photo: US Navy History

Mitchell eventually got his wish, and a series of demonstrations were scheduled for Jun.-Jul. 1921 where Mitchell’s forces would bomb three captures German ships and three surplus U.S. ships.

The crown jewel of the test targets from the German battleship Ostfriesland, scheduled for bombing Jul. 20-21. The tests were a resounding success. In full view of Navy brass and the American press, every ship was torn apart by aerial bombardment.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon

 

The Ostfriesland was hit with armor piercing, 2,000-pound bombs specially designed for use against naval ships. Unfortunately, the Navy claimed that Mitchell overstepped the parameters of the test and Congress just ignored the results.

The friction between Mitchell and the Navy and Congress grew, until two major accidents by the Navy. In one, three planes flying from the West Coast to Hawaii were lost and in another the USS Shenandoah Airship was destroyed with the loss of 14 sailors.

Mitchell took to the press to blast the Navy and Army brass who he believed had failed their subordinates.

“These incidents are the direct result of the incompetency, criminal negligence and almost treasonable administration of the national defense by the Navy and War Departments,” Mitchell said. “The bodies of my former companions in the air moulder under the soil in America, and Asia, Europe and Africa, many, yes a great many, sent there directly by official stupidity.”

Mitchell was quickly brought up on Article 96 of the Articles of War which prohibits “all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline.”

His trial was a national sensation, attended by societal elite and crowds of veterans. Mitchell’s lawyer tried to argue that Mitchell’s freedom of speech trumped his duties as an officer, but the defense easily ripped through the argument by pointing out allowing complete freedom of speech in the military could create anarchy.

Mitchell was sentenced to five years suspension without pay or duty, during which time he could not accept civilian employment. When the decision reached President Calvin Coolidge, Coolidge amended them to allow the general half pay and a subsistence allowance.

Mitchell opted to resign his commission instead. He launched a speaking tour that traveled around the country and promoted air power.

He died in 1936 and so was not able to see his prophecies come true in World War II. The Air Force Association tried to get his conviction overturned in 1955, but the secretary of the Air Force left it in place because Mitchell did commit the crimes. President Harry S. Truman authorized a special posthumous award for Mitchell in 1946, recognizing Mitchell’s work to create modern military aviation.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time a Navy blimp crew mysteriously disappeared

When Navy Blimp L-8 crashed in August 1942, rescue workers and medical personnel were at the scene in minutes.


But what they found there surprised them.

The blimp’s gondola was empty, its two-man crew was missing.

L-8 took off from Treasure Island Navy Base in San Francisco Bay that morning and answered the call of a possible submarine. Two hours later, the blimp, sagging sharply in the middle, was seen floating slowly over beaches south of the city. It snagged briefly on a cliff, broke loose, scraped the roofs of houses, and dropped one of its depth charges on a local golf course before crashing in the 400 block of Bellevue Avenue in Daly City, Calif.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon
The crewless U.S. Navy blimp, L-8 floats aimlessly over Dale City, Calif.

Parachutes were found properly stored in the gondola, but two lifejackets were missing (crew members were required to wear life jackets whenever on patrol). The airship’s life raft was still on board. The radio was found to be working. There was fuel, but the batteries were depleted — a classified file on still in the gondola.

So, what happened?

There were two men aboard when the ship was launched, Lt. Ernest Cody, 27, an Annapolis graduate who won his pilot’s wings the previous December, and Ensign Charles Adams, 38, who was the more experienced of the two with over 2,200 hours aboard lighter-than-air vehicles. The L-8 flight, however, was his first as an officer. He received his commission only the day before.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon
Navy Blimp L-8 at the crash site.

Over the years, it has been suggested the two men staged an elaborate desertion plot or were taken prisoner by a Japanese submarine, or maybe one of the two men had murdered the other and then disappeared. Others have suggested that the two men were killed by a stowaway or abducted by a UFO or that they simply — somehow — fell out of the blimp. There have even been “sightings,” including one by the mother of Lt. Cody, who claimed to have seen her son in Phoenix a year later with his eyes looking “peculiar, as though he were suffering from shock or a mental illness.”

But all these “suggestions” have remained just that — unproven suggestions.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon
The pilots of Navy Blimp L-8.

What is known for sure is that, as L-8 was preparing to launch that morning at 6 a.m., it was discovered to be overweight and a third crewmember, flight mechanic J Riley Hill, was taken off the airship. Cody and Adams remained and the ship launched at 6:03 a.m. on what was scheduled to be a four-hour patrol off the California coast. At 7:42 a.m., L-8 radioed in that it had spotted what may have been an oil slick — and therefore possible evidence of a submarine — near the Farallon Islands and was going in for a closer look.

It was L-8’s last transmission. 

Witnesses on two vessels in the area later reported seeing L-8 circling the area for about an hour, including one pass within about 30 feet of the water. At that time, the witnesses said, they could see the two men in the gondola.

About 9 a.m., L-8 was seen to break off its search and float away in the direction of San Francisco. About the same time, the base became concerned about the extended radio silence and sent search aircraft to look for the blimp and broadcast an alert asking other vessels and aircraft in the area to report any sightings. A commercial airline pilot radioed in about 10:50 a.m. that he had seen the blimp near San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, and it appeared, he said, to be “under pilot control.”

At 11 a.m., search planes reported seeing L-8 soar up to about 2,000 feet — but still apparently remain under control.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon
The wreckage of the blimp.

Finally, at 11:15 a.m., L-8 was seen hovering near Ocean Beach with a noticeable sag in the middle and its motors off.  Seemingly propelled only by the wind, it then floated ashore and settled in Daly City. Neither Lt. Cody or Ensign Adams — nor their bodies — were ever seen again and no evidence about what happened to them has surfaced. Their disappearance remains today as unsolved as it was 75 years ago.

Lt. Cody and Ensign Adams were officially declared dead a year later.

History has dubbed L-8 “the Ghost Blimp.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This fighter pilot landed a helicopter on the summit of Mount Everest

To many climbers, mountaineers, and general fans of low oxygen environments, summiting Mount Everest represent the literal peak of physical achievement. But while an impressive feat for a human, it turns out vultures can happily survive exposed to altitudes of 40,000 ft or 12,200 meters above sea level and, indeed, have been seen flying around at this height. (For reference, this is about 11,000 ft or 3,350 meters above the peak of Everest.) Meanwhile tardigrades laugh in the face of the conditions on Everest, able to survive even nakedly exposed to outer space for quite some time with no ill effects. (Although, note: humans can actually survive exposed to the near vacuum of space for about 90 seconds without long term damage, but we have nothing on the tardigrade for durability in just about any environment.) And let’s not even talk about microbes… In the end, there are creatures that can outdo even the best of humans at pretty much any physically intensive task we feel like setting our minds to, no matter how hard we train and how good our genetics.


But you know what no other known living thing can do? Use their minds to create machinery to do an otherwise extremely arduous and dangerous task in about a half an hour, all while kicking back in a very comfy chair. And that’s exactly what French fighter pilot Didier Delsalle did when he conquered Everest in a product of human ingenuity — the Eurocopter Ecureuil AS350 B3 helicopter. Humans: 1, Animal Kingdom: 0.

Although Delsalle is the first and so far only person in history to land a helicopter on the summit of the world’s highest peak, likeminded daredevils and pilots have been trying to do exactly that since at least the early 1970s. One of the most notable of these individuals is Jean Boulet who still holds the record for highest altitude reached by a helicopter at 40,820 ft (12,442 meters), at which point his engine died, though he did manage to land safely. (Yes, contrary to popular belief, helicopters don’t just drop like a rock when the engine dies, and they are relatively safe in this condition. In fact, you have a better chance of surviving in a helicopter when the engine fails than you do in an airplane where the same happens.)

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon
Mt. Everest, seen from Tingri, a small village on the Tibetan plateau at around 4050m above sea level.

Like Boulet before him, Delsalle broached the subject of landing a helicopter on Everest with the company he flew helicopters for (in this case Eurocopter) and was similarly stonewalled by killjoy executives who didn’t want to deal with the negative PR if he crashed.

Delsalle didn’t let the subject drop and repeatedly badgered higher ups within the company, using the better-than-expected results from the test of a new engine in 2004 to convince Eurocopter that landing their Ecureuil AS350 B3 helicopter on Everest was entirely possible. The company executives finally relented and gave Delsalle some time (and a helicopter) to test his hypothesis. After all, while a failed attempt would create a lot of negative press, a successful one would be a fantastic marketing move, with their helicopter doing something no other had ever done.

Or as Delsalle himself would state,

The idea was to prove to our customers all the margins they have while they’re using the helicopter in the normal certified envelope, compared to what the helicopter is capable of during the flight test.

Delsalle then took the helicopter and flew it to 29,500 feet, about 6,500 feet above the helicopter’s listed maximum operating altitude and around 500 feet higher than the peak of Everest.

No problem.

After a number of additional tests proved that the helicopter would in theory have no trouble landing on Everest’s peak, Delsalle and his trusty helicopter headed to Nepal.

Once there, while conducting recon on the mountain, Delsalle cemented his reputation as an all round awesome guy by taking the time to rescue two stranded Japanese climbers. When he wasn’t saving lives, he could be found jogging around the hanger in an attempt to drop every gram possible from his body weight. Likewise, he lightened the helicopter slightly be removing the passenger seats- the point of all this was to be able to extend flight time slightly. However, as part of the purpose of this publicity stunt was to show off what the Ecureuil AS350 B3 could do, other than this marginal lightening of its load, no other modifications were made.

And so it was that on the morning of May 14, 2005, Delsalle slipped on two pairs of thermal underwear under his flight suit and took off. As for his choice of under attire, this was needed as he flew the entire distance with his window open… He did this rather than keep things more climate controlled as he was concerned his windows would have iced up in the -31 F (-35 C) temperatures had he not kept the temperatures equalized on both sides of the glass.

As for the ascent, this was not quite as easy as simply rising to the necessary altitude — Delsalle had to deal with some pretty remarkable up and down drafts, which is one of the reasons even today helicopter rescues at extreme altitudes on Everest are a rarity. As he stated,

On one side of the mountain, on the updraft side, I wasn’t able to approach the mountain because even taking out all of the power of the aircraft, I was still climbing. But of course on the other side you had the downdraft side, and on this side even with maybe 60 knots on the airspeed indicator I was going backward . . . and the helicopter at full power was not powerful enough to counteract that.

“Landing”, or more aptly touching down, also wasn’t an easy task.

When you reach the summit you reach the updraft point, and of course the updraft winds have enough force to throw you away as soon as you put the collective down. I had to stick my skids on the summit and push into the mountain to stay on the summit. Another big problem there is that you have no visual of the summit, and you have no specific cues, because you are on the highest point. You are in free air in fact, and you have to try to find where is the summit exactly.

After keeping the skids pressed against the tiny area of land that is the summit for 3 minutes and 50 seconds, Delsalle decided it was time to go, which turned out to be quite simple thanks to the strong updraft: “I had just to pull a little bit on the collective and I went to flying very easily.”

Amusingly, nobody climbing the mountain that day had any idea that Delsalle was planning on doing this and reports later flooded in to Nepalese authorities about a random helicopter seen flying around the summit.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon
Aerial photo from the south, with Mount Everest rising above the ridge connecting Nuptse and Lhotse.

But when Delsalle landed and went to check the recordings documenting his amazing accomplishment, the computer showed zero files where the recordings should have been. Yes, he had no hard evidence he had actually done this, invalidating his record attempt.

Rather than waiting to see if the data could be recovered (and presumably not wanting to endure doubters for any longer than absolutely necessary), Delsalle instead opted to just do it all over again the very next day, this time making sure the recording equipment was functioning. (It should also be noted here that some of the urgency was because no one was summiting on the day in question, but were after. For safety reasons, he could not attempt the touch down if anyone was climbing around the summit.)

If at this point you’re now doubting his story actually happened, we should probably mention that they were later able to recover the first day’s logs and video, proving he had done what he said.

Of course, doubters will persist no matter if you slap them in the face with video evidence, data logs, several Everest climber accounts of spotting the helicopter flying around the summit, his helicopter skid marks that for a time existed in the snow at that hallowed peak, etc. But as for the Federation Aeronautique Internationale and a few other such official bodies, as his evidence of the two touch downs on the summit was incontrovertible, they officially ratified his remarkable achievement, much to the chagrin of many an Everest climber, who almost universally lamented the accomplishment owing to the supposed ease at which summiting the mountain was achieved.

But here again, we feel compelled to point out that humans compiling the knowledge and expertise needed to design/construct a machine that was then extremely skillfully landed on this hallowed, tiny patch of snow covered land isn’t actually easy at all when you think about it. (And don’t even get us started on what it took to compile the knowledge and expertise to make the tools that made the parts for the machine in question… or the tools that made the parts for the more advanced tools, such as mind boggling complex computers used along the whole process…)

One might even posit that summiting Everest in the more traditional way is orders of magnitude easier than the way Delsalle did it, when looking at the big picture.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut 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.


That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon

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….
That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon

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.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon

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

7 facts every American should know about Dorie Miller, the Black sailor whose heroics changed a nation

On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, Doris “Dorie” Miller was serving aboard the USS West Virginia as a Navy mess attendant 2nd class when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

As his battleship was sinking, the powerfully built 22-year-old sharecropper’s son from Waco, Texas, helped move his dying captain to better cover before manning a .50-caliber machine gun and shooting at the attacking Japanese planes until he had no more ammunition. Miller was one of the last men to leave his sinking ship, and after unloading on the enemy, he turned his attention to pulling injured sailors out of the harbor’s burning, oily water.


Miller’s legendary actions, for which the sailor received the Navy Cross, were immortalized in the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora! and in Michael Bay’s 2001 film Pearl Harbor. But those depictions only provide surface details of Miller’s extraordinary service and its legacy in changing the course of US history.

Here are seven facts every American should know about this American icon.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon

Family members of World War II hero Doris “Dorie” Miller react after the unveiling of the future Ford-class aircraft carrier USS Doris Miller (CVN 81) at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration event on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alexander C. Kubitza/US Navy, courtesy of DVIDS.

He’s the first enlisted sailor or Black American to ever have an aircraft carrier named after him.

The Navy made history Jan. 20, 2019, when it announced at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration event on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam that it would name a new Ford-class aircraft carrier, CVN-81, after Miller.

Supercarriers are typically named for US presidents, and the USS Doris Miller, which is still under construction, is the first to be named for an enlisted sailor or Black American. Navy officials said it will be the most powerful and lethal warship ever built.

“Dorie Miller stood for everything that is good about our nation,” said former acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly during the ceremony last year. “His story deserves to be remembered and repeated wherever our people continue to stand the watch today. He’s not just the story of one sailor. It is the story of our Navy, of our nation and our ongoing struggle to form — in the words of our Constitution — a more perfect union.”

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon

Emrys Bledsoe, bottom, great-great-grandnephew of World War II hero Doris “Dorie” Miller, attempts to cut a cake next to acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly, third from left, Mrs. Robyn Modly, left, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, right, and other Miller relatives at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alexander C. Kubitza/US Navy, courtesy of DVIDS.

The carrier will be the second Navy vessel to honor Miller.

In 1973, the Navy commissioned the destroyer escort Miller, which was reclassified as a frigate two years later, according to The Navy Times. During the ship’s christening ceremony, Texas Rep. Barbara Jordan predicted that the “Dorie Millers of the future will be captains as well as cooks.”

According to KPBS San Diego, the Navy now has 10 Black admirals serving in its ranks.

As a Black sailor in 1941, Miller wasn’t even supposed to fire a gun.

As NPR reported Tuesday, “When he reached for that weapon, he was taking on two enemies: the Japanese flyers and the pervasive discrimination in his own country.”

“One of the ways in which the Navy discriminated against African Americans was that they limited them to certain types of jobs, or what we call ‘ratings’ in the Navy,” historian Regina Akers from the Naval History and Heritage Command told NPR. “So, for African Americans, many were messmen or stewards. Dorie Miller was a messman, which meant that he basically took care of an officer, laid out his clothes, shined his shoes and served meals.”

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon

Miller speaks during a war bond tour stop at the Naval Training Station in Great Lakes, Illinois, on Jan. 7, 1943. Photo courtesy of the US Navy/National Archives.

Miller’s legend would have been lost if not for the Black press.

Members of the Black press knew that getting Miller proper recognition could undermine the stereotype that Black Americans weren’t any good in combat. But when journalists from The Pittsburgh Courier — one of the leading Black newspapers of the time — looked into Miller’s story, the Navy initially wouldn’t identify him, saying there were too many messmen in its ranks to find him.

Before his death in 2003, former Courier reporter Frank Bolden said in an interview with the Freedom Forum, “The publisher of the paper said, ‘Keep after it.’ We spent ,000 working to find out who Dorie Miller was. And we made Dorie Miller a hero.”

Miller’s actions initially earned him nothing more than a letter of commendation, but coverage by the Black press captured public attention, and eventually, US Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Chester Nimitz upgraded Miller’s commendation to the Navy Cross, then the third-highest honor for heroism.

Akers, the historian, told NPR, “In just like the flip of a switch, [Miller] becomes a celebrity. He becomes one of the first heroes, period, of the war, but certainly one of the first African American heroes of the war. He was on recruitment posters. His image was everywhere.”

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon

Miller receives the Navy Cross from Adm. Chester Nimitz, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, during a ceremony aboard the USS Enterprise on May 27, 1942. Photo courtesy of the US Navy/National Archives.

Miller’s story changed the Navy and military forever, paving the way for desegregation in the service.

Even before Miller was awarded the Navy Cross, his story quickly effected reforms. The Navy opened up jobs such as gunner’s mate, radioman, and radar operator to Black sailors and eventually started commissioning Black officers.

“Things came together at Pearl Harbor for Doris Miller and for the civil rights movement, probably to maximum effect,” Baylor University history professor Michael Parrish told NPR.

Miller’s story inspired Black artists to produce works that spread his legend far and wide and inspired generations of activists who were determined to build a more just society. In 1943, Langston Hughes, the Black American poet best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance, wrote this poem about the trailblazing sailor:

When Dorie Miller took gun in hand —
Jim Crow started his last stand.
Our battle yet is far from won
But when it is, Jim Crow’ll be done.
We gonna bury that son-of-a-gun!

Parrish, who co-authored Doris Miller, Pearl Harbor, and the Birth of the Civil Rights Movement, said President Harry S. Truman’s executive order to desegregate the military in 1948 can also be traced to Miller’s heroics at Pearl Harbor.

“World War II was really the turning point in that long struggle,” Parrish told NPR.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson speaks during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The congresswoman has been working to honor Miller with the Medal of Honor since she first came to Congress in 1993. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alexander C. Kubitza/US Navy, courtesy of DVIDS.

Some Congressional leaders believe Miller’s Navy Cross should be upgraded to a Medal of Honor.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, who represents Texas’ 30th Congressional District, said in a 2010 press release that she has been working to honor Miller with the Medal of Honor since she first came to Congress in 1993.

“For more than 50 years, members of Congress have been working to give Petty Officer Doris Miller a Congressional Medal of Honor,” Johnson said. “Eighteen years after I first came to the House, we are still working on it. In my judgment, Dorie Miller saved our country from invasion, and as long as I live, I will do what I can to honor this great American hero.”

Miller was later killed in action in World War II and never lived to see the lasting effects of his heroics.

After Pearl Harbor, Miller went on serving his nation in World War II, and in 1943, he was one of hundreds of sailors killed when their ship was torpedoed and sank in the Pacific. While Miller’s body was never found, his legacy lives on, and his name has graced a postage stamp, schools, roads, and community centers all over the country.

And the service that once wouldn’t even release Miller’s name to the public now honors him alongside US presidents.

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


MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Hashshashin were the most feared assassins of the ancient world

Hashshashin have gone by many namesakes and the word assassin derives from the original religious cult. They consumed hashish to create visions and assassinate Christian crusading leaders and Muslim sultans alike. Their notoriety lives on to this day, influencing cult classics like the Marco Polo Netflix series or mainstream gaming such as the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Assassination was not an unfamiliar weapon in the ancient world, but the Hashshashin turned it into an art form.

Religious roots in Islam

The Hashshashin existed as a religious group of assassins from the 11th to the 13th centuries in Persia and Syria. For hundreds of years, they operated out of hidden mountain fortresses near the Caspian Sea. The new Islamic religion spread throughout the ancient world, but early on it was split between two groups: The Sunni and Shia. The Sunni believe that Abu Bakr was the rightful successor to the Islamic Prophet. The Shia consider Uthman’s son in-law, Ali, to be the legitimate heir. This was the start of different sects of the religion, splintering into other subgroups.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon
Alamout Castle ruins (Wikipedia, CC-BY-3.0)

Al-Mustansir ruled as Caliph of the Fatimid Caliphate from the age of seven for over 50 years. The religious empire spanned across northern Africa to the west and Persia to the east. Ethnic groups in Egypt made it increasingly difficult for Al-Mustansir to maintain a strong grip of the extensive empire. He gave some of his military power to his General Badr Al-Jamali to defeat the enemies of the state. Badr succeeded in defeating the groups and the politicians that supported them. On January 10, 1094 the eighth Fatimid caliph died in Egypt.

Abu Mansir Nizar, Al-Mustansir’s son, was the next in line as successor. Badr had died earlier that year as well. Badr’s son, Al-Afdal Shahanshah, took his father’s place as the Caliph’s vizier, a high office in the Muslim dynasty. Behind the scenes, Al-Afdal controlled the government due to his father’s exploits. To remain in power, he organized a successful coup. Al-Afdal placed Abu’s younger, 20-year-old brother on the throne instead because it would be much easier to control a child. The governor of Alexandria gave refuge to Abu and appointed him Caliph.

A year-long Egyptian civil war ended with a besieged Alexandria and the surrender of Abu. Imprisoned and executed by a pretender, the rightful ruler of the Caliphate met his end. Egyptian and Syrian leaders reluctantly accepted the bloody transition of power, but Persia to east refused. The Turks invaded the lands to the east and forced Sunni beliefs on the populace and executed those who refused.

Hassan-I Sabbah, a religious leader of a smaller faction, was banished long before the coup in 1080s. His loyalty to Al-Musansir and to Nizari beliefs made him a threat to the ambitious vizier’s family. As a consequence, when the rightful ruler died, he dedicated his life to vengeance and personal gain.

During his exile, he infiltrated the fabled fort Alamut disguised as a missionary of the opposing religious faction. Secretly, however, he was converting followers to his own brand of the religion. He won the fort and established his own Nizari Ismailis revolt – and his secret society the Hashashin.

That time the Greeks sent ammo to the enemy so they’d stop stripping the Parthenon
Siege of Alamut (Wikipedia)

Consequently, Turkish Sultans did not want a renegade upstart seizing forts in their new empire and sent armies to recapture Alamut. The 2,000 foot high fortress that sat on vertical cliffs was impregnable. The Sultan Malik-Shah applied constant military pressure to seize the fort and kill Hassan-I. With this in mind, mysteriously, the Sultan and his vizier died. Of course, the evidence that this this may or may not have been the first assassination by the Hashashin is a topic of debate among historians. This caused a civil war that presented more opportunities for Hassan-I to capture more forts to use as a base of operations for assassinations. Hassan-I became known as “The Old Man in the Mountain.”

Psychological warfare

In spite of the name, Hashashin was originally derogatory in nature. The assassins embraced this notoriety and expanded on the fantastical tales about them. Hashashin refers to copious amounts of hashish smoked by the assassins.

‘The Assassins as men who were drugged with hashish wine and then taken to a lush valley where all of their sexual desires were fulfilled to gain their loyalty.’ – Marco Polo

‘They called themselves “fidayeen” (“martyrs”), which is what many suicide bombers today call themselves.’ – Pico Iyer, Smithsonian magazine, October 1986

A Fi’dai made peace with the fact a mission meant certain death. This dedication was also what made them terrifying. They turned assassination into an artform and could blend in with the population. Their myth grew further as it seemed they practically appeared out of nowhere and could be anyone at any time.

Hence, they could be hired by anyone to kill political or religious leaders with large sums of money. Crusaders even hired the Hashashin during the first Crusade.

Their tactics were so successful that the word assassin came from the word Hashashin.

Romanticism of the assassin

‘The Country of the Assassins’ exists on crusader maps where they had scatter strongholds. That shows that even crusaders knew that was ‘nope’ territory and to leave them the hell alone.

[Marco Polo’s] medieval best seller mentions the Syrian Old Man of the Mountain administering a drugged potion to his fanatical followers to facilitate their deadly missions. Since the sect’s nickname, the Hashishim, was derived from the Arabic for “hashish,” Marco Polo’s account helped cement their reputation as drug-fueled thugs. Modern historians, however, regard Marco Polo’s description as something of an invention itself. — Vicente Millan Torres, National Geographic

Among some of the most notable assassination attempts was the one of the famed Muslim Saladin where 13 Fi’dais were killed. The order was contracted by Rashid Ad-Din Sinan on behalf of Gumushtigin, the ruler of Aleppo.

Richard the lionhearted hired the assassins in 1192, and Jagati, the son of Genghis Khan, hired them 1242. The long list of assassination attempts even includes Edward the first of England in 1272. They could reach out and touch you from the safety of their hidden fortresses in the mountains.

It didn’t matter how tight security was, they were going to kill you or die trying. That’s some scary sh*t for a medieval ruler of any religion.

Assassins are a staple topic in pop culture. From John Wick to the Assassin’s Creed video game franchise, assassins are cool. You could probably list five real or fictional assassins off the top of your head popularized by film and television. The mystery and lethality of assassins capture the imagination. In fact, the Shia Islamic religious sect is still around today. Probably without the contract killings – allegedly. (Conspiracy music intensifies.)

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