The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

Picture the résumé of an average US president.


It likely starts off with a degree from a top school, and includes a stint working in law or Congress. It might even feature some military service.

But the presidents on this list have a few unconventional gigs to add to their experience. At some point in their lives, these 17 presidents tended bars, crafted toys, and even personally hung criminals. Whether or not these odd jobs helped prepare them to take on the White House remains to be seen.

Here are the 17 weirdest jobs of US presidents:

Andrew Jackson was a 13-year-old militia courier during the Revolutionary War.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
Portrait of Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States by Ralph Eleaser Whiteside Earl.

The turbulent, controversial seventh president of the US was actually the last head of state to serve in the Revolutionary War, in some capacity. Andrew Jackson joined the fighting at the age of thirteen and served as a courier, according to a report from CNN.

His position with the local militia was informal, but that didn’t stop the British from imprisoning the teenager, along with his brother Robert. Some accounts say that when Jackson refused to clean an officer’s boots, the enemy soldier slashed his face with a sword, leaving a permanent scar.

Abraham Lincoln owned a bar

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
Lincoln in his late 30s as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Photo taken by one of Lincoln’s law students around 1846.

Did you know that Lincoln was the only licensed bartender to rise to the position of chief executive?

According to Amy Cavanaugh’s article in the Chicagoist, the future president launched a business in New Salem, Illinois. The joint, known as Berry and Lincoln and co-owned by an old militia friend named William F. Berry, functioned as both a store and a drinking establishment. In 1833, Berry and Lincoln received a liquor license and began selling brandy, wine, and whiskey. Later on, the future president would leave the business to become the postmaster of New Salem.

Unfortunately, Berry’s alcoholism caused the duo to fall into debt — which Lincoln wouldn’t fully pay off until he became a congressman.

Andrew Johnson worked for his mom as an apprentice tailor

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
Andrew Johnson in 1875. (age 66)

Johnson — who was vice president at the time of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, and became the country’s 17th president as a result — started off as an apprentice tailor for his mother while he was still a teen, according to CNN. Later, he moved up to a tailoring position in South Carolina and Tennessee.

James Garfield tended to mules

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
Garfield as a brigadier general during the Civil War. (Brady-Handy Photograph Collection.)

James Garfield’s tenure as the 20th president of the US was cut short by an assassin’s bullet in 1881. His presidency was so brief that most historians exclude him from presidential rankings.

However, there was a time when Garfield’s career was on the rise. According to the “Erie Canal” by Ralph Andrist, the “Ohio farm boy” got his start working for his cousin who owned a canal boat. Garfield made $8 a month driving the boat’s mules.

Also read: This is how US Presidents almost got to choose their own entrance music

Benjamin Harrison yelled for a living

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
1896 Pach Brothers studio photograph of United States President Benjamin Harrison.

In 1888, Benjamin Harrison was elected as the 23rd president of the US — following in the footsteps of his grandfather, William Harrison.

Years earlier, when he had yet to establish a law career, Harrison began a rather archaic side hustle — working as a court crier for $2.50 a day, according to his official presidential website.

Grover Cleveland executed people

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
Official Gubernatorial portrait of New York Governor (and U.S. President) Grover Cleveland.

Today, Cleveland is perhaps best known for serving as both the 22th and 24th president of the US.

Few people know about the somewhat morbid turn his career path took early on in his professional experience.

While serving as sheriff of New York’s Erie County from 1871 to 1874, Cleveland personally hanged two criminals instead of delegating the gruesome task.

According to a 1912 article in the New York Times, Cleveland argued that he had “insisted that he had no moral right to impose upon a subordinate the obnoxious and degrading tasks that attached to his office.”

However, this incident came back to haunt him. According to the White House Historical Association, Cleveland was lambasted as “the hangman of Buffalo” during the 1884 presidential election.

Warren G. Harding was a teenage newspaperman

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
Warren G. Harding. (Harris Ewing)

Before ascending to a scandal-marred stint in the White House, Harding enjoyed a sterling reputation as the editor of The Marion Star.

Harding bought the struggling paper when he was only 18-years-old and immediately began poaching journalists at the 1884 Republican National Convention.

He always had a soft spot for the paper. After he became president, he even planned to stay on as an associate editor, according to the Marion Star. Harding died before that could happen.

Calvin Coolidge was a toy maker

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
Calvin Coolidge, photo portrait head and shoulders, seated. (Copyright by Notman Photo Co., Boston, Mass.)

As the 30th president of the US, Calvin Coolidge became known as a man of few words and an advocate of laissez faire policies.

Coolidge had followed a fairly conventional path to the White House, becoming a lawyer and governor. Before that, however, he took on a rather unusual weekend job in high school.

According to the Southwest Times Record, Coolidge crafted doll carriages at the Ludlow Toy Manufacturing Company.

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

Herbert Hoover worked in the geology and mining field

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
Hoover’s official White House portrait painted by Elmer Wesley Greene.

Hoover — the 31st president of the US — worked as a geologist and mining engineer to pay for his living while he explored the Western Australian gold fields in the late 1890s, according to CNN.

At the tender age of 23, he was promoted to mine manager and worked in various gold fields until taking a well-earned less physical job as an independent mining consultant.

Harry Truman opened a haberdashery

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
President Harry Truman. Image from United States Library of Congress.

As Careercast notes, long before he lead the country as the 33rd president during WWII, Truman ran a haberdashery in Kansas City. Truman co-owned the short-lived store with a military buddy he met during WWI. The haberdashery shut down during a recession in the 1920s, forcing Truman to seek a new career in politics.

Lyndon B. Johnson worked as a shoe shiner and a goat herder

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
Lyndon Baines Johnson in navy uniform.

When Johnson was just 9, he shined shoes during summer vacation for extra pocket change and later used these skills to buff shoes in high school, as well, according to The Week. Later, the 36th president of the US worked as a goat herder on his uncle’s farm.

Richard Nixon worked as a chicken plucker and ran a game booth

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
Lt. Cmdr. Richard M. Nixon. (Richard Nixon Foundation)

While visiting family in Prescott, Arizona, in 1928 and 1929, Nixon — the 37th president of the US — plucked and dressed chickens for a local butcher, according to The Week. Later, he worked a “Wheel of Fortune” gaming booth at the Slippery Gulch carnival and said it was his favorite job.

Gerald Ford was a park ranger

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
Lt. Cmdr. Gerald R. Ford. (Gerald Ford Presidential Library and Museum.)

The 38th president of the US said working as a park ranger at Yellowstone National Park was “one of the greatest summer of my life,” according to the Yellowstone Park Foundation.

The feeling is mutual: his supervisor at the park, Canyon District Ranger Frank Anderson, said Ford was “a darned good ranger.”

His most dangerous duty was working as an armed guard on the truck that fed the bears in the park. This high-risk job later became fodder for impressive stories to share with his kids.

Related: From cheeseburger pizza to custard pie: the favorite foods of US presidents

Jimmy Carter grew peanuts

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

Before he entered the realm of politics, Carter operated a peanut farm in Georgia. According to Careercast, this rustic gig ” helped Carter appeal to voters throughout his time in politics.”

Ronald Reagan was a circus worker, a superstar lifeguard, and an actor

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan.

At age 14, Reagan briefly worked for the Ringling Brothers circus as an unskilled laborer for $0.25 an hour, according to The Week.

A year later, he took a summer job as a lifeguard at Rock River outside of Dixon, Illinois, according to PBS. There he worked 12 hour-days, seven days a week, for seven summers.

The “lean, tall, and tan” teenager became somewhat of a hero here after pulling 77 people from the danger of the swift river over the course of those seven summers, according to Heritage.

Later, Reagan went into show business. He starred in a few productions and even earned the lifelong nickname “Gipper” from his memorable turn in “Knute Rockne, All-American,” according to Careercast.

In 1981, he became the 40th president of the US at age 69.

Bill Clinton was a grocer and a comic book salesman

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

At age 13, Clinton started working as a grocer in Arkansas, according to Convenience Store News. Ever the businessman, he persuaded his boss to let him sell comic books at the store, too, and was able to rake in an extra $100 for his tenacity.

In 1993, Clinton became the 42nd US president.

George W. Bush was a landman in the oil industry and the part-owner of the Texas Rangers

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

After graduating with his MBA from Harvard, George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the US, took a job as a landman for an oil company, in which he scouted potential sites to drill for oil, according to the Miller Center

It wasn’t glamourous, according to The Week: “It was hard, hot work,” he said. “I unloaded enough of those heavy mud sacks to know that was not what I wanted to do with my life.”

Later on, Bush became part-owner of the MLB’s Texas Rangers, according to Careercast.

The nation’s 43rd President was born into a political family, with father George H.W. Bush serving as the 41st President, Vice-President to Ronald Reagan, and Director of the CIA under Gerald Ford.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Awesome footage of the last time US battleships fired in anger

During Desert Storm, a massive portion of America’s firepower came from two floating relics, battleships of another time and age that would have to be pulled off of mothballs to take part in the war. These ships, however, provided a massive show of fire and fury that would convince Iraqi leaders that they were the source of an amphibious invasion, allowing for the Coalition’s massive victory.


Desert Shield was the 1990 military operation to prevent further aggressive acts by Iraq after it invaded Kuwait. As 1990 closed and 1991 opened, it became clear that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would not pull his forces out voluntarily, and so the massive force created to break his armies prepared for combat.

One part of that force buildup was a pair of Iowa-class battleships, the USS Wisconsin and USS Missouri. The ships had been mothballed, but they were pulled out of retirement to provide naval artillery against the Iraqi forces. Their 16-inch guns could hurl armor-piercing shells weighing up to 2,700 pounds, but they more commonly fired 1,900-pound shells with massive bursting charges, creating craters 50-feet wide.

The battleship USS Wisconsin has impressive 16-inch guns.

When the ships were first deployed against Iraq, they conducted standard naval artillery support and also flew drones and OV-10 Bronco spotters over the battlefield to track Iraqi troop positions. But military planners would rely on them for a lethal light show that could prevent hundreds of thousands of friendly deaths.

See, the U.S. had called on lots of allies to help get Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, but Iraq had one of the largest armored corps in the world at the time. So the balance of forces was in the Coalition’s favor, but it would likely have to suffer massive losses if it pushed Iraq out solely by strength of arms.

Military planners came up with a clever trick: Launch a three-pronged assault.

There would be an amphibious assault that would look like the main invasion but was actually a diversion, a primarily infantry assault that would tie up enemy troops and secure some objectives, and a massive “left-hook” led by armored units that would strike at Baghdad.

But that meant that the first prong, the amphibious diversionary one, had to look like the real assault even though most infantry and armored units would be miles away.

So the military called on the massive battleships.

They asked for weeks of shore bombardment by the battleships’ guns as well as Tomahawk missile strikes in Baghdad and across Iraq. All of this would culminate in a withering barrage during the invasion that would demoralize and overstimulate the defenders on the beach.

As Iraqi forces suffered a dense bombardment by the Wisconsin and Missouri, they would send up damage report after damage report. And when troops started landing on the beaches, Iraq would be convinced that a true amphibious landing was underway.

And so the battleships eagerly acquiesced and attacked Iraqi targets, leading to the footage at the top. The ships were returned to retirement after the war and would go on to become museum ships. Check out the video, and if you happen to be around Pearl Harbor or Norfolk, Virginia, be sure to check out these awesome ships.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Bearcat has been unjustly overshadowed by history

When you think about Grumman fighters, the Wildcat, the Panther, and the Tomcat all spring to mind. And for good reason — these planes are all classics. But there is one Grumman fighter that didn’t quite get a chance to shine in World War II, but it did see some action in Southeast Asia.


The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

Grumman F8F Bearcats line up on the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Valley Forge (CV 45)

(U.S. Navy)

During World War II, the Navy was deploying the F6F Hellcat and the F4U Corsair was operated by the Marine Corps. The Hellcat was a very tame plane, but the Corsair — known as the “Ensign Eliminator” and foisted on the Marines — simply had higher performance. The Navy wanted the best of both planes. They wanted the F8F Bearcat.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

French F8F Bearcats prepare to take off to carry out a napalm strike in Southeast Asia.

(U.S. Navy)

At the heart of the Bearcat was the Pratt and Whitney R-2800. This was the powerplant used by both the Corsair and Hellcat, but the Bearcat was much lighter, which gave it extreme performance. The Bearcat also packed a significant punch — to the tune of four M2 .50-caliber machine guns. If that wasn’t enough, the Bearcat was also able to haul five-inch rockets or a 1,000-pound bomb.

The Bearcat’s primary mission was to intercept enemy planes. The plane had a “bubble” canopy (pretty much a standard feature on today’s fighters) to improve the situational awareness of pilots. The Bearcat had a top speed of 421 miles per hour and a maximum range of 1,105 miles. It stuck around long enough to see some upgrades, but was quickly replaced by the onset of fighter jets, like the F9F Panther.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkeN4riBy4A

www.youtube.com

The Bearcat did see some combat, though. The French acquired Bearcats from the United States and used them in Southeast Asia. Some of those same planes were later passed on to the South Vietnamese.

The Bearcat also got some time in the spotlight when it was flown by the Blue Angels, from 1946 to 1950.

Learn more about this almost forgotten Grumman cat in the video below.

Articles

7 killer songs that use Morse code

…_ _ _…

That’s Morse code for S.O.S.


Morse code was created by Samuel F. B. Morse in the 1840s to work with his invention of the telegraph. Both the Union and Confederate armies used it during the war between the States.

Wasn’t before long that it was used ingeniously by American POW Jeremiah Denton during the Vietnam war and in 2010 by the Columbian Army in their war with FARC guerrillas who had taken some hostages.

Also read: Why Johnny Cash was the first Westerner to learn Stalin was dead

The general of the Columbian Army reached out to an advertising executive who helped produce a pop song that contained a hidden Morse code message, which played on the radio, alerting the hostages to their upcoming rescue.

“What Hath God Wrought?” was the first message sent by Morse code in 1844 and some of these songs live up to it:

1. RUSH — “YYZ”

The opening riff is the Morse code for “YYZ”

InnerMusicLove | YouTube

2. ABBA — “S.O.S”

ABBA is allowed to be as literal as they want.

AbbaVEVO | YouTube

3. Five Americans — “Western Union”

Play this one on repeat.

zman291977 | YouTube

4. Cabaret Voltaire — “CODE”

Say what?

Eskild Trulsen | YouTube

5. Metallica — “One”

The debate continues as to whether Metallica did in fact use Morse code in the song, but the kid in the “Johnny Got his Gun”  scenes uses his body to transmit Morse code.

6.  The Clash — “London Calling”

Sampled Morse code at the end: V for victory during World War II.

theclashVEVO | YouTube

7. Alan Parsons Project — “Lucifer”

Not sure what the message is and don’t wanna know.

07constancia | YouTube

Morse code is actually still being used by the military. The last code classes were taught by the Army at Fort Huachuca in 2015. The Air Force is currently teaching this vital form of communication at Goodfellow AFB, Texas.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The most ‘Murican moments of every presidency, part two

In our increasingly divided political world, it’s important to take the time to realize that no President of the United States takes office hoping to be remembered as the worst to ever hold the office. And even though one out of our 45 historical Presidents has to hold that position, I’m sorry to tell you that it’s not one of the Presidents who ever held the office in our lifetimes.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

Part two of this series that highlights the most patriotic moments of every Presidency covers Presidents 12-22, from Zachary Taylor to Grover Cleveland. It also includes James Buchanan, which is interesting because Buchanan jokes have been hard to come up with since 1881.


The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor had been serving the United States in the Army all the way back to the War of 1812. But by the time came for war with Mexico, Taylor was a general – and a good one. Beating the Mexicans paved his way to the White House.

What’s more patriotic than 30-plus years destroying America’s enemies? As President, Taylor didn’t serve long, but like Andrew Jackson, he asserted the authority of the federal government over the states at a time when it was most important. When Texas and New Mexico entered a border dispute, Taylor stepped in and settled the land boundary. When Texas refused to comply, Taylor threatened to lead an Army – himself – down to Texas, saying everyone there “taken in rebellion against the Union, would hang with less reluctance than hanging deserters and spies in Mexico.”

That’s a Commander-In-Chief.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

Not terribly good with handling ongoing domestic trouble, Millard Fillmore was definitely not going to take shit from some other country.

Millard Fillmore

Fillmore took office after Taylor died from an intestinal ailment involving fruit and iced milk. Fillmore, true to the duties of Vice-President took office to finish up Taylor’s term. It was lucky for France and Portugal that President Taylor was uninterested in foreign affairs, but President Fillmore certainly was.

When Fillmore found out that France, under Napoleon III, was meddling in the affairs of Hawaii, he issued them a stern warning – those were in the American sphere of influence. He also sought money owed to the U.S. from Portugal and sent Commodore Matthew Perry to Japan to open the island nation up for trade… American trade.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

Franklin Pierce

The second installment of this list will include many Presidents that are in the running for the title of “worst.” Franklin Pierce is perpetually nominated for the dubious honor. While the former general’s patriotism is beyond reproach, his skills in office definitely are not. To make matters worse, his tenure is also ranked as one of the least memorable.

What’s most patriotic about Pierce’s tenure is that Pierce ended up losing his party’s nomination for re-election and he accepted that outcome, stepping aside for the election of 1856. The peaceful transfer of power is a central tenet to American Democracy and Pierce more than upheld that tradition.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

Called “Old Buck” in his later years.

James Buchanan

Here it is: the actual worst president ever. As I’ve noted time and again, even James Buchanan didn’t enter office wanting to be the worst. He genuinely thought he was doing what was best for the United States. What he did, however, was absolutely not the best thing for the United States. Even though his tenure is overshadowed by his inaction on the eve of the Civil War, it wasn’t entirely without patriotic moments.

In 1855, the USS Water Witch was fired on by guns from a Paraguayan fort while surveying the Rio de la Plata basin. The attack killed the Water Witch’s helmsman. In response, Buchanan sent a U.S. Navy Squadron of 19 ships to Paraguay (which included the refurbished Water Witch). Paraguay apologized to the United States, paid an indemnity to the family of the Water Witch’s helmsman, and granted favorable trade status to the U.S. — all without firing a shot.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

Finally, a President with a beard takes office.

Abraham Lincoln

The night is darkest just before dawn. When Lincoln took office, seven states already seceded from the Union. Lincoln tried many last-minute measures to hold the Union together, including writing a letter to each governor individually, reminding them that he wasn’t coming for them and that a Constitutional convention to make an amendment respecting the rights of the states was possible. It was all for naught.

When he determined the Civil War was coming whether he liked it or not, he was decisive. He quickly authorized the formation of the Union Army, helped create a Union strategy to blockade and attack the Confederacy, soothed the fears of border states that might have otherwise seceded, and paid close attention to foreign policy to keep foreign powers from supporting the Confederacy. He eventually found the right combination of Army leadership in Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman, who helped bring the South to its knees.

Lincoln’s deft political prowess and patience allowed him to free the slaves in the states that were in rebellion and then, after the Election of 1864, when the Congress was packed with fellow Republicans, freed the slaves everywhere in the United States.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

“Man, Abraham Lincoln is a tough act to follow. How am I supposed to compete with that?” – Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson

Johnson had none of Lincoln’s finer qualities – no wisdom, no popularity, no beard. Even though Johnson wanted a swift reconstruction after the Civil War as Lincoln did, he had none of the power Lincoln could muster through sheer force of will. As a matter of fact, Congress repeatedly overrode his vetos and the House of Representatives even impeached him. He barely avoided conviction. His entire term was spent in fights with Congress.

The one shining moment of American Union patriotism was in his dealings with former Confederate President Jefferson Davis. While many former Confederates were allowed to simply resume normal life after the war, Johnson put a bounty on the head of the Chief Confederate — to the tune of id=”listicle-2610056421″.6 million in today’s money.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

Ulysses S. Grant

Grant would be the first to tell you that he wasn’t the best President, but he was dedicated to the rights and principles of the United States and its Constitution. From the moment he took office, he advocated for voting rights for every man (yes, just men), but specifically extended it to the newly-freed African-Americans and Native Americans. But a new terrorist group in the south was trying to disrupt that effort — the Ku Klux Klan.

Grant created the badass-sounding Department of Justice whose sole purpose (back then) was to enforce Reconstruction laws by any means necessary — along with Federal troops and U.S. Marshals. He actually appointed former Confederate officer Amos Ackerman as the first Attorney General. Ackerman indicted 3,000 Klansmen and convicted 600 offenders. He also forced thousands of other to flee Georgia, fearing for their freedom. That was just the first year. Grant had no problem sending U.S. troops to the south to enforce Federal laws.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

Don’t let that cold stare fool you. Beneath it is actual ice.

Rutherford B. Hayes

Hayes was a wounded Civil War vet who rose to the highest office in a controversial deal that ended Reconstruction and cast doubt on Hayes’ legitimacy. All that aside, Hayes still expended every possible effort to welcome newly-freed former slaves and Native Americans into U.S. Citizenship.

Hayes’ most American moment came when he, General William T. Sherman, and their wives travel West on the Transcontinental Railroad, physically bringing the country closer together by becoming the first sitting president to travel west of the Rocky Mountains.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

At this point, you pretty much have to be a Civil War veteran to get elected.

James A. Garfield

The 20th President was only President for a few months before he was shot in the back on a train. But in those months, Garfield devised a plan to increase the prestige (and pocketbook) of the United States through increased trade, a planned canal across Panama, and a new look for an expanded U.S. Navy that would protect American merchant vessels while challenging the supremacy of the British Fleet.

But he was shot in the back on a train.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

No one ever grows Chester A. Arthur beards anymore. This needs to change.

Chester A. Arthur

Arthur was a longtime fan of political patronage, especially in the corrupt political system that existed in New York City during his age. Even though he came to power unelected, he still determined to change this. Inexplicably, one of the biggest beneficiaries of the civil service “spoils system,” in place since the age of Andrew Jackson, was the one to change it.

Under the new system, civil service in the United States became a meritocracy. Arthur forced resignations and even had the Justice Department try to convict the worst offenders of the corrupt spoils system. In its place, a civil service examination requirement was passed and Arthur created a special board of former rivals to ensure its enforcement and expansion.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

It takes a big man to get elected when the other party is dominant. Advantage: Cleveland.

Grover Cleveland #1

Cleveland was a Democrat elected during a period of Republican domination of American politics. As a President, he understandably used the executive veto power more than anyone else until that time. But what he and the Congress could agree on, they also acted on: Defending America.

Even though the United States had no real external threats at the time of Grover Cleveland’s first term, the coastal defenses and U.S. Navy hadn’t really seen a major upgrade since the Civil War, more than 30 years prior. After all, land wars inside the United States against native tribes had been the focus. Cleveland upgraded the coastal defenses of 27 different sites. And while the Navy received a few good new, steel ships during Arthur’s administration, Cleveland ensured they were completed and ordered 16 more. The forts would last until the outbreak of World War II, while the new U.S. Navy ships would come in handy defeating Spain just a decade later.

Looking to go back in time? Check out part one.

Looking to visit the future? Check out part three.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Polynesian tattoos are probably more intense than yours

Tattoos are, by their very essence, pretty bad ass. They’re statements to the entire world that you’re willing to go through a few hours of pain to showcase your dedication to a certain thing. They’re messages that you’ll carry on your body forever.

In the military, it’s not uncommon for troops to get a new bit of ink that celebrates their branch on the day they graduate from initial entry training. It’s a legitimately badass reason to permanently mark yourself — a symbol of transformation into a warrior — just as Polynesian warriors have done throughout history.

That tattoo of a unicorn that you drunkenly got inked onto your butt because it’ll totally be funny? Not quite as badass.


Tattooing predates civilization itself. Ötzi the Iceman, found in the Italian Alps, is Europe’s oldest known human mummy and his skin was inked with 61 different tattoos. But the art form, as we know it, followed early Austronesian settlers and arguably reached its apex with the Polynesian peoples.

In many Polynesian societies, tattoos are symbols of class, nobility, and family. While certain design elements may be similar and represent a specific trait exhibited by the wearer, no two tattoos, by their very nature, are identical. In Polynesian society, tattoos read like someone’s life story. If lines are filled with a dog-skin cloak, it may signify that someone is a warrior. Intricate designs on the forehead may mean they’re in a leadership position within their community.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

People want to appropriate other cultures and take their tattoo designs, but none of them are willing to go the distance by getting a Ta Moko (face tattoo).

(Photo by Graham Crumb)

Some Polynesians still get their tattoos the same way their ancestors did — using tools of sharpened bone and ink made from the candle nut. This traditional process makes heavier use of scarification than modern techniques.

Instead of using a needle to inject ink beneath the epidermis (first layer of skin), the traditional method used by Pacific Islanders involves, at its most basic, digging into the flesh with a serrated bone, using a tapping mallet to drive the the bone further into the skin, and rubbing ink into the wound. It’s extremely painful and may take weeks, if not years, to complete.

This is made even more impressive by the fact that the most common place to get a tattoo is the face. Unlike western cultures, face tattoos aren’t vilified by the Maori. It’s simply a way of showing the world who you are.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

Fun fact: It’s very common in Samoa to get the tattoo from the waist to the knee — the pe’a — which covers everything to include the booty and the private bits.

The act of getting a tattoo is sacred in that it’s a rite of passage for the wearer. You cannot eat with your hands while it’s being done nor can you talk to anyone during the tattoo process. But the biggest no-no is wincing from pain. Any sign of weakness means you are not worthy of the tatau and you’ll be told to leave with a half-finished tattoo. This forever marks you with shame.

The tradition continues to this day as a sign of heritage. While most of the younger generations opt for the modern-day needle gun (it’s faster and less painful), traditional artists are still around. While it’s not forbidden for outsiders to undergo the traditional process, you will (understandably) be shunned if you get something that you know nothing about just because you thought it looked cool.

Articles

This sitting Senator deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan 19 times

While much has been made of a mayor who served a deployment in the middle of his term, there is a United States Senator who arguably has him beat.


The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
Col. Lindsey Graham (left), a Reserve Judge Advocate, spent 2 days in Iraq with Senator John McCain, then another 8 days as a JA with the Multinational Force, Iraq. (AF photo/Staff Sgt. Ian Carrier)

According to a listing maintained by investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan 19 times from 2006 to his retirement from the Air Force Reserve in 2015. Senator Graham’s deployments were often coordinated with Congressional recesses – enabling him to balance his duties as a United States Senator with his reserve duties.

Graham would often head over as part of a Congressional delegation, spend one or two days as a civilian, then he’d stay behind and serve for about a week (sometimes more) as a Judge Advocate General in the United States Air Force Reserve.

In a release by his Presidential campaign in 2015 after a Washington Post hit piece, some details of Graham’s service in both Iraq and Afghanistan came to light. Army General David Petraeus and Marine General John Allen both noted that much of Graham’s work was done on detainee policy. Both a former Judge Advocate General and Deputy Judge Advocate General praised Graham’s service in the release.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
Col. James Van Orsdol (right) helps Lt. Col. Lindsey Graham don a judge’s robe Nov. 4, 2003, after Graham was sworn in as a new judge for the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amber K. Whittington)

The deployments came about because Senator Graham had to be transferred from an assignment to the Air Force’s Court of Criminal Appeals — an assignment given in 2003, according to a release from Senator Graham’s office — due to a claim made by an airman fighting charges of wrongfully using cocaine.

The ruling on the airman’s appeal (the sentence of a bad conduct discharge, four months in jail, and a reduction in rank was upheld) after the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that Graham wasn’t required to recuse himself resulted in Graham’s removal from the court. He isn’t even listed as a past judge on a listing at the court’s website.

Senator Graham was also a veteran of Desert Storm prior to winning election to the House of Representatives in 1994. He was first elected to the Senate in 2002, replacing Strom Thurmond. Graham retired from the Air Force Reserve in 2015 as a colonel, shortly before running for President, ending a combined total of 33 years of active-duty, reserve, and National Guard service.

Articles

7 of the greatest guerrilla fighters in American history

America often fights wars as the big, bad empire with all the fancy toys and weapons. But U.S. troops haven’t always enjoyed the technological advantage. So, sometimes military leaders have turned to guerrilla tactics to keep the enemy off balance until a more conventional force can pin them down and defeat them.


Here are seven of the American guerrilla leaders who took the fight to the enemy:

1. Francis “The Swamp Fox” Marion

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

Francis Marion learned guerrilla warfare as a militia lieutenant in a war against the Cherokee Indians in 1761. When the Revolutionary War began, Marion was named a captain and given command of an infantry unit. He rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel and fought hard, but he was there when the battle of Camden ended organized resistance in South Carolina.

Rather than sit out the rest of the war, he enlisted a force of a few dozen men known as Marion’s Partisans and led them in harassing operations against the British. The Partisans scattered British and Loyalist forces on multiple occasions and once rescued 150 Patriot prisoners. Multiple British task forces to capture or kill Marion and the Partisans failed.

2. John Mosby

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

John Mosby started his military career as a young cavalryman and scout but he was quickly identified by J.E.B. Stuart and commissioned as an officer. He rose to the rank of major before taking command of “Mosby’s Rangers,” the force that would later make him famous.

The Rangers used guerrilla tactics to devastate Union lines. He and his men once captured a sleeping Union general during a raid. The Rangers fought on after the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, but eventually broke apart. Mosby was wanted until Gen. Ulysses S. Grant intervened on his behalf.

3. Carl Eifler

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

Carl Eifler was eventually dubbed “The Deadliest Colonel” in World War II for his work with the OSS. He led a group of American trainers into Japanese-occupied Burma and raised a force of the local Kachin people. Eifler and his men led raids against the Japanese that eventually claimed over 5,000 lives.

They also rescued over 500 stranded airmen and provided intelligence for Allied forces in the area. The Kachins would feed important target information to the Army Air Forces, allowing the bombing campaigns in the area to be much more successful.

4. Peter J. Ortiz

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

Marine Corps Maj. Peter J. Ortiz parachuted into Nazi-occupied with a team of five Marines, but one was killed and another seriously injured during the jump. Ortiz and the other three survivors linked up with the Maquis resistance and helped lead them in operations against the Germans.

Related video:

The Marine-backed resistance forces set ambushes and stole key equipment. German losses were so heavy that they thought an entire Allied battalion had jumped into Normandy. The Americans were eventually captured, but put up such a fight that the German commander accepted the surrender and expected a company of fighters to emerge. When only four men came out, he initially accused Ortiz of lying about his numbers.

5. James H. Lane

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

James H. Lane was one of the more controversial guerrilla fighters in the Civil War, especially on the Union side. He fought in Kansas before the Civil War in support of “Free Staters” who wanted to keep slavery out of the territory.

During the Civil War, he led fighters in Kansas and raised a group of volunteers to guard the White House before the Union Army raised troops for the same purpose. After returning to Kansas, he raised 2,000 fighters that guarded Kansas against Confederate action. His controversy comes from an 1861 assault into Missouri where he led his men in the assault, looting, and burning of Osceola, Missouri.

6. John McNeill

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

John McNeill led approximately 200 men in a guerrilla campaign against Union troops in western Virginia in the Civil War. He and his men were probably most famous for shutting down a portion of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad by burning machine shops and destroying a bridge.

The Union later diverted over 20,000 troops to protect the supply lines. McNeill died in a raid in 1864 but his men continued to fight.

7. Jack Hinson

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

Jack Hinson started the Civil War as an informant for both sides, seemingly fine with whomever came out on top. But then a group of Union soldiers executed and beheaded his two sons under suspicions of Confederate activity. Jack Hinson then had a custom sniper rifle made and became one of the most effective single-man guerrillas in history.

Armed with his 17-pound, .50-cal. sniper rifle, the 57-year-old man killed the men involved in his sons’ executions. Then he sought out to break the Union Army, firing on Union soldiers on the Tennessee River and killing about 100 troops. In one case, a Union gunboat attempted to surrender after suffering several losses because they were convinced they were under attack by a superior Confederate force.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Army let loose a plague of feral camels on the Wild West

They brought the herd of camels into unfamiliar territory as part of an experiment, but when things went wrong, they accidentally let them loose to terrorize the countryside. No, that’s not the plot of a campy, direct-to-DVD horror film, that’s a true piece of US Army history.

Following a siege at Camp Verde, Texas, just before the onset of the American Civil War, nearly forty camels escaped US Army custody. These camels turned feral, reproduced, and roamed the southwest for years, damaging farms, eating crops, and generally wreaking havoc wherever they went. A few of them even ended up as the basis for a handful of ghost stories.


The sad and bizarre history of the U.S. Army Camel Corps

www.youtube.com

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

I mean, if it worked for the Ottomans, it’ll work for us… right?

(Imperial War Museum)

The experiment technically started back in 1836 when U.S. Army Lt. George H. Crosman came up with a brilliant solution to traversing the stark deserts of the American Southwest before the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Horses could only take them so far through the sands and would eventually refuse to work in extreme heats. His solution? The Arabian camel.

In 1855, his plan began to take shape. In theory, the imported camels were to replace horses in the region. They were far more accustomed to heat, they could go great distances with little water, and they preferred to eat the shrubbery that other livestock and horses wouldn’t.

Unfortunately, they were still camels. Giant, goofy, smelly camels. As it turned out, they weren’t any faster or able to carry any more weight than a horse or mule — and they had a tendency to scare smaller livestock nearby. But they were able to go more than a few hours without water, so the plan was labelled technically a success.

The Army gave it the stamp of approval and the Camel Corps was unofficially green-lit.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

Even today, troops aren’t the biggest fans of camels.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James Clark)

The camels were housed in Camp Verde, Texas, which is roughly half way between San Antonio and El Paso. Since camels were very expensive to buy and maintain and had niche applications, the Camel Corps never really went anywhere.

Instead of being useful assets in the desert, the camels were more something that soldiers stationed at Camp Verde just had to deal with. Their smell wasn’t pleasant, to say the least, and were generally apathetic towards doing anything useful. When camels get agitated, which would obviously occur when their handlers mistreated them, they tend to spit, kick, and will outright refuse to do anything. The camels were basically just contained within either Camp Verde or at Fort Tejon, wherever the guy advocating their use was stationed.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

Imagine you were a 19th century pioneers would have absolutely no knowledge of what the a camel was and you see one out of your ranch… You’ve got yourself a recipe for many horror stories.

(Photo by Pelican)

Then, just months before the Civil War broke out, Confederate troops overthrew Camp Verde on February 28th, 1861. In the chaos of the battle, the camels were set free to cause a distraction. They did exactly that and the camels scattered. Of the over one hundred original camels stationed there, the Confederate troops were only able to capture 80 of them — meaning plenty were scattered to the wind.

The camels were said to be spotted all across the west. Sightings were reported from Iowa to California to even British Columbia. In the following decades, the camels would periodically destroy and the locals would look on, many of whom had no idea what a camel even was. To them, these were odd, giant, humped beasts that occasionally spat at them.

These camel sightings continued until 1941. For the most part, their sightings were often met with confusion or wonder as they would happen upon a random farm here and there. Weird, but they are gentle giants, after all.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

Just because there’s a logical explanation for it doesn’t mean it’s not creepy.

(True West Magazine)

But the most remarkable tale came from a lonely ranch outside of Eagle Creek, Arizona. It was called “The Legend of the Red Ghost.”

As the story goes, two ranchers went out for the morning and left their wives back home with the kids. The dogs started barking at something and one of the wives went to go check on it. There, she saw a terrifying, reddish monster (one of the Camel Corps’ camels) stampeding through the farm. It is said that the woman’s dead body was found trampled on with hoofprints left behind were larger than those of nearby horses.

A few nights later, a group of nearby prospectors were awoken to thunderous stomping and a terrifying scream (if you haven’t heard a camel make noise, I guess it’d sound creepy on a moonlit night.) They saw the beast and corroborated the ranchers’ tale. Of course, as with all tall tales, there was a good deal of exaggeration involved — one miner said they saw the “Red Ghost” kill a grizzly bear. Camels are tough, but they’re not that tough.

The story continued to evolve until, eventually, storytellers spoke of a ghostly figure riding atop the red beast — but this part might have been true. The “Red Ghost” was eventually tracked down and killed by a hunter nine years later. Oddly enough, the hunter found the beast with a saddle attached. Attached to those straps was a long-deceased corpse.

Who that person was or how long the camel was carrying them is still shrouded in mystery.

Writer’s Note: Some of the information about camels in the original version of this article were a bit incendiary towards the lovable goofy beasts. As a few people who’ve worked with camels have informed me, they’re rarely aggressive unless seriously agitated.

What may have also been a contributing factor to their aggression past that was left out of the original version was their extremely poor handling and maltreatment by the troops at Camp Verde. If you treat them well, they really are gentle giants. If you beat the camels, as was done by their “handlers” in those times, it will definitely win that fight.

Articles

The good ol’ days when you could rock a beard in the US military

Unless you are a member of special ops, most U.S. military members these days are not allowed to rock a beard. Which is a damn shame, because it wasn’t always this way.


After shaving every day of their time in, some veterans make growing a beard their first order of business once they get out of the military. But there were times — we’ll refer to them as “the good ol’ days” — when you could grow a beard. In fact, it was often encouraged.

For about the first 66 years of its existence, the Navy didn’t really have much of a standardized grooming standard. Many sailors during the Revolution opted for clean shaves, until sideburns became a thing around 1812. The Navy finally implemented grooming standards in 1841 that mandated “hair and beards had to be cut short,” according to the US Naval Institute.

In the early years of the Army, beards were expressly forbidden and soldiers were required to shave at least three days per week, according to this article at Defense Media Network. This of course dramatically changed during the Civil War, when everyone from Pvt. Joe Schmoe to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was seen rocking face armor.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
I’ll try and shave when I’m not too busy beating the hell out of the Confederacy.

The Navy slightly modified its rules in 1852 to ban officers from wearing mustaches and imperials — a larger ‘stache featuring whiskers styled upward over a man’s cheeks — but it was later relaxed to allow “neatly trimmed” beards. Much like the Army during the Civil War, there was some pretty interesting interpretations of “neatly trimmed.”

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
I trimmed this very neatly, I swear.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
My beard is certainly neat, and I trimmed it two years ago.

Many sailors of the late 19th and 20th century followed the prevailing fashions of the day, dropping their beards for the mustache and goatee, according to Navy History. Some continued to wear beards, which was generally allowed as long as they were trimmed.

There were some notable exceptions: Sailors operating in colder climates could have full face jackets, and those on submarines didn’t have to shave more as a necessity, since fresh water was usually scarce.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
Sailors on the USS Pensacola give their best Popeye impressions, 1944. (Photo Credit: USNI)

For soldiers on the ground, the death of the beard came along with the need for gas masks. The first World War saw the widespread use of chemical weapons, and gas masks needed to maintain a proper seal against the skin to be effective. Having whiskers didn’t exactly inspire confidence when chlorine gas was involved.

“They were eliminated in the US military in WWI due to the need to wear gas masks,” Penny Jolly, a professor of art and art history, told the BBC. “Razors were issued in GI kits, so men could shave themselves on the battlefield.” The clean-shaven soldier eventually became the norm for the World Wars and beyond.

Although some didn’t really get the memo, like one unit of soldiers stationed in the Phillipines in 1941 which actually held a beard-growing contest. They are all winners, in our eyes.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

Still, the reasoning against soldiers having beards has often boiled down to maintaining a uniform appearance and keeping a good seal on a gas mask, and it continues to this day.

In 1970, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo Zumwalt came in and basically said to hell with grooming and uniform regs in attempt to raise morale. Zumwalt — a wearer of his own sweet set of sideburns — issued one of his famous “Z-grams” in Nov. 1970, which directed the Navy to “adapt to changing fashions” of the day, which meant beards, mustaches, and sideburns, my man.

Beards were a staple of the Navy for quite a time, although even Zumwalt figured out his changes to the regs were a bit too permissive, USNI notes:

It did not take long before Navy ships began to look like they were crewed by hippies who had crashed their bus into a military surplus store. Even Zumwalt realized that the liberalization of grooming standards had gone too far and needed to be scaled back. Hair and beards were ordered to be neat while “eccentricities” such as mutton chop sideburns were outlawed.

Besides the surface fleet, Navy SEALs operating in Vietnam were allowed to rock beards, and the “Vietnamese regarded beards as a reflection of wisdom gained with age,” wrote Maury Docton at Quora.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and the beard (even on submarines) became a thing of the past under Chief of Naval Operations Adm. James D. Watkins, who outlawed them in Dec. 1984. Beardos were outraged at the time: “‘It’s rotten,” Petty Officer Richard New told The New York Times. “I don’t think they can tell you everything to do.”

It turns out they can, and the order still remains in effect today. Across all the military services, beards are no longer allowed and even mustaches need to be trimmed within the corners of the mouth — a look so terrible even Hitler would say “what in the hell?”

The only men lucky enough to be allowed beards now are special operations units such as Army Special Forces and Navy SEALs (as long as they are in Afghanistan at least).

Articles

Russia’s inflatable arsenal is one of the oldest tricks in the book

The Russian Ministry of Defense has started deploying an old kind of military deception: inflatable weaponry.


The Russian government has a growing supply of inflatable military gear, including tanks, jets, and missile batteries, provided by hot-air balloon company RusBal, as detailed by a report by The New York Times.

Also read: WWII ‘Ghost Army’ may be up for Congressional Gold Medal

A demonstration in a field near Moscow illustrated the ingenuity behind the idea.

The inflatables deploy quickly and break down just as fast. They transport relatively easily, providing targets that may not only draw the enemy’s fire but also affect their decision-making process, burdening a rival’s leadership with the task of verifying targets.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
An inflatable mock-up of a T-72 tank, from the 45th Separate Engineer-Camouflage Regiment of Russia.

“If you study the major battles of history, you see that trickery wins every time,” Aleksei A. Komarov, RusBal’s director of military sales, told The Times. “Nobody ever wins honestly.”

Inflatable weaponry has a history on Europe’s battlefields. Prior to the Allied invasion of Europe in 1944, Gen. George S. Patton was placed in charge of the First US Army Group (FUSAG) — a phantom force housed in cities of empty tents and deployed in vehicles made of wood, fabric, or inflatable rubber.

After Allied forces had a foothold in France, the “Ghost Army,” as it came to be called, continued to serve a purpose, as it was responsible for more than 20 illusions that befuddled German military leadership and disguised actual Allied troop movements in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

Moscow’s modern-day iteration of the inflatable army fits with a distinctly Russian style of subterfuge: Maskirovka, a Russian doctrine that mixes strategic and tactical deception with the aim of distorting an enemy’s conception of reality, bogging down decision-makers at every level with misinformation and confusion.

Maskirovka is a longstanding practice of Russian planners. During the Cold War, maps created for the Russian public were filled with tiny inaccuracies that would make them useless should they fall into the hands of rival military planners. The cartographer who came up with the ruse was given the State Prize by Josef Stalin.

A more recent version of maskirovka was displayed in Ukraine in 2014, when masked or otherwise disguised soldiers showed up in Crimea, and later by other soldiers purportedly “vacationing” in eastern Ukraine.

According to The Times, Russian military leaders were dubious about the inflatable hardware at first, but they appear to have been won over.

“There are no gentlemen’s agreements in war,” Maria Oparina, the director of RusBal and daughter of the founder, told The Times.

“There’s no chivalry anymore. Nobody wears a red uniform. Nobody stands up to get shot at. It’s either you or me, and whoever has the best trick wins.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Navy actually had a training video on how to not kill your friends

One of the single worst things that plagues military forces is the phenomenon known as “friendly fire.” Some instances of friendly fire have been momentous, like the time Stonewall Jackson was shot by Confederate troops who mistook him for a Union general.


The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

There have been tragic, modern instances as well – like the case of Army Cpl. Pat Tillman.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
Former Arizona Cardinals football player Pat Tillman. (Photo from U.S. Army)

This was also a problem in World War II — reference the disastrous friendly fire incident off Sicily in July, 1943. In trying to prevent these terrible instances, the Navy put forth a very unique training film, featuring the fictional “Ensign Dilbert.”

No, this isn’t the same Dilbert that’s made Scott Adams very rich, although, Adams admits that the suggestion of the name was, in fact, inspired by a Navy character. This Dilbert is, well… an idiot. A real big one. The type whose sole purpose in life is to be a warning to others.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

The film was called, aptly, Don’t Kill Your Friends. In the film, the main character, training to be a fighter pilot in the Grumman F4F Wildcat, looks friendly and likable enough, but he repeatedly makes bone-headed mistakes that could get people killed. It even features one disastrous incident with a supposedly “safe” dummy cartridge, which can do some very serious harm when it falls from a fighter plane.

Check out the film below, complete with a supposedly likable “Dilbert” and the chain of disasters he causes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNOKAd560wc
(Jeff Quitney | YouTube)
Articles

Japan’s greatest aircraft carrier was sank by a tiny sub

The Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carrier Shinano was, at the time of its completion, the largest aircraft carrier in history to that point. It was heavily armored for a carrier, a 72,000-ton behemoth.


A behemoth that sank not only without sinking an enemy ship or engaging in a major battle, but that never even launched a plane.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
The IJN Shinano was the largest aircraft carrier in history in 1944, but she was doomed to sink without ever launching a plane. (Photo: Marine engineer Hiroshi Arakawa, Public Domain)

On Dec. 7, 1941, Japan had a much larger and stronger fleet than the U.S. and early Japanese victories after Pearl Harbor made it seem undefeatable. But America’s industrial might and intelligence breakthroughs allowed the U.S. to reverse the tides.

The tipping point came at the Battle of Midway when American forces sank four fleet carriers and a heavy cruiser.

The Imperial brass had to make tough decisions quickly to protect the Japanese Navy and regain the initiative. Admirals turned to a Yamato-class battleship still under construction, the Shinano, and made the decision to finish it as an aircraft carrier instead.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
The USS Yorktown during the fierce air battle at Midway in 1942. The Yorktown was lost, but it helped sink three Japanese carriers. Japan also lost a fourth carrier and a cruiser in the battle. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The Yamato-class battleships were the largest in history, greater even than the famed German Bismarck. But as American success had proven, the age of the battleship had closed and the age of the carrier had begun.

Converting the Shinano to a carrier took a lot of work and design compromises. The battleship armor was reduced but was still thicker than what most aircraft carriers boasted. Even the Japanese armored carrier Taiho got by with less.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
The Japanese battleship Yamato was the largest in the world. One of its planned sister ships, the Shinano, was completed as an aircraft carrier. (Photo: Public Domain)

All the extra armor limited the Shinano’s potential air fleet to 47 planes compared to the Taiho’s 63 operational planes and 15 reserve spares. But the Shinano held lots of fuel and ammo and was expected to act as a support carrier, launching its own planes and resupplying all nearby aircraft during battle.

But that wasn’t in the cards for the massive ship. It was launched on Oct. 8, 1944, and was sent from Yokosuka, Japan, to Kure, where it was scheduled to receive its aircraft.

On Nov. 29, 1944, the ship was hit by four torpedoes from the American submarine USS Archerfish. The Archerfish had been sent to the area to rescue aircrews downed during bombing runs on Tokyo, but began conducting normal patrols when the bombing missions were called off on Nov. 11.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
The USS Archerfish sank the world’s largest aircraft carrier with a single torpedo spread in 1944. (Photo: Public Domain)

The Archerfish first spotted the Shinano while surfaced at night on Nov. 28. A lookout reported seeing a large mass and the captain referenced his nautical charts and told the lookout that the mass was an island. The radar officer responded, “Captain, your island is moving.”

The Shinano spotted the Archerfish following it and, probably suspecting that the sub was one member of a wolf pack, began zig-zagging across the water to avoid shots from other subs.

This was a mistake.

The Archerfish was alone and wouldn’t have been able to catch the Shinano if it had fled or dispatched one of its destroyers to hunt the sub.

Instead, the carrier’s evasive maneuvers allowed the sub to slowly get in range and launch a spread of 6 torpedoes over 40 seconds. Four of them smashed in the Shimano just above the carrier’s thick anti-torpedo protections.

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents
The USS Mississinewa sinking after being struck by a Keitan torpedo. World War II torpedoes punched massive holes in the sides of ships, allowing water to rush in and sometimes igniting fuel or exploding ammunition. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The Japanese destroyers finally turned to fight and the Archerfish was forced to dive to avoid the depth charges that followed.

The torpedo damage to the Shimano caused it to slowly list. The Japanese captain attempted to flood the opposite side to keep the ship level, but the ship had rolled too far and the water inlets were exposed to the air. Unable to correct the list, the captain gave the order to abandon ship. It rolled and sank a few hours later.

The Archerfish was originally credited with sinking a light carrier. The Shimano’s silhouette was unique, and U.S. naval intelligence had to make its best guess as to what sank. After the war, the Japanese acknowledged the battle and alerted the U.S. to the size of the ship they sank.

The Archerfish crew was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. It was present in Tokyo Bay when the articles of surrender were signed on the deck of the USS Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945.