The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won

For hundreds of years, the country we know today as Vietnam has been invaded and occupied by outsiders the world over. At the end of World War II, the Vietnamese had enough of colonialism and external rule by a foreign power. They were going to gain independence by any means necessary.

In the annals of military history, the occupiers and invaders of Vietnam most often remembered are the French and the Americans, neither of which truly succeeded in subduing Vietnam. Even China’s invasion of the country was short-lived. 

For a short period of time after the end of World War II the United Kingdom went to war in Vietnam. The only difference was they were successful in achieving their wartime aims.

The United States spent almost 20 years aiding South Vietnam and preventing a Communist takeover of the country from its northern neighbor. Before that, Vietnam fought a war for independence from French colonial rule in the years following World War II. 

What neither country could fully grasp from the locals was that the Vietnamese saw themselves as fighting for freedom from outside rule. They wanted a Vietnam run by the Vietnamese, and they were willing to pay any price to get it. That price was very high. 

War with the west wasn’t always the one way forward for Vietnam. During World War II, Ho Chi Minh and his Viet Minh fighters sided with the United States and the Office of Strategic Services to harass Japanese forces and rescue American pilots. After the war’s end, Ho declared independence for Vietnam, directly quoting the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
Hồ Chí Minh, 1921 (Public Domain)

Ho used the excerpt to get American support in keeping the French out of Vietnam after the war. It didn’t work. Just 11 days after the official surrender of Japan aboard the USS Missouri, fighting broke out in South Vietnam between the Viet Minh under Ho Chi Minh and a surprising mix of allies set to impose colonial rule on the country. 

Before World War II ended, it was decided that the Chinese under Chiang Kai Shek would receive the Japanese surrender in Northern Indochina while the British would accept a Japanese surrender in the South. Just before the Allies arrived, the Viet Minh had taken control of the government and imprisoned a French garrison as POWs.

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
Chiang Kai-shek (Flickr, Public Domain)

The POWs were eventually released, rearmed, returned to control of Saigon. But the Viet Minh began cutting off the city from the rest of the country. The impending return of French rule had turned the once-friendly communist forces against the Allies. 

By October 1945, Allied forces formed a motley crew of British, Indian, and French troops along with Nepalese Gurkhas and Japanese POWs to launch a campaign to push the Viet Minh away from Saigon and back north. The Viet Minh saw some successes in small unit combat, but were devastated by British air power and machine guns and, on one occasion, a Gurkha kukri knife charge. 

In the last major battle of the campaign, the Viet Minh were cut down in overnight fighting, losing 100 troops to British machine gun nests. The defending British and Indian troops didn’t have a single fatality. The Viet Minh spent the rest of the conflict conducting ambushes and hit-and-run attacks. 

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
General Leclerc reviews troops of the 20th Indian Division, Saigon, French Indochina, 22 December 1945.

The British left Indochina in mid-1946 and the French took back control over the country. The win was fleeting, however. The French would have nominal control over Vietnam, fighting the Viet Minh until being forced to withdraw in 1954.

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Why a woman was convicted under a witchcraft law during World War II

Long before the United States was an independent nation, the people of the British Empire were constantly on guard for anything that might disrupt their way of life. This, in part, meant witches, and lots of them. Literally thousands of alleged witches were hunted down and executed under a series of witchcraft laws that made it nice and legal. 

Eventually, Parliament had to step in and say enough was enough. In 1735, it passed the Witchcraft Act that made it a crime for a person to claim that any human being had magical powers or was guilty of practicing witchcraft. Surprisingly, it worked in Britain and eventually people stopped invoking the law.

That doesn’t mean the law was no longer on the books. Almost 200 years later, a self-professed medium named Helen Duncan was convicted under the Witchcraft Act of 1735, amid fears that she might actually be able to divulge intelligence about upcoming operations of World War II. 

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
If you weren’t expecting a “Monty Python” GIF, shame on you.

In November of 1941, Duncan held a seance in England where she claimed the ghost of a sailor aboard the HMS Barham visited her. The Barham was in the Mediterranean in 1941, fighting Axis ships attempting to cut off the resupply of the island of Malta. She was actually sunk off the coast of Egypt earlier that year. A German U-boat torpedoed the battleship, taking most of the crew down with it.

The problem was Helen Duncan wasn’t supposed to know that. The Royal Navy wouldn’t announce the sinking until 1942. The only people who were told were naval personnel and the families of those killed aboard the Barham. It caught the ears of naval intelligence, who decided to keep a close watch on Duncan the medium. 

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
Behold! The face of unspeakable evil! Or… maybe just fraud and opsec violations (Wikimedia Commons)

She was later arrested in January 1944 under the Witchcraft Act, an act that many believe happened because military leaders were concerned she might actually be able to talk to spirits. Some of her followers contended that superstitious military officers were afraid that, through her ghosts, she might be able to reveal the secret plans for Operation Overlord, the D-Day invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe.

That might have been the case, but the nail in the coffin for Helen Duncan did come in 1944. In January of that year, two Royal Navy officers attended one of Duncan’s seances. Duncan attempted to spook one of the men by “manifesting” first his deceased aunt, and then his deceased sister. The officer’s aunts and sisters were all still very much alive. 

He reported Duncan to the police, who raided one of Duncan’s later seances. They found a hat band from a sailor’s uniform supposedly manifested from the HMS Barham. But the medium’s lack of uniform regulations did her in. The hat bands of British sailors at the time only read “HMS” and not the name of the vessel on which they served. 

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
Apparently, people were actually buying this… (Harry Price/ “Leaves from a Psychist’s Case-Book” (Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1933)

Duncan was tried and convicted of claiming to perform fraudulent spiritual activity, defrauding people of their money and generally being a public nuisance. 

The real reason for Duncan’s arrest was likely the revelation of the sinking of the HMS Barham and her sources of information. Intelligence authorities weren’t worried about her getting information from ghosts, they were worried about the very real person from which she gained classified information. Most importantly, they were concerned about how she was spreading that information. 

Duncan was sentenced to nine months in jail. 

Feature image by Rafael Zajczewski from Pixabay

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The insane way the first cosmonaut got back to Earth

The very first man to go to space was a Soviet cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, who rose to the top of his class thanks to his stunning memory, quick reactions, and poise during emergencies. That poise would come in handy since his spacecraft couldn’t survive re-entry, used compromised design components, and ultimately took the astronaut through an 8g spin cycle on his way back to Earth.


Vostok 1

The first manned space mission was launched with Vostok 1, and Yuri Gagarin at the helm. Gagarin had trained for years to be the first human to leave the atmosphere and had gotten the mission because his peers in cosmonaut training had voted that he was the best choice.

But it was a dangerous honor. After all, only animals had entered space before, and the U.S. and Soviet Union had less than stellar records of getting mammals back alive.

And the plan for getting Gagarin back wasn’t one to inspire confidence. First, while Gagarin had been selected partially based on his reflexes, he was locked out of the controls. And it wasn’t certain the spacecraft could slow itself down during re-entry. Instead, it relied on Gagarin ejecting at almost 4.5 miles above the Earth, right after he dealt with all the tumult of hitting the atmosphere.

As a bonus, there was a chance that the controls would simply fail in space, so Gagarin flew with 10 days worth of food in case he had to wait until his orbit decayed naturally.

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space and first man to orbit this beautiful blue orb. (NASA archives)

 

The actual launch on April 12, 1961, went well. The rocket made it into space, the launch vehicle broke away, and Gagarin rode through one orbit of the Earth. So far, so good. But then, the service module failed to separate from the spacecraft.

When the two-module spacecraft hit the atmosphere, the modules tumbled around each other and began to burn up.

“I was in a cloud of fire rushing toward Earth,” he later said.

After about 10 minutes, the cable burned up and Gagarin’s spacecraft re-oriented itself slowly. Freshly drained from a trip around the Earth and an 8g flaming tumble through the atmosphere, Gagarin had to pull himself together and get to work quickly or else he could die on impact like some animals in prior tests.

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
Yuri Gagarin’s space capsule sits in a museum. (SiefkinDR, CC BY-SA 3.0)

 

Because, again, the capsule had little protection for the cosmonaut, and he couldn’t be certain he would survive the capsule’s impact with the Earth. So he had to activate his ejection seat almost 4.5 miles up. Gagarin and his capsule traveled separately from there. Gagarin landed near a farm and walked up, in full orange spacesuit and helmet, to the farmers for help.

He was quickly named a Hero of the Soviet Union and put on a high shelf where he couldn’t be broken. He was able to lobby for a potential return to space though, but a tragic training accident ended his life while he was still preparing for the mission.

On March 27, 1968, he was piloting a MiG-15, entered a steep dive, and crashed into a forest. An investigation in 2010 concluded that a vent was left partially open. This vent was supposed to be closed as the plane entered high-altitude flight so the pilots would have enough air in the cockpit. The investigator supposed that Gagarin and his co-pilot entered a steep dive to get back to a safe altitude to close the vent, but passed out and could never pull out of it.

(As a fun side note, Gagarin asked the bus to stop for him to piss while he was on the way to Vostok 1. Cosmonauts today remember him by taking a leak on their way to the launchpad.)

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Bea Arthur was a Marine before starring on Golden Girls

Thank you for being a friend … and a MARINE! Yes, the very same Bea Arthur that we know and love as Dorothy Zbornak from the “Golden Girls” and Maude from “All in the Family” served in the U.S. military. 

Arthur, who passed away in 2009 of lung cancer, was originally named Bernice Frankel. She later changed her first name, and used an alternate spelling of her former husband’s last name, Aurthur. 

In 1943, the Marines became the last military branch to accept women into their ranks. They announced a call for enlistments with the marketing slogan, “Be a Marine … Free a Man to Fight.” With the addition of women into their force for administrative and behind-the-scenes work, men who were previously performing those jobs were able to head to the frontlines. 

Just five days later, Arthur enlisted. However, not yet 21 (the age required to enlist at the time) she had to obtain permission from her parents. All of this, and more, is listed on her Official Military Personnel File (OMPF), which is available to this day via the National Archives. 

It’s worth noting that, because the Marines had just begun accepting women, they hadn’t even provided paperwork to do so. Therefore, Arthur, and hundreds of others, were processed into the Marines through Navy paperwork and exam schedules. 

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
USMC photo

In one of her incoming interviews, a processing worker wrote comments like “frank and open,” “argumentative,” “over aggressive,” and “probably a good worker if she has her own way!”

She joined the military during World War II, in February of 1943, when she served for two years before being honorably discharged as a Staff Sergeant in September of 1945. She was one of the first women to enlist with the United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve. She worked as a typist in Washington, D.C., before requesting to attend the Motor Transport School. She then worked as a dispatcher and truck driver. Throughout her career, she was stationed between Washington, D.C. and two bases in North Carolina. 

After her discharge, Arthur went to school to become a lab tech, even interning at a hospital. However, she didn’t enjoy the work and left to attend drama school in 1947. By the late ’40s, she was performing in off-Broadway shows. She went on to perform on Broadway, winning a Tony for her performance as Vera Charles in “Mame”, before transitioning to television, where she was one of the most famous actresses throughout the ’70s and ’80s. 

It’s worth noting that Arthur publicly denied her time in the Marines throughout her acting career; she also did so blatantly, on-the-record, in a 2001 interview. Her military records were made public a year after her death, in 2010, proving her enlistment. It’s unknown why she denied her involvement as a Marine. Though one running theory is that it was to hide a misconduct report, when Arthur was written up for contracting a sexually transmitted disease. The stint left her “incapacitated for duty” for five weeks, for which she received a cut in pay. 

However, at the time of joining, records show her as eager and “willing to do her part” to help with the war. 


Feature image: National WWII History Museum

MIGHTY HISTORY

From nursing to newspapers, these were the women of Vietnam

While women made strides during World War II and Korea to be integrated into the military, Vietnam felt like a step backward as the military initially resisted sending women into any career field to Vietnam.

Then, when the military realized they needed to rely on women from the medical career field, it was still a slow process to add more women to the fight. But as the years passed more women were sent overseas. Many women chose not to serve in the military but were civilians supporting various humanitarian agencies and covering news. While the primary field of the women who served overseas was nursing, there were a number of women outside the medical career field who made an impact on the war and helped lead changes for women in the military.


US Army Women

The first Army nurses arrived in Vietnam in 1956. Their primary job was to train the South Vietnamese nursing skills. The nurses would remain and grow in strength with approximately 5,000 women serving from March 1962 to March 1973. Five Army nurses died during the conflict, including Lieutenant Colonel Annie Ruth Graham and First Lieutenant Sharon Ann Lane.

In 1964, Gen William Westmoreland asked the Pentagon to provide Women’s Army Corps (WAC) members to help the South Vietnamese train their own women’s Army corps. In 1970, when WAC was at its peak, there were 20 officers and 130 enlisted women serving in Vietnam.

US Air Force Women

The Air Force leadership resisted sending women overseas. When the first Air Force Nurses arrived in Vietnam in 1966, it was out of demand and lack of men in the nursing career field. Once the door opened for women to be overseas as nurses, the door for other career fields opened up as well. Women quickly began to take over the duties that their male counterparts had been assigned. In 1967, the first Women in the Air Force (WAF) members served at the headquarters in Saigon. One of the first women in the Air Force to reach the rank of General, Brig Gen Wilma Vaught, ret, was deployed for Vietnam and served in Saigon for a year.

One Air Force nurse died. Captain Mary Therese Klinger died in a C-5 crash that was supporting Operation Babylift which worked to transport babies from orphanages to America for asylum and adoption. She was the last nurse and the only U.S. Air Force Nurse to die in Vietnam.

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
Col. Elizabeth P. Hoisington visits with members of the WAC Detachment, Vietnam, in the unit’s courtyard at Long Binh, October 1967. (Wikimedia Commons)

US Navy Women

The U.S. Navy Nurse Corps began to play an important role during the Vietnam War in 1963. And then in 1964 five Navy Nurses were awarded Purple Hearts after being injured during a bombing on Christmas Eve. They were the first women to receive Purple Hearts during Vietnam.

Only nine women outside the Nurse career field served overseas during Vietnam. The first, in 1967, was Lieutenant Elizabeth G. Wylie. She worked in the Command Information Center as part of the staff of the Commander of Naval Forces in Saigon. She would spend three to six days each month in the field taking pictures and gathering information. She was never under hostile fire and loved, “the opportunity to see the heart of the Navy at work.” In 1972, Commander Elizabeth Barrett became the first female Naval Line Officer to hold command in a combat zone.

Many women volunteered to go overseas but were not given a chance. Women were used within the Navy to backfill positions both at home and in Europe to allow more men to go overseas. Without them directly supporting the war effort, the Navy would have struggled to continue on.

US Marine Corps Women

Women Marines had a small presence in Vietnam. It wasn’t until March 1967 that the first woman Marine arrived in Vietnam. Master Sergeant Barbara Dulinsky was the first to arrive in-country and worked at Military Assistance Command, which was headquartered in Saigon. In total, women Marines in Vietnam normally numbered between eight to 10 enlisted members with one to two officers. There were a total of 28 enlisted women and eight officers between 1967 to 1973.

Civilian Women

Military women were not the only women who went overseas to support the war effort. Civilian women worked for a number of organizations to support the war. The Red Cross, USO, Army Special Service and Peace Corps all relied on women to meet their mission. Other women came to Vietnam as foreign correspondents for news organizations. Georgette “Dickey” Chappelle was a writer for the National Observer and was killed by a mine while on patrol with U.S. Marines outside of Chu Lai in November of 1965. In total, 59 civilian women died during the conflict.

One thing to note about the women who served in Vietnam was that all of the women who served overseas were volunteers. They ranged in age from freshly graduated college students in their 20s to seasoned career women in their 40s. Finding the service records and the history of military women and civilians in Vietnam is like trying to piece together a puzzle with lots of missing pieces. Women did not expect special recognition and were just looking for a way to be a part of the fight. They didn’t stand out or request to be excluded; instead they fought to be part of the effort and we can’t forget their contribution and the lives lost.

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
The first five enlisted women in the Air Force (WAF) and the fourth WAF officer to be assigned to Vietnam arrive at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, South Vietnam. The women (left to Right) are: Lt Col June H. Hilton, A1C Carol J. Hornick, A1C Rita M. Pitcock, SSgt Barbara J. Snavely, A1C Shirley J. Brown, and A1C Eva M. Nordstrom. (Wikimedia Commons)

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Medal of Honor recipient and former POW dies at 85

Air Force Col. Leo K. Thorsness, an F-105 pilot awarded the Medal of Honor for multiple feats of bravery in an aerial engagement who was later shot down and held as a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton for six years, died May 2 at the age of 85.


His death was announced by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, which did not disclose the cause of death.

Thorsness was deployed to Vietnam as a Wild Weasel, an aircrew that deliberately baited enemy missile and radar sites with their own jets. Once the site gave itself away by tracking the American plane or firing on it, the Weasels or accompanying aircraft would bomb the site.

Thorsness was leading a flight of four F-105s on April 19, 1967, when the dangerous mission went sideways. Thorsness and his electronic warfare operator had taken out two sites when another member of the flight was hit by an enemy missile.

The two-man crew was able to eject, but the pair was descending into hostile territory. Thorsness flew circles so that he could pinpoint where they landed to facilitate a rescue, but spotted an enemy MiG as he maneuvered.

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
Then-Maj. Leo K. Thorsness, at left, poses with his electronic warfare operator, Capt. Harold Johnson, next to their F-105 Fighter-Bomber. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Rescue crews were en route and Thorsness quickly attacked and killed the first MiG before flying to the tanker for fuel. Immediately after he refueled, he heard that the helicopter crews attempting the rescue were being threatened by a flight of four MiGs, and Thorsness flew through enemy anti-aircraft fire to reach the fight.

Thorsness and his EWO were on their own when they initiated the attack against the four MiGs. Thorsness quickly downed one and engaged the other three in aerial combat for 50 minutes, outnumbered and low on ammo but flying fiercely enough to drive them off.

Once again low on fuel, Thorsness headed back to the tanker but learned that another plane was lower than his. He gave up his fueling spot to allow the other to dock and so ran out of gas, forcing him to glide his aircraft back to friendly lines.

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
Then-Maj. Leo K. Thorsness, second from left, stands with other Wild Weasels. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Only 11 days later, Thorsness and his EWO were shot down during a mission and became prisoners of the Hanoi Hilton. Thorsness was kept for years with another famous POW, Arizona Senator John McCain, a Navy pilot at the time.

Thorsness spent six years in the prison, three of them under nearly constant and brutal torture before international pressure relieved the conditions somewhat. His Medal of Honor was approved during that time, but it wasn’t announced until after his 1973 release for fear that the North Vietnamese would torture him worse if they knew about the medal.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The highest-ranking Filipino American was in the Army, not the Navy

America has had a close relationship with the Philippines since it acquired the island nation following the Spanish-American War. Many Filipinos joined native units in U.S. military and served alongside regular soldiers from the states during when the Japanese invaded in 1941. After the war, the 1947 Military Bases Agreement allowed Filipinos to enlist directly into the U.S. military. The majority of enlistees joined the U.S. Navy. As a result, future generations of Filipino Americans predominantly joined the Navy as well. In fact, Filipino cuisine Filipino cuisine is often served as a specialty meal in Navy galleys. However, the highest-ranking Filipino American in the U.S. military was not a sailor, but a soldier.

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
Philippine Scouts fought with American soldiers during WWII (U.S. Army)

Not only is Lt. Gen. Edward Soriano the first Filipino American to become a general officer, but he also retains the record for achieving the highest rank. He was born in Alacala, Pangasinan in the Philippines in 1946, His father served as a corporal in the U.S. 57th Infantry Regiment. Part of the Philippine Scouts, the elder Soriano fought against the Japanese invasion until the American surrender at Bataan. He survived the Bataan Death March and the subsequent torture as a Japanese captive. He later served during the Korean War where he became a POW again. During this time, the younger Soriano moved with the rest of the family to Guam. The elder Soriano eventually retired from the Army as a major.

In the 1960s, the Sorianos moved from Guam to Salinas, California. Inspired by his father’s service in WWII and Korea, Soriano attended San Jose State University and commissioned through Army ROTC as an infantry officer in 1970. “I thought what me father was doing was good. He was a great example for me,” Soriano said. “He was probably the reason I joined the military.” Soriano graduated from the Infantry Officer Basic Course and completed his platoon leader time in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. He then commanded companies in the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea, the 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, and the 8th Infantry Division in Germany.

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
Lt. Gen. Soriano in BDUs (U.S. Army)

Following his tour in Europe, Soriano attended the United States Army Command and General Staff College and subsequently completed a tour at The Pentagon. Afterwards, he took command of a battalion in the 2nd Armored Division at Fort Hood. Soriano attended the United States Army War College and completed another tour at The Pentagon.

During Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Soriano served as the chief of the Army liaison to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. He also served as the chief of the Army Section in the Office of the Chief of Staff where he contributed to the Secretary of Defense’s Gulf War Report.

In 1992, Soriano took command of the 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson. After changing out of command, he returned to Germany and deployed to Bosnia as part of the Operation Joint Endeavor peacekeeping mission. Soriano then completed another tour at The Pentagon, this time as Director, Officer Personnel Management. From 1999-2001, he returned to Fort Carson and commanded the 7th Infantry Division. He then served as Director of Homeland Security for the United States Joint Forces Command, the predecessor to Northern Command.

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
Soriano (third from the left) at the groundbreaking of the 4th Infantry Division Museum in 2010 (U.S. Army)

Soriano’s last command was of I Corps and Fort Lewis in 2002. During his command, the 2nd Infantry Division completed the first deployment of the M1126 Stryker. He also ordered the court-martial of Ryan G. Anderson, the former Washington National Guardsman who was convicted of attempting to provide aid to al-Qaeda. On March 1, 2005, Soriano retired from active duty as a Lt. Gen.

Following his retirement, Soriano worked for Northrop Grumman as the Director of Training and Exercises for Homeland Security and Joint Forces Support. He remains active with the military community around Fort Carson and serves as a proponent for recognizing Filipino Veterans of WWII and their families.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This modern amphibious assault ship is carrying WWII planes

The amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) is an integral part of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force as a forward operating platform. Essex is capable of carrying up to 1,771 Marines as well as the landing craft to get them ashore.

Her aircraft suite includes AV-8B Harrier II attack aircraft, F-35B Lightning II stealth strike-fighters, AH-1W/Z Super Cobra/Viper attack helicopters, MV-22B Osprey assault support tiltrotors, CH-53E Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopters, UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters, and SH-60F/HH-60H anti-submarine warfare helicopters.


However, rather than her usual wing of modern jets and helicopters, USS Essex is currently carrying 14 WWII-era trainer, bomber and fighter aircraft.
The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won

USS Essex usually carries Marine aircraft like these Ospreys (US Navy)

The 844-foot-long ship is on her way to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to participate in RIMPAC 2020, the world’s largest international maritime exercise. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Pentagon made the decision to cancel RIMPAC’s air exercises.

In January, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper called for a number of WWII-era aircraft to assemble in Hawaii to participate in a commemoration of the end of the war in the Pacific. Known as V-J Day for “Victory over Japan”, the event is most commonly celebrated on August 15. On August 15, 1945, (which was August 14 in America due to the time change), Emperor Hirohito announced his decree to accept the Potsdam Declaration and surrender over the radio.

Since the Marines had to leave their aircraft behind, USS Essex had plenty of room for the WWII-era aircraft since the vintage planes were unable to make the flight to Hawaii. The planes will include five AT-6/SNJ advanced trainers, two PBY Catalina flying boats, a B-25 Mitchell bomber, an FM-2 Wildcat fighter, an F8F Bearcat fighter, a Stearman Model 75 biplane, a TBM Avenger torpedo bomber and a T-28 Trojan.
The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won

The FM-2 Wildcat is lowered to the hangar deck (Commemorative Air Force)

The planes will conduct flyovers over Hawaii from August 29, the day U.S. troops began the occupation of Japan, to September 2, the day that the formal Japanese surrender was made aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

Before embarking on the trip to Hawaii, the pilots, maintainers and ground crews accompanying the planes were required to spend two weeks in quarantine at Naval Base San Diego to prevent anyone with COVID-19 from boarding the ship.

The 14 planes headed to Hawaii aboard the USS Essex will return to San Diego with the ship following the conclusion of the V-J Day Commemoration and RIMPAC.


MIGHTY HISTORY

The inventor of the Gatling gun wanted it to save lives

The iconic ‘BRRRRRT’ of the A-10’s GAU-8 30mm autocannon is created by its extremely high rate of fire. The gun is able to achieve this thanks to its multi-barrel Gatling design. Rather than firing all of its rounds from a single barrel, the gun uses seven barrels to distribute the heat created when it fires. This design is the brainchild of American inventor Dr. Richard J. Gatling.

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
Dr. Richard J. Gatling (Public Domain)

Gatling was an creative southern man from North Carolina. At the age of 21, he invented a screw propeller for steamboats. However, he was beat to the invention by John Ericsson who patented the design just a few months before. Gatling worked as a merchant and teacher in North Carolina before he moved to Missouri at the age of 36. There, he continued working as a merchant and inventor. He created a rice-sowing machine and a wheat drill to aid in farming. Following a bout with smallpox, Gatling became interested in medicine.

Gatling attended the Ohio Medical College and graduated in 1850. Though he had his MD, he never actually practiced medicine. Rather, Gatling was more interested in inventing things. He continued to work in business and tinker with ideas until the outbreak of the Civil War.

At that time, Gatling lived in Indianapolis, Indiana. As Union soldiers returned from battle, Gatling noticed something about the war’s casualties. More soldiers were killed or taken out of action by battlefield illness than by bullets or shrapnel. Gatling deduced that if a weapon existed that reduced the number of men needed to fight a war, more men could be spared. “It occurred to me that if I could invent a machine—a gun—which could by its rapidity of fire, enable one man to do as much battle duty as a hundred, that it would, to a large extent supersede the necessity of large armies, and consequently, exposure to battle and disease [would] be greatly diminished,” he wrote.

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
Dr. Gatling’s patent for ‘Improvement in Battery Guns’ (U.S. Patent Office)

During the Civil War, a highly trained soldier could fire five rounds a minute. Gatling concluded that his design needed to be simple to operate with very little training. The gun was powered by a crank shaft that was turned by hand. This allowed for a rate of fire of up to 200 rounds per minute with no skill required. Additionally, the gun was gravity-fed from a top-mounted reloader. This meant that the loader just needed to drop cartridges in from the top to keep the gun firing. Again, very little skill was required.

The Gatling gun made its combat debut at the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia in 1864. However, the gun was unproven and expensive. The 12 guns used at Petersburg were purchased personally by Union commanders. It was not until 1866 that the U.S. Army adopted the Gatling gun after a sales representative demonstrated it in combat.

To his’s dismay, his invention did little to reduce the casualties of human conflict. Rather, the gun was further refined with the inventions of newer, deadlier cartridges and smokeless gunpowder. While the Gatling gun was used until the late 19th century, its design gave rise to modern rotary guns like the aforementioned GAU-8 Avenger, the M61 Vulcan, and the M134 Minigun. Gatling’s legacy also includes a WWII Fletcher-class destroyer, USS Gatling (DD-671), as well as the slang word “gat” which is a shortening of the gun that’s named after him.

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
A battery of 1-inch Gatling guns c. 1877 (U.S. Army)
MIGHTY HISTORY

“Milk Cows” were some of the most important subs in WWII

The German Navy in World War II found a clever but risky method of extending their submarine patrols by building “milk cows,” specialized submarines covered in fuel tanks to refuel their brethren, and drawing the fire of American destroyer and planes.

Submarines were a game-changing weapon in World War I and remained a great strategic tool in World War II, allowing relatively few men to destroy enemy ships, drowning enemy personnel and destroying important ordnance. But they had a range problem.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JKVaxfgX_0

The German U-461, a milk cow. It was sunk July 30, 1943, with another milk cow and an attack submarine.

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The German standard in World War II was the Type VII C, which had “saddle tanks” that could hold enough fuel for a patrol of 6,500 miles, which might sound like a lot — but is actually fairly limited. U-Boats needed enough fuel to get from their pens, to the start of their patrol, through their route, and then back to the pen. Attacking ships near the U.S. east coast or the Caribbean required a 5,000-mile round trip, leaving just 1,500 miles’ worth of fuel for actually patrolling and attacking.

So, naval planners and engineers came up with a crafty solution: Turn some submarines, dubbed “milk cows,” into refuelers by strapping massive tanks to the outside, and have them refuel the other subs. The milk cows also carried medical personnel and necessary supplies.

This allowed the German submarines to move farther into the Atlantic, preying on convoys that would’ve otherwise thought they were safe. Better, it allowed the submarines to stay on patrol longer, meaning that German subs with the milk hookup were now limited only by mechanical issues. A single milk cow could tend to about 12 other subs.

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won

The USS Cory, top right, attacks U-801, a German submarine that was attempting a linkup with the milk cow U-488, which the Cory was hunting. Cory never found U-488, which was later sunk by an aircraft from the USS Croatan in April, 1944, while attempting to link up with a boat that needed medical assistance.

(U.S. Navy)

Germany ordered 10 of them, and they became one of the most important assets in the Atlantic Ocean.

But the Americans and their allies understood how the milk cows tipped the balance, and they prioritized targeting them. The Allied Naval Headquarters in London ordered, “Get the Milk Cows at any cost!” a message that supposedly originated with Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who later said that the U-boats were his only real fear.

Once the Allies captured the German enigma machine and built up their anti-submarine warfare fleets, open season was declared on milk cows, and the milk cows were uniquely vulnerable.

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won

The milk cow U-459 sinks after suffering an attack from an English bomber.

(Photo: Royal Air Force, Public Domain)

While they could dive deeper than other ships thanks to a thicker hull, they were more bulbous and took longer to get underwater at all. And they were larger, making them easier to spot both with the naked eye and with sonar or radar. But most importantly, they relied on high-frequency radio waves to make contact with their supported subs and set up rendezvous. Since the Allies could read those transmissions, they could crash the parties and strike the cows.

The first was sank by good luck in August 1942 when a seaplane happened over the milk cow U-464 at sea on its maiden patrol. The seaplane, a Catalina, damaged it with depth charges and radioed its position to nearby ships. The commander scuttled the boat to prevent its capture.

Open season on milk cows started the following May. The boat U-463 was spotted on the surface by a British bomber, which managed to drop a number of depth charges directly onto the ship before it could register the danger and dive. It went down with all hands.

The following June, four milk cows were sank, two of them in one battle. Boats U-461 and U-462 were working together on a single German sub when all three were spotted by Allied bombers. The bombers radioed the position and began their attack. The submarines put up a stiff resistance, but ended up prey to the 5 bombers and multiple surface ships that arrived on scene. All three sank.

By October 1943, only three milk cows remained either in the fleet or under active construction. All three would sink before the war ended.

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won

Modern U.S. subs have no need of milk cows and can actually spend an entire cruise undersea with no resupply.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeffrey M. Richardson)

The U.S. Navy in World War II relied on surface ships as submarine tenders, but even that role has been largely phased out as America focuses on nuclear-powered submarines that can stay at sea for months without assistance, generating their own power and cleansing their own water thanks to the nuclear reactor. They can even create their own oxygen to stay under longer.

Eventually, the ships do need fresh food, but that’s generally achieved when crews rotate out. There’s simply no need for modern milk cows.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Things seem bad but this is actually the most peaceful time in human history

“Of all the conflicts going on, none is an active war between countries.” This is the heart of the argument Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell makes for war being, well, over.

Yes, there are civil wars, and yes, there are local conflicts — or even international conflicts (for example, the United States continues to fight terrorist organizations throughout the world), but their impact is much smaller than a war between nations.


“When two nations engage in war, they can mobilize much bigger forces, have access to all of the state’s resources and logistics, and almost all of the population,” narrates the host of Is War Over? — A Paradox Explained. This video from 2014 (see below) still holds up and explores the notion that humans are in fact learning from the past — and maybe even phasing out war.

The world is still recovering from the Cold War and colonialism, but even so, there are many positive trends that are being observed. According to the video, victory for one side of a civil war was very common until 1989, but today, negotiated endings have increased.

There are also fewer attacks between nation states, which the video attributes to the following four reasons:

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won

Russia causes a lot of problems, though…

1. Democratization

Democracies hardly ever fight each other. The most recent example is the Russo-Georgian War of 2008, a one-week conflict that ended with a ceasefire agreement.

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won

Just think of what box office numbers would look like without China

2. Globalization

War is not an effective means of achieving economic goals. Think about the mutual interests of, say, the United States and China — even though our political ideologies differ, we rely heavily on each other for financial progress.

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won

The United Nations is an international organization founded in 1945. It is currently made up of 193 Member States.

(UN Photo by Joao Araujo Pinto)

3. “War is so 20th century”

There are international entities that govern laws of war now. The Geneva Convention and the Hague Convention are two primary examples, as well as the United Nations.

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won

Nagorno-Karabakh is a disputed territory within Azerbaijan, which remains susceptible to border skirmish and military attacks, despite peace talks and efforts to uphold a ceasefire.

4. Borders are mostly fixed now

“After World War II, territorial wars generally stopped when most countries pledged to accept international borders.” There are still conflicts and border disputes, but the aforementioned international entities will often intervene, securing resolutions much more peacefully than before.

The video lays out the road to everlasting peace — or at least the marker for it. Check it out below:

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MIGHTY HISTORY

OSS agents gave the Dalai Lama a Patek Phillipe watch from FDR during WWII

Even if you’re not a watch enthusiast, the brand name Patek Philippe probably rings a bell. Founded in 1839, Patek is part of the so-called Horological Holy Trinity of luxury Swiss watch brands along with Vacheron Constantin and Audemars Piguet. That’s right, there are brands above even Rolex. The top-tier status of these brands makes them popular lyrical references for hip-hop and rap artists looking to flex their superiority. Why then, does His Holiness Tenzin Gyasto, the 14th Dalai Lama own a Patek? As you’ve likely read the title of this article, he didn’t buy it himself.

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
The young Dalai Lama in 1944 (Public Domain)

In 1942, the war in the Pacific looked grim. The Australian, British, and Dutch forces were suffering loss after loss against the relentless Japanese military. Much of the American Pacific Fleet was sunk or damaged at Pearl Harbor, and the American garrison in the Philippines was cut off and surrounded. China, who had been fighting the Japanese since 1937, was heavily reliant on American support. However, Japan had cut the Burma road through China, forcing America to find another supply route to Chinese forces. The Office of Strategic Services was called in to find a solution.

The predecessor to the CIA, the OSS specialized in clandestine operations like intelligence gathering, sabotage, subversion, and espionage. The agency recognized the strategic potential that Tibet had in moving supplies to China. However, the idea of going through Tibet was a tricky one. It would require recognizing Tibet as an autonomous region, something China was none too pleased about. Moreover, operations in Tibet would require the blessing of the young Dalai Lama. President Roosevelt approved of the plan and the OSS dispatched two of its best agents to Tibet in late 1942.

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
Captain Dolan in Tibet (Public Domain)

Captain Brooke Dolan II was a naturalist who could understand the perspectives of the Tibetan Buddhists. Besides that, he traveled extensively throughout Tibet before the war and knew their customs and courtesies. Dolan was joined by Major Ilya Tolstoy, grandson of Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy of War and Peace fame. Aside from his connection to literary history, Tolstoy was an accomplished scientist who conducted extensive research at Mount McKinley in Alaska. This helped prepare him for the challenging terrain and climate he would face in Tibet.

Dolan and Tolstoy trekked in a mule caravan from India. It took them over three months to summit the Himalayas and reach the Dalai Lama, then just seven years old. The agents presented His Holiness with a handwritten letter and a gift from President Roosevelt: a Patek Philippe reference 658 timepiece. Only 15 examples of the watch were produced and it was valued at $2,800 in 1942 (over $47,000 in 2021). The young Dalai Lama gifted the agents a ceremonial scarf in return. The exchange occurred in complete silence in accordance with Tibetan custom.

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
Dolan (second from the left) and Tolstoy (right) with their monk-interpreter, Kusho Yonton Singhe, near Lhasa, Tibet for their official greeting ceremony, January 1, 1943 (Public Domain)

The Dalai Lama approved of the request to transport supplies through Tibet into China. This friendly relationship allowed America to help keep China in the fight for the remainder of the war. It also allowed the CIA to support Tibetan resistance fighters when Communist China invaded in the 1950s.

The Dalai Lama continues to carry the Patek that was gifted to him by FDR through Dolan and Tolstoy. Sources report that the historical watch has been repaired at least three times since then. The Dalai Lama famously displayed it in 2016 during a meeting with the U.S. Congress. Made of 18k gold and featuring a perpetual calendar, moon phase, split-seconds chronograph and minute repeater, the watch would fetch a hefty sum today without its historical provenance. The fact that it involved so many famous figures and was featured in a crucial diplomatic agreement makes it absolutely priceless.

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, presents the Patek Philippe 658 gifted to him by FDR (Senator Patrick Leahy)
MIGHTY HISTORY

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

The Medal of Honor is well-known as the U.S. military’s highest honor for acts of valor in the face of the enemy. It is bestowed for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.” Usually, only members of the military earn the award. But a few, rare civilians have, too. 


It’s kind of a big deal.

Created in 1861 as a Navy medal, there have been 3,513 Medals of Honor bestowed, with roughly half going to veterans of the U.S. Civil War. The medal is generally given only to U.S. military members, but in the history of the United States, eight civilians have received the honor for their actions on the battlefield.

A purge of Medal of Honor recipients in 1917 stripped the eight of their awards (with a total of 911 previous awardees) after Congress tightened the rules.  Seven were restored in 1989, and one more in 1977.

“Buffalo Bill” Cody

 

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won

In 1872, Buffalo Bill was a scout for the U.S. Army during the Indian Wars. He received the medal for gallantry in combat after leading a cavalry charge against a band of Sioux warriors. He killed two of the warriors, recovered their horses, and then chased them off the battlefield. His medal was restored in 1989.

Amos Chapman Billy Dixon

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
Billy Dixon during his days as an Indian scout.

Chapman was also a civilian scout for the U.S. Army during the Indian Wars of the late 19th century. He was a half-Native who also worked as an interpreter. While working with Lt. Frank Baldwin out of Fort Dodge, he and another civilian scout, Billy Dixon, along with four soldiers, were confronted by a joint force of more than a hundred Comanche and Kiowa warriors. The six retreated to a buffalo wallow, essentially a mid-sized hole in the ground. On the way there, Dixon was injured, so Chapman picked him up and carried him to the defensive position. He stopped to fight off attackers on occasion, but was shot in the leg a quarter mile from the wallow. He dragged himself and Dixon the rest of the way to the wallow. The six held out until weather forced the enemy withdrawal, three days later.

James Dozier

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won

Another civilian scout during the Indian Wars, Dozier was awarded the honor for gallantry at the Little Wichita River, Texas in 1870. Dozier and another scout tracked a band of the Keechi to Bluff Creek. Dozier fired down on the Keechi from a higher position, wounding Chief Keesh-Kosh. Noticing that U.S. soldiers below were exposed to direct fire from a band of Keechi on a hillside, Dozier mounted his horse and attacked the band by himself. Dozier suffered serious injuries when his horse was shot out from under him, but was credited with the campaign’s success.

John Ferrell

Ferrell was a civilian in the service of the Union Navy during the Civil War. While acting as a Navy pilot near Nashville, Tennessee, an engagement with Confederates saw the flag of their ship, the Neosho, shot down. Ferrel and the ship’s quartermaster ran through the enemy fire to reraise the flag.

Martin Freeman

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
Not this Martin Freeman.

Another U.S. Navy civilian in service to the Union during the Civil War, Freeman was at the Battle of Mobile Bay, Alabama. He was the pilot of the Union Flagship. He piloted the Navy’s ships into the bay under “terrific” enemy fire, from Fort Morgan, the CSS Tennessee, and a flotilla of Confederate gunboats. The boats were captured, the Tennessee surrendered, and the Fort’s guns were silenced.

Mary Edwards Walker

The British fought Vietnam alongside Gurkhas, Indians, and Japanese POWs – and won
Walker with her Medal of Honor

Walker received her Medal of Honor recommendation from General William Tecumseh Sherman himself. She worked as a contract surgeon at the battles of Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chattanooga, and Chickamauga. During battles, she would frequently cross enemy lines and treat civilians. Throughout the war, she was contracted as a surgeon by the Army of the Cumberland, the 52d Ohio Infantry, and the Patent Office Hospital in Washington, D.C. She would be arrested by the Confederacy as a spy in 1864 and spend four months as a POW. She received the Medal of Honor from President Andrew Johnson, and refused to give it back when Congress erased her award. She died two years later. President Jimmy Carter restored her status in 1977.

William H. Woodall

Woodall was a civilian employee of the Union Army during the Civil War. At the Battle of Namozine Church, while riding as a scout with Gen. Philip Sheridan’s Cavalry Corps, Woodall was with a group of scout spies dressed in Confederate uniforms when they captured Confederate General Rufus Barringer. Woodall captured the general’s headquarter’s flag.

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