The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

There aren’t a lot of places in the world that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency hasn’t been. Communist China became one of those places almost as soon as the agency was created. But for the Dalai Lama, they made an exception.

For much of the CIA’s formative years, it was locked in a struggle to stop the spread of Communism anywhere in the world. One of its earliest stops was the newly “liberated” Chinese Autonomous Region of Tibet. 

In 1950, China and Tibet were in diplomatic talks over the future of an independent, sovereign Tibet. China, now headed by the Chinese Communist Party, held that Tibet was part of China and sought to incorporate it. Anything else would lead to war. It was either a great negotiation tactic or a terrible one. 

A map of Tibet where the Dalai Lama is from.
The area in red represents Tibet, the region that has been fiercely disputed for decades.

But Chairman Mao would soon have an ace up his sleeve. As the talks continued, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army advanced into Tibet, captured the town of Qamdo, and occupied it. The Tibetan Army was weak and obsolete in the face of PLA forces fresh from winning the Chinese Civil War. The PLA held their positions as word got to the Tibetan delegation at the ongoing talks in India.

Negotiators were sent to Beijing in 1951, where they were presented with the Seventeen Point Agreement. Under threat of force, Tibet would become part of China.For its part, China guaranteed religious freedom and that the government, including the Dalai Lama, would remain in place. The Chinese Communist Party run Tibet’s defense and international affairs.

The Chinese did not allow for negotiations or for the delegates to confer with the Tibetan government.

The mountains of Tibet, where the Dalai Lama is from
The mountains of Tibet

With the agreement signed, the PLA marched into the Tibetan capital at Lhasa in what the Chinese call the “Peaceful Liberation of Tibet.” As Communist land reforms began to be implemented, however, Tibetans began to fight back.

Those resistance fighters were trained by the CIA’s Special Activities Division, who had been in Tibet for years. Tibetan fighters were trained in Colorado, Saipan, Nepal, and India in order to slow the spread of Chinese authority and sap the strength of the PLA. The 60,000 troops necessary to occupy Tibet required massive resources from Beijing and the CIA was happy to keep those troops busy.

Gyalo Thondup, brother to the 14th (and current) Dalai Lama reached out to the Americans from exile in India and helped coordinate the effort. Fighting broke out in 1956, as Tibetan rebe;s began destroying Chinese government offices and killing Communist officials. China responded by bombing a monastery. 

In 1959, rumor spread that China was planning to kidnap the Dalai Lama and remove him from the country. Tens of thousands of Tibetans took to the streets in protest and revolt. Though the PLA responded by killing scores of them in retaliation, the rebels were able to shuttle the Lama out of Lhasa. 

The Dalai Lama in his red robes

Tibetan resistance fighters smuggled him out of the city dressed as a common soldier and into the countryside where rebels had taken control of the area. There, they met with CIA-trained rebels who secured passage to India for the Tibetan leader. Only the CIA knows how he managed to escape the country.

When the Chinese discovered the Dalai Lama escaped, they killed even more Tibetans, allegedly stacking bodies in the street like “cordwood.”

After the 1959 uprising, China began to aggressively expand Communist influence in Tibet’s government while turning the tide against the Tibetan rebels. As the PLA began to advance, Tibetans fled their country for India and Nepal. The CIA stepped up its efforts in Tibet, supplying trained commandos, along with arms, munitions, and other supplies.

The clandestine undermining of Chinese efforts there continued until 1974, when President Richard Nixon changed U.S. policy toward China.

MIGHTY HISTORY

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

From the court-martial of Billy Mitchell to Robin Olds’ mustache, U.S. Air Force history is filled with examples of Airmen thumbing their nose at authority. So of course what started as a way to identify friendly units in mid-air in World War I quickly evolved into a way of thumbing one’s nose at military uniformity and authority. The unintended consequence of that effort is a gallery of beauty and style — a lasting legacy in the minds of generations to come.


The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

This art form is as old as powered flight. In the context of war, crews created designs to immortalize their hometowns, their wives and sweethearts back home, to earn themselves a name in the minds of their enemies, or provide some kind of psychological protection from death, among other motifs.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

 

Some things were universal. “Mors ab alto” is Latin for “Death from above.” And then some art was based entirely on the record of the plane. Like the B-29 Superfortress Bockscar, below, who dropped the atomic bomb dubbed Fat Man on Nagasaki, Japan, and whose nose art depicts a train boxcar nuking Nagasaki.

 

Nose art was also a great way to build esprit de corps with the crew and maintainers around a plane, as seen in this photo of the crew of Waddy’s Wagon recreating their own nose art.

 

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

Of course, a list of the best WWII nose art would not be complete without the pin-ups.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

Nose art wasn’t all sexy women and bombs, though. Some crews used their nose to (deservedly) brag.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

Don Gentile, World War II Eagle Squadron member and the first ace to beat Eddie Rickenbacker’s WWI dogfighting record, flew a P-51B famously called Shangri-La, which featured a bird wearing boxing gloves.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

And sometimes, when your war record is long enough, it’s okay to let the world know you’re watching the clock.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

Popular cartoons were also featured on World War II-era planes. Walt Disney famously looked the other way (in terms of copyright infringement) for much of the art done in the name of winning the war, notably on bomber jackets and nose art. The RAF’s Ian Gleed flew a Supermarine Spitfire featuring Geppetto’s cat Figaro.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

American pilot and Doolittle Raider Ted Lawson flew a B-25 Mitchell Bomber over Tokyo called the Ruptured Duck, an image of an angry, sweating Donald Duck wearing pilot headphones in front of crossed crutches.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

Next time you watch Dumbo with your kids, remember that Dumbo dropped ordnance on Japan and was said to be fairly accurate.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

Bomb icons depicted the number of missions flown over the enemy. For some icons weren’t enough. Thumper here took the war personally and marked the name of each city it bombed.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

 

Nose art was also used to complain (as all troops do) as a way to deal with the monotony of deployed life, the lack of supplies, and/or the frustrations of the crew to keep their bird flying, as seen by Malfunction Sired by Ford.

Or it was used to brag that they could keep their girl in the air, with whatever they had lying around.

 

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

Some crews definitely brought their A-game to the art form, like the crew of this B-29 Superfortress.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

Others tried, but were ultimately (and obviously) better suited to fighting the war than designing the nose of their B-24 Liberator.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

The award for all-around best nose-art in World War II has to go to the RAF’s James Archibald Findlay MacLachlan, who lost an arm to a combat injury early in the war and thus had to fly with a prosthetic limb. His fighter plane’s nose depicted the hand from his own amputated arm making the “V for Victory” sign.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

Now: 6 of the most badass US military test pilots of all time

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 female pirates you might not know about

Names like Blackbeard and The Barbarossa Brothers may ring a bell. They conjure visions of a billowing Jolly Rogers flag, bands of thieving pirates, and of poor souls walking the plank to their watery graves. But you probably also picture only men. Contrary to popular belief, female pirates have also sailed the high seas, from the very beginning of piracy’s existence.


These swashbuckling female pirates left their mark on history. They defied odds when women weren’t even permitted on ships, commanded crews, and carried out some of the wildest heists in history.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

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1.Ching Shih

Madame Ching, also known as Cheng I Sao, was a pirate who terrorized the China Sea in the early 19th century. She commanded over 300 ships, and 40,000 pirates, including men, women, and even children. Skirmishes with the British Empire, Portuguese Empire and the Qing dynasty were common during her reign.

But Madame Ching wasn’t always a successful pirate. She was born in 1775 and is believed to have worked in a brothel until she was in her late teens. Then in 1801, she met Cheng I, a notorious pirate with whom she fell in love. They were married and adopted a son, Cheung Po, who was being taught the ways of piracy by Cheng I. Allying with Madame Ching allowed Cheng to access the alliance and powers of the mainland underworld. Madame Ching, a cunning woman, only allowed his access on the condition that she have equal control and share of their fortune.

Six years after the two were married, Cheng died. Madame Ching took advantage of the opening. She was one of the few female pirates who was fully accepted by an entirely male crew, being adopted wholeheartedly by Cheng I’s crew. Madame Ching rose to become one of China’s most notorious pirates. Once she was in charge, Madame Ching also instituted a code of law for her pirates unlike any seen before. They included prohibition from stealing from friendly villagers, beheading for any rapes, and more.

By the time Madame Ching died in 1844, she held numerous coastal villages under her control, levying taxes and protecting towns from other pirates.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

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2. Anne Bonny

Despite Anne Bonny’s historic reputation, very little is known about her life. We know she was an Irish pirate who spent most of her life in the Caribbean. She’s thought to have been born somewhere near Cork, Ireland in the late 1600s or early 1700s. She and her father moved to London after a fight with his wife—who was not Anne’s mother. He began dressing her as a boy around that time. They later moved to Carolina, then Nassau in the Bahamas.

There, Anne met John “Calico Jack” Rackham, a well-known pirate captain. The two quickly became secret lovers, although Anne had already married James Bonny. She was brought on board his ship in her old male disguise.

She took equal part in combat alongside the men, becoming well-liked amongst the crew. Together, they plundered the waters surrounding Jamaica. However, in 1720, Rackham and his crew were attacked by a patrolling ship commissioned by the Governor of Jamaica. Most were taken off guard and too drunk to fight, but Bonny and a female crewmate (and rumored lover), Mary Read, held off the assailants for at least a short while.

Eventually, the entire crew was taken, convicted and hanged. Both Read and Bonny were able to gain a stay of execution due to their “delicate conditions” (read: pregnancies). However, Read died in prison, most likely during childbirth or from its aftereffects. Bonny gave birth in prison, then was released. Her fate after this is unknown. Some believe she actually died in prison, others that she escaped and returned to a life of piracy.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

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3. Grace O’Malley

Grace O’Malley has become a legendary figure in Irish folklore despite her very real roots—she was even an inspiration for Anne Bonny to take up piracy. From a young age, O’Malley longed to follow in her father’s footsteps as a privateer on the seas. She once asked her father if she could join him on a trading venture to Spain. She was promptly rejected: Her father said her hair was too long and would get caught in the ship’s ropes. In response, O’Malley chopped off her hair.

With this proof of her seriousness, her father backed down, and she joined him on his next journey to Spain. Upon his death, she took control of the family’s land and sea despite having a brother. She paraded up and down the coastline thieving and bringing her findings back to her family’s coastal stronghold.

Her marriage to Donal an Chogaidh brought her even greater wealth and power. She had three children, including a daughter who took after her mother. When an Chogiaidh was murdered in an attack on his lands, O’Malley was ready to seek vengeance. She launched an attack on Doona castle, whose owners were thought to be responsible. The ferocity of this attack left her with a lasting nickname: the Dark Lady of Doona.

Later in life, O’Malley had an ongoing battle with Sir Richard Bingham, an English officer who was responsible for the Tudor conquest of England. Irish nobles like O’Malley were unwilling to give up their freedom of rule and fought viciously against the Tudor monarchy. After her sons were captured during a battle, O’Malley decided to visit the Tudor court to plead for their freedom.

She and Queen Elizabeth spoke in Latin, their common language (Elizabeth spoke no Irish, O’Malley no English). O’Malley refused to bow to the queen, as doing so would recognize her rights as the Queen of Ireland. The court was scandalized by O’Malley’s behavior, including blowing her nose in front of the queen. Their meeting resolved in O’Malley’s sons’ freedom and the removal of Bingham from Ireland. O’Malley continued to support the Irish insurgency by sea and land until her death in (approximately) 1603.

Beloved by Irish nationalists, O’Malley was renamed Gráinne Mhaol after her death and held up as a symbol of Irish indepence.

4. Sadie Farrell

Though there is some speculation about whether she actually existed, Sadie Farrell, also called Sadie the Goat, was an American criminal, gang leader, and river pirate who operated primarily in and around Manhattan. Her nickname emerges from how she would attack her victims on land: ramming headfirst into her target’s gut while a nearby acquaintance readied their slingshot.

When she tired of thieving on land, Sadie traveled to the waterfront in West Side Manhattan. It was here that she witnessed a failed attempt by the Charlton Street Gang to board a small riverboat and rob it. She offered up her services to the group and soon became their leader. Within days, she’d organized a highly successful theft which ignited her career as a pirate.

She and the Charlton Street Gang would soon be seen sailing up and down the Hudson and Harlem Rivers raiding small villages with a Jolly Roger flying from their sloop’s masthead. She was notorious for kidnapping men, women and children for ransom and is said to have made countless men walk the plank. Within a few months, people began anticipating the gang’s raids and what successes they had became smaller. Eventually, the gang returned to the Bowery for the more consistent life offered there.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

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5. Jeanne de Clisson

This Breton pirate sailed the English Channel during the 1300s, and in these years earned the title Lioness of Brittany. Born in 1300, de Clisson was married first at 12. She had two children during her first marriage. Her husband, despite being only seven years older than her, died in 1326. Jeanne remarried twice after this. Her third and final marriage was rather unusual for the time—it seemed to be a love match. She and Oliver de Clisson had five children together, one of whom may have been born before they were actually married.

Her path to piracy began during the Breton War of Succession. For most of the fight, she sided with the French. That is, until her husband was lured onto French soil under the guise of achieving some kind of peace deal. He and his companions were captured, with their peers alleging that they had committed treason with the British. They were all tried and beheaded.

As revenge, de Clisson raised a force of loyal men and started attacking French forces in Brittany. With the English king’s help, she decorated three warships completely in black and, so the tale goes, wrote “My Revenge” across the vessels. It was on these ships that she patrolled the English Channel, hunting down and destroying French ships for 13 years before calling it quits. Jeanne seemingly decided that she had achieved sufficient vengeance out of nowhere and simply stopped wreaking terror upon the high seas. She died in a small port town on the Brittany coast in 1359.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

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6. Sayyida al Hurra

Though Sayyida al Hurra never sailed much, if at all, she was regarded as a queen of the pirates in the Mediterranean. Between 1515 and 1542, she was both the actual Queen of Tétouan in northern Morocco and a pirate queen. She controlled the western Mediterranean Sea and was well-respected throughout the Mediterranean for her ability to rule on her own terms and to resist occupation when her power was threatened. In fact, her name means “noble lady who is free and independent; the woman sovereign who bows to no superior authority.”

She was born into a family of power in 1485, and quickly rose in ranks, marrying Tétouan’s ruler in her teens. When he died, she became ruler in her own right, at about 30. Not long after, the King of Fez, another Moroccan city, sought Sayyida’s hand. They were married, and Sayyida began realizing how piracy could revitalize her city after invading Christian forces devastated it.

By 1523, Sayyida was running the Mediterranean Sea. Her pirates stalked Portuguese shipping routes, stealing goods and money for the benefit of Tétouan. Although it’s possible that Sayyida was never actually on board any of her ships, her strategy and skill were able to create the opportunities that her people needed to rebuild Sayyida’s most beloved city.

7. Charlotte de Berry

De Berry is another possibly mythic female pirate. Stories of her life only appear in writing two centuries after her supposed death. Despite this, many believe that Charlotte de Berry did in fact exist and did take to the seas.

Born in the mid-1600s, de Berry grew up in England. In her late teens, de Berry fell in love with a sailor, married him, and started on her journey to piracy. Disguised as a man, she joined her husband onboard and fought valiantly alongside her crew. After one of the ship’s crew discovered that de Berry was a woman, her husband was killed. De Berry barely managed to escape, shedding her sailor garb and posing as a woman working on the docks.

While she was working on the docks, a captain kidnapped de Berry and forced her to marry him. He was brutal to de Berry. In order to escape him, she convinced the crew to betray their captain. De Berry decapitated him before the crew, and took his role as captain of the ship.

For many years following, she sailed the seas, attacking ships and stealing their treasures. She fell in love with a Spaniard, and invited him to join her crew. Shortly after they were shipwrecked. Most of the crew perished, including de Berry’s lover. The survivors were rescued by a Dutch ship, but de Berry jumped into the ocean rather than leave her lover behind. Her fate after this is unknown.

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

Articles

What happened when a Pearl Harbor attacker crash landed in Hawaii

Despite the relatively quick American recovery from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, there’s no doubt that the surprise attack hit the U.S. Army and Navy pretty hard. Despite the excellent execution and planning by the Imperial Japanese Navy, they still took considerable losses, especially given the surprise they achieved.

When the first wave came in with complete surprise, it took minimal losses. Only nine fighters went down in the first wave. With the second wave, more U.S. troops were able to mount a defense, so the incoming Japanese planes took more than twice as many losses. 

A third wave never materialized because the Japanese admirals believed they would lose more planes than they could handle. But even before they launched that day, the Japanese knew, as any powerful military force knows, that no plan survives contact with the enemy. So they had a planned rendezvous point for airmen whose planes couldn’t make it back to the carriers: the Hawaiian island of Niihau. 

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists
Aerial view of Niihau, 2007 (Christopher P. Becker/ Wikimedia Commons)

The tiny island of Niihau is just a 30-minute flight from Pearl Harbor and was a designated rescue point for pilots who had to take their planes down for some reason, whether it be engine failure or damage from American defenders. Flying all the way to Niihau was much better than trying to be rescued in the vast Pacific Ocean. 

Petty Officer Shigenori Nishikaichi’s Zero was heavily damaged during his second wave attack run on Wheeler Army Air Field, so he was forced to go to this contingency plan. He was able to land on the island, but his plane took even more damage in the attempt. Still, Nishikaichi was alive on what he (and the Imperial Japanese Navy) thought was an uninhabited island.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists
Shigenori Nishikaichi (Wikimedia Commons)

It must have been a big surprise to Nishikaichi when he was helped out of his damaged plane by a native of the island. Niihau is the smallest of the Hawaiian Islands and was privately-owned, but in 1941 it had a population of 136 native Hawaiian-speaking people and a handful of others. Three of them happened to be Americans of Japanese descent.

When Nishikaichi crash-landed there, Aylmer Robinson was the owner of the island and didn’t allow visits from outsiders. The man who rescued him knew there were tensions between Japan and the United States but was completely unaware of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Even so, the man took Nishikaichi’s sidearm and papers. 

The Hawaiians on the island greeted their unexpected visitor with a party and a dinner that night, but the two sides could not communicate. Nishikaichi spoke little English and the natives spoke no Japanese, so until the Japanese residents could be found, they were unable to talk to one another. 

A local named Shintani spoke with the pilot very briefly but quickly walked away. The local Japanese couple, the Haradas, arrived next, and they spoke at length. Nishikaichi told them about the attack on Oahu and asked for help in getting his secret papers back from the natives. They decided to help him. Unfortunately for Nishikaichi, that same night, the locals learned about the attack on the radio and turned on him. The Haradas agreed to hold the pilot, with four guards stationed around their home. 

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists
Rusted parts of the Niihau Zero as displayed at the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor (Wikimedia Commons)

Later that night, the Haradas waited for an opportunity to overpower the guards. When three of them departed, they attacked and locked him in a warehouse. The three Japanese armed themselves and headed for the man who still had the papers. Seeing they were armed, he fled and raised the alarm in a nearby village. Residents of the village fled when the Japanese trio began firing a shotgun. 

Meanwhile, the Niihauans signaled for help to the main islands, where the island’s owner lived. The night went on as the Japanese began capturing locals to forcibly enlist their aid in tracking down the pilot’s precious papers. When they captured a Hawaiian husband and wife, their hours-long search took its toll. At an opportune moment, the wife threw herself on Nishikaichi as Harada struggled to throw her back off. 

In response, Nishikaichi shot the husband three times with a pistol concealed in his boot. The man got right back up and threw the pilot into a stone wall. His wife crushed Nishikaichi’s head with a rock as the man slit his throat. Harada turned the shotgun on himself and committed suicide. 

The couple went to a nearby hospital as military police arrived on the island. The remaining Japanese citizens were arrested for aiding Nishikaichi. The incident was seen as proof that Japanese American citizens could not be trusted during the war when discussing Japanese internment. 

Strangely, Hawaii’s Japanese citizens were never held in internment camps.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Medal of Honor recipient shot down 7 enemy aircraft on his first time out

After graduating at the top of his flight school class, James Swett decided to join the Navy — until a Marine colonel talked him into flying for the Corps instead.


Once he received his Marine officer commission, Swett shipped out to serve in War World II, where he would mark his mark sooner than he could ever expect.

Stationed on the island of Guadalcanal, Swett’s impressive 450 hours of pre-war flight time was about to be put the ultimate test.

Related: This Medal of Honor recipient saved 18 Marines from an enemy minefield

In the early morning of Apr. 7, 1943, a Japanese attack fleet was preparing to bombard the island of Guadalcanal. That day, Swett had embarked on two standard flight patrols that resulted in nothing but clear skies.

But the third scheduled flight was about to turn very deadly. Swett received intel that 150 Japanese planes were en route to his position and he was prepared to defend it. Soon after making his very first enemy contact, Swett managed to shoot down a handful of enemy fighters.

After a several of defensive maneuvers, Swett took a few rounds to his starboard wing. Heading back to base, Swett discovered a series of enemy dive bombers headed toward him — so he engaged with short bursts, scoring additional kill shots.

Also Read: This WW2 Ace fought for both sides of the war

After shooting down seven dive bombers, Swett’s fighter plane was severely damaged and crash-landed into the ocean as he attempted to make it back to Guadalcanal.

Once Swett surfaced, a Coast Guard boat picked up the now salty Marine aviator. Swett shot down a total of seven enemy fighters on his very first day in combat.

Swett was credited with shooting down 15 1/2 enemy planes during his time in the war and received the Medal of Honor on Oct. 10, 1943.

Check out Medal of Honor Book‘s video below to hear this flying ace retell his heroic story for yourself.

(Medal of Honor Book, YouTube)

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Vladimir Putin’s career went from the KGB to the Kremlin

Vladimir Putin‘s KGB career may have ended decades ago, but that didn’t stop the Russian president from citing his spy credentials during July 16, 2018’s press conference with US president Donald Trump.

Dissmissing the idea that Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia in 2016 and disputing the credibility of the Steele dossier, Putin said, “I was an intelligence officer myself, and I know how dossiers are made up.”


Russia is accused of hacking the DNC’s emails and engaging in other forms of cyber subversion in order to throw the race to Trump. A series of politically-charged and disinformation-spreading social media groups and advertising campaigns have been traced back to Russia.

Putin has denied hacking the election. Trump has argued that he “doesn’t see any reason” why Putin would meddle in the election, despite the consensus of the US intelligence community that Russia interfered in order to ensure a Republican victory.

Here’s a look into Putin’s early career as a KGB spy:

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

“The Shield and the Sword” (1968)

As a teenager, Putin was captivated by the novel and film series “The Shield and the Sword,” writes Steven Lee Myers in “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin.”

Source: “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

Adolf Hitler.

The story focuses on a brave Soviet secret agent who helps thwart the Nazis.

Source: “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

Putin later said he was struck by how “one spy could decide the fate of thousands of people.”

Source: “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

Saint Petersburg State University.

Putin went to school at Saint Petersburg State University, where he studied law.

Source: “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

His undergraduate thesis focused on international law and trade.

Source: “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

KGB headquarters — also known as the Lubyanka Building.

After initially considering going into law, Putin was recruited into the KGB upon graduating in 1975.

Source: “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

Satsivi.

(Flickr photo by Paul Keller)

After getting the good news, Putin and a friend headed to a nearby Georgian restaurant. They celebrated over satsivi — grilled chicken prepared with walnut sauce — and downed shots of sweet liqueur.

Source: “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

Moscow’s Red Square.

He trained at the Red Banner Institute in Moscow.

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin,” The Telegraph

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

Sergei Ivanov.

Putin’s former chief of staff and fellow KGB trainee Sergei Ivanov told the Telegraph that some lessons from senior spies amounted to little more than “idiocy.”

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin,” The Telegraph

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

Vladimir Putin.

Putin belonged to the “cohort of outsiders” KGB chairman Yuri Andropov pumped into the intelligence agency in the 1970s.

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

Yuri Andropov.

Andropov’s goal was to improve the institution by recruiting younger, more critical KGB officers.

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin

Putin.

Putin’s spy career was far from glamorous, according to Steve Lee Meyers’ “The New Tsar.”

Source: “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

His early years consisted of working in a gloomy office filled with aging staffers, “pushing papers at work and still living at home with his parents without a room of his own.”

Source: “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

Saint Petersburg.

He attended training at the heavily fortified School No. 401 in Saint Petersburg, where prospective officers learned intelligence tactics and interrogation techniques, and trained physically. In 1976, he became a first lieutenant.

Source: “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin,” “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

1987 anniversary celebration of the KGB.

Putin’s focus may have included counter-intelligence and monitoring foreigners.

Source: “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

According to Meyers, Putin may have also worked with the KGB’s Fifth Chief Directorate, which was dedicated to crushing political dissidents.

Source: “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

In 1985, Putin adopted the cover identity of a translator and transferred to Dresden, Germany.

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin

In the biography “Mr. Putin,” Fiona Hill and Cliff Gaddy speculate his mission may have been to recruit top East German Communist Party and Stasi officials, steal technological secrets, compromise visiting Westerners, or travel undercover to West Germany.

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

Dresden, Germany.

(Flickr photo by Bert Kaufmann)

Hill and Gaddy conclude that the “most likely answer to which of these was Putin’s actual mission in Dresden is: ‘all of the above.'”

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin

Putin has said that his time in the KGB — and speaking with older agents — caused him to question the direction of the USSR.

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin

“In intelligence at that time, we permitted ourselves to think differently and to say things that few others could permit themselves,” he said.

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin

At one point, crowds mobbed the KGB’s Dresden location after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin,” The Telegraph

Putin has claimed to have brandished a pistol to scare looters from the office.

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin,” The Telegraph

It’s believed that Putin’s tenure in the KGB, which occurred during a time when the USSR’s power crumbled on the international stage, helped to shape his worldview.

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin,” “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

“It was clear the Union was ailing,” Putin said, of his time abroad. “And it had a terminal, incurable illness under the title of paralysis. A paralysis of power.”

Source: “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin

Putin ultimately quit the KGB in 1991, during a hard-liner coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Source: “Putin: Russia’s Choice

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

He became an official in Boris Yeltsin’s subsequent administration and was appointed to lead the FSB — the post-Soviet successor to the KGB — in 1998.

Source: “Putin: Russia’s Choice

Putin then took over for Yeltsin upon his resignation in 1999. One of his first acts as president was to pardon his predecessor for corruption.

Source: “Putin: Russia’s Choice,” PBS, Business Insider

Putin was ultimately elected president for the first time in 2000.

Source: “Putin: Russia’s Choice,” PBS, Business Insider

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

Articles

The last surviving liberator of the Auschwitz death camp just died

Time marches on and with it goes some of history’s greatest heroes. The history of World War II reached a sad but inevitable milestone in June 2021. The last surviving soldier who liberated the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz has died at age 98. The Munich Jewish Community Organization that confirmed his death gave no cause.

David Aleksandrovich Dushman drove his Soviet T-34 tank through the electrified fence of the concentration camp on January 27, 1945. He was a soldier of the Soviet Union’s Red Army, part of a force moving through Poland on its way to Berlin. 

Like much of the world, the Soviet troops knew little of the camps set up by the Germans who occupied Poland or what happened in the camps. But unlike much of the world, they found out very quickly. In a 2015 interview with a German newspaper, he described seeing skeletons everywhere. 

Still, he only saw what was in front of him and the rumors he heard among his fellow soldiers. It was only after the end of the war that he learned the magnitude of what happened in the string of Nazi camps across Europe. 

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists
“Selection” of Hungarian Jews on the ramp at Auschwitz-II-Birkenau in German-occupied Poland, May/June 1944, during the final phase of the Holocaust. Jews were sent either to work or to the gas chamber.
The photograph is part of the collection known as the Auschwitz Album, which was donated to Yad Vashem by Lili Jacob, a survivor, who found it in the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp in 1945. See Auschwitz Album, Yad Vashem: “The Auschwitz Album is the only surviving visual evidence of the process leading to mass murder at Auschwitz-Birkenau.”

“They staggered out of the barracks, sat and lay among the dead. Terrible. We threw them all our canned food and immediately went on to hunt down the fascists,” he said.

Dushman was a Russian Jew from the Free City of Danzig, later a Polish possession. He was just 21 years old that day but he knew all too well what Jewish people faced, even inside the Soviet Union. 

Auschwitz-Birkenau was one of the most notorious death camps in Germany and its occupied territories, famous for its gas chambers that ended the lives of an estimated one million Jewish prisoners from across Europe. But Jews weren’t the only ones sent there to die.

The death camps at Auschwitz were the final destination for many of Europe’s homosexuals, much of its Roma population and Soviet prisoners of war. If captured by the Wehrmacht, it’s very likely Dushman would have met his end there. 

Instead, he was the first liberator to enter the grounds (if you don’t count his T-34 as a liberator). 

Dushman was only one of 69 Red Army soldiers from his unit who survived World War II, from a unit of 12,000. He was wounded at least three times on the brutal Eastern Front, but it could have been worse for him– much worse. He and his comrades fought in some of the most intense battles of World War II, including the battles of Stalingrad and Kursk.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists
Hungarian Jews march toward a gas chamber. The photograph is part of the collection known as the Auschwitz Album, which was donated to Yad Vashem by Lili Jacob, a survivor, who found it in the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp in 1945. Auschwitz Album, Yad Vashem: “The Auschwitz Album is the only surviving visual evidence of the process leading to mass murder at Auschwitz-Birkenau.”

After the war, Dushman became a doctor at the behest of his mother, carrying on the family profession. But he really wanted to be a champion fencer and studied the sport intensely. He became one of the USSR’s top fencing athletes. 

The Soviet team, along with Dushman went on to win Olympic gold in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. The decorated World War II veteran would later urge the International Olympic Committee to use its games as an instrument of international peace. 

“My biggest dream and hope for future generations is to live in a world where there is no war,” Dushman said “… use sport as a way to spread peace and reconciliation around the world. War is something that should never happen again.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

These are the battles mentioned in the Marines’ Hymn

The early days of November bring more than just chilly weather and the beginning of a winter-long food and football hibernation cycle. That’s what Thanksgiving is for.


The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

Come the 10th and 11th – the Marine Corps birthday and Veterans Day respectively – military towns and American Legion Halls all over the country begin shaking with the booming voice of Marines past and present, singing the Marines’ Hymn, a song about the Halls of Montezuma and the Shores of Tripoli.

If you’re a Marine, you definitely know what these are. If you’ve served in the military at some point, you’ve probably been able to pick up what they mean. But for a lot of civilians, military culture and tradition can be a black hole of knowledge – unless one of their history teachers was a Marine, there’s no reason for them to know this.

Can you imagine Marine Corps grade school?

The Halls of Montezuma

No, the Marines did not fight Aztec warriors. They were around 300 or so years too late for that.

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I can tell you how well that would go, though.

The reference is to Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire…which also happens to be modern-day Mexico City. In 1847, the U.S. and Mexico were engaged in a bit of a war and it wasn’t going well for the Mexicans. The Americans were in the middle of capturing the Mexican capital. But Mexico under dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna wasn’t going down easily – neither were its people.

To break the fighting spirits of the Mexican troops while capturing the city itself, Gen. Winfield Scott determined that he would have to capture Chapultepec Castle, a military academy on the heights overlooking the city. The hill leading up to the castle was a 200-foot slope ending in a 12-foot wall, designed to keep enemy troops from doing exactly what the Marines were about to do.

After the Americans made it through volley after volley of artillery and gunfire, the Mexican Army was waiting for them. They engaged in a good old-fashioned fistfight.

They then scaled the castle walls and entered the inside of the castle – known as the Halls of Montezuma. They raised the American flag and by the time Gen. Scott entered the castle, the streets were guarded by U.S. Marines.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists
According to the Marines’ Hymn, that must mean Mexico City is heaven now?

The Marines captured the fortress in an hour, with a loss of 90 percent of the Marines’ officer and NCO corps. Legend has it the NCOs and officers added scarlet stripes to their pants to commemorate their lost brothers here. Today these are referred to as “blood stripes” to remember the Marine blood shed in Mexico City.

The Shores of Tripoli

Why do the Marines sing about the Shores of Tripoli when those particular shores have been pretty unfriendly to Americans for much of the time most active Marines have been alive? Because, like Chapultepec, this battle happened early on in Marine Corps history.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists
Let’s be honest, it wasn’t friendly back then either.

The wars with the Barbary pirates were an epic and underreported time in American history. The Marines got one of their first heroes when Lt. Presley O’Bannon and his contingent of Marines accompanied a force of Arab allies under U.S. agent William Eaton marched 500 miles overland to attack the city of Derne.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists
One of the earliest sexual exploits of the green weenie. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron Henson)

It was after the march that O’Bannon and the Marines, along with Eaton and his Greek and Arab mercenaries, captured the city against a much larger force. The Tripolitans sent reinforcements, but by the time they arrived, the city had already fallen. When that force tried to retake the city, U.S. Navy vessels and captured Tripolitan guns manned by Marines repelled the attack.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists
The Hornet, seen here owning the HMS Peacock in the War of 1812, was one of the ships at Derne that day.

The capture of Derne forced the leaders in Tripoli to make peace with the Americans, stop raiding American shipping, and free American slaves. The Marines say Lt. O’Bannon was presented with an elaborate Mamluk-style sword by the Ottoman representative, which is now the model for those carried by Marine Corps officers.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 stories you (probably) didn’t know about war correspondent Ernie Pyle

Ernest Taylor Pyle was born on Aug. 3, 1900, at the turn of the 20th century. The famed war correspondent and columnist was better known as “Ernie” and had the reputation as the voice of the American servicemen during World War II. He chronicled the blitz in London and the individual heroism of Londoners, the roles of Vichy French officials in North Africa and their corroboration with the Nazis, and the allied invasions of both Italy and Normandy. One of his most heart wrenching pieces, “The Death of Captain Waskow,” revealed the emotional grief of soldiers when one of their men was killed in combat.

His refreshing writing style informed the general public back home and provided a rare look at the happenings of America’s sons, husbands, and fathers serving overseas.


Pyle’s birthday is now recognized as National Ernie Pyle Day. The day celebrates his wartime columns, his Pulitzer Prize for reporting, and the memory of his legacy, one that ended too soon. On April 18, 1945, Pyle was shot and killed by a Japanese soldier on the island of Ie Shima while he was covering the war in the Pacific. While there is plenty known about Pyle’s exploits from his famous dispatches, here are four lesser known stories of Ernie Pyle’s historic legacy that are worth mentioning on his day of remembrance.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

Before Pyle was well known during World War II, his name was synonymous with the aviation world. Though he had a student pilot’s permit, Pyle never got a license. Photo courtesy The Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.

Before The Fame

Before Ernie Pyle became a war correspondent during World War II, it could be argued that he had already seen much of what the human experience had to offer from his travels around the globe. He suffered from restlessness, a common affliction for many in his chosen profession. The farm boy from Indiana had a curiosity in service, so he enlisted in the US Naval Reserves during World War I. However, that didn’t get him overseas, which left a burden and lingering question about the adventure waiting for him.

After leaving Indiana University, Pyle cut his teeth as an aviation reporter for the Washington Daily News under the helm of the Scripps Howard newspaper entity. His yarns received many compliments, including one by none other than aviator Amelia Earhart.

“Not to know Ernie Pyle,” she said, “is to admit that you yourself are unknown in aviation.”

“I’ve covered 200,000 miles and been on five of the six continents and crossed both oceans and delved into every country in the Western Hemisphere and written upward of 1,500,000 words in that, daily column,” Pyle wrote in July 1941. “I’ve gone down the Yukon River on a stem-wheeler, and lived with the lepers in Hawaii, and petted llamas in the high Andes, and reveled in the strange lazy beauties of Rio.”

His “Great Experience” halted when his quest of service took him to all three theaters of operations during World War II.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

Men of the 133rd Field Artillery Battalion enjoy Cokes on the front, March 17, 1944. Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

The ,000 Coca Cola Bottle

Coca-Cola was a prized beverage amongst American GI’s serving overseas in Europe during World War II. Pfc. Frederick Williams, a soldier from a field artillery brigade with prior service along the Italian front had returned home. He decided to send two bottles of Coke to his old unit, many of whom hadn’t seen a carbonated beverage for more than a year. The soldiers decided to split one of the Cokes and donate the other in a raffle to raise money for adoption efforts for the children whose fathers were killed in the brigade.

The Cokes were advertised in the brigade’s mimeographed newspaper for 25 cents a piece, and before the week was over the raffle had raised more than id=”listicle-2646905372″,000. Another soldier had received a second bottle of Coke and added the prize to the key. Three weeks passed and the total cash prize climbed to ,000.

“That one Coke was equivalent to the value of 80,000 bottles back home,” Pyle wrote in astonishment as he covered the event. Coke added an additional ,000 to the value and, despite the noble cause, Nazi propagandists used the opportunity to broadcast through the airwaves lies suggesting individual soldiers payed ,000 for one bottle of Coca-Cola.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

In peacetime they are nickel-plated and shiny. In wartime they are black with a rough finish. A display at the National World War II Museum shows one of Pyle’s Zippo lighters donated during the war. Photo courtesy of the National World War II Museum.

Ernie’s Zippo Lighters

Readers from the United States and abroad were glued to the words Pyle strung together, including George Blaisdell, the president of Zippo Manufacturing Company. Braisdell sent a letter and 50 Zippo lighters personally addressed to Pyle to hand out to his servicemen friends.

“They’ll burn in the wind, and pilots say they are the only kind that will light at extreme altitudes,” Pyle once wrote. “Why, they’re so popular I had three stolen from me in one year.”

Pyle was an avid smoker, and through the habit he bonded with soldiers over a cigarette. “My own lighter was a beauty, with my name on one side and a little American flag on the other,” Pyle said. “I began smoking twice as much as usual just because I enjoyed lighting the thing.”

Conversations and insights happened while having a smoke that may not have occurred while sitting in a foxhole or over a meal of “C-rations” or in a bunk aboard a navy ship. Pyle’s ability to connect with pilots, infantrymen, medics, and even animals helped his writings convey a sense of identity and commonality to his readership.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

Ernie Pyle visits Leathernecks of the 3rd Marine Division, where, along with talking to the veterans of the fight on Bougainville and Guam, he observed the famous Marine Corps war dogs for the first time on Jan. 24, 1945. Shown here talking to “Jeep,” a scout and security patrol Doberman pinscher. Photo by TSgt. J. Mundell, courtesy of the National Archives.

Pyle and the War Dogs

Marines serving in the Pacific theater often named their military working dogs after terms familiar with the US military. Jeep, a black-and-brown Doberman pinscher, was utilized by Marines from the 3rd Marine Division. Pyle learned all about their war dog program, which consisted of 60 dogs, 90 handlers, 10 NCO observers, two K-9 medics, and three kennel supervisors. Jeep’s job as a scout and security patrolman helped the Marines locate sniper positions, search caves and pillboxes, alerted signs of potential ambushes, and ran messages to unit commanders.

Sergeant, another war dog that impacted Pyle and the Marines, was killed after he had been wounded by shrapnel from an air raid. The Marines specifically trained their dogs to run into foxholes when they heard the aircraft, but a lucky shot by the enemy resulted in Sergeant having to be put down.

“It is not belittling the men who died,” Pyle wrote of the tragedy, “to say that Sergeant’s death shares a big place in the grief of those who were left.”

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


MIGHTY HISTORY

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

Every sports team needs their very own cartoony mascot to get the fans going. Sure, it’s a goofy tradition, but it gets the people cheering and those cheers spur the players on to victory, so no one ever questions it. Military academies are no different.

The Air Force Academy sports the high-flying falcon because it’s the apex predator across much of America’s sky. West Point is represented by the mule because it’s a hardy beast of burden that has carried the Army’s gear into many wars. The Naval Academy, in what seems like a lapse of logic, decided long ago that the best representation of the Navy and Marine Corps’ spirit is a goat.

The use of a goat as their mascot began in 1893 with El Cid the Goat, named after the famed Castilian general. Eventually, they settled on the name “Bill” because, you know, billy goats… And it just gets weirder from there.


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From 1847 to 1851, the Naval Academy used a cat as their mascot, which we can presume would’ve hated being paraded in front of large crowds.

(National Archives)

In the Navy’s defense, goats actually served a purpose on Navy vessels back in the days of fully rigged ships. Unlike most livestock that required specialized food, a goat can eat just about any kind of scraps, which is handy on a long voyage. And, once it fulfilled its purpose as a walking garbage disposal, as grim as it sounds, it provided the cooks with a fresh source of meat.

Yet, when the U.S. Naval Academy was founded in 1845, then-Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft chose his favorite animal to be the official mascot of his newly established military academy: the monkey. This didn’t last long because the logo was actually of a gorilla and, as most people know, gorilla’s aren’t monkeys. The next idea was a cat (which actually have a place in Naval history), then a bulldog (before the times of Chesty Puller), and then a carrier pigeon.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

Ever since, sailors have enjoyed a long tradition of giving their goats the clever name of ‘Bill.’

​(U.S. Navy Historical Center)

There are two different versions of the story of how the Navy finally got the goat.

The first of those version is simple: The previously mentioned El Cid the Goat appeared at the 1893 Army-Navy football game and its presence, supposedly, helped carry the team to victory. The Navy continued to bounce back and forth between mascots until officially sticking with the goat in 1904. Said goat was re-branded as “Bill,” named after the Commandant of Midshipmen, Commander Colby M. Chester’s pet goat, and the rest is history.

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The biggest takeaway from the legend is the difference between becoming a legend and getting a Captain’s Mast is whether or not you can attribute a Navy victory over West Point on your actions.

(U.S. Navy photo by Joaquin Murietta)

The other version is steeped in legend — and is entirely bizarre. As the story goes, a ship’s beloved pet goat had met its untimely end. Two ensigns were tasked with heading ashore to bring the goat to a taxidermist so that its legacy could live on. The ensigns got lost on their way to the taxidermist, as most butter bars do, and wound up at the Army-Navy game.

The legend never specifies who, exactly, came up with this brilliant idea, but one of them apparently thought, “you know what? f*ck it” and wore the goat’s skin like a cape. During halftime, one ensign ran across the sidelines (because sporting arena security wasn’t a thing then) donning the goat skin and was met with thunderous applause.

Instead of reprimanding the two idiots for clearly doing the exact opposite of what their captain had asked of them, the Naval Academy rolled with it and attributed their victory over the Army to the goat.

This version is kind of suspect because El Cid the Goat was at the fourth game so the goat-skin midshipman would have had to been at one of the three games prior. The first and third games were held at West Point (which is clearly far away from any wandering ensigns) and second Army/Navy game was a victory for Army. But hey! It’s all in good fun.

Articles

This is the true story of the pier master at Dunkirk

Chritsopher Nolan’s new “Dunkirk” movie features Sir Kenneth Branagh as the cool-under-fire Commander Bolton, but his character is largely based on a real British officer who underwent greater hardships to save British and French forces and was tragically lost at sea during the evacuation.


Operation Dynamo, as the evacuation of Dunkirk was known, was a desperate play by the British to salvage as much of their expeditionary force as they could after Hitler’s war machine tore through allied forces and nations in Europe faster than nearly anyone anticipated.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists
The German blitzkrieg took many by surprise. Here, the Fort Eben-Emael in Belgium, thought to be one of the world’s best fortresses and practically impregnable, sits occupied after a single morning of fighting thanks to a daring German paratrooper attack on May 10, 1940. (Photo: Public Domain)

The original goal was to get 45,000 men out in two days before the defensive line at Dunkirk, the last Allied-held territory in the area, collapsed. A Canadian member of the Royal Navy, Cmdr. James Campbell Clouston, was assigned to getting as many men as possible off the “East Mole.”

The East Mole was actually one of two breakwaters used to protect the beach and channel from ocean currents. It was about a mile long and just wide enough for four men. It was a clear target for German planes to attack and provided little opportunity for cover. But, it was an efficient way to get large numbers of men off.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists
British troops board the destroyer HMS Vanquisher during low tide by using scaling ladders to climb down from the Mole (at left). (Photo: Imperial War Museum)

Clouston quickly got the Mole operating as the top method of evacuating troops. He ordered evacuating troops to move in groups of 50 to cut down on the chaos on the span and positioned as many ships as possible along the length for simultaneous boarding.

On the first day that Clouston and other members of a commanding party under Capt. William Tennant were operating on the beach, the number of troops evacuated rose from 7,669 to 18,527. Many of these men made it out thanks to Clouston’s efforts on the Mole, which was averaging 1,000 evacuations per hour.

But German air raids targeting the Mole began to take real effect. The third of three air raids on May 29, 1940, three ships were lost including the destroyer HMS Grenade, which had been providing defensive support of the operation as well as embarking evacuating troops.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists
170802-DLN-The Royal Navy’s HMS_Grenade_(H86) which was later sunk by a dive bomber while evacuating troops at Dunkirk. (Photo: Imperial War Museum)

Panic broke out on the Mole after a bomb blew a hole in a section. Troops attempted to rush off, but Clouston ordered a lieutenant to draw his revolver and restore order. The troops on the Mole were quickly corralled onto a trawler and sent away.

A panicked junior officer drove to a resort northeast of Dunkirk and called an officer in England to erroneously report that the harbor was blocked by one of the sunken ships. Evacuations slowed as most vessels headed to other places instead the East Mole.

But word got out that the Moles were still in operation, and the pace picked up. One of the best days for the Mole came on June 1 when, despite a devastating air raid, over 47,000 men made it onto ships from the pier.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

That night, six days into what was supposed to be a 48-hour operation, Clouston was recalled to Dover to take part in a planning meeting for a massive lift on June 2. After the meeting ended, Clouston was headed back to Dunkirk in the pre-dawn hours in a small motorboat when he was attacked by German bombers. His boat quickly sank.

Clouston waved off the assistance of a second boat. Survivors said that he was worried the Germans would spot it and attack while the boat was stationary. He attempted to swim to another vessel a couple of miles away but was lost at sea.

In the end, a total 338,226 men were evacuated through June 4. Almost 240,000 of them made it off from the harbor and the Mole.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The crazy way British pilots took out incoming V-1 missiles

One week after D-Day, Germany began launching a new, secret weapon at London. The distinctive roar of V-1 flying bombs would slowly fill the air and then suddenly cut out, followed shortly by the massive explosion as a warhead went off. Dozens would fall in the first week, and the Royal Air Force had to scramble to stop them.


This led some pilots to, after expending all of their ammunition, take more drastic measures to stop the bombs: flying wingtip to wingtip until they either crashed or tipped the bomb off course.

The V-1s had pulsejet engines, and prop-driven planes couldn’t keep up with them. But, if a pilot flew to high altitude and then dove toward a passing V-1, the speed from the descent would allow them to keep up.

The first intercept took place on June 15, 1944, the third day of V-1 attacks. A Mosquito pilot was able to shoot one down with his guns, and others soon followed.

But the pilots had limited ammunition, and it was tough to hit the fast-flying V-1s. And each bomb could kill multiple Londoners if it wasn’t intercepted.

So some pilots began to experiment with a risky but valuable alternative. If a plane flew close enough to a V-1, the wind off the plane’s wings could nudge the flying bomb off course. And if the disturbance was enough to flip the V-1 over, known as “turtling,” then it would often fail to explode.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

A Spitfire nudges a V-1 missile off course during World War II.

(Public domain)

But this had obvious risks. If the pilot accidentally bumped the V-1, they could crash into the ground alongside the bomb. A soft bump was obviously no big deal. It would just help the pilot tip the bomb over. But a harder strike was essentially a midair crash, likely clipping or breaking the pilot’s own wingtip.

Despite the risks, the work of pilots and gunners on the ground saved London from much of the devastation. 1,000 of the bombs were shot down or nudged off course in flight. And, the bombs were famously inaccurate, which was lucky for Britain. Of the approximately 10,000 flying bombs fired at the city, around 7,000 missed, 1,000 were shot down, and about 2,000 actually hit the city and other targets.

Eventually, this would result in about 6,000 fatalities and 16,000 other casualties.

In October 1944, Allied troops captured the V-1 sites targeting London and were able to stop the threat there. Unfortunately, that was right as the Germans got the V-2 program up and running, The faster, rocket-powered V-2s were essentially unstoppable with anything but radar-controlled guns.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists

An American JB-2 Loon based on the German V-1 missile.

(San Diego Air and Space Museum)

After the war, Allied powers experimented with the weapons and some, including America, made their own knockoffs. Some were shot down as flying targets for pilots, but others were held in arsenals in case they were needed against enemy forces. Eventually, the invention of modern cruise missiles made the V-1s and V-2s obsolete.

Articles

Why this Green Beret was nominated for three Medals of Honor but only got one

Robert Howard may have spent more time in Vietnam than any other soldier and he has the wounds to prove it. For an astonishing 54 full months, the Special Forces soldier slugged it out with any number of North Vietnam’s finest, receiving 14 wounds.

He also received a battlefield commission, eight Purple Hearts, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star and four Bronze Stars. To top it all off, he also received the Medal of Honor. Robert Howard was the most decorated soldier since Audie Murphy in World War II.

He should have topped Murphy by becoming the first-ever three-time Medal of Honor recipient, but it could never have been. Some say he really is the most decorated soldier ever produced by the Army. The problem is that most of Howard’s war was classified. 

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists
Then Sgt. 1st Class Robert L. Howard carries a North Vietnamese Army prisoner of war (U.S. Army)

Howard spent 36 years in the United States Army, first enlisting in 1956. He arrived in Vietnam in 1967, and his first 13 months were a doozy. It was this initial time period that Howard was nominated for the Medal of Honor three times. 

It’s easy to realize why he was put in a position to earn the Medal of Honor three times. As a member of Army Special Forces, he was assigned to the top secret Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG). The classified command participated in the war’s most important and prominent operations.

It also participated in the war’s least prominent operations, especially those conducted in Laos and Cambodia. The top secret operations that put Howard in the position of being nominated for three Medals of Honor would be the reason two of them were downgraded to a Silver Star and the Distinguished Service Cross, respectively.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists
Then-Capt. Robert Howard is awarded the Medal of Honor by Pres. Richard M. Nixon, during a March 2, 1971, ceremony at the White House. (U.S. Army)

While leading a mission of American and South Vietnamese soldiers looking for the missing soldier Robert Scherdin, his platoon was attacked by two companies of enemy troops. Howard was unable to walk and his weapon had been destroyed by a grenade. He still managed to crawl through a hail of gunfire to rescue his platoon leader.

He dragged the downed officer back to the American-South Vietnamese unit and reorganized it to put up a stiff defense against an overwhelming enemy. Unable to fight, he still directed the unit and crawled around administering first aid to the wounded. Under his direct leadership, they were able to fight until rescue helicopters could land. 

Howard was the last person to get aboard the helicopters and was awarded the Medal of Honor. He learned about his award via radio on his way back from another mission in Cambodia. Since his other two medal recommendations were based on classified missions into Cambodia, which is the reason many believe they were downgraded. 

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists
Then-Maj. Robert Howard was present in 1982 at the dedication of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Army)

If it bothered Howard that his two other medal recommendations were downgraded, you’d never know it. He spent four and a half years fighting in Vietnam and 36 total years in the U.S. Army in some form. After retiring from the Army in 1992 (as Col. Robert L. Howard), he continued working with veterans and would even visit American troops stationed in Iraq until his death in 2009. 

Robert L. Howard died of pancreatic cancer and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

The CIA’s Special Activities Division rescued the Dalai Lama from the Chinese communists
Fellow Soldiers pay their respects to Medal of Honor recipient Col. Robert L. Howard, who was buried Feb 22, 2010 in Section 7A of Arlington National Cemetery. (U.S. Army)
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