The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you - We Are The Mighty
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The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you

What once hosted notable figures like Winston Churchill and Leonid Brezhnev — and where historic decisions like the precursor to SALT were made — has now become a nest for raccoons.


The USS Sequoia, which once was used as a presidential yacht, is falling apart and is the subject of a fierce legal fight over ownership.

According to a report by CBSNews.com, the yacht is no longer the “floating White House” where Richard Nixon reached a high point of his presidency (discussing the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty with Leonid Brezhnev) and a low point (deciding to resign in the wake of the Watergate scandal).

The USS Sequoia was purchased in 1931, initially to serve as a floating sting operation against alcohol smugglers. However, it soon found itself used by President Herbert Hoover for fishing (the President once used it to sail to Florida – not something that would likely happen today).

Two years later, the Commerce Department handed the Sequoia to the Navy, and it became the presidential yacht, replacing the USS Mayflower, which was decommissioned in 1929. It remained in service until President Jimmy Carter auctioned the vessel off for $286,000 in 1977.

Afterwards, it served on a private charter, but was still used by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush to host events.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
USS Sequoia (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Today, the condition of the boat is shocking. While it is drydocked in Deltaville, Virginia, the vessel has not received any maintenance. A family of raccoons have taken residence in the vessel, eating some of the ship’s keepsake candy bars and the ship might not even make it through this winter.

“The status of the vessel is we need to protect it immediately, get it through the winter. Currently, she is stressed,” Matthew Vilbas, the captain of the vessel, told CBS. “There [were] a few rooms where the animals defecated on carpets, including presidential carpets where presidents spent time with their families and foreign and national persons.”

It was Vilbas who discovered the family of raccoons using an American flag as a nest. Vilbas is desperate for the legal situation to get resolved.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
Senior Enlisted Adviser to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey talks with wounded soldiers and their families on board the USS Sequoia on the way to Mount Vernon, Va., on Oct. 11, 2005. Gainey joined Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in presenting eight Purple Hearts to soldiers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center during a ceremony at Mount Vernon. (DOD photo)

“I spent hours, days, evenings with and without family on board in what I felt has been a great honor to serve and provide experiences for many different persons. And when you spend that time on her, it becomes an extension of yourself,” he told CBS.

Even after the legal ownership is resolved, it will take millions of dollars to fix the vessel. Whoever owns it will also have to locate enough shipwrights who are knowledgable about classical wood building techniques.

It reportedly could take as much as 10,000 hours to fix the ship.

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This is how the Special Forces turn North Carolina into Afghanistan

Welcome to Pineland, the fictional country made up of more than 20 North and South Carolina counties — including Alamance — that US Army Special Forces students will infiltrate to overthrow its oppressive government.


Students at the US Army’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, based out of Fort Bragg, and role-players will conduct training missions during the exercise, dubbed “Robin Sage,” such as controlled assaults, but also live, eat, and sleep in civilian areas, according to a Fort Bragg news release.

The Army notified local law enforcement agencies, said Randy Jones, spokesman for the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office. This is something the Army has done several times a year for many years,” Jones said.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
Army photo by Sgt. Derek Kuhn, 40th Public Affairs Detachment

“We just know they’re in the area and how they’re flagged,” he said.

Students will wear civilian clothes only if instructors determine the situation warrants it and then will wear distinctive armbands, according to Fort Bragg, and training areas and vehicles used during exercises will be clearly labeled.

Service members from other units at Fort Bragg will support the exercise by acting as opposing forces and guerrilla freedom fighters — Pineland’s resistance movement. Civilian volunteers throughout the state also act as role-players.

Residents may hear blank gunfire and see occasional flares, according to the release. Controls are in place to ensure there is no risk to people or property.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
A US solider treats a role-player while another watches for the use of proper procedures, during the Robin Sage exercise. Photo from public domain.

The Army has been conducting Robin Sage since 1974, but it has not always gone smoothly.

In August 2002 a Moore County deputy, who didn’t know Robin Sage troops were in his area, shot and killed one army trainee and wounded another. The soldiers, who were dressed in civilian clothes, were shot after they tried to disarm the deputy, who they thought also was part of the exercise.

US Army officials have since modified the exercises to make the public and law enforcement aware of what is happening, and to make sure troops know how to deal with civilians and civilian authorities.

Residents with concerns should contact local law enforcement officials, who can contact officials in charge of the exercise.

Articles

Bagpipes used to be classified as weapons of war

In the 21st century, troops go to war with weapons ranging from handguns and rifles to fighter planes and warships. It may surprise people to learn that, until 1996, the British government considered the bagpipes to be a bona fide weapon of war.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
The Battle of Culloden, oil on canvas, David Morier, 1746 (Public Domain)

The classification goes back to the last of the Jacobite Risings. In 1745, Charles Edward Stuart launched an uprising in the Socttish Highlands to reclaim the British throne for his father. Despite some initial successes, Stuart’s forces were crushed at the Battle of Culloden on April 16, 1746.

James Reid was one of several pipers who played at Culloden and were subsequently captured. He was taken to England and put on trial for treason. Reid’s defense was that he was a noncombatant and carried only a bagpipe on the field. However, the commission appointed to the treason cases disagreed.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
An 18th century Highland piper (National Galleries of Scotland)

The commission was headed by the chief baron of the Court of Exchequer who reasoned that Highland regiments “never marched without a piper; and therefor [Reid’s] bagpipe, in the eye of the law, was an instrument of war.” Reid was found guilty of treason and hanged in York, England on November 15, 1746.

The commission’s ruling is considered the first to declare a musical instrument to be a weapon of war. It set a precedent that lasted for hundreds of years. In fact, when they were captured in combat, bagpipes were not inventoried as musical instruments like drums or bugles. Rather, they were listed as weapons along with sabers, rifles, and munitions. During WWI, roughly 2,500 British soldiers served as pipers and crossed No Man’s Land armed only with their bagpipes.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
Bill Millin landed on D-Day playing his pipes (Imperial War Museum)

The issue of the bagpipes returned to court in 1996. David Brooks was arrested after local residents complained of him playing the bagpipes in public on Hampstead Heath in London. He was charged under an 1890 London bylaw that prohibited the playing of musical instruments in public without permission. Under the bylaw, Brooks could be punished with a fine.

However, Brooks’ barrister argued that the Reid decision of 1746, which was never overturned, was a binding legal precedent. Therefore, Brooks could not be charged under the 1890 bylaw since the bagpipes were not a musical instrument, but a weapon of war. Magistrate Michael Johnstone questioned the defense since Brooks could instead be charged with carrying a dangerous weapon and be imprisoned rather than fined.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
In the right (or wrong) hands, they can be an instrument of torture

In the end, Johnstone declared Reid’s case a miscarriage of justice. He further clarified that in times of war, bagpipes are considered instruments of war. However, in times of peace, they are considered musical instruments. Since Brooks played the bagpipes as a musical instrument, Johnstone fined him 15 pounds on each count of playing without permission and ordered him to pay and additional 50 pounds in court costs.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
A piper on the western front during WWI (Imperial War Museum)

Feature Image: Imperial War Museum photo

Articles

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE

Pilots from the 317th Airlift Group, stationed at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, fly a C-130J Super Hercules at Polk Army Airfield, La. The 317th AG delivered U.S. Army Soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, to Polk Army Airfield during a Global Force Readiness Exercise. The exercise exhibited the partnership between the Air Force and Army and their ability to execute personnel airdrop from a large formation.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
Senior Airman Peter Thompson/USAF

The MC-130P Combat Shadow team performs the final checks before takeoff on Kadena Air Base, Japan. The 17th Special Operations Squadron sent off the final two Combat Shadows in the Pacific Air Forces to retire to the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
Photo: Airman 1st Class Stephen G. Eigel/USAF

NAVY

PATUXENT RIVER, Md. (April 22, 2015) The Navy’s unmanned X-47B receives fuel from an Omega K-707 tanker while operating in the Atlantic Test Ranges over the Chesapeake Bay. This test marked the first time an unmanned aircraft refueled in flight.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
Photo: Liz Wolter/USN

Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) participate in a swim call. Iwo Jima is the flagship for the Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (24th MEU), provides a versatile, sea-based expeditionary force that can be tailored to a variety of missions in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Megan Anuci/ USN

ARMY

Congratulations to the 2015 Best Sapper Competition winners, 1st Lt. Daniel Foky and Sgt. Brandon Loeder, assigned to 127th Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. Pictured below,Foky andLoeder in the lead during the poncho-raft swim event, April 21, 2015, on the first day of the competition. The 2015 Best Sapper Competition, held at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. took competitors across 50 miles in 50 hours of back to back events. The 46 teams came from as far as Alaska and Hawaii to compete.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
Photo: US Army

Soldiers, assigned to 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, load munitions onto an AH-64 Apache helicopter during an aerial gunnery exercise April 22, 2015, at Rodriguez Live Fire Complex, in Pocheon, Republic of Korea.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
Photo: Sgt. Jesse Smith/US Army

MARINE CORPS

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, California – Reconnaissance Training Company Marines received an aerial view of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California during Special Patrol Insertion/Extraction training at San Mateo Landing Zone. The Marines, students of the Basic Reconnaissance Course, took turns being hoisted into the air by helicopter during the SPIE portion of their Helicopter Rope Suspension Training. During the course of HRST the students learn SPIE rigging, rappelling and fast rope techniques.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
Photo: Lance Cpl Asia J. Sorenson/USMC

ZAMBALES, Philippines – ZAMBALES, Philippines – Amphibious Assault Vehicles land ashore during a bilateral amphibious landing by the Philippine and U.S. Marine Corps, April 21, on North Beach at the Naval Education Training Center in Zambales, Philippines, as part of exercise Balikatan 2015

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
Photo: Cpl. Matthew Bragg

COAST GUARD

Petty Officer Jon Emerson helps three survivors out of a helicopter at U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak. Earlier today, the men were rescued from a life raft 57 miles off the coast of Kodiak, Alaska, after their fishing vessel sank.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
Photo: USCG

Rough week? Here’s a dose of “Aloha” from Base Honolulu to get you through the rest of it!

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
Photo: USCG

NOW: Legendary Gen. James Mattis has an inspiring message for all Post-9/11 veterans

OR: Watch JR Martinez and Noah Galloway talk ‘Dancing with the Stars’:

MIGHTY HISTORY

This WWII beer run was the greatest of all time

It took sixty five years for one member of the 101st Airborne Division Screaming Eagles to learn that his actions during the Battle of Bastogne were legendary, but not for heroism or bravery. It all started with a simple request for a beer – and the greatest beer run the world will ever see.


Vincent Speranza, Vince to all that know him, had joined the Army right after graduating high school in 1943 and was assigned to Company H, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne as a replacement soldier while the unit recovered from Operation Market-Garden.

Related video:

www.youtube.com

Shortly after training, Vince found himself in a foxhole in the middle of Bastogne, Belgium – cold, short on supplies, food, and ammunition. And surrounded by German troops.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
A roadblock is set up with 30 caliber heavy machine gun, and a tank destroyer is ready for action near Bastogne, Belgium, Dec. 10, 1944.

“The first eight days we got pounded” by German artillery, he recalled. “But this was the 101st. They could not get past (us). They never set one foot in Bastogne.”

On the second day, his friend Joe Willis took shrapnel to both legs and was pulled back to a makeshift combat hospital inside a mostly destroyed church. Vince tracked him down and asked if there was anything he could do for his friend.

The answer was simple – Joe wanted a beer.

Also Read: This is how British pilots made beer runs for troops in Normandy

Vince told him it was impossible. The 101st was surrounded by Germans with no supplies coming in, they were taking artillery fire every day, and the town had been bombarded. But Joe wanted a beer.

Moving through the town, Vince, from blown-out tavern to blown-out tavern, went searching until serendipity hit. At the third tavern he hit, Vince pulled on a tap and beer came flowing out. He filled his helmet – the same one used as a makeshift shovel and Porta Potty in the foxhole – with all the beer he could handle and returned to the hospital.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
Vincent Speranza with some bottles of Airborne Beer. (Photo from GI Jobs.)

Mission accomplished. Vince poured beer for Joe and some of those around him. When the beer ran out, they asked him to go for more.

As he returned to the hospital, Vince was confronted by a Major who demanded to know what he was doing.

“Giving aid and comfort to the wounded,” was the paratrooper’s simple answer.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
Airborne Beer in action. (Photo from GI Jobs.)

An ass-chewing about the dangers of giving beer to men with gut and chest wounds lead to Vince putting his helmet back on his head, beer pouring down his uniform, and heading out.

While that could have been the end of it, the story continues 65 years later, when Vince returned to Bastogne for an anniversary celebration and learned that his epic beer run had been turned into Airborne beer, typically drunk out of a ceramic mug in the shape of a helmet.

Hear the story from the Airborne legend himself:

(Erminio Modesti | YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Brazil’s World War II force had the best unit patch

Brazil’s contribution to the Allied war effort is extraordinary but often forgotten. Though Brazil originally tried to remain neutral in the conflict, the United States eventually encouraged the country to break off relations with the Axis powers. As a result, German u-boats began to sink Brazilian shipping and kill Brazilian citizens.

As a result, Brazil entered the war on the Allied side in August 1942, ready to punish the Axis for killing Brazilians.


The Brazilian Expeditionary Force numbered some 25,000 men, the only ally from South America to contribute troops to the war effort. Brazil’s fighting force would play a crucial role in some of the critical European battles to come, in a way no one thought possible. Literally.

Some commenters said the world would more likely see snakes smoking than see Brazilian troops on a World War II battlefield. So when the BEF showed up to deploy with the U.S. Fifth Army, they looked a lot like the Americans in their fatigues, save for one important detail: a shoulder patch, featuring a snake smoking a pipe.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you

Now proudly calling themselves the “Smoking Cobras,” the Brazilian forces were ready to fight the Italians and Germans anywhere they were needed. Meanwhile, the Brazilian Navy and Air Force were getting their revenge on the Axis Navy and Air Forces that had so damaged Brazilian shipping. After losing 36 or more ships before entering the war, they lost only three ships afterward. And despite Brazil’s Air Force only flying five percent of the war’s air sorties, they managed to destroy 85 percent of Axis ammo dumps, 36 percent of Axis fuel depots, and 28 percent of Axis transportation infrastructure.

Back on the ground, the “Smoking Cobras” of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force were fighting the Italians and Germans in the Italian Campaign in 1943 and making short work of their enemy while providing much-needed rest for units that had been fighting for months.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you

A Brazilian mortar crew fires their 81mm mortar in support of infantry in the Sassomolare area of the Fifth Army front north of Florence, April 1945.

The three regimental combat teams that comprised the BEF took on the German 148th Division, soundly defeating them at the Battle of Collecchio. Other victories came in succession: Camaiore, Monte Prano, Serchio Valley. The Brazilians also took down the Italian Monte Rosa, San Marco, and Italia divisions. In all, they captured more than 15,000 prisoners and took a further 500 out of action in later campaigns.

They retreated only when they ran out of ammunition, and their losses in Italy numbered just north of 450 killed in action.

Articles

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons

While much of the world’s attention is focused on the effort by North Korea to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with working nuclear warheads, there is another weapon that is also quite deadly in the arsenal of Kim Jong Un’s regime. Ironically, it is quite low-tech.


That weapon is the An-2 Colt, a seventy-year-old design that is still in front-line service, which means it has the B-52 Stratofortress beaten by about eight years! So, why has this little plane stuck around, and what makes it so deadly in the hands of Kim Jong Un?

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
An-2 Colt on skis. (Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl/CC BY-SA 3.0)

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the An-2 has a top speed of 160 miles per hour, and a range of 525 miles. Not a lot when you compare it to the B-52, which can go 595 miles per hour and fly over 10,000 miles. China is still producing the plane, while upgrade kits are being developed by Antonov. The plane was in production for 45 years, and according to the report from Korrespondent, thousands remain in service.

When it comes down to it, what seem like fatal weaknesses actually make the An-2 deadly in modern combat.

The reason? The plane usually flies low and slow – and as such, it is very hard for modern fighters like the F-22, F-35, and F-16 to locate, track, and fire on. Not only that, the slow speeds and low-altitude operations meant that large portions of the plane can be covered with fabric, according to Warbird Alley. There are also a lot of An-2s in North Korea’s inventory – at least 200, according to a report by MSN.com.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
A look at the inside of the An-2, showing seats for passengers. Or commandos. (Wikimedia Commons)

While the plane is often used to deliver troops or supplies, the real threat may be the fact that it could carry some other cargo. While North Korea is just now developing nuclear warheads that fit on missiles, there is the frightening possibility that a nuclear weapon could be delivered using an An-2.

That is how this 70-year-old biplane design could very well be North Korea’s deadliest weapon. You can see a video on the An-2 below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pljj4M8WhYs
MIGHTY HISTORY

This spy led Germans on a wild goose chase during WWII

Acting as a double agent can be a dirty, confusing game of keeping one’s stories straight. But in a time of war, it can be a necessary gig that top spies hold proudly. Where they’re playing two sides of the system for one common goal. In other words, it’s a spy who works for two countries, but only holds loyalties to one. 

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
Juan Pujol Garcia

This is exactly what Spanish spy, Juan Pujol García, did during World War II. Only with a twist. Garcia tried to work for the British, but his job queries were rejected. Therefore, he took matters into his own hands and worked from afar. He first got the idea to work from afar after seeing political extremism during the Spanish Civil War. Wanting to offer something “for the good of humanity,” he began looking into career options as a spy. 

In whole, the story is more of an embarrassment on the Germans’ part, failing to fact check. However, it also offers a unique and rare piece of history.

After he was turned down by the Brits, Garcia took a new approach. He got a job with Hitler’s soldiers and flubbed his information. To fulfill his orders, he made up data, even entire movements, and sent it back to the Germans.

How he got the gig — false reports 

Pujol created a false version of himself as both a member of the British government and a closet Hitler supporter. He was also able to obtain a false passport. The combo did the trick and Germany quickly hired him as a spy. His first orders were to travel to Britain and “flip” fellow spies to join the movement. Instead, Pujol moved to Lisbon, Portugal and began sending up completely falsified reports. He pulled “data” and said he gathered from tourist guides, train schedules, movie shorts, and print ads. 

Notably, the information was filled with social faux pas and blatant mistakes, as Pujol didn’t know much about British culture. Most notably, he reported that Scottish were avid wine drinkers. In fact, Scotland is known for its whiskey and, at the time, served little wine. He also made mention of a liter/litre, unknowing that the U.K. did not operate on the metric system.

However, his superiors failed to check his information and put full trust into his word. 

Soon into his gig, Garcia began adding subordinates to his operation. This helped his case in two ways — 1) he could blame the fictional employees of false information and 2) to appear as if his efforts were growing with more spies under his wing. 

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
Pujol’s original passport.

For perhaps his biggest win for the Brits, Pujol invented an entire convoy. He told the Germans about the Brothers of the Aryan World Order, a Welsh fascist movement. To counter a “planned attack,” Hitler sent a large defense system against this fake event. 

The event caused Britain to finally accept Pujol on their side. He was then moved to Britain and offered a job with M15. He and his boss continued to expand the fake network of spies throughout the war. 

At its largest point, the Germans were paying 27 fake spies brought on by Pujol, who operated under the codename Garbo. 

Lasting effects of WWII

Pujol is perhaps the only participant of WWII to receive honors from both sides. He was awarded an Iron Cross from the Germans, which required authorization from Hitler himself. He also became a member of the Order of the British Empire, with King George VI doing the honors.

Overall, he’s cited with helping win Operation Fortitude in deceiving Hitler’s forces when Allies were landing at Normandy. His efforts convinced them that the main attack would be at an alternate location and time. 

After the war

Fearing retribution from Hitler, Pujol, with the help of M15, moved to Angola to fake his death of malaria. He then moved to Venezuela where he ran a bookshop. 

In the 1970s and 80s, he was heavily researched by war thriller writer, Nigel West. After 12 years of hunting for Garbo’s real name, the two met up and collaborated on a book. In 1987 the pair released Operation Garbo: The Personal Story of the Most Successful Spy of World War II.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 naval officers who became President

1. Lt. John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)

When America joined World War II in December 1941, John F. Kennedy, Harvard graduate and second son of the former ambassador to Great Britain, was eager to join thousands of other young men and sign up. Rejected twice for health reasons, he finally received a commission as an ensign in 1941.


Kennedy obtained a seagoing command — a patrol torpedo (PT) boat — the following year. While in and around the Solomon Islands in the Pacific, he participated in patrols and operations to block Japanese supply barges.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
Lt. j.g. John F. Kennedy. (John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum)

The night of Aug. 1, 1943, Kennedy’s PT 109 joined 14 other boats on a patrol to intercept Japanese warships. Then, disaster struck. Around 2:00 in the morning, in the pitch darkness, a Japanese destroyer cut PT 109 into two. Two Sailors perished and the others were wounded. Kennedy himself was thrown into the cockpit, landing on his bad back. In excruciating pain, he managed to help two survivors who had been thrown into the water. Then, the men swam for a small island three miles away, Kennedy towing an injured shipmate with a life jacket strap between his teeth. They spent 15 hours in the water.

After 4 days without food, fresh water, or any sign of life, the men swam to another, larger island. Kennedy carved a message into a coconut: “NAURO ISL…COMMANDER…NATIVE KNOWS POS’IT…HE CAN PILOT…11 ALIVE…NEED SMALL BOAT…KENNEDY.” He asked one of the locals to deliver it to the PT base on the island of Rendova. Rescue finally came, Aug. 8.

Also read: The 8 new ships the Navy commissioned this year

Later, in command of another PT boat, Kennedy led the rescue of 50 Marines under heavy fire. He was eventually promoted to lieutenant and received the Purple Heart and the Navy and Marine Corps Medal before leaving the Navy in 1945.

Kennedy’s older brother, Joseph, a Navy pilot, had been killed in action in 1944, but that didn’t seem to diminish Kennedy’s affection for the service. As president in 1963, he famously told cadets at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, “I can imagine a no more rewarding career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think I can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: ‘I served in the United States Navy.'”

2. Cmdr. Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969)

Already a congressman from Texas, Johnson received an appointment as a lieutenant commander in the Naval Reserve in June 1940, and was activated shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. According to a 1964 New York Times article, he “waited only long enough to vote for declarations of war against Japan on Dec. 8 and against Germany on Dec. 11, then obtained the consent of the House for a leave of absence and reported for active duty.”

President Franklin Roosevelt sent him to the South Pacific on a special mission: investigate confusion and inefficiency in Australian ports, where there were reports of malingering and even sabotage by dock workers. By June, Johnson was near Port Moresby in New Guinea. On the 9th, he received permission to serve as an observer on a B-26 bomber, set to take part in an aerial combat mission over enemy positions.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
Lt. Cmdr. Lyndon B. Johnson. (Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library)

“The two sides,” the New York Times quipped, “were taking turns raiding each other’s bases. This morning was the Americans’ turn.” The Times went on to say that reports of what happened next vary, but according to official citations and some veterans’ recollections, when Allied planes neared the target, eight Japanese Zeros attacked. At least one American plane crashed in the ensuing dogfight.

Johnson’s plane developed some sort mechanical trouble, possibly hit by cannon and machine gun fire, and turned back alone.

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

A Times war correspondent who was later killed in action, Byron Darnton, sent back a report that said, Johnson “got a good first-hand idea of the troubles and problems confronting our airmen and declared himself impressed by the skill and courage of the bomber crews and fighter pilots.”

Johnson, who reportedly climbed up to look out of the navigator’s bubble during the attack, would receive an Army Silver Star from Gen. Douglas MacArthur for the incident. According to the citation, “he evidenced marked coolness in spite of the hazards involved. His gallant action enabled him to obtain and return with valuable information.”

Roosevelt ordered all members of Congress serving in the armed forces to return to their legislative duties later that summer. Johnson headed back to Washington, but remained in the Naval Reserve until he became commander in chief upon Kennedy’s assassination, Nov. 22, 1963. His resignation was accepted by the secretary of the Navy, effective Jan. 18, 1964.

3. Cmdr. Richard M. Nixon (1969-1974)

In June 1942, Nixon, then an attorney for the Office of Emergency Management, accepted an appointment as a lieutenant junior grade in the United States Naval Reserve.

He volunteered for sea duty the following spring, and was assigned as the officer in charge of the South Pacific Combat Air Transport Command at Guadalcanal and later Green Island. His unit prepared manifests and flight plans for C-47 operations and supervised the loading and unloading of cargo aircraft.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
Lt. Cmdr. Richard M. Nixon. (Richard Nixon Foundation)

A Navy letter of commendation praised him for “sound judgment and initiative.” His efficiency “made possible the immediate supply by air of vital material and key personnel, and the prompt evacuation of battle casualties from these stations to rear areas.”

Promotions followed, and eventually service stateside at the Bureau of Aeronautics. He was released from active duty in March 1946, but remained in the Reserve until 1966.

4. Lt. Cmdr. Gerald Ford (1974-1977)

Ford had played college football in Michigan and coached at Yale before getting his law degree. After America entered World War II, the Navy put Ford’s background as a coach and trainer to good use, and commissioned him as an ensign and instructor for the Navy’s V-5 (aviation cadet) program in April 1942. Ford taught elementary seamanship, ordnance, gunnery, first aid and military drill, and coached the cadets in numerous sports.

He was next assigned to USS Monterey (CVL 26) as the assistant navigator, athletic officer and antiaircraft battery officer in 1943. Monterey helped secure Makin Island in the Gilberts that year. In 1944, Ford’s ship supported landings and carrier strikes throughout the Pacific, including Kwajalein, the Marianas, northern New Guinea, Wake Island and the Philippines.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
Lt. Cmdr. Gerald R. Ford. (Gerald Ford Presidential Library and Museum.)

In December 1944, a fierce typhoon with winds topping 100 knots destroyed part of Third Fleet, resulting in the loss of three destroyers and more than 800 men, as well as significant damage to Monterey. During the storm, several aircraft tore loose from their cables and collided. This started a devastating fire. The storm almost claimed Ford himself. As he left his battle station, the ship rolled 25 degrees, he lost his footing and slid toward the edge of the deck. A two-inch steel ridge proved his salvation, however. “I was lucky,” he later said. “I could easily have gone overboard.”

The ship was declared unfit for service and limped into port for repairs. Ford returned to coaching Navy recruits. He was released from active duty in February 1946, and remained in the Naval Reserve until 1963. His service stayed with him even after he became president in 1974, however:

“Whoever watched the Pacific churned by winds of wars comes to this hallowed place with feelings overcoming words,” he said when visiting the USS Arizona Memorial. “Our shipmates who rest in honor here, our comrades in arms who sleep beneath the waves and on the islands that surround us need no eulogy beyond the eternal gratitude of the land that they loved.”

5. Lt. James “Jimmy” Carter Jr. (1977-1981)

Carter, the fifth consecutive Navy veteran to become president, grew up in rural Georgia. He received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1943, after two years of study at Georgia colleges. He graduated in June 1946 with a commission as an ensign, thanks to accelerated wartime training.

“From the time I was five years old, if you had asked me, ‘What are you going to do when you grow up?’ I would have said, ‘I want to go to the Naval Academy, get a college education, and serve in the U.S. Navy,'” Carter explained during an interview for his Nobel Prize for Peace in 1991.

“My family had all been farmers for 350 years in this country. Working people, and no member of my father’s family had ever finished high school, so this was an ambition that seemed like a dream then. It was during the Depression … and a college education was looked upon as financially impossible. The only two choices we had were to go to West Point or Annapolis, where the government paid for the education. I had a favorite uncle who was in the Navy, so I chose Annapolis.”

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
Midshipman James Earle Carter. (Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum)

Carter spent two years on ships — USS Wyoming (E-AG 17) and USS Mississippi (E-AG 128) — before applying for submarine duty. He reported to USS Pomfret (SS 391) in Pearl Harbor in late 1948, just in time to participate in a simulated war patrol to the western Pacific and the Chinese coast in January 1949.

Carter was getting involved in the new, nuclear-powered submarine program when his father died in 1953. In fact, he was in charge of the crew that was helping build USS Seawolf (SSN 575) and the nuclear power plant that later became a prototype. After his father’s death, Carter resigned his commission as a lieutenant and returned to Georgia to manage the family peanut business.

6. Lt. j.g. George H. W. Bush (1989-1993)

Bush enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday in June 1942 and began preflight training at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. When he received his commission and his wings almost a year later, he became the youngest pilot in the Navy.

By 1944, he was flying bombing missions on Avenger aircraft with Torpedo Squadron VT-51 in the Pacific off the USS San Jacinto (CVA 30). On June 19, upon returning from one of the biggest air battles of the war, the Marianas, his aircraft made a tail-first water landing after an engine failed. The crew made it safely out of the plane before it exploded.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
George H.W. Bush (U.S. Navy)

On Sept. 2, 1944, he had an even closer call. Bush’s plane was hit by antiaircraft fire while bombing the island of Chichi Jima, about 600 miles south of Japan. Bush continued his mission with a plane that was on fire and completed his strafing run — scoring several damaging hits — before bailing out over the sea. Although Bush was rescued by a Navy submarine, the USS Finback (SS 230), a few hours later, his two crew members, Lt. j.g. William White and Radioman Second Class John Delaney, died.

Related: These are the Presidential traditions around the Army-Navy game

“We knew it was going to be a fairly dangerous mission, but this is what our duty was,” Bush, who received the Distinguished Flying Cross, later told the U.S. Naval Institute. “I felt the whole plane jolt forward. It’s when I saw the flame along the wing that I thought, ‘I better get out of here.’ I told the crewmen to get out. I dove out onto the wing. I hit my head on the tail, a glancing blow like this, bleeding like a stuck pig. I dropped into the ocean and I swam over and got into this life raft. I was sick to my stomach. I was scared. If someone didn’t pick me up, I would have been captured and killed. … Suddenly, I saw this periscope and it was the USS Finback.

“People talk about you’re a hero, but there’s nothing heroic about getting shot down, and I wondered, why was I spared when the two friends who were in the plane with me were killed? I don’t know the answer.”

Bush, remained on the Finback for a month and then saw action in the Philippines. Ultimately, he earned three Air Medals for flying 58 missions during World War II. He was discharged after Japan surrendered, then enrolled in Yale University.

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How an airman shot down a Japanese fighter from the cockpit over the Himalayas

One of the most dangerous missions for an Army Air Forces pilot during World War II was a trip flying over “The Hump” – a flight between India and China over the Himalayas. This was true for any aircraft of the era, whether it was a fighter, bomber or transport plane. 

More than a thousand airmen aboard more than 600 planes went down in the Himalayas during World War II, but that’s just an estimate. So many were lost flying over the top of the world, the Army Air Forces couldn’t count them all. 

If a plane did go down in the Himalayas, rescue was uncertain at best. Search and rescue missions were described at worst as “spasmodic,” and at best, “negative.” The presence of Japanese fighters only made it more dangerous

One transport-pilot was so determined not to get shot down in the Himalayas that he shoved a machine gun out his cockpit window and shot an enemy fighter down.

Gen. George C. Marshall hated the The Hump, claiming it bled the Army of its necessary transport planes and may have prolonged the war in the Pacific by nearly a year. He had every right to be skeptical. 

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
High Command, Left to right: Gen. George C. Marshall, Lt. Gen. Frank M. Andrews, Lt. Gen. Henry H. Arnold, Maj. Gen. Oliver P. Echols. USAF photo.

The primary dangers associated with “Flying the Hump” didn’t even register a loss to the enemy. The air up there was just so bad and the flights so long that any pilot – even an experienced one – risked their lives just to fly it. So when an actual enemy fighter did show up, it was bad news for the Air Transport Command. 

That’s what happened to Capt. Wally A. Gayda during one flight over the Himalayas. Gayda was a C-46 Commando transport plane pilot in the USAAF Air Transport Command flying from India to China. He was on his way to Chunking to drop off supplies for Chinese Nationalists fighting the Japanese.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
Curtiss C-46, just out of overhaul and painting in August 1948. One of 157 delivered by air to Nationalist China. Creative Commons license.

His trip was already hazardous for the reasons mentioned above but the weather soon turned harsh, the winds picked up and his crew had trouble operating the aircraft. The Curtiss C-46 was already a whale of a plane. At the time, it was the largest transport aircraft in the world and many pilots wanted nothing to do with it. 

Curtiss’ behemoth transport plane also had a snag for wartime pilots: it was unarmed. So when Capt. Gayda saw a Japanese Nakajima Ki.43 Oscar fighter out the side of his cockpit window, he needed to do something about it in a hurry. Luckily, he had a Browning Automatic Rifle handy.

The BAR in the cockpit of his C-46 was the same kind used by the Army infantry in small formations. The Browning Automatic Rifle was a compact light machine gun that could be used by just one soldier, as it was designed to be fired from the hip, while walking. That was all the pilot needed. Gayda stuck the BAR out of his cockpit window and shot the enemy pilot, downing the plane immediately. 

It was the first air-to-air kill by the C-46 in World War II. The C-46 would go on to have a long and mixed career in the U.S. Air Force and elsewhere, no matter what pilots thought about it. 

Featured image: A C-46 tackles its most famous challenge, the “Hump” route through the Himalayan between India and China. (National Archives)

MIGHTY HISTORY

This powerful speech will get you through deployment Groundhog Day

In 1992, Jim Valvano – a former basketball player, coach of the 1983 champion North Carolina State men’s basketball team, and broadcasting personality – was diagnosed with metastatic cancer that had spread to his spine.


Up until this point, the charismatic Queens, N.Y.-native was best known for his celebration after defeating the Houston Cougars in the 1983 NCAA championship game. You can see “Jimmy V” running onto the court about 9 seconds into the video below:

“Time is very precious to me. I don’t know how much I have left and I have some things that I would like to say. Hopefully, at the end, I will have said something that will be important to other people, too.”

It was just a decade later that his life was tragically cut short. But before he went, even knowing the end could be near, he was able to accept the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award at the first annual ESPY Awards. It was a speech that echoed for years to come and remains one of the most memorable.

Those are words appropriate for fighting cancer, being the underdog in the country’s biggest basketball tournament, or even fighting alongside your brothers and sisters in arms, far from your family and loved ones.

“To me, there are three things we all should do every day… Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy… think about it: If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

But about a week or so before, Jimmy V gave a speech commemorating the Wolfpack’s 1983 NCAA championship to the team, current players, and Wolfpack fans. That speech was one for the ages. It will keep you shouting the mantra of, “Don’t give up! Don’t ever give up!” during any rough time in your life.

 

Jim Valvano died from the cancer he was determined to fight just a month or so after his legendary ESPY Awards speech. His name and spirit live on through the V Foundation for Cancer Research.

Jim Valvano, truly, never gave up.

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This WWII tank crew laid waste and inspired the movie ‘Fury’

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
Photo: US Army


The 3rd Armored Division landed in Normandy on June 24, 1944 with years of training but no combat experience. Over the next 11 months, the division would be part of the fiercest fighting in Europe during World War II. One tank crew in the division would kill 12 tanks, 258 armored vehicles and self-propelled guns, and 1,000 German soldiers in only 79 days. They also captured 250 German prisoners in the fighting.

The colorfully-named tank “In the Mood” was an M4A1 Sherman led by Staff Sgt. Lafayette “Wardaddy” G. Pool. His driver was Cpl. Wilbert Richards, the assistant driver and bow gunner was Pfc. Bert Close, his gunner was Cpl. Willis Oiler, and Tech. 5th Grade Del Boggs was the loader.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
Photo: US Army Signal Corps

In the Mood first saw combat at Villers-Fossard on June 29, 1944. 3rd AD was ordered to attack German positions to give the nearby XIX Corps a chance to straighten out their front lines. During the battle, In the Mood was credited with killing 70 German soldiers and three armored vehicles before it was destroyed by Panzer fire. The crew survived and christened a new Sherman as “In the Mood.”

In another engagement, In the Mood and the rest of 32nd Armored Division stumbled into a group of tanks from the 2nd Panzer Division and were forced to defend themselves at close range. When the rounds stopped flying, the tank crew had successfully killed two armored cars and two enemy tanks as well as a number of German dismounts.

In the Mood took its own hits in the fighting and was destroyed three times. The first tank to bear the name was destroyed at Villers-Fossard. The second was destroyed by friendly fire from a P-38 on August 17, 1944. Finally, the third was destroyed on September 15.

Just south Aachen, Germany, the 3rd AD was attempting to cross over the German border. In the Mood took a hit from a German Panther tank. Pool tried to maneuver the tank out of trouble, but the tank was struck by another shot from the Panther and flipped over into a ditch. Pool was blown out of the commander’s hatch and suffered a massive cut in his leg from shrapnel.

Pool’s leg was amputated and his service in the war was over. He returned to the U.S. for nearly two years of rehabilitation followed by a short period of civilian life. He eventually rejoined the Army and fought his way back to 3rd Armored Division where he became an instructor. He retired from the Army on September 19, 1960.

For his service in Europe, Pool was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Legion of Merit, and the French Croix de Guerre with gold star. His nickname, “Wardaddy,” was used for Brad Pitt’s character in the 2014 movie “Fury.”

NOW: This first-person video shows what tankers see while blowing targets away

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This is the fascinating process of how samurai swords are made

Samurai are some of the most popular and enduring figures of Japanese culture. They are the heroes of poems, stories and movies in Japan and Western countries alike. The Last Samurai, starring Tom Cruise, is perhaps the best-known example of that fascination. Samurai were part of the military noble class in feudal Japan, an era that stretched from the 12th century until 1876. Their role was mostly that of military officers, although they have also taken on the role of administrators when the need arose. Administrator-like samurai were mostly seen during the Edo-era, which spanned from 1603 to 1868.

The Warrior Class

This class of highly-trained warriors adhered to a very strict moral code that placed loyalty and honor above everything else. They had to be fearless, disciplined and stoic in the face of pain or danger. To give their lives on the battlefield for the sake of their master was not only a matter of course, it was a great honor. They obeyed the orders of their lord without question or hesitation. To fail in a task, to be cowardly or to disobey led to shame, disgrace and dishonor. In order to regain this honor, they could commit seppuku, a ritual suicide. However, there could be a conflict of interest when a higher lord was in disagreement with a samurai’s master. There have been records of samurai betraying their lord to follow the Emperor’s command.

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Painting of Ōishi Yoshio committing seppuku in 1703 (Public domain/ Wikimedia Commons)

Symbols of the Samurai

The mark of the samurai was the right to bear two swords. Katana, tachi, wakizashi or tantō, the distinctive curved shape of these swords have made them memorable in war history. The smiths who forged these weapons were often considered both artisans and artists. As the weapon was considered an extension of the warrior’s soul, there was a spiritual dimension to the making of a samurai sword, and often, the smith was blessed by a priest before the beginning of his work.

A samurai sword was made from high-quality steel called tamahagane, which was obtained by smelting iron sand and charcoal in a clay furnace for 72 hours without interruption. The obtained steel was then broken to bits and sorted through by carbon content. The combination of high and low carbon-content steel forged a sword both sharp and strong. The pieces of steel were then heated, hammered and folded repeatedly by the smith (up to 16 times). It helped to distribute carbon more evenly, eliminating impurities and air bubble which could have weakened the sword, as well as creating layers that reinforced the blade.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
This exhibit features the samurai-style sword of Lt. Col. Richard Sakakida, a Japanese American U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps agent who served in the U.S. Army during World War II (U.S. Army)

Once the steel was ready, it was time to properly forge the blade. The core of the blade was made of low-carbon content steel for toughness, while the outer shell was made with high-carbon content steel, providing sharpness. The signature curved shaped was obtained through the cooling process. The blunt side of the blade was covered with a thick coat of clay while the sharp side was only lightly dusted. The blade was then taken out of the fire and plunged into water. The difference in cooling speed caused the blade to contract on one side, thus giving it a curved shape. The slower cooling process of the upper side of the blade also added a lot of flexibility to the weapon. The finished sword was thus meant to ally sharpness, toughness, and flexibility. It was a weapon designed for slashing and was very difficult to break.

Quality Assurance

Before being handed to a samurai, the blade was then polished, mounted and tested. The polishing process could take weeks to obtain a razor-sharp edge. As the samurai’s sword was such a powerful symbol, the creation of the hilt, guard, and scabbard was an art in itself. They were often made with precious materials (ivory, gold, silver, and rare woods) and depicted incredibly detailed carved or hand-painted scenes of Japanese mythology. The final step was to test the quality of the blade, as a samurai had to rely on his sword to survive on the battlefield. It was done by cutting through bamboo or corpses, to verify that it could easily cut through flesh and bone. It’s even speculated that new swords were tested by executing prisoners, as it was considered an honorable way to die.

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Nicole Zurbrugg

The samurai’s final sword was as much a work of art as it was a lethal weapon. The quality of their swords, the rigidity of their moral code, their martial talents, and their fearlessness in the face of death all turned the samurai into warriors of legend–legends that still inspire fascination to this day, over 150 years after their disbanding.


Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

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