The Marines have always tried to ensure that the grunts on the ground get reliable support from other assets, whether that asset is naval gunfire, artillery, or aircraft. Historically, they’ve been willing to consider solutions that might seem completely outside the box in order to get the grunts the support they need to survive — and win — a firefight.
In the earlier years of the Cold War, the Marines turned to a ballistic missile for close support — the MGM-18 Lacrosse. This missile was to supplement artillery by taking out specific targets on the battlefield.
To get this missile into the theatre of operations, the Marines developed a mobile ballistic missile that could be mounted on the back of a truck. The Lacrosse had a range of 12 miles and could be armed with a selection of warheads — either a 540-pound shaped charge or a W40 nuclear warhead. Regardless, whatever this missile hit was sure to feel it.
The United States Army was intrigued by the MGM-18 and quickly took over the program — though the Marines stayed involved. The Lacrosse was guided by forward observers using radio control. Not bad for the late 1950s, but it was very cumbersome, and if the signals were jammed, it could put friendly troops at risk.
The MGM-18 Lacrosse was decades ahead of its time. Ultimately, the Marines decided not to buy the system, but the Army put it to work from 1959 to 1964. Today, sophisticated evolutions of this concept are still used. Troops can designate targets for laser-guided missiles, like the AGM-114 Hellfire, and artillery rounds, like the Copperhead. They also have weapons like the BGM-71 TOW missile and the FGM-148 Javelin. The Lacrosse may not have been the right solution at the time, but today, the idea behind it is going strong.
Learn more about this advanced missile by watching the video below.
Marooned. Left on a sandbar or other island in the middle of nowhere with just a little food, water, and a loaded pistol to end your suffering. In the world of pirates, it was a punishment for breaking the pirates’ code – and was usually fatal. But the real-life Robinson Crusoe survived his marooning and lived to tell the tale of life on an island in the middle of nowhere, completely alone.
Not a Wilson in sight.
Alexander Selkirk was a Scottish sailor with William Dampier’s second expedition to circumnavigate the globe while privateering; legally pirating Spanish ships. Selkirik was aboard a 16-gun ship named Cinque Ports, a ship that was rather unseaworthy. When Selkirk repeatedly complained to Dampier and the captain of the Cinque Ports, the men decided to maroon him on an island off the coast of Chile.
Selkirk didn’t die there, however. While the Cinque Ports later sunk with almost a total loss of her crew, Selkirk survived and was rescued by English privateer Woodes Rogers… four years later. All that for wanting to make repairs to the ship – a ship he was right about needing repairs. The crew that did survive the ships founding off of Colombia were captured by the Spanish and imprisoned.
Which, historically, does not end well.
The islander spent much of his time at first at the shoreline, scanning for ships and eating seafood. But eventually, the sounds of mating sea lions drove him further inland. Despite suffering from crippling loneliness, he managed to domesticate the island’s wild goats and cultivate the local vegetation. He was eventually attacked by the island’s wild rat population, but simply domesticated feral cats to stave off the attackers. He even built two huts from the trees that grew pepper plants.
He soon began to hunt by hand and spear, as his gunpowder was in limited supply anyway. He also began to make new clothes from the skins of his goats. The only ships that stopped on his island were Spanish. Not only did he not get a rescue, he had to hide lest the men torture and imprison him. But eventually, he was rescued by British seamen.
Which, historically, does not end well.
The British sailors were astonished at the life Selkirk made for himself. He had survived an accidental fall from a cliff, learned to hunt and clean the wild animals of the island, and was the picture of physical fitness. Selkirk was even able to address the ships’ illnesses and clear its sailors of scurvy. Selkirk was able to maintain his sanity because the captain of the Cinque Points left him a bible to read and entertain himself. By the time the English came for him, he was still of sound mind, able to command a prize ship and even returned to privateering against the Spanish.
Selkirk was even one of Daniel Defoe’s inspirations for the title character of Robinson Crusoe. The story of the marooned sailor just goes to show no matter how tough things might seem, a little perseverance might see you through. Alexander Selkirk became a national hero while the people who marooned him died tragically, despite his warnings.
The C-47 fulfilled a number of roles in World War II and Korea. It was a supply plane, a plane for dropping paratroopers, and a tow for gliders.
But it was in the Vietnam War that the “Gooney Bird” would get its greatest mission — flying three 7.62mm miniguns through the night to devastate North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces.
The idea for a side-firing gunship had been floating around military circles since at least 1926. In fact, the technique had been tested successfully in 1927 when 1st Lt. Fred Nelson flew a DH-4 with a mounted .30-cal machine gun and destroyed a target on the ground.
But the Army Air Corps and the Army Air Forces never came around to the idea. It was 1963 before the idea of a side-firing aircraft got another serious test. A C-131B modified with gunsights and a minigun was successful in early tests and the experiment was repeated with a C-47.
The U.S. Air Force AC-47 Dragon aircraft flies missions over South Vietnam in support of allied outposts. (Photo: Public Domain)
The final combat variant of the AC-47 consisted of the cargo plane with three 7.62mm miniguns mounted on the left side — two in modified portholes near the cargo door and one in the cargo door itself. The triggers for the three guns were connected to a button in the pilot’s compartment.
If the threat was too large for the AC-47, the flares it dropped would light up the target for follow-on fighters. The AC-47 would stay in the area, directing the attacks by other aircraft.
The AC-47, dubbed “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” by an officer who saw it at work, was so effective that the Air Force launched Project Gunship II, the program which resulted in the AC-130 still in service today.
Though he was peppered by approximately 40 pieces of shrapnel in the blast, he noticed that a flare — activated by another crewmember just before the blast — was rolling around the cargo area.
The flare had yet to fully ignite, but it was only a matter of time before it would, possibly killing the crew on its own and almost certainly causing the cargo hold of ammunition to go off. Levitow crawled to the flare, held the burning implement against his already wounded body, and moved to the door with it.
He was able to throw it out just before the flare ignited.
For decades before 9/11, Americans talked about how they hadn’t been attacked at home since Pearl Harbor, but that actually wasn’t true.
The California coast was attacked less than three months later, and two additional attacks were launched in 1942 alone. Here are five times that America was attacked at home in World War II after Pearl Harbor:
1. Japanese submarines shell California oil refinery
In February 1942, Japan landed its first attack on the American mainland. Submarine I-17 surfaced off the coast of California and proceeded to shell oil processing facilities in Ellwood, a city north of Santa Barbara. The Ellwood attack was believed to have been intentionally timed to take place during one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s fireside chats.
The attack did little real damage. An oil derrick and a pump house were both hit but no personnel were injured or killed and refining operations continued throughout the war.
Luckily for America, the commandos had been recruited from the civilian population and the Nazi party and they were inept. One of the team leaders had slept through much of the 18 days of special training.
The first team was spotted by the Coast Guard while burying their supplies on the New York beach. They got away, but both teams were hunted down by the FBI before they launched any successful operations.
3. A Japanese submarine shells military defenses in Oregon
An I-25 submarine ordered to patrol the American coast surfaced during the night of June 21, 1942, and shelled the coastal defenses at Fort Stevens, Oregon. Most of the rounds buried themselves in the sand on the shore and the damage to the U.S. was mostly on morale.
4. A Japanese plane drops bombs on a logging town
In September 1942, the submarine I-25 tried again, this time with a plane equipped with incendiary bombs. Many submarines at the time carried a single float plane used to search for targets or collect battle damage assessments.
The pilot assigned to I-25, Nobuo Fujita, had proposed that these planes could be used in an offensive capacity.
The Imperial Navy brass agreed to the plan and he was allowed to drop incendiary bombs deep in the forests of southern Oregon. The attack was launched on Sept. 9, 1942, and the early stages were successful. The pilot delivered two incendiary bombs that detonated and spread small fires across hundreds of square yards.
Unfortunately for the Japanese, they had little knowledge of the weather conditions in their target area. The woods had been unseasonably wet from recent rains and thick fogs, so the fires failed to spread.
Still, the FBI and the U.S. Army worried that another attack would be more successful.
The Japanese did indeed try again on Sept. 25, but the fires failed to spread once again.
Only 350 bombs actually made it to the states and spread far and wide, hitting states like Michigan, Iowa, and Kansas. Most failed to start large fires. The only known fatalities from the weapon was when a pregnant woman and her five children came across an unexploded bomb in Oregon.
It exploded while the family was looking at it, killing all six.
In 1966, the U.S. Army’s Sgt. 1st Class Bennie Adkins fought the North Vietnamese Army for almost four days, using whatever was at his disposal: mortars, machine guns, small arms, and hand grenades. He killed as many as 175 enemy troops and was wounded 18 times. Over the course of the battle all of the men of his unit were either killed or wounded.
For his gallantry and bravery, the Army presented him with … the Distinguished Service Cross.
The Distinguished Service Cross, the U.S. military’s second highest military honor, is no small award, but after all was said and done, after all the participants were interviewed and the communications during the fighting were scrutinized, Adkins actions that day in Vietnam called for the highest honor the U.S. can bestow on its armed forces. Why he did not receive the Medal of Honor back then is unclear.
After a lot of lobbying by Alabama Congressman Mike Rogers and then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the award was upgraded in 2014. Adkins, having achieved the rank of Army Command Sergeant Major, was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama in a White House ceremony.
Here’s an excerpt from Adkins’ Medal of Honor citation:
When Adkins’ camp was attacked by a large North Vietnamese and Viet Cong force in the early morning hours of March 9, 1966, Sergeant First Class Adkins rushed through intense enemy fire and manned a mortar position continually adjusting fire for the camp, despite incurring wounds as the mortar pit received several direct hits from enemy mortars.
Upon learning that several soldiers were wounded near the center of camp, he temporarily turned the mortar over to another soldier, ran through exploding mortar rounds and dragged several comrades to safety. As the hostile fire subsided, Adkins exposed himself to sporadic sniper fire while carrying his wounded comrades to the camp dispensary.
When Adkins and his group of defenders came under heavy small arms fire from members of the Civilian Irregular Defense Group that had defected to fight with the North Vietnamese, he maneuvered outside the camp to evacuate a seriously wounded American and draw fire all the while successfully covering the rescue.
When a resupply air drop landed outside of the camp perimeter, Adkins, again, moved outside of the camp walls to retrieve the much needed supplies.
During the early morning hours of March 10, 1966, enemy forces launched their main attack and within two hours, Adkins was the only man firing a mortar weapon. When all mortar rounds were expended, Adkins began placing effective recoilless rifle fire upon enemy positions. Despite receiving additional wounds from enemy rounds exploding on his position, Adkins fought off intense waves of attacking Viet Cong.
Adkins eliminated numerous insurgents with small arms fire after withdrawing to a communications bunker with several soldiers. Running extremely low on ammunition, he returned to the mortar pit, gathered vital ammunition and ran through intense fire back to the bunker. After being ordered to evacuate the camp, Adkins and a small group of soldiers destroyed all signal equipment and classified documents, dug their way out of the rear of the bunker, and fought their way out of the camp.
While carrying a wounded soldier to the extraction point he learned that the last helicopter had already departed. Adkins led the group while evading the enemy until they were rescued by helicopter on March 12, 1966.
During the ceremony, Adkins, who used a cane for mobility, stood at attention, unassisted, as the president put the Medal of Honor around his collar. He saluted the crowd and then walked off stage. “This Medal of Honor belongs to the other 16 Special Forces soldiers with me,” he said.
Adkins passed away in April 2020 following complications with COVID-19.
Throughout the Cold War, as the nuclear arms race became more frantic, a nuclear confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union remained a major concern.
With intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched missiles, and air-dropped bombs, both countries had several options when it came to nuclear warfare.
But the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the closing days of World War II made clear the destructive capability of nuclear arms and the danger of a full-blown nuclear conflict.
As a result, US strategists sought ways to use nuclear weapons without triggering an all-out nuclear war.
The tactical nuclear option
In the 1950s, the US military came up with the tactical nuclear option, using weapons with a lower yield and range than their strategic counterparts.
These weapons would be used on the battlefield or against a military-related target to gain an operational advantage. For example, the Air Force could drop a tactical nuclear bomb on a Soviet division invading Poland to stop its advance without triggering a disproportionate response — such as a nuclear attack on New York City.
There were two types of tactical nuclear munitions: The Medium Atomic Demolition Munition (MADM) had a medium-yield payload and required several troops to carry it. The Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SADM) had a low-yield payload but could be carried by one soldier.
The order to use tactical nuclear weapons would still have to come from both political and military authorities. SADMs were subject to the same command-and-control procedures as other tactical nuclear weapons and meant to be used only if there were no other means of creating the desired effect.
Specially trained Green Berets were assigned to Green Light Teams. Their purpose was to clandestinely deploy in NATO or Warsaw Pact countries and detonate their SADMs in a conflict with the Soviets. The Pentagon later included North Korea and Iran on the target list.
Green Light Teams’ main targets were tunnels, major bridges, mountain passes, dams, canals, ports, major railroad hubs, oil facilities, water-plant factories, and underground storage or operations facilities.
In other words, SADMs were intended to either slow down the enemy by destroying or significantly altering the landscape or target the logistical, communications, and operations hubs that are vital to an army, especially during offensive operations.
Green Light Teams primarily carried the MK-54 SADM. Nicknamed the “Monkey” or “Pig,” the device weighed almost 60 pounds and could fit in a large rucksack.
In each team, there was a chief operator who was primarily responsible for the activation of the SADM. He and other members of the team held the codes required to activate the bomb.
Like every Green Beret team, Green Light teams were trained in various insertion methods, including parachuting — both static line and military free fall — skiing, and combat diving.
Free falling was probably the most realistic insertion method other than ground infiltration, but doing it with the device was tough.
During parachute insertions, the chief operator seldom got to jump with the device because it had a high probability of injury for the jumper, and the chief operator was key to mission success.
An operator would have to strap the SADM between his legs like a rucksack, but the device would work against him as he tried to stabilize in the air before deploying his parachute. Even in static-line parachuting, when the ripcord is hooked to the plane, there would still be issues.
Paratroopers will release their rucksacks or other heavy cargo attached to them via a line moments before landing to prevent injuries. But the SADM tended to get stuck between the jumper’s feet in the crucial seconds before landing, resulting in several sprained ankles and broken legs.
Everything closely associated with Green Light Teams was top secret, and the seriousness of the mission followed Green Light operators outside work. They were instructed to travel only on US airliners and never to fly above a communist country in case the plane had to make an emergency landing, which could lead to them being held by local authorities.
No one is coming for us
A common thread among successive generations of Green Light Teams was their distrust of leadership when it came to their specific mission.
“During training, the instructors had told us we had about 30 minutes to clear the blast radius of the device. We never really believed that,” a retired Special Forces operator who served on a Green Light Team told Insider.
“In every other mission, teams would have an extraction plan. We didn’t. It was all up to us to get the hell out of dodge. But that’s not how the Army works. So that’s why we never really believed that we could get out alive in case we had to use one of those things. It was a one-way mission,” the retired Green Beret added.
There were Green Light teams forward deployed in Europe — even in Berlin — always on standby to launch. Some Green Light Teams even sought to forward deploy inside East Germany to be ready in case the Soviets unleashed their military on Western Europe.
Green Light Teams also deployed to South Korea at different times and were on standby in case tensions with North Korea turned into war.
With the end of the Cold War, the Green Light Teams were deactivated. They were never used in a real-world operation.
Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.
In 1096, Pope Urban II took a good hard look at this new “crossbow” thing and gave it all of the nopes. No Christians were to use it in any battle against a fellow Christian on the punishment of excommunication and eternal damnation of the soul. But the weapon that would act as the precursor to the rifle was simply too valuable to leave on a shelf.
A figure depicting a crossbowman who helped execute Saint Sebastian in the later 15th Century.
(Gun Powder Ma, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Crossbows were already an old weapon when European knights first ran into them in the 900s. Ancient Europeans had used similar weapons, but crossbow-like designs had fallen out of favor in Europe by the year 500 A.D., and few Europeans would’ve recognized them before their resurgence in the late 900s and 1000s.
But French use, as well as use by Eastern nations who had never stopped using the weapon, brought it back into the lexicon of European warfare.
And Western knights did not like it. Their armor protected them from most weapons they would face with the exception of the longbow, a weapon that took years to learn and decades to master. But crossbows could slice right through the armor at greater range than even a longbow, and shooters could be trained in hours or days.
The French were the ones who brought the crossbow back into European warfare. The English had a huge advantage when it came to bowmen, especially longbowmen, and France and England fought often. But while crossbow shooters could fire at greater ranges and with less training than soldiers equipped with a longbow, the weapon did have disadvantages.
Crossbows fire only two rounds per minute while good archers with longbows could fire 10. And crossbow units needed supporting staff and spare parts that weren’t necessary with traditional archers. They were also more susceptible to weather damage because it was harder to remove and replace their sensitive strings.
Saint Sebastian was martyred by archers, reportedly at least one of which was using a crossbow.
(Hans Baldung, public domain)
But it couldn’t last. Kings used the weapons against pagans and Muslims, but then had to leave the men behind while fighting against each other in Europe. By the early 1200s, they were once again common in European combat. Crossbowmen played a crucial role for Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in 1238.
In fact, just a year later, Pope Gregory IV used mounted crossbowmen against the Lombard League, an alliance of European kingdoms that were all Christian. Yeah, the allure of crossbow power was so strong that a pope employed them against Christian forces.
The Manhattan Project, America’s nuclear bomb program, was one of the most expensive research and development undertakings of WWII. In total, the program cost about $2 billion, or nearly $30 billion in 2021 adjusted for inflation. However, there was one program that was 50% more expensive than the Manhattan Project. It was pushed through though because it was necessary for the Manhattan Project to work and the war to be won.
Since 1937, China had been fighting the Japanese largely on its own. By 1943, President Roosevelt feared that China would pull out of the war amidst mounting losses and free up a large portion of Japan’s military to refocus its efforts against the U.S. At the Cairo Conference in November 1943, Roosevelt pledged his support to Chinese General Chiang Kai-shek and his fight against the Japanese. Roosevelt committed America’s newest bomber, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, to bomb Japan from bases in China and India by the spring of 1944.
When Roosevelt made his promise to the Chinese, less than 100 B-29s had been built, and only 15% of them were actually flyable. The revolutionary long-distance high-altitude bomber was incredibly complex and required extensive testing and evaluation to make it combatworthy. Moreover, wartime pressure and Roosevelt’s promise only further strained the bomber’s development.
Additionally, the sophisticated aircraft needed highly trained crewmembers to fly it. By the time of the Cairo Conference, less than 75 pilots were checked out in the B-29 and very few aircrews were fully trained and certified on it. Workers also had to be trained on how to build the B-29. With its pressurized cabin, central fire-control system, and four massive 18-cylinder 2,200 horsepower engines, among other complexities, the B-29 was not an easy plane to build. Initially, over 150,000 man-hours were needed to build one aircraft.
The B-29 was needed to fulfill Roosevelt’s promise because it exceeded the range of America’s existing B-17 Flying Fortress. While a capable bomber in its own right, the B-17 just didn’t have the legs for a roundtrip bombing run to the Japanese mainland. It was also incapable of carrying and delivering the atomic bomb being developed by the Manhattan Project. Only the B-29 could deploy the nuclear weapons in development.
So, hurried development of the B-29 was pressed on with little regard for cost, monetary or labor wise. Though B-29s and their components were assembled across the country from Washington to Georgia, the majority of B-29 work was done at Boeing’s plants in Wichita, Kansas. With production so rushed, much of the assembly line was located outdoors. The workforce battled heavy snowfall and negative temperatures during the winter of 1943-1944 to keep B-29s flowing into the hands of aircrews. On some days, workers could only operate in 20 minute stretches before they had to retreat to the warmth of one of the gasoline heaters laid out on the flight line.
Despite the best efforts of everyone involved, Roosevelt’s promise was not met, though he determined that it was close enough. The first 130 B-29s made the 11,500-mile journey from the U.S. to airbases in China and India by May 8, 1944. On June 15, 68 B-29s took off for the first bombing of the Japanese mainland since the Doolittle Raid of 1942. Unfortunately, the mission failed to hit its target and resulted in the loss of six aircraft. This was a huge blow to the B-29 program which cost the American taxpayer $3 billion, or just over $44.5 billion in 2021. Furthermore, the remote bases in China and India could only be resupplied by air which was risky and limited in capacity.
In January 1945, General Henry “Hap” Arnold placed General Curtiss LeMay in charge of operations against Japan. LeMay switched the B-29’s tactics from high-altitude precision bombing, which was largely ineffective, to low-level firebombings. These proved to be deadly against Japan since its cities were made largely of wood. Moreover, the capture of the Marianas gave the U.S. a base from which to launch B-29s with easier and more consistent supply access by ship. With the delivery of two atomic bombs on August 6 and 9, the B-29 proved its worth as a strategic bomber. Under LeMay’s leadership, the aircraft’s image changed from over-budget governmental waste to a symbol of American airpower in the nuclear age.
Dr. Seuss is a story-writing legend in America. It’s hard to find anyone who hasn’t read “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “The Cat in the Hat,” “The Lorax” or “Horton Hears A Who!”
Army Master Sgt. Nekia Haywood reads to children at Hopkins Elementary School in Chesterfield, Va., March 2, 2018, in celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday.
(Photo by Fran Mitchell, Army)
But well before those iconic books were written, Dr. Seuss joined the World War II effort on the home front using his real name, Theodor Seuss Geisel.
At first, he drew posters for the Treasury Department and the War Production Board. But by 1943, Geisel wanted to do more, so he joined the U.S. Army. He was put in command of the animation department of the 1st Motion Picture Unit, which was created out of the Army Signal Corps. There, he wrote pamphlets and films and contributed to the famous Private Snafu cartoon series.
Army Maj. Theodor Geisel.
Private Snafu — which stood for situation normal, all fouled up — was a series of adult instructional cartoons meant to relate to the noncareer soldier. They were humorous and sometimes even raunchy. According to the National Archives’ Special Media Archives Services Division, Geisel and his team believed that the risque subject matter would help keep soldiers’ attention, and because the Snafu series was for Army personnel only, producers could avoid traditional censorship.
Geisel’s cartoons were often featured on Army-Navy Screen Magazine, a biweekly production of several short segments.
Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel at work on a drawing of the Grinch, the hero of his children’s book, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
(Library of Congress photo)
One of Geisel’s most significant military works, however, wasn’t animated. It was called “Your Job in Germany” and was an orientation film for soldiers who would occupy Germany after the war was over. Geisel, who was German-American himself, was assigned to write it a year before the Germans surrendered.
According to Geisel’s biography, “Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel,” Geisel said he was sent to Europe during the war to screen the film in front of top generals for approval. He happened to be in Belgium in December 1944, when the Battle of the Bulge — Hitler’s last big counteroffensive in Belgium’s Ardennes forest — erupted. According to his biography, Geisel was trapped 10 miles behind enemy lines, and it took three days before he and his military police escort were rescued by British forces.
According to National Archives staff, it’s possible that the snafu cartoons influenced Geisel’s career as Dr. Seuss. Throughout Snafu, Geisel started using limited vocabulary and rhyme — something noticeable in his later works like “The Cat in the Hat,” which used only 236 words but is one of the best-selling books of all time.
Air Force Gen. John Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, shares a “The Cat in the Hat” reading hat before he reads to children at the child development center at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., April 26, 2018.
(Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Julie R. Matyascik)
Geisel left the Army in January 1946, having attained the rank of lieutenant colonel. He stayed in the filmmaking industry for a few years, even working on documentaries and shorts that earned Academy Awards, but he eventually switched to using his pen name, Dr. Seuss, to start writing children’s books.
Sergeant Fritz Niland had more to do with Band of Brothers than Saving Private Ryan – save for being the inspiration for the movie’s central plot. Historian Steven Ambrose even wrote about Niland in his book, “Band of Brothers – E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne, from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.” Niland, like the fictional Ryan, lost three brothers in combat, and found out about them all in the same day.
Sadly, his mother did too.
From left to right, the Niland Brothers, Edward, Preston, Robert, and Fritz.
No one had to go searching for Sgt. Niland. He didn’t need to be saved. Niland went looking for his brothers after D-Day, while assigned to the 101st Airborne Division in Europe. His brother Bob was in the 82d Airborne, also fighting in Europe. While looking for his brother Bob, he discovered Bob was killed on D-Day. According to Ambrose, Bob Niland’s platoon was surrounded, so Bob manned a machine gun to harass the Germans so his unit could break through. They did, and Bob went through three boxes of ammo before he was killed in action. Fritz then went searching for another brother, Preston.
Preston Niland was a second lieutenant and platoon leader in the 4th Infantry Division. He too landed on D-Day, but with his men at Utah Beach. Fritz discovered that Preston Niland was killed in action on D+1 at Normandy’s Crisbecq Battery. Fritz returned to the 506th with the heartbreaking news. The news got worse from there.
Frederick “Fritz” Niland is buried at Fort Richardson National Cemetery, Alaska.
Upon returning to his unit, Father Francis Sampson informed Fritz Niland that a third brother was killed by the enemy. Technical Sergeant Edward Niland, who had been imprisoned by the Japanese in the China-India-Burma theater was considered killed in action. Fritz Niland was now the sole surviving son of his family. The Army decided to send him home as soon as possible. His mother had received all three War Department telegrams on the same day. No platoon was sent to take him home, instead, Father Samson escorted Niland to Utah Beach, where he was flown home to complete his service stateside.
Luckily, Edward Niland wasn’t actually dead. He’d been held prisoner by the Japanese after being shot down in May 1944. He was held for over a year before being liberated in 1945. Word had not yet come to the European theater when Fritz found out about his brothers. The two surviving brothers actually moved to their native Tonawanda, N.Y. when they left the Army, and Edward actually outlived Fritz by a full year. Edward died in 1984, while Fritz passed in 1983.
Robert and Preston are buried side-by-side at the American Cemetery near Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France.
The French and Indian War is known as the North American theater and the beginning of the Seven Years’ War. The shots fired in Pennsylvania would become the first in the world’s “first global war.” But how much do you know about the early career of George Washington and the catalyst for the American Revolution?
1. It all began in the Ohio River Valley.
With British America slowly grabbing land westward from the colonies and New French creeping south from modern-day Canada, the two were bound to crash into each other. New France ranged from The Saint Lawrence River Valley through Quebec, Detroit, St. Louis, to New Orleans. British America consisted of what would be the 13 colonies, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Rupert’s Land.
Both sides pushed into the Ohio River Valley for its vast resources and strategic advantage.
2. The rise of a 21 year old Lieutenant Colonel by the name of George Washington.
In 1753, a young George Washington was sent as an emissary to the French officials to deliver the British demands that they leave Ohio Country. On his way, he traveled with “Half King” Tanacharison and three of his tribesmen. After the demands were declined, Washington learned of the French plans to “take possession of the Ohio.”
Washington, Tanacharison, and men from both sides ambushed a camp of 35 Canadiens (French Canadians) under the command of Joseph Coulon de Jumonville. Washington himself ordered the shots starting the French and Indian War. After ten French soldiers were killed and 21 captured, Tanacharison, without warning, struck Jumonville in the head with a tomahawk. Historians are unsure why he did this, but he was sold as a slave by the French as a child.
Bonus Fact: If you haven’t been keeping up with your simple math skills, the Battle of Jumonville Glenn was in 1754 and the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763 — meaning the war lasted technically nine years. (Great Britain declared it a war two years later. Hence the name.)
3. Both sides found allies in the Native Tribes and other European Kingdoms.
Despite the name of “The French and Indian War,” not all Native Americans fought along side the French. The Iroquois Confederacy chose no side until they joined the British in 1758.
The ragtag colonists that fought along side the British were the inspiration for the song “Yankee Doodle.” Meant as an insult, it became a badge of honor for patriots during the Revolution.
Outside of North America, Great Britain was joined by Prussia and Portugal. While France made allies of Spain, The Holy Roman Empire, Russia, and Sweden.
4. The British lost much of the war until money was poured in.
The Brits didn’t have nearly the right supplies or the amount of troops needed to take on France. They were pushed back to the 13 colonies. This changed when William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham (and namesake for Pittsburgh, PA) took control of the British war effort. He doubled the British national debt to £140 Million — or £26.46 Billion today, adjusted for inflation.
Great Britain won the won at the Battle of Quebec. This forced France to sign the Treaty of Paris, establishing British dominance outside of Europe.
5. Great Britain’s war debt is why they taxed American colonies to the point of revolution.
And how does a nation pay for its substantial debt? By taxing the hell out of its subjects, of course! In this sense, the French and Indian war was a catalyst for future conflict.
The Sugar Act and Stamp Act were enacted. These taxes highly punished American colonists for the wars of other nations. This was done without the acknowledgement or consent of the colonists.
In case you didn’t know, American colonists weren’t exactly fans of taxation without representation.
For more videos check out HISTORY Videos down below:
Seventy-five years ago, tens of thousands of men were churning their way through the hedgerows of Normandy, fighting tooth and nail to liberate French towns and to ensure the security of the tenuous toehold that the Allies had opened against Germany in Operation Overlord on D-Day. This toehold would grow until it was a massive front that made it all the way to Berlin in less than a year.
Now, 75 years later, the U.S. and Allied militaries are celebrating their forebears’ success with a series of events in the U.K. and France. As part of these celebrations, the U.S. Air Force flew two F-15E Strike Eagles with special, heritage paint jobs over the fields and hedgerows of modern day Normandy on June 9, 2019. Here are 13 photos from an Air Force photographer sent to document the event:
(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
The special Strike Eagles are part of the 48th Fighter Wing and took off from Royal Air Force Base Lakenheath, England, for the flyover. During the D-Day invasion, U.S. Army Air Corps fighters and bombers took off from English air bases to support the landings on the beaches, pushing back the Luftwaffe screens and reducing the number of bombers and dive bombers that troops on the ground would have to endure.
(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
The Army Air Corps’ bombs softened targets and reduced enemy artillery positions and other defenses, but the fight in the hedgerows was still bloody and vicious. And the German coastal artillery had to be eliminated to keep as many pilots in the sky as possible.
(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
But the pilots who preceded the modern Air Force began the important preparations for D-Day months ahead of time, sending increased bomber formations against Germany, including Berlin, for five months ahead of D-Day. These bomber formations doomed the Luftwaffe, Germany’s air force, in two ways.
(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
First, there’s the obvious. The bombers destroyed German factories and war machines, annihilating German equipment and crippling the country’s ability to rebuild it. But Germany responded by sending up their fighters to stop the bombers, and that’s where new American fighters came into the fray.
(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
The P-47s with drop tanks led the charge in 1943, but other fighters joined the fray at the end of ’43 and start of ’44. The P-51B, along with other fighters including the British Spitfires and Typhoons, slayed the German fighters that rose to counter the bombers. By June 1944, the Luftwaffe was a shadow of its former self.
(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
Army Air Corps pilots gave their lives to prepare for June 6, 1944, and other pilots would make the ultimate sacrifice on D-Day and in the weeks and months that followed. But that perseverance and sacrifice paid dividends, allowing for the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany in May 1945.
Future U.S. General of the Army and President Dwight D. Eisenhower was just a recently promoted and temporary brigadier general when the U.S. was dragged into World War II on December 7, 1941. One week later, he would have a meeting with Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George C. Marshall that would change the trajectory of his career and life.
Army Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower speaks to paratroopers before D-Day invasions.
It’s easy to forget that Eisenhower was a relatively junior officer with no battlefield experience at the start of World War II. Like future-Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr., Eisenhower saw the potential of tanks in World War I and helped create American armored doctrine and units. But where Patton was sent forward to lead the tanks into combat in France, Eisenhower was kept in America to oversee production and logistics.
For the next few decades, he would serve in staff and command positions, earning accolades of nearly all the officers he served with. He dabbled in aviation, though he never earned his military wings, and kept abreast of other military developments in order to prepare for future conflict.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall picked Eisenhower for a leading position on his staff and then in North Africa from a pool of over 400 qualified candidates, many of them with more experience than Eisenhower.
(Dutch National Archives)
In 1940, it was clear that the fighting in Europe would likely boil over, and Japan was already years into its own warpath in the Pacific. So, the Army held massive war games to test its readiness for war, and Eisenhower once again rose to the top, earning him a temporary promotion to brigadier general in September 1941.
So, in December 1941, Eisenhower was still untested in battle, had never commanded above the battalion level, and was younger, less experienced, and lower ranking than many of the officers that an Army chief of staff would reach out to for help. But Marshall, who had only met Eisenhower twice, knew that the man had a reputation for natural leadership.
Eisenhower, the department is filled with able men who analyze their problems well but feel always compelled to bring them to me for final solution. I must have assistants who will solve their own problems and tell me later what they’ve done.
The Queen Mary in June 1945.
Eisenhower would later write that, after saying those words, Marshall “looked at me with an eye that seemed to me awfully cold, and so, as I left the room, I resolved then and there to do my work to the best of my ability and report to the General only situations of obvious necessity or when he personally sent for me.”
This relationship between the men would soon be tested. Eisenhower, trying to keep the unnecessary work off Marshall, made the decision to send 15,000 men to Australia on the British ship Queen Mary to reinforce allies there. He did not ask Marshall for guidance, and he ordered that the ship could proceed without escort, trusting secrecy and the ship’s speed to get the division to safe harbor.
When the ship stopped for fuel in Brazil, though, an Italian official spotted it and sent word to his superiors in Rome. Italy was an Axis power, and any valuable intelligence known in Rome would likely be passed to German U-boats quickly.
General of the Army Eisenhower and Marshall greet pass crowds at an Army air field in July 1945.
(Abbie Rowe, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
Eisenhower’s office received an intercepted copy of the message.
The Queen Mary just refueled here, and with about 15,000 soldiers aboard left this port today steaming southeast across the Atlantic.
Knowing that he could not recall the ship or send it an escort without creating more dangers, Eisenhower sat on the news and waited to see how it would play out. When the ship arrived safely in port, he breathed a sigh of relief and then went to his boss, prepared to confess and face the consequences. “I suspected—with obvious reason—that I might be ignominiously dismissed from the presence of the Chief of Staff, if not from the Army,” he later wrote.
Instead, Marshall heard the news and grinned, telling Eisenhower that he had received the same intercept at the same time, he just wasn’t going to burden Eisenhower with the worry until he knew how the gamble played out.
Marshall’s faith in Eisenhower proved well-placed, and the two men worked together even as Eisenhower’s meteoric rise made him Marshall’s peer instead of subordinate. (Eisenhower was promoted to General of the Army, a five-star rank, only four days after Marshall.)
In December of 1945, the war was over, and America was preparing for a turbulent peace. Eisenhower once again reported to the Army Chief of Staff’s office, this time to replace his old boss.