This is how the 'Miracle at Dunkirk' saved World War II for the Allies - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

From May 26 to Jun. 4, 1940, one of the largest evacuations in human history saved approximately 338,000 Allied troops and gave the Allies the strength to continue resisting Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich.


The operation was more successful than the planners’ wildest dreams, partially because of the skill and bravery of boat crews and troops but also because of horrible decisions by the German high command.

The days leading up to the evacuation were characterized by one of the most effective German Blitzkriegs. British, Belgian, and French forces were falling back across France and a thrust by Germany through the Ardennes successfully cut the Allied force in half. By May 19, Britain was looking for ways to get its expeditionary force back across the channel.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies
Troops line up on the beaches in hopes of rescue at Dunkirk. Photo: Imperial War Museum

A failed counterattack on May 21 sealed France’s fate but Germany’s advances made it appear impossible to stage a large evacuation. The Germans crossed the canals near Dunkirk by May 24 and were about to capture Dunkirk, the last port the British could feasibly use. Luckily, Hitler ordered his Panzers to stop advancing and to even fall back a short distance to the canals.

Hitler’s reasoning is a source of debate, but two main factors are thought to have been uppermost in his mind.

First, Hermann Goering may have been successful in his attempts to convince the fuhrer that the Luftwaffe could kill the troops on the beaches of Dunkirk . Also, there was a chance that Hitler believed that Britain was more likely to surrender if it hadn’t been embarrassed and didn’t have the slaughter of approximately 200,000 of its own troops to rally around.

Unfortunately for Hitler, Britain sent nearly the entirety of the Royal Air Force, including planes from the defensive-in-nature British Metropolitan Air Force, to cover Operation Dynamo. Working with French and British navy ships in the waters below, they were able to establish a weak air superiority over the beaches and parts of the channel, limiting the chances for the Luftwaffe to attack.

On May 25, King George VI declared a national day of prayer and attended a special service at Westminster Abbey. The next day, Operation Dynamo kicked off. Almost 400,000 British, Belgian, and French troops lined up in the water and on the beaches in hopes of rescue. Senior commanders were skeptical that they could get even 25 percent of them to safety.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies
British troops walk through the water to waiting ships. Photo: Imperial War Museum

In a perimeter around Dunkirk, British and French units prepared to fight delaying actions, often to the last man, to give their buddies a chance to retreat. On May 26, these troops were sorely tested. The Belgian King Leopold, whose troops were cut off in small pockets and being quickly overwhelmed, surrendered and Hitler allowed the Panzers to attack Dunkirk.

As the tanks crashed against the defenders, the Royal Air Force and other planes desperately fought to keep the Germans away from the ships. The Royal Navy was attempting to evacuate as many men as possible, but found itself unable to keep up.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies
Soldiers from the British Expeditionary Force fire at low flying German aircraft during the Dunkirk evacuation

British leaders finally announced to the public how desperate the situation on the beaches was. Dunkirk was burning to the ground and troops were being bombed on the sand and strafed as they stood neck-deep in the water. The public responded valiantly, cobbling together hundreds of privately-owned vessels to form a flotilla of “Little Ships” that became a symbol of British perseverance.

The action drug on for days as six destroyers, eight personnel ships, and about 200 small craft were sunk and tens of thousands of men were killed or captured. But, 338,000 troops were rescued, approximately 140,000 from the British Expeditionary Force and 198,000 from the Polish, French, and Belgian armies. Forty-thousand were lost, either captured or killed.

In Britain, “Dunkirk Spirit” became a symbol of national pride, an embodiment of how Britons could come together to face down any foe and overcome any challenge. Prime Minister Winston Churchill spoke in the House of Commons, saying that Britain would fight on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields, and in the streets.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the Queen of England could legally get away with murder

Mavos asks: If the queen happened to kill someone can she be prosecuted?

As the current monarch of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and a bunch of other countries that have her on their money, the Queen enjoys something known as sovereign immunity. In a nutshell, sovereign, or crown immunity as it is sometimes known, means that the Queen is for all intents and purposes above the law. So does this mean that the Queen could just up and kill somebody if she felt like it, all the while getting off scot free? In theory, yes, absolutely.


It turns out the queen can commit any crime just about anywhere in the world and get away with it legally thanks to the fact that she enjoys both sovereign immunity and diplomatic immunity. As we’ve discussed in our article on whether diplomats can really get away with murder, diplomatic immunity is so exceptionally far reaching in its scope that a person protected by it could indeed go all Lethal Weapon 2 on everyone with total impunity.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

The one problem for those diplomats, however, is that their home nations would in all likelihood not take kindly to them doing so and, beyond recalling them, they’d likely face prosecution at home for these acts if they were serious enough crimes. (Although, as we discussed in that piece, minor crimes like flouting any and all traffic rules and racking up many thousands of dollars in parking tickets without bothering to ever pay tends to be seemingly every nations’ diplomats favorite pastime.)

Going back to the queen, however, unlike most with diplomatic immunity, she does not technically have to worry about what anyone in the UK thinks.

You see, part of her immunity stems from the fact that all justice in the United Kingdom and various other countries she rules is meted out in her name. Now, obviously the Queen doesn’t personally dispense justice like the Kings and Queens of yore, among other reasons because doing so would be impractical. As a result of this, whilst the Queen is considered the “fount of justice” for her subjects, the ability to administer it is doled out to judges across Britain — all of whom are granted the post-nominal of QC (standing for Queen’s Counsel) as a nod to their position as an extension of the Queen’s will.

Likewise, the Crown Court similarly dispenses justice in the Queen’s name and as a result, all cases brought before it are tried as The Crown Versus *Blank*. Unsurprisingly from this, it is not technically possible for the Queen herself to be tried before the Crown Court as it would involve her prosecuting, well, herself.

Looking more deeply, her sovereign immunity also makes it so that the Queen cannot be tried in civil proceedings either, meaning she cannot be sued or have other such civil proceedings brought against her. The Queen also cannot be forced to testify in open court or even be interviewed by the police, not that this matters seeing as she also can’t be arrested.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

And even if she could be legally arrested for a crime, it wouldn’t matter anyway. You see, technically no arrest can be made “in the monarch’s presence” without her consent. Thus, arresting her is impossible on this count too because it would most definitely have to happen in her presence.

In addition, as if it being impossible to arrest someone just standing near the Queen, let alone the Queen herself, this protection extends to her various palaces too, meaning the police can’t arrest anyone, including the Queen, in any place she currently inhabits unless she gives assent.

It’s perhaps also worth mentioning that all prisoners in the United Kingdom are held “at her Majesty’s leisure” (which is why the Queen can pardon criminals if she so wills it), meaning she could just walk out of prison anyway by telling everyone to let her go.

Speaking of the police, as with the justice system, they too are charged with dispensing justice in the Queen’s name and all members of British law enforcement, upon joining the force, must swear an oath that reads, in part — “I will well and truly serve the Queen in the office of constable.”

Or to put it another way, the Queen is the absolute authority of the entire UK policing system and her word is, quite literally, law. As a result, the Queen could theoretically shut down any attempt made to arrest her by simply telling the officer to go away.

Now you might say if she did all this, surely Parliament would step in and curtail the murderous Queen’s powers to ensure she could be prosecuted.

The problem is that all laws proposed by Parliament require what is known as Royal Assent before they can be enshrined into British law. As the name suggests, Royal Assent comes directly from the Queen herself so a parliament looking to prosecute the Queen would need the Queen to authorise the bill limiting her own powers, which she obviously would not do if she suddenly decided to start treating life like a game of Grand Theft Auto.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

Another avenue that could be pursued in regards to prosecuting the Queen would be to force her to abdicate, removing the many protections she enjoys. To be clear though, this wouldn’t necessarily open the Queen up to prosecution as, under British law, nothing she does as Queen can be considered illegal — it’d just mean she could be prosecuted for any further crimes she happened to commit after.

It’s also worth noting here that the Queen has the power to completely dissolve Parliament if she so chooses and cause a whole new set of people to be elected. And if this group displeased her, she is free to do it again and again. It’s also the Queen’s duty to appoint the prime minister and she could, in theory, appoint anyone she wanted to the position, regardless of the way the British public voted in any elections. So installing someone who would do what she wanted would not be any real hurdle.

Thus, it would take a literal revolution for Parliament to rewrite the laws concerning the Queen without her consent.

There’s a potential problem with this too, though. You see, the Queen is the Commander-in-chief of the British Armed Forces. As former professional head of the British Armed forces, Lord Charles Guthrie once noted, “The armed forces are loyal, and we live in a democracy, but actually their ultimate authority is the Queen.”

Yes, like with the police, every member of the Armed Forces in Britain swears an oath of fealty to the Queen and she is considered the ultimate authority in regards to military matters. Thus, if there was an attempt at a Parliamentary revolution and members of Parliament refused to step down as they were rewriting British law without the Queen’s consent, she could simply order the British Armed Forces to forcibly remove them from power or even line them all up and have them executed. The question then would be, in such a scenario, would they honor their oaths to the Queen?

Speaking of her power over the various groups of highly trained armed forces, the Queen has a remarkable number of ways she could theoretically kill someone if she felt so inclined, without need to get her own hands bloody. For example, she could instruct a crack team of SAS commandos to silently make a person disappear, tell her personal guard to charge them with their bayonets, or ask the Red Arrows to crash into someone’s house.

Again, whether the soldier, sailor or airmen in question would honor their oaths and listen to the order is another matter entirely — but the point is, if the Queen ever gave such an order there is no authority on Earth that could legally override it save for herself.

On top of that, if any investigation was every put in place to see why these soldiers had gone on their murder spree, the Queen not only could not be questioned in court, as previously mentioned, but also ignore the matter entirely as, despite her prominent political position, she and everything to do with her private life are exempt from any Freedom of Information requests.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies


If the Queen felt particularly gung-ho she could even personally declare war on any nation or person and, thanks to her Royal Prerogative, need not consult anyone about it before hand. In fact, she could even authorise a nuclear strike on a person anywhere in the world via Britain’s secretive and expansive network of nuclear submarines, again thanks to the fact that all of the men and women stationed aboard these vessels swear to put the Queen’s orders before all others.

Now you might say a foreign power might get pretty upset if that nuclear strike happened on their soil, and the International Criminal Courts might also try to step in, but if they decided to tangle with this rather formidable woman, the Queen could theoretically make her army larger by commandeering any ships that entered British waters (another power of hers) and by commanding the various armies of the commonwealth (all of whom swear a similar oath of fealty to the crown, same as the British armed forces) to come to her aid — that’s a lot of nations and military might.

Again, how many of these armies would listen, particularly after she decided to go all Armageddon on the world, is irrelevant to the legal discussion at hand — what matters is that the Queen technically has the ability to do all this and that nobody could legally stop her.

Despite the tremendous power she theoretically wields and the fact that she enjoys a “unique legal status” as monarch making her totally and unequivocally above the law, the Queen doesn’t utilise even an iota of her full powers. Why? Well, mainly to keep in the good graces of her subjects with it being noted by the official website of the British Monarchy that , “Although civil and criminal proceedings cannot be taken against the Sovereign as a person under UK law, The Queen is careful to ensure that all her activities in her personal capacity are carried out in strict accordance with the law.”

At the end of the day, she herself swore an oath to her subjects, which she seems to have spent her many decades as Queen taking very seriously. Specifically, in her speech at her 21st birthday, she stated, “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch the actual footage of George Bush’s WWII sea rescue

During World War II, George H.W. Bush served in the U.S. Navy. A pilot assigned to a torpedo squadron in the Pacific Theater, Bush flew the TBM Avenger, a torpedo bomber capable of taking off from aircraft carriers that would famously see combat during the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942.

Bush enlisted in the Navy’s flight training program fresh out of high school, becoming one of the Navy’s youngest aviators. He first saw action in May 1944 and would go on to fly 58 combat missions. Then, on Sept. 2, 1944, he was hit by anti-aircraft fire during an attack run on the Japanese-occupied island of Chichi Jima.

“Suddenly there was a jolt,” Bush wrote later, “as if a massive fist had crunched into the belly of the plane. Smoke poured into the cockpit, and I could see flames rippling across the crease of the wing, edging toward the fuel tanks.”

His two crewmembers were killed in the attack, leaving the young pilot to complete his bombing run against a radio facility and bail out alone over the Pacific into jellyfish-infested waters. During the egress, he struck his head, which bled profusely as he swam to a life raft and hoped for rescue.

He was one of the lucky ones. Many aviators struck down during that battle where captured and executed and, according to Bradley James’ bestselling novel Flyboys: A True Story of Courage, their livers even eaten by their captors.

After four hours, the USS Finback, a lifeguard submarine, found him. Now you can watch the video from the moment when the Finback’s crew pulled from the water the man who would go on to become the Director of Central Intelligence and the 41st president of the United States, serving from 1989 to 1993. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions during the mission.

President George H.W. Bush died on Nov. 30, 2018, at the age of 94 years old.

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces

There is a lot to say about Israel and its Defense Forces. Like most armed forces in the world, it has a significant history, even despite its relative youth. And like all armed forces in the world, not all of this history is good (despite what some might say), and not all of it is bad (despite what some might say).


From the get-go, Israel needed a miracle — and it got plenty. They came in the form of WWII veterans, brilliant generals, and a civilian population dedicated to preserving the idea that they belong there.

 

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

And their operation names are freaking cool.

1. Operation Spring of Youth

Spring of Youth was part of a larger operation with a cooler name (Wrath of God. Awesome). It was Israeli Mossad’s (intelligence service) response to the 1972 Munich Massacre. Israeli agents systematically hunted down and assassinated those involved with planning the Olympic massacre.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

I know this is from the movie Munich, but still – anyone who kills a bunch of Israelis shouldn’t look so surprised that they died.

In 1973, Israeli commandos from Sayeret Matkal, Sayeret 13, and Sayeret Tzanhanim – elite special forces squads – came ashore in Lebanon near Beirut. Mossad agents drove them to buildings where senior members of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and Black September terrorist organizations lived. The commandos were disguised as tourists, some even dressed as women.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

All three Palestinian targets were killed in the raids, along with hundreds of bodyguards, some Lebanese troops and policemen, and an Italian neighbor. One team of paratroopers met heavy resistance attacking the PFLP building, and so ended up destroying the whole building with explosives. The Israelis lost two soldiers in the raid. The commandos were then casually driven back to the beaches for exfiltration.

2. Operation Thunderbolt

When an Air France passenger jet bound for Paris from Tel Aviv was hijacked by the PFLP in 1976, the hijackers ordered the plane to be flown to Idi Amin’s Uganda. When the dictator welcomed them to Entebbe Airport, the PFLP demanded the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and a $5 million ransom, due July 1st, 1976.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

The hostages were separated into Israeli and non-Israeli groups. As the Israeli government negotiated the release of the hostages, the hijackers freed 153 non-Israelis. Amin and the hijackers agreed to extend the deadline for the deal to July 4th., giving Mossad time to debrief the released hostages in Paris and get information on the hijackers’ numbers and weapons. They also got a layout of the building from an Israeli firm – the one who built the airport.

On the day the hostages were to be executed, a 100-man task force took off from the Sinai (then controlled by Israel). Four C-130 Hercules cargo planes, followed by 2 Boeing 747s landed undetected at Entebbe. Then, 29 Israeli commandos from Sayeret Matkal, led by Lt. Col. Jonathan Netanyahu left the cargo planes in a black Mercedes and a squad of Land Rovers, resembling the motorcades used by Amin. Amin later told his son that the ruse was not as clever as the Israelis thought.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

They approached the terminal, killed the Ugandan guards, then assaulted the airport. Three of the hostages were killed in the firefight, along with all the hijackers. Armored personnel carriers took the hostages to the waiting 747s as the commandos battled Ugandan troops and destroyed Chinese-built Ugandan fighter aircraft to prevent their pursuit. Colonel Netanyahu was killed in the firefight and five others were wounded.

In an operation lasting 53 minutes, 102 hostages were rescued, 45 Ugandans were killed, and 11 MiGs were destroyed on the ground.

One more hostage, a 75-year-old woman who had been taken to a hospital in Kampala during the crisis, was killed in her bed by Amin’s troops after the raid. Her body was found buried in a sugar plantation three years later.

3. Operation Opera

In 1981, eight Israeli F-16s and six F-15s flew right into Iraq to destroy the nuclear reactor at Osirak. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was using the site to develop his nuclear weapons program – a potentially huge threat to Israeli security.

The fighters flew 2,000 miles from Israel to Iraq and back without refueling. The U.S. could not help them and Israel wouldn’t have in-flight refueling until 1982, when Iraq’s reactor would be online. Hitting the reactor was not a problem, it was getting back to Israel that presented the difficulty.

To this day, how Israel managed to get all her planes and pilots home is still classified.

Ten years later, Iraq fired a number of Scud missiles at Israel during the Gulf War in an effort to break the American-led coalition by inviting Israeli counterattacks. Ironically, a majority of the Scuds landed in either Haifa or the Ramat Gan area of Tel Aviv – home to many Iraqi descendants.

4. Operation Stout-Hearted Men

The Yom Kippur War touched off when Israel was attacked by an Arab coalition led by Egypt and Syria and consisting of Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Algeria. The Arabs wanted to push Israel out of the Sinai and the Golan Height and allow Egypt to re-open the Suez Canal. This war did not go well for the Arabs – both the Golan and the Sinai not only remained in Israeli hands, the Israelis pushed deep into Syria and into Egypt, across the canal.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

How they crossed the Suez is the miracle.

Under cover of darkness, an Israeli paratroop brigade crossed the canal on rubber boats between the 2nd and 3rd Egyptian Armies. Meanwhile, Israeli armor fought to open a corridor in the Sinai through which more units could pass safely to the front – including a series of floating bridges. The bridges allowed two IDF armored brigades to cross into Egypt.

Within a week, the IDF destroyed Egypt’s anti-aircraft umbrella and completely surrounded the Egyptian 3rd Army. This precipitated an end to the war and led to the Camp David Accords, Egypt’s recognition and peace treaty with Israel.

5. Operation Mole Cricket 19

Mole Cricket 19 was one of the largest air battles since World War II and probably one hell of a sight in 1982. To this day, it is the IDF’s most decisive victory, so one-sided it went down in history as the “Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot.” But it didn’t seem like such an easy win at the time. Mole Cricket 19 would be the first time a surface-to-air missile battery was defeated without ground troops.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

Syria moved a number of SAM batteries into Southern Lebanon as Lebanon was in the grips of a civil war that was then seven years old. Israel had launched a number of incursions into Lebanon in support of Christian militias and against PLO positions. The Syrian SAM batteries were a threat to Israel’s ability to control the airspace near its borders.

Israel soon annexed the Golan Heights, which led Syria to condemn the act as a declaration of war. On June 6, 1982, Israel launched a full invasion of Lebanon. Israeli PM Menachem Begin told the Knesset (and Syria) that if the Syrians kept the cease fire, the IDF would too. The Syrians didn’t. They halted an IDF advance and the Israelis used that to launch Mole Cricket 19.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

Within two hours, the Israeli Air Force destroyed 15 of 19 SAM batteries while shooting down 90 enemy aircraft. The Syrian defeat in the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot caused alarm among Soviet defense experts. It caused them to question may even have led to the Glasnost ˆ(openness) policy and to the fall of the Soviet Union.

6. Operation Focus

In 1957, Israel declared that any closing of the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping would be considered an act of war. Then the Soviet Union misled Egypt into believing an Israeli pre-emptive strike was imminent. It was when Egypt began to mass its troops at the Egyptian-Israeli border that Israel began to consider a preemptive strike. When Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser closed the Tiran Straits to Israeli ships, Israel began preparing for that strike.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

Operation Focus was the Israeli Air Force operation that launched the Six-Day war in 1967. In less than four hours, 450 Egyptian, Jordanian, and Syrian combat planes were destroyed on the ground. Egypt lost some 18 airfields and was rendered largely ineffective for the rest of the war. Operation Focus used every single attack plane in the IAF and gave Israel complete air superiority on every front.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this World War I soldier earned the Medal of Honor in a mustard gas attack

There are few higher compliments for a soldier than when the General of the Armies calls him the most outstanding soldier who fought in an entire war – and the war to end all wars, no less. But Samuel Woodfill wasn’t just a veteran of World War I, he was also in the Philippines and on the Mexican border. He was even around to train U.S. troops to fight in World War II.

But to earn his status as America’s one-man Army, he had to go through hell.


This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

Mustard gas is not a weapon anyone would want to fight in.

Woodfill was a career military man, spending time fighting Filipino warriors and then guarding Alaska and the Mexican border areas before shipping out to fight in World War I. Though enlisting as a private, Woodfill’s skill and experience earned him a commission before he shipped out to the Great War. The American Expeditionary force needed good officers to fill its ranks as they settled into a defensive position between the Meuse and the Argonne areas of France.

In September 1918, just one month after arriving in France, their defensive position became an offensive move toward the German lines. Woodfill and his company were near the town of Cunel, advancing on the Germans through a thick fog as carefully as possible, when the telltale crackle of machine-gun fire ripped through the fog toward Woodfill and his men.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

Woodfill with President Calvin Coolidge after the war.

Woodfill’s men threw themselves away from the fire to take cover, but Woodfill himself rushed toward the machine gun. He jumped in the trench and took down three German soldiers manning the gun. That’s when their officer starting lunging toward him. He made short work of their officer just as another machine gun opened up on him. He ordered his men to come out of hiding and attack the latest machine gun, which they did, making short work of it just in time for a third gun to open up on the Americans.

Woodfill joined his men in a charge on the third gun position. He was the first to get to the machine-gun nest and, having fired all the shots in his pistol, was forced to fight both Germans at the gun at the same time. In the middle of the fighting, he searched desperately for any kind of equalizer – which he found in the form of a pickax. Meanwhile, the fog that had been growing thicker and thicker turned out to be growing thick with Mustard Gas. The Americans hightailed it out of the gas area.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

You would too.

The American company was knocked out of the war by the effects of the Mustard Gas and Woodfill would deal with its effects for the rest of his life. But his heroics and daring in the Meuse-Argonne earned him the Medal of Honor, which was presented to him in France by Gen. John J. Pershing himself. Later, Woodfill would have the honor of carrying the body of the Unknown Soldier to its final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery, alongside fellow Army legends and Medal of Honor recipients Charles Whittlesey and Alvin York.

Woodfill would stay in the Army until 1943, having stayed on long enough to train recruits to fight the Nazis in World War II.

MIGHTY HISTORY

11 photos of the awesome Super Cobra after 50 years

The venerable Sea Cobra first flew in 1969. Now, 50 years later, it’s descendant the Super Cobra is still a mainstay of Marine offense and defense, using missiles to destroy enemy strong points and firing its cannon to break up maneuver forces trying to hit American lines. Here are 11 photos from the Super Cobras of today and history.


This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

(U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Jason Grogan)

AH-1W Super Cobra sends 2.75-inch rockets into an enemy mortar position during a close air support mission at Wadi-us-Salaam cemetery, near Najaf, Iraq, in Aug. 2004.

The Sea and Super Cobra variants of the AH-1 have decades of service. But their predecessor, the AH-1 Cobra, dates back even further to Vietnam. It was originally pitched to the Army as the UH-1G, basically a “tweaked” utility helicopter.

While anyone with eyes could easily see the design was something new, Bell had just lost an attack helicopter competition to Lockheed, and a brand new attack helicopter would’ve required another competition, delaying the weapon’s debut and potentially setting up the craft for a loss to another manufacturer. So Bell played fast and loose with the rules and the Army played along.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Reece Lodder)

An AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter and UH-1Y Huey helicopter fly off the coast of the island of Oahu, toward Marine Corps Base Hawaii during maintenance and readiness flights, June 13, 2013.

But the Army eventually admitted the UH-1G Huey Cobra was an all-new craft, and it was re-designated the AH-1. According to an Air Space history, “Cobras would launch with twice as much ammunition as Huey gunships, would get to the target in half the time, and could linger there three times longer.” Troops loved it.

The Marines in Vietnam loved the helicopter as much as soldiers did, but when the Corps went shopping, they wanted a bird with two engines so that an engine failure between ship and shore wouldn’t doom the crew.

And so the AH-1J Sea Cobra was born, first flying in 1969 and making its combat debut in 1975, barely making it into the Vietnam War. Over the following years, the Marines upgraded the guns, missiles, and rockets and proceeded to the AH-1W Super Cobra designation in 1986.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Patrick Dionne)

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Patrick Henry braces Airmen Andrew Jerauld as he signals to an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter as it lands on the flight deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay.

But the era of the Super Cobra is coming to an end. With the debut of the AH-1Z, the Marine Corps moved to the “Viper” designation, and the Vipers have already proven themselves in combat. So the last Super Cobras in the American inventory, the AH-1Ws, are slated to be pulled from active units in 2020 and sold or gifted to overseas allies.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Matthew Casbarro)

A Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter supports a beach assault during Rim of the Pacific 2016, a maritime exercise in Hawaii, July 30, 2016.

The Super Cobras are all-weather and have carried a slew of weapons like the XM197 20mm Gatling cannon, Hydra 70 rockets, 5-inch Zuni rockets, TOW missiles, Hellfire missiles, Sidewinder missiles, and AGM-122 SideArm anti-radiation missile.

Typically, it carries the 20mm cannon as well as pods for 2.75-inch Hydra rockets and Hellfire missiles, but it can still carry and employ those other missiles and rockets easily when necessary, giving commanders a flexible, fast platform that can kill everything from enemy radar sites to helicopters to ground troops and vehicles.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Gabriela Garcia)

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Philip A. Gilbert supervises the preflight ground maintenance of an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter on Camp Bastion in Helmand province, Afghanistan, June 24, 2013.

Updates to the AH-1W granted it the ability to see in night vision and infrared, helping pilots to more quickly acquire and destroy targets at night or in bad weather. During Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, 48 AH-1Ws destroyed 97 tanks, 104 armored personnel carriers and other vehicles, 16 bunkers, and two anti-aircraft artillery sites with zero losses.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Mackenzie Gibson)

A UH-1Y Venom and an AH-1W Super Cobra shoot 2.75 inch rockets through the night sky and meet their targets during close air support training operations at a range near Fort Drum, N.Y., March 16, 2017.

Typically, the AH-1Ws, and now the AH-1Z Vipers, are deployed alongside UH-1s in Marine light attack helicopter squadrons. These units specialize in close air support, reconnaissance, and even air interdiction. The Super Cobras’ Sidewinder missiles are crucial for that last mission, allowing the Marine pilots to take out enemy jets and helicopters.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Samuel A. Nasso)

A U.S. Marine Corps Bell UH-1Y Huey helicopter and a Bell AH-1W Super Cobra take off on one of the first flights for the new Huey from Bastion Airfield, Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2009.

While the Super Cobras are faster and have more weapons, the Hueys can carry multiple gunners which can spray fire in all directions. And the UH-1Y Hueys can also carry and deploy up to 10 Marines each, allowing the helicopters to drop an entire squad on the ground and then protect it as it goes to work.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Kevin Jones)

An AH-1W Super Cobra Helicopter takes part in a live fire exercise at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, May 15, 2013.

The aircraft can fly up to 18,700 feet above sea level, allowing it to clear many mountain ranges while serving on the frontlines. But commanders have to be careful sending the helicopter into the thin air that high as its crews aren’t typically equipped with the robust oxygen equipment of bombers or jet fighters. So the Super Cobras try to stay at 10,000 feet or below.

Check out more photos of the Super Cobra:

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin)

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Russell Midori)

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

(U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Dean B. Verschoor)

Articles

The first secretary of war may have been America’s greatest blue falcon

Secretary of War Henry Knox was a hero of the American Revolution, the father of the American artillery corps and the namesake of a major U.S. base.


Too bad he was a huge blue falcon, otherwise known as a “buddy f-cker.”

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies
Henry Knox, painted here without his distinctive blue wings. (Portrait: Public Domain)

Veterans of the Revolutionary War were promised large land bounties in exchange for their service, but crazy rules were placed on the land bounties that limited soldiers’ abilities to actually settle on it or farm. Most vets were forced to sell the land cheap to speculators.

Since they couldn’t move to or farm their actual lands granted by bounty, many vets began going to plots that they believed to be unowned or free. They build farms and improved this land with the belief that they could buy it or use their land bounty to claim it down the road. Land speculators, including Henry Knox, found out about the improved lands and bought them out from under the veterans.

Then the speculators evicted the settlers or charged exorbitant rents. In Henry Knox’s case, this meant that he was buying up land in Maine and throwing out men who had previously served under him.

Joseph Plumb Martin moved to Maine on rumors of free land. But Knox bought the deed to his land and started charging huge rents. Knox fought Plumb and other veterans in court and sent surveyors to assert his claims.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies
Henry Knox shows his true colors. (Portrait: Public Domain. Graphics: WATM Logan Nye)

Martin and others who’d been blue falconed by Knox went bankrupt. Martin later testified that he had, “no real nor personal estate, nor any income whatever, my necessary bedding and wearing apparel excepted, except two cows, six sheep, one pig.”

In Henry Knox’s defense, some of the lands the veterans were living on belonged to his wife’s family before the war. Knox’s father-in-law was a land speculator and loyalist who wanted America to stay a part of Britain. When the Revolution turned against him, he and his family — but not Knox and his wife — fled the colonies. Knox’s wife then inherited much of the land and Knox enforced her claims.

But, other land was purchased out from under veterans and Knox didn’t hesitate to kick his former soldiers out.

And this wasn’t the only time Knox had “b f-ed” his troops.

While most soldiers at Valley Forge were fighting starvation and cold, Knox was partying at Washington’s table, eating lavish meals and watching entertainment.

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The first ‘Memphis Belle’ was actually shot down before it completed 25 missions

You’ve probably heard of the Memphis Belle, especially after the 1990 film starring Matthew Modine and Harry Connick, Jr.


That film took a lot of liberties with the story of the actual B-17 that was the subject of a documentary done during World War II, “Memphis Belle: The Story of a Flying Fortress.”

But history can also be very malleable, especially in the hands of Hollywood.

When Hollywood director William Wyler was doing a documentary for the U.S. government on the first Allied bomber crew to complete a 25-mission “tour” over Europe, he took some liberties. Why? Because it was World War II, and the bombing campaign over Europe was a bloody affair. In fact, the Directors Guild of America notes that during the filming of the documentary, cinematographer and World War I vet Harold J. Tannebaum was killed when the Nazis shot down the B-24 Liberator he was in.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies
The Memphis Belle in the sky, June 1943. (USAF photo)

According to the memoirs of Robert Morgan, the pilot of the Memphis Belle, Wyler had picked a different bomber for the feature film, a B-17 known as “Invasion 2nd.” That plane – and five others – were shot down on an April 17, 1943, mission to Bremen. The Memphis Belle was chosen to replace Invasion 2nd – Morgan related how he was told that another plane had a back-up film crew on a bomber called “Hell’s Angels” in case the Memphis Belle went down. Wyler actually filmed parts of multiple missions for the documentary – the mission portrayed on the film was actually the Memphis Belle’s 24th mission.

Of course, the Memphis Belle did complete the tour – and she got all the accolades of being the “first” to do so. The crew of Hell’s Angels, though, actually flew their 25th mission a week before the Memphis Belle flew her 25th mission. The documentary, though, became a classic.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies
The Memphis Belle on a War Bond tour. (USAF photo)

Wyler went on to direct a documentary about the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt’s operations in Italy, titled, “Thunderbolt!” He was wounded by an exploding anti-aircraft shell, losing some of his hearing.

After the war, he went on to direct the classic films “The Best Years of Our Lives” — a movie about veterans who returned home that won nine Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director — and “Ben Hur,” featuring former B-25 gunner Charlton Heston, which won 11 Oscars.

Today, “Memphis Belle: The Story of a Flying Fortress” is available via the Internet Archive and Netflix is also streaming the film. It is also on Youtube. Feel free to watch it below. The Memphis Belle is currently being restored at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, Ohio.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Britain’s highly successful balloon attack against the Nazis

In perhaps one of the oddest British strategies against Nazi Germany, British troops launched almost 100,000 hydrogen-filled latex balloons into Nazi-controlled territory to set fires and short out power wires as part of Operation Outward.


This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

Women’s Auxiliary Air Force members recover a kite balloon.

(Royal Air Force)

Operation Outward was the result of an accident. Barrage and observation balloons in World War I got more coverage than in World War II, but the floating sacks of hydrogen were widely used in both conflicts. You can actually spot them in some of the more famous D-Day photos from later in the day or over the days and weeks that followed.

(The 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion was the only Black combat unit that came ashore on D-Day, though plenty of Black logistic and engineer units were there on June 6.)

But in September 1940, a few British barrage balloons broke free during a storm and drifted across Scandinavia, pissing the Scandinavians all the way off. The steel tethers these balloons dragged behind them had a pesky habit of shorting out power lines and otherwise damaging infrastructure.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

A U.S. Army Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, known as JLENS.

(U.S. Arny)

Ya know, about like what happened when that JLENS aerostat (blimp, basically) broke free in October 2015.

But when it happened in the Scandinavian countries in 1940, the Brits were all, “Wait, what’s bad for the goose is bad for the gander, so let’s apologize to Scandinavia but then do the same thing, on purpose, to Hitler’s Third Reich. Screw those guys.”

The British relied on a couple infrastructure advantages for this plan. Britain’s electrical grid was more developed, and therefore more susceptible to disruption, but it also featured faster circuit breakers. This meant that Britain’s grid, if hit with balloons trailing wires, would suffer relatively little damage. Germany’s, with slower breakers, had a real risk of losing entire sections of the grid or even power plants to balloon disruptions.

So, even if it led to a balloon trading war, Britain could expect to hold the upper hand. And so weather balloons were filled with hydrogen, fitted with either spools of wire or incendiary devices, and floated over the channel into Germany.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

An “incendiary sock” like those used to burn German towns.

(UK National Archives)

The wires were relatively thin. Experimentation showed the designers that they didn’t need the thick steel of normal tethers to short lines, cause electrical arcs, and damage German power distribution. The electrical arcs were the real killer, draining power from the grid, overworking the components of the power generation, and weakening the transmission lines so they would later break in high winds.

The incendiary devices were filled with wood shavings and paraffin wax.

Both types were made to fly over the channel at a little over 20,000 feet, then descend to 1,000 feet and do their work. They needed winds of about 10 mph or more to be as effective as possible.

And they worked, well. The idea wasn’t to cripple Germany in a single blow, but to cost them more in economic damage and defensive requirements than it cost Britain to deploy them. And, thanks to the low-cost materials Britain used, Britain only had to pay around the U.S.equivalent of .50 per balloon. Shooting a balloon down could cost much more than that in ammo, and that was if it was shot down by air defenders. If fighters had to launch, the fuel and maintenance would be astronomical.

And balloons that weren’t shot down could easily do hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage. In 1942, a balloon launch overloaded a power plant at Böhlen so badly that the plant was completely destroyed. And while the power was off in this and other events, German units were made less ready for combat, and German wartime production was slowed.

Assessments found during and after the war painted a picture of constant disruption on the German side. In occupied France, there were 4,946 power interruptions during the program, most of them caused by the balloons. In 11 months from early 1942 to early 1943, Germany had 520 major disruptions of high-voltage lines.

And at a cost of .50 a balloon plus the wages of balloon launchers, mostly members of the Women’s Royal Navy Service, the more than 99,000 balloons launched were a hell of a deal.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The last horse charge of American cavalry was in World War II

While Poland is sometimes mocked for sending horse cavalry against tanks in World War II (it was actually horses against an infantry battalion, but still), the U.S. launched its own final cavalry charge two years later, breaking up a Japanese attack in the Philippines that bought time for the cavalrymen and other American troops.


This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

The jungles of the Philippines are thick, and fighting in them was treacherous.

(U.S. Army)

It came in April 1942 as part of the months-long effort to defend the Philippines from the Japanese invasion. The first Japanese attacks on the islands took place on the same day as the Pearl Harbor attack (though it was December 8 on the calendar because the international dateline falls between the two). Just two days later, the week of troop landings began.

The Americans on the Philippines weren’t ready for the fight, and U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur had to lean hard on his elite troops to protect the rest of the force as they withdrew to one defensive line after another. And cavalry was uniquely suited for that mission since it could ride out, disrupt an attack, and then quickly ride back to where the rest of the defenders had fortified themselves.

And so MacArthur called up the 26th Cavalry (Philippine Scouts), a unit that had American officers and Filipino enlisted men on horses. And all of them were well-equipped and good at their jobs.

But, like the rest of the American forces there, they faced a daunting enemy. The Japanese invaders were nearly all veterans from fighting in Korea or Manchuria, but few of the American defenders had seen combat. And the Japanese forces were better armed.

So much so that, unlike Poland, the American cavalry really did once charge tanks from horseback. Oh, and it worked.

The cavalry scouts were exhausted from days of acting as the eyes and ears of the Army, but a new amphibious operation on December 22 had put Japanese forces on the road to Manila. The defenders there crumbled in the following days and completely collapsed on January 16, 1942. If the 26th couldn’t intercept them and slow the tide, Manila would be gone within hours.

The American and Filipino men scouted ahead on horseback and managed to reach the village of Morong ahead of Japanese forces. The village sat on the Batalan River, and if the cavalrymen could prevent a crossing, they could buy precious hours.

The jungles of the Philippines are thick, and fighting them was treacherous.

(U.S. Army)

But as they were scouting the village, the Japanese vanguard suddenly appeared on the bridges. The commander had no time, no space for some well-thought-out and clever defense from cover. It was a “now-or-never” situation, and the 26th had a reputation for getting the job done.

So, the commander, Col. Clint Pierce, ordered a charge.

The men and horses surged forward, pistols blazing, at a vanguard of Japanese infantry backed up by tanks. But the American cavalry charge was so fierce that the Japanese ranks broke, and they dodged back across the river to form back up. It was so chaotic that even the tanks were forced to stop.

“Bent nearly prone across the horses’ necks, we flung ourselves at the Japanese advance, pistols firing full into their startled faces,” First Lt. Edwin Ramsey, a platoon leader, later wrote. “A few returned our fire but most fled in confusion. To them we must have seemed a vision from another century, wild-eyed horses pounding headlong; cheering, whooping men firing from the saddles.”

And so the cavalrymen held the line, dismounting after the first charge but preventing the Japanese crossing.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

Thousands of men died in the Bataan Death March.

(U.S. Army)

While the Philippine Scouts would be well decorated for their endeavors on January 16, and for other heroics during the defense of the Philippines, the story turns grim for them.

They took heavy losses that day before falling back to the rest of the American force after reinforcements arrived. And then they were isolated on the Bataan Peninsula. As the American forces began to starve, they butchered the horses and ate the meat. But even that wouldn’t be enough.

On April 9, 1942, the U.S. forces on the Bataan Peninsula surrendered to the Japanese. At least 600 Americans and 5,000 Filipinos were killed in the death march that followed.

That same month, the last U.S. Army horse cavalry unit turned in its animals in Nebraska.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Mexico’s military deployed in the United States for the first time in 150 years

In September 2005, Mexican Marines arrived under the Mexican flag to Harrison County, Miss. It was the first time in 159 years that Mexican troops operationally deployed inside the United States. There, they met U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy sailors. But they weren’t there to do battle; they were there to clear the debris.

Harrison County was hit by one of the most intense hurricanes ever to hit the United States. Harrison County was devastated by the strongest winds of the whole storm.


This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

Hurricane Katrina making landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast, August 2005.

(NASA)

Hurricane Katrina was the fourth most intense storm ever to hit the United States. The storm killed more than 1,800 people, making it the deadliest to hit the United States since 1928. It was also the costliest hurricane in terms of physical damage done to the areas affected by the hurricane. In all, the total price tag for Katrina’s damage came to a whopping 5 billion – but just throwing money at a problem doesn’t fix it.

Damage wrought on communities by storms like Katrina require an all-hands approach to recovery, especially in the immediate aftermath. Charitable organizations like the American Red Cross, Oxfam, and Habitat for Humanity responded. So did many members of the international community, even those considered to be at odds with American foreign policy at the time. Those who offered assistance included traditional allies Germany, the UK, and Canada. But even those who did not have the considerable resources of the West, like Mexico. That’s how Mexican Marines ended up clearing timber from schools around Mississippi.

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

Sailors from the Dutch and Mexican navies distribute water and Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs) to residents of D’Iberville, Miss.

(FEMA photo by Mark Wolfe)

In the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, then-President of Mexico Vicente Fox sent a message to the United States, saying:

“In the name of the people and of the government of Mexico, I assure you of my deepest and most sincere condolences for the devastating effects caused by Hurricane Katrina.”

Mexico’s Red Cross sent Rescue Experts to New Orleans while the Mexican Navy deployed off the American Gulf Coast with helicopters, ATVs, amphibious ships, tankers, medical personnel, and tons of food aid. The Mexican Air Force later flew 200 more tons of food in as a convoy of trucks from Mexico shipped hundreds of tons more. It was the first time since the Mexican-American War (which ended in 1848) that Mexico’s troops were inside the United States, and they were here to help.

The Mexicans also helped clear debris and distribute supplies to Harrison County, hit especially hard by Katrina’s intense winds. Gulfport, Miss. took the brunt of the damage, but the surrounding areas were devastated as well. The following month, having finished cleaning up and distributing supplies, the mission ended, and Mexico went home.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time British Intelligence hacked al-Qaeda just to mess with them

One might assume that an international intelligence apparatus like Britain’s MI6 would wreak havoc when hacking into a terrorist-affiliated website. The truth is they did little more than likely annoy al-Qaeda after hacking a recruiting website. The result wasn’t exactly devastating, unless you’re someone who hates cupcakes.


This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

Who could hate these? They’re ADORABLE.

While it’s hard to imagine even the most hardcore of Islamist extremist terrorists hating cupcakes (though it’s even harder to imagine one of them eating one like the adorable unicorn cupcakes pictured above), whether they made MI6’s infamous cupcakes is unknown – but they definitely had the recipe.

In 2011, the UK’s external intelligence service was in an all-out information war with al-Qaeda and the terrorist organization’s affiliate groups. In particular, Her Majesty’s secret service was looking to disrupt the activities of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and its effort to recruit “lone wolf” attackers abroad. One of the ways it recruited disgruntled Westerners was through the use of its online magazine, called “Inspire.”

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

New rule: everyone who wakes up with the sun to say “Guys, today let’s be inspired by Al-Qaeda” gets droned.

But when avid readers of Inspire went to download the June 2011 Issue to read “Make a bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom” by “The AQ Chef” actually downloaded a semi-unintelligible computer code. The code still revealed a recipe, but it had nothing to do with your mom’s kitchen and everything to do with some cupcakes that *might* be described as “da bomb.”

MI6 reportedly hacked the website and replaced “Inspire” with a number of episodes for delicious cupcakes, including a recipe featured on The Ellen Degeneres Show dubbed “The Best Cupcakes in America” as well as a number of original recipes from Ohio-based cupcaker Main Street Cupcakes. Al-Qaeda initiates came looking for bomb-making information and instead received a flavor explosion, with varieties such as white rum cake with buttercream frosting, rocky road, and a delicious-sounding mojito flavor.

“Inshallah you checked them with a toothpick before removing them from the oven.”

On top of removing the bomb-making instructions, intelligence analysts replaced articles by Osama bin Laden and his second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, on “What to Expect in Jihad.” Both MI6 and the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency had been planning on disrupting the publication and dissemination of the magazine since they discovered its creation. The western allies have deployed a number of cyber weapons to disrupt al-Qaeda’s information warfare operations.

Although the CIA and MI6 were able to successfully put off the publication of “Inspire,” the full issue and more issues were published immediately anyway. The executive editor of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s signature magazine, Anwar al-Awlaki, was killed in a drone-strike in Yemen just a few months later.

Articles

4 incredible women in military history you need to know about

International Women’s Day has been celebrated across the world since 1909, and is used as a day to laud the important contributions women make.


Women have long-since served in the U.S. military, even before they were officially allowed to enlist. From covert spy operations to battles on the front lines, women have been there for all of it.

Nancy Morgan Hart

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies
Public domain image

During the American Revolution, Hart was supposed to stay and take care of her children at their Georgia home while her husband fought in the war, like many military spouses today do. However, Nancy couldn’t sit idly by while a war raged around her.

Related: The only 7 women to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross

Pretending to be a crazy man, Hart was able to gain access to British camps in Augusta, where she successfully gathered intelligence and reported it back to the Continental Army. Hart also wasn’t afraid to defend her home against the enemy, as evidenced when six Loyalist soldiers entered her home and demand she feed them. While they were occupied with food, she hid their weapons and held them hostage with one, killing two when they tried to overpower her, until her husband and a neighbor came home.

Dr. Mary E. Walker

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies
Library of congress photo

Walker volunteered her expertise as a surgeon with the Union Army at the beginning of the Civil War, despite women not being allowed to serve as doctors. She was captured and became a prisoner-of-war after she was caught crossing enemy lines to treat wounded soldiers. She was considered a spy by the Confederates and was held until eventually released in a prisoner exchange.

For her bravery and willingness to confront the enemy to save Union soldiers, President Andrew Johnson awarded her the Medal of Honor, after a recommendation by Gen. William Sherman, becoming the first and only women ever to be awarded the highest military honor.

Col. Eileen Collins

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies
NASA photo

Collins became the first female to pilot a shuttle in space in 1995, and was also the first female commander of a U.S. spacecraft in 1999.

During her time in the Air Force, Collins served as an instructor for the T-38 Talon at Vance Air Force Base, and eventually transitioned to an assistant professor role at the U.S. Air Force Academy, teaching mathematics and instructing T-41 pilots.

Sarah Emma Edmonds

This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies
Public domain image

Edmonds fled to Michigan from Canada, escaping an abusive marriage. While traveling, she found that dressing like a man made life considerably easier, and eventually joined the military as a male nurse out of a sense of obligation. Edmonds used the alias “Franklin Thompson,” and served as a spy for Union soldiers until she was confronted with a bout of Malaria. Knowing she would be punished if Army doctors discovered she was a woman, Edmonds abandoned her male disguise and continued to serve as a female nurse in Washington D.C.

After she wrote a memoir about her time as a spy, Edmonds contributions to the war were accepted, and she received an honorable discharge, as well as a government pension for her service.

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