The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

We hear a lot about how Gettysburg was as far north as the Confederate Army could get, while that may be true for the Army of Northern Virginia, it wasn’t true for the entire Confederate armed forces. The actual northernmost fighting took place in northern Vermont, near the U.S. border with Canada.

You can’t get much further than that.


The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

Vermonters were not expecting this either, trust me.

Although the Confederates did make it to Gettysburg and were stopped, there were many other places in the United States, well north of Gettysburg. During the Gettysburg campaign, another Confederate expedition was making its way up through Tennessee and Kentucky, then into Indiana and Ohio. Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan led a raid that was supposed to divert men and resources from resisting the main southern thrust northward, the one at Gettysburg.

Morgan led his men, less than 3,000, through Cincinnati, Columbus, and Steubenville Ohio, only to be stopped by Union troops in Salineville, Ohio. Ambrose Burnside and his army of 40,000 relentlessly pursued Morgan up through the northern states. After they were captured, they managed to escape, retreating to Cincinnati and into Kentucky, where they took advantage of the state’s neutral status.

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

A handful of the raiders after the incident.

One native Kentuckian, Bennett H. Young, was captured at Salineville and escaped but instead of sneaking down the Ohio River and into Kentucky, he moved North instead. He slipped into British-controlled, Confederate-sympathizing Canada and hatched his plan to continue fighting the Union from the other side of the Mason-Dixon line.

He decided that diverting Union troops from attacking the South was still the best way forward, so he devised a plan that served that end while funding his own expeditions: raiding Northern border towns. His first stop would be St. Albans, Vermont, just a few miles from the U.S.-Canada border.

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

The raiders wanted to burn the whole town, but their accelerant didn’t work as planned.

Young’s men moved into St. Albans piecemeal, coming in groups of two to three every few days, and checking into the local hotels. By Oct. 19, 1864, 21 Confederate cavalrymen had made it to the sleepy Vermont town. Once ready, they simultaneously robbed the town’s three banks, fought off any resistance, forced others to swear loyalty to the Confederate States of America, and burned someone’s shed. They also made off with the modern equivalent of .3 million before escaping into Canada.

The United States demanded the extradition of the soldiers, but since the men had acted as official CSA soldiers, the Canadians would not turn them over to the Americans.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Momma works in a prison, pops served overseas

Momma babysits inmates at Arizona State Prison. Dad served as a Marine in the 90s. My little brother drives a 23%-interest, blacked-out Dodge Charger, which means — you guessed it — he is also a Marine. I, on the other hand, chose to study theatre and English.

My brother and I were raised (like nearly all children of military/law enforcement parents) on a diet of heavy structure, logic, toughness, discipline, preparedness, and accountability. He ordered seconds; I drew a pretty picture on the menu with a crayon.


The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

From one generation to the next — see the resemblance?

The closest I ever came to military service was yelling, “1, 2” as a toddler in the bath when my dad would call out “sound off” from his living room recliner.

The closest I ever came to being a corrections officer was babysitting an 8-year-old kid obsessed with cramming Cheerios up his nose. He claims his record was 12, but when I told him to prove it, he could only fit, like, 6 or 7. Liar.

I say “corrections officer” because my momma prefers the term “corrections officer.” She thinks the term “prison guard” describes a knuckle-dragging extra in an action movie — who, by the way, always seem to get killed in movies. Like dozens of them just get absolutely mowed down, usually by the GOOD guys, and nobody cares. Nobody! Do you know what it feels like to be in a large room full of people who cheer and clap every time Jason Statham snaps the neck of your could-be mother on-screen? Not super great.

It always occurred to me as odd that I noticed that in movies and my momma never did. But it highlights an important aspect of growing up in that atmosphere — you don’t really talk about how or why you feel a certain way. Which, if you’re coming from a prison system or a military system, is completely understandable. In those worlds it’s all about short, useful information: yes sir, copy, etc.

I think that rigid structure ironically led me to be drawn to things I found subjective and expressive — sort of like Malia Obama smokin’ weed, or Jaden Smith doing, uhhh, whatever it is that he’s doing. However, that made me a sort of black sheep — not really feeling like I belonged on either side of the fence.

Here’s what I mean: I can go out and absolutely slam some brews with my little brother and his military brothers. We can talk about why we think the Raiders can’t seem to win a damn game, we slug each other in the arm, and tell each other truly depraved jokes.

But, I’m still gonna end up hanging on his shoulder, telling him how much I love him, and I’ll inevitably tear up while telling him I cried reading a Wilfred Owen poem that reminded me of him while he was deployed. That’s just who I am. They never really quite feel comfortable in emotional moments. And that’s okay — it’s just a difference — like how my brother looks like a Jason Statham character (it’s a love/hate thing with that guy) when he’s shooting a gun, but I look kinda like Bambi trying to learn how to walk.

Conversely, if I’m out with some of my theatre or comedy buddies, the military/prison differences are highlighted. They are, for instance, fifteen minutes late to everything. I, personally, would rather take a shot of bleach than be late. Sure, they can be comfortable discussing how they feel (maybe even too much) — but they are terrified of any confrontation. I once had an actor sit me down and ask me what being in a fight felt like. Me, the guy who cries at Silver Linings Playbook, was seen as traditionally masculine.

Plus, they’re always excited to hear me suggest a “blanket party” until they find out what it is. Bummer.

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

Everyone’s invited!

So either way, my folks shaped who I am. The military and the prison — they shaped my folks. Those systems; the words, the discipline, the people — it’s impossible to separate them.

Even though I’ve never fastened a utility belt at 5 a.m. and willingly locked myself in a prison with violent offenders, even though I could never imagine what it feels like to tie up your boots and go to war for your family — the lessons they learned while they did those things for me, even if indirectly, shaped who I am.

It is only because my folks got their hands dirty, raised me to embrace who I am — to follow what I believe in — that I have the dear privilege to sit here, criss-cross-applesauce, and type this up while I blow gingerly at a decaf coffee that’s a little too hot for my lips.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 things you might use everyday that were actually invented for the military

You might be surprised to learn that a lot of the products used in our day to day lives were actually invented for the military. Here’s a brief rundown of a few.


The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

(Intropin via WikiMedia Commons)

EpiPens

As a parent of a child with allergies, I am forever grateful for this one. The auto-injector apparatus was first invented for the military in the early 70’s, as a means to deliver a temporary reprieve from side effects of nerve gas exposure, during a time when the threat of chemical warfare seemed imminent.

At the request of the Pentagon, Sheldon Kaplan, a scientist with Survival Technology Inc., is credited with developing the Nerve Agent Antidote Kit, which works similarly to the EpiPen we use now, and was specifically designed to be easy to use with little training. Shortly after its effectiveness and importance in the military was discovered, Kaplan then went on to make it something that would aid the civilian world as well, by turning it into the lifesaving tools used by many with anaphylactic allergies today.

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

GPS

Mainstream technology has grown by leaps and bounds in a very short period of time. I remember going on family vacations and having to pull off to the side of the road so my dad could put out the map to make sure we were going the right way (and then take another 20 minutes to fold it back up again).

These days, you can get directions to virtually anywhere in the world in less than 30 seconds, all from your phone. GPS devices went from being an expensive luxury to being a built in facet of people’s lives.

While the military use of satellites and tracking goes back to the time of Sputnik, the more recognizable version of GPS was launched by the military in 1978, and was known as the Navigation System with Timing and Ranging (NAVSTAR) satellite. Taking a note from Navy scientists, this system proved to be the start of the type of navigation system the DoD was looking for in an effort to improve military intelligence.

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

(USAF Photo)

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

(alangraham999 on Flickr)

Microwaves

The savior of 2 a.m. leftovers, microwaves were actually the product of accidental science. This one wasn’t necessarily invented FOR the military, but it was discovered thanks to already existing military technology.

In 1945, scientist Percy Spencer had been experimenting with and testing U.S. Army radar transmitters, when he discovered that due to the heat they produced, a candy bar in his pocket had melted. From there, the first patent on the microwave was filed within the year, and no one ever had to worry about accidentally microwaving their Hershey bars ever again.

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

(Santeri Viinamäki via WikiMedia Commons)

Duct tape

Duct tape was born out of wartime need and a mother’s ingenuity. In 1943, Vesta Stoudt was the mother of 2 sons in the U.S. Navy, and was also employed by the Green River Ordinance Plant, where she was responsible for inspecting and packing ammunition and other tactical gear.

It was here that she noticed discrepancies and potentially dangerous issues with the ways that ammunition boxes were being packed and sealed. Originally, they were sealed with paper tape and then dipped in wax in order to ensure they were waterproof. The problem came from the tabs meant to open the boxes, which were made from the same paper tape used to seal the boxes.

In instances of trying to open these boxes while under fire, it became apparent that this not only wasted time (as the paper tabs ripped prior to opening the box) but it put service members at risk and in a vulnerable position. Stoudt came up with the idea of using waterproof cloth tape, instead of paper, making duct tape a solution that was literally invented for military purposes.

After receiving little to no feedback from those she was employed by, she decided to write to the President, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Not only did the letter include her thoughts on the current problem, she also provided her outline for a solution and detailed diagrams. The idea was passed on to Johnson Johnson, who manufactured the first version of the tape we all know, love and use today.

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

Wristwatches

There are a few different stories as to how and why wristwatches came to be so popular, but they all have roots within the military.

By most accounts, wristwatches, or at least the idea of them, predate the mainstream and military usage of them, but on a very small scale. It’s said that Elizabeth I was the first of her kind to keep a small clock strapped to her wrist, while men prior to WWI still relied on pocket watches to tell time. Unsurprisingly, pocket watches did not make for the most effective tools to use in a combat setting, and since timing is such an important aspect of military strategizing, service members needed an easier way to keep track of it.

The prevalence of more user friendly time pieces skyrocketed and became commonplace. The first version, called trench watches, combined the best of both the pocket watch and wristwatch worlds, and advancement of the look, features and versatility of them still serve military members to this day.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY FIT

10 things that every soldier can do… can you?

One of the first steps to joining the military is completing a series of physical fitness tests. The bar is set high to keep members of the armed forces from getting injured in the line of duty. It’s dangerous out in the field, and it’s a lot more dangerous if you’re too slow and weak to keep up!


While we civilians probably won’t need to literally run for our lives, meeting military fitness standards are a great way to stay in shape, protect ourselves from injury, and stave off preventable conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Are you tough enough to join the army? The standards are changing in 2020, but if you can handle all of the exercises below, you just might make it.
The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

A two-mile run…or three

To make it in the army, soldiers have to be able to run pretty fast. For men between ages 22 and 26, you have to complete a 2 mile run in under 16 minutes 36 seconds, or 19:36 for women.

For Marines, make that two-mile run a three-mile run. If you’re between 21 and 25, you have to do it in less than 27:40 for a man, or 30:50 for a woman. Want a perfect score? Cut that to a mere 18 minutes for men, and 21 minutes for women. That’s the equivalent of three, back-to-back six-minute miles for guys, and three seven-minute miles for women. Phew! I’m sweating already.

A ton of crunches

To be in any branch of the military, a strong core is a must. To join the Marines, if you’re between ages 21-25, the minimum standard is 70 for men and 55 for women.

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

Pushups

Time to work on those shoulders and pecs. To be a Marine, men between 21 and 25 have to be able to whip out at least 40 pushups, or 18 for women in the same age group. Soon, you’ll have to be able to handle hand-raised pushups, where your hands come off the ground after each repetition. 10 of those puppies will be the bare minimum to pass!

Pull-ups

Women don’t typically love to work out their upper body, but to get army strong, neglecting your lats, delts, and biceps isn’t an option. If you’re a woman between 26 and 30, doing 4 pull-ups is the bare minimum- only one less than the standard for men!

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

Swims

If you prefer swimming laps to running miles, the Navy might be a better fit for you. To join the Navy, you swap a 1.5-mile run with a 500 yd swim. For a visual, that’s over four football fields of water to cover.

Deadlifts

The deadlift is a whole-body strength exercise in which you lift a weighted barbell off the ground to a standing position, then lower it back to the floor. Soldiers can lift at least 140 lbs…and up to 340! Did we mention you have to be able to do it three times in a row?

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

Standing power throws

Grab a 10 lb medicine ball, squat, and then throw it behind you, up and over your head. (Check to make sure nobody’s behind you first!) How far did it go? If you made it at least 4.5 yards after three tries, you might be tough enough to be a soldier.

A 250-meter pprint, drag, and carry

If you want to be able to heroically drag your loved ones from a burning building, this is the exercise to work on. A five-in-one test, you have to complete a 50-meter sprint, a backward 50-meter drag of a 90-pound sled, a 50-meter lateral movement test, a 50-meter carry of two 40-pound kettlebells, and a final 50-meter sprint- in under three minutes!

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

Leg tucks

Another full-body move, this one will test your strength from head to toe. Beginning with an alternating grip on an overhead bar, hang with straight arms. Then, bring the knees to the elbows while completing a pull-up. It’s crazy hard to do correctly, so only one is required to pass…but 20 reps will get you a perfect score!

Maintain extreme physical and mental endurance

Soldiers can go and keep on going. They can power through the pain, physical exhaustion, and heartbreak of battle. While we’re still against overtraining, don’t be afraid to push yourself within reason. Run a little faster, go a little further, and try things you’re not sure you’re capable of. You might be surprised how tough you really are!

MIGHTY TRENDING

The FBI just nailed some of the ‘Nigerian Prince’ schemers

In accordance with the Justice Department’s recent efforts to disrupt business email compromise (BEC) schemes that are designed to intercept and hijack wire transfers from businesses and individuals, including many senior citizens, the Department announced Operation Keyboard Warrior, an effort coordinated by United States and international law enforcement to disrupt online frauds perpetrated from Africa. Eight individuals have been arrested for their roles in a widespread, Africa-based cyber conspiracy that allegedly defrauded U.S. companies and citizens of approximately $15 million since at least 2012.

Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant of the Western District of Tennessee, Executive Assistant Director David T. Resch of the FBI and Acting Special Agent in Charge William C. Hoffman of the FBI Memphis Field Office, made the announcement on June 25, 2018.



Five individuals were arrested in the United States for their roles in the conspiracy including Javier Luis Ramos Alonso, 28, a Mexican citizen residing in Seaside, California; James Dean, 65, of Plainfield, Indiana; Dana Brady, 61, of Auburn, Washington; Rashid Abdulai, 24, a Ghanaian citizen residing in the Bronx, New York, who has been charged in a separate indictment; and Olufolajimi Abegunde, 31, a Nigerian citizen residing in Atlanta, Georgia. Maxwell Atugba Abayeta aka Maxwell Peter, 26, and Babatunde Martins, 62, of Ghana and Benard Emurhowhoariogho Okorhi, 39, a Nigerian citizen who resides in Ghana, have been arrested overseas and are pending extradition proceedings to face charges filed in the Western District of Tennessee.

The indictment also charges Sumaila Hardi Wumpini, 29; Dennis Miah, 34; Ayodeji Olumide Ojo, 35, and Victor Daniel Fortune Okorhi, 35, all of whom remain at large. Abegunde had his detention hearing today before U.S. District Court Judge Sheryl H.

Lipman of the Western District of Tennessee, who ordered him detained pending trial, which has been set for October 9, 2018.

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

(Cliff / Flickr)

“The defendants allegedly unleashed a barrage of international fraud schemes that targeted U.S. businesses and individuals, robbing them to the tune of approximately million,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan. “The Department of Justice will continue to work with our international partners to aggressively disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises that victimize our citizens and businesses.”

U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant said: “Frauds perpetrated through the Internet cause significant financial harm to businesses and individuals in our District and throughout the United States. Because those committing Internet fraud hide behind technology, the cases are difficult – but not impossible – to investigate. We will continue to deploy our resources to take on these difficult cases and seek justice for citizens harmed by Internet scammers.”

“The devastating effects that cybercrime and business email compromise have on victims and victim companies cannot be understated, and the FBI has made it a priority to work with our law enforcement partners around the world to end these fraud schemes and protect the hard-earned assets of our citizens,” said William C. Hoffman, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Memphis Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “These charges are the result of the diligence, hard work and tenacity of the best and smartest investigators and prosecutors, to overcome the challenges faced when dealing with sophisticated efforts to hide criminal activity that involves numerous people in multiple countries, and should send a signal that criminals will not go undetected and will be held accountable, regardless of where they are.”

The indictment was returned by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee on Aug. 23, 2017, and charges the defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit computer fraud, and aggravated identity fraud.

The indictment alleges that the Africa-based co-conspirators committed, or caused to be committed, a series of intrusions into the servers and email systems of a Memphis-based real estate company in June and July 2016. Using sophisticated anonymization techniques, including the use of spoofed email addresses and Virtual Private Networks, the co-conspirators identified large financial transactions, initiated fraudulent email correspondence with relevant business parties, and then redirected closing funds through a network of U.S.-based money mules to final destinations in Africa. Commonly referred to as business email compromise, or BEC, this aspect of the scheme caused hundreds of thousands in loss to companies and individuals in Memphis.

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

(Photo by Christiaan Colen)

In addition to BEC, the Africa-based defendants are also charged with perpetrating, or causing to be perpetrated, various romance scams, fraudulent-check scams, gold-buying scams, advance-fee scams, and credit card scams. The indictment alleges that the proceeds of these criminal activities, both money and goods, were shipped and/or transferred from the United States to locations in Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa

through a complex network of both complicit and unwitting individuals that had been recruited through the various Internet scams. The defendants are also charged with concealing their conduct by, among other means, stealing or fraudulently obtaining personal identification information (PII) and using that information to create fake online profiles and personas. Through all their various schemes, the defendants are believed to have caused millions in loss to victims across the globe.

An indictment is merely an allegation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The FBI led the investigation. The FBI’s Transnational Organized Crime of the Eastern Hemisphere Section of the Criminal Investigative Division, Major Cyber Crimes Unit of the Cyber Division, and International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center all provided significant support in this case, as did INTERPOL Washington, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices of the Northern District of Georgia, Western District of Washington, Central District of California, Southern District of New York, and the Northern District of Illinois.

Senior Trial Attorney Timothy C. Flowers of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra L. Ireland of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee are prosecuting the case, with significant assistance from the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Justice. Follow @WDTNNews on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

As the US entered World War I, American soldiers depended on foreign weapons technology

On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war against Germany and entered World War I. Since August 1914, the war between the Central and Entente Powers had devolved into a bloody stalemate, particularly on the Western Front. That was where the U.S. would enter the engagement.

How prepared was the country’s military to enter a modern conflict? The war was dominated by industrially made lethal technology, like no war had been before. That meant more death on European battlefields, making U.S. soldiers badly needed in the trenches. But America’s longstanding tradition of isolationism meant that in 1917 U.S. forces needed a lot of support from overseas allies to fight effectively.


In Europe, American combat troops would encounter new weapons systems, including sophisticated machine guns and the newly invented tank, both used widely during World War I. American forces had to learn to fight with these new technologies, even as they brought millions of men to bolster the decimated British and French armies.

Engaging with small arms

In certain areas of military technology, the United States was well-prepared. The basic infantrymen of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps were equipped with the Model 1903 Springfield rifle. Developed after American experience against German-made Mausers in the Spanish American War, it was an excellent firearm, equal or superior to any rifle in the world at the time.

The Springfield offered greater range and killing power than the U.S. Army’s older 30-40 Krag. It was also produced in such numbers that it was one of the few weapons the U.S. military could deploy with to Europe.

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

The American soldier on the left, here greeting French civilians, is carrying a French Chauchat machine gun.

(US Army photo)

Machine guns were another matter. In 1912, American inventor Isaac Lewis had offered to give the U.S. Army his air-cooled machine gun design for free. When he was rejected, Lewis sold the design to Britain and Belgium, where it was mass-produced throughout the war.

With far more soldiers than supplies of modern machine guns, the U.S. Army had to adopt several systems of foreign design, including the less-than-desirable French Chauchat, which tended to jam in combat and proved difficult to maintain in the trenches.

Meeting tank warfare

American soldiers fared better with the Great War’s truly new innovation, the tank. Developed from the need to successfully cross “No Man’s Land” and clear enemy-held trenches, the tank had been used with limited success in 1917 by the British and the French. Both nations had combat-ready machines available for American troops.

After the U.S. entered the war, American industry began tooling up to produce the French-designed Renault FT light tank. But the American-built tanks, sometimes called the “six-ton tank,” never made it to the battlefields of Europe before the Armistice in November 1918.

Instead, U.S. ground forces used 239 of the French-built versions of the tank, as well as 47 British Mark V tanks. Though American soldiers had never used tanks before entering the war, they learned quickly. One of the first American tankers in World War I was then-Captain George S. Patton, who later gained international fame as a commander of Allied tanks during World War II.

Chemical weapons

Also new to Americans was poison gas, an early form of chemical warfare. By 1917 artillery batteries on both sides of the Western Front commonly fired gas shells, either on their own or in combination with other explosives. Before soldiers were routinely equipped with gas masks, thousands died in horrific ways, adding to the already significant British and French casualty totals.

Scientists on both sides of the war effort worked to make gas weapons as effective as possible, including by devising new chemical combinations to make mustard gas, chlorine gas, phosgene gas and tear gas. The American effort was substantial: According to historians Joel Vilensky and Pandy Sinish, “Eventually, more than 10 percent of all the chemists in the United States became directly involved with chemical warfare research during World War I.”

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

Blinded by German tear gas, British soldiers wait for treatment in Flanders, 1918.

(British Army photo)

Naval power for combat and transport

All the manpower coming from the U.S. would not have meant much without safe transportation to Europe. That meant having a strong navy. The U.S. Navy was the best-prepared and best-equipped of all the country’s armed forces. For many years, it had been focusing much of its energy on preparing for a surface naval confrontation with Germany.

But a new threat had arisen: Germany had made significant progress in developing long-range submarines and devising attack tactics that could have posed severe threats to American shipping. German Navy U-boats had, in fact, devastated British merchant fleets so badly by 1917 that British defeat was imminent.

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

A German submarine surrenders at the end of World War I.

In May 1917, the British Royal Navy pioneered the convoy system, in which merchant ships carrying men and materiel across the Atlantic didn’t travel alone but in large groups. Collectively protected by America’s plentiful armed escort ships, convoys were the key to saving Britain from defeat and allowing American ground forces to arrive in Europe nearly unscathed. In fact, as military historian V.E. Tarrant wrote, “From March 1918 until the end of the war, two million U.S. troops were transported to France, for the loss of only 56 lives.”

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

A U.S. Navy escorted convoy approaches the French coast, 1918.

(US Navy photo)

Taking to the skies

Some of those Americans who made it to Europe climbed above the rest – right up into the air. The U.S. had pioneered military aviation. And in 1917, air power was coming into its own, showing its potential well beyond just intelligence gathering. Planes were becoming offensive weapons that could actively engage ground targets with sufficient force to make a difference on the battlefield below.

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

An American-painted British-made Sopwith Camel in France, 1918.

(US Army photo)

But with fewer than 250 planes, the U.S. was poorly prepared for an air war in Europe. As a result, American pilots had to learn to fly British and French planes those countries could not man.

Despite often lacking the weapons and technology required for success, it was ultimately the vast number of Americans – afloat, on the ground and in the air – and their ability to adapt and use foreign weapons on foreign soil that helped turn the tide of the war in favor of the Allies.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The legend of Ed Loder: Boston Fire Department’s most decorated firefighter

The call rang out in the firehouse of Rescue Company 1 reporting a jumper at the Ritz-Carlton hotel. Ed Loder, a 41-year-old firefighter with 20 years on the job, threw on his gear and pulled himself into the driver’s seat of their fire engine. The sirens wailed as they sped down the narrow city streets of Back Bay, an affluent neighborhood in Boston. Loder steered the rig in front of the hotel, jumped out, and was handed a set of binoculars from the hazmat truck.

Against the dark sky he located a distressed woman on the 16th floor, sitting with her feet dangling over the ledge of a windowsill. A negotiation team of the Boston Police Department pleaded with the woman from inside the hotel room, but she wasn’t complying. Loder soon joined the other firefighters on the roof.


“We could look over the edge of the roof and see her, but she couldn’t see us because she wasn’t looking up,” Loder told Coffee or Die Magazine in a recent interview. “She was looking in the room and talking to the cops.”

The woman had a razor in her hand. This rescue wasn’t going to be easy.

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

Boston firefighter Ed Loder talking to other firefighters on the ground while a building is ablaze. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.

While other firefighters searched for a viable anchor point, Loder tugged ropes through the carabiner on his bumblebee suit. The nearby ductwork was unusable, but a window through an electrical structure on the roof was perfect. Loder tied in his line.

Their plan was to have the police distract the woman long enough for Loder to complete the rescue.

“They got her attention and the minute she looked inside of the room, I went off the roof,” Loder told Coffee or Die. “When I went off the parapet I naturally swung and kicked her in the side and she went into the room.”

The police officers immediately jumped on top of her and placed handcuffs around her wrists to prevent her from harming herself or anyone else. Loder, however, was left swinging outside and hollered for one of the officers to pull him in too.

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

A newspaper clipping about the incident at the Ritz-Carlton, showing Boston firefighter Ed Loder after he made a daring rescue of a suicidal woman. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.

The Boston Globe would describe the heroic nighttime rescue that occurred on May 30, 1990, as “Mission Impossible.” Bill Brett, a Globe photographer, was a witness alongside 300 other spectators on the ground. “I never expected someone to come down and knock her in the window,” Brett said. “He drops down, and boom, she’s inside! Down where I was, everybody cheered; the crowd clapped and yelled; it was unbelievable, like a movie.”

For this action, the Board of Merit awarded Loder the Walter Scott Medal for Valor, the second highest in the fire service. But as he puts it, it was just another day on the job at Rescue Company 1.

The War Years

Ed Loder grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He had long admired the World War II veterans who took jobs with the fire department down the street from his home. In fact, he wanted to be them.

The Boston Fire Department is rich with tradition and history that date all the way back to 1631. America’s first publicly funded fire department saw numerous innovations over the next handful of centuries. The first leather fire hoses were imported from England in 1799; all fire engines were equipped with aerial ladders by 1876; and radios were installed in all fireboats, cars, and rescue companies by 1925.

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

A train collision that occurred in the Back Bay of Boston in 1990. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.

In 1970, when 21-year-old Fire Fighter Edward Loder was appointed to Ladder Company 2 in East Boston, the Boston Fire Department was in the midst of the “War Years.” Between 1963 and 1983, there was at least one major fire every 13.6 hours. On average, a fire company reacted to as many as five to 10 fires in one tour of duty. Loder joined the fire service to be in on the action, and like the majority of other sparkies rising through the ranks, that’s exactly what he got.

Over the next decade, Loder responded to a variety of emergency situations as a part of Ladder Company 2, and later Ladder Company 15 in the Back Bay. He was there for a big oil farm fire in Orient Heights and a ship fire from Bethlehem Steel, but the most memorable for him was the 1800 Club, partly owned by former Red Sox player Ken Harrelson. The entertainment complex along the waterfront burned to the ground, with an estimated loss of id=”listicle-2648495230″ million.

Even some calls he didn’t participate in had an impact. After ending his shift on the morning of June 17, 1972, Loder and his wife went out in the afternoon, only to be stopped by a familiar face.

“We ran into this cop that I knew and he said to me, ‘What are you doing here?'” Loder remembered. “He had this look on his face that I’d never seen before.”

The seven-story Hotel Vendome had caught fire and collapsed on top of Ladder Company 15’s truck. Nine firefighters were inside the hotel, and tragically, all nine lost their lives.

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

Boston firefighter Ed Loder, kneeling second to left from Pickles, the “Dandy Drillers” Dalmatian. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.

The following year he responded to the worst plane crash in Boston’s history. Delta Airlines Flight 723 hit a seawall while trying to land at Logan International Airport. All 89 passengers and crew were killed.

“I remember saying to myself, ‘Geez, is this what the fire service is all about?’ It didn’t bother me in a way, but it was like a shock and awe after a little bit, and you adapted to it,” Loder said. “I said, ‘I don’t think there is anything else on this job that I could come across that’s probably going to bother me.'”

The days and nights spent on the job weren’t all tragic or intense. Every October throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Boston Fire Department raised awareness through Fire Prevention Week with a squad dubbed the “Dandy Drillers” performing high-wire aerial exercises around the city.

“We took two 100-foot aerial ladders, we put them together at the tips, we tied them together up at the top, and hung a 150-foot piece of rope down the middle of it,” Loder told Coffee or Die. “I used to do the upside-down no-hands exercise. We had platforms attached to these aerial ladders probably 20 feet in the air, and we’d jump off of that into the life nets. We would also have 10 guys on each ladder that would hook into the ladder and lean out with no hands. I understand it was the only type of thing in the country.”

Boston City Hospital Rescue

After 12 or 13 years with various companies, Loder transferred to Rescue Company 1, where his reputation grew to legendary status. At one rescue, a deranged man was on the roof of Boston City Hospital. The man had hurled several brick-sized boulders at pedestrians standing on the sidewalk and at cars driving by on Massachusetts Avenue.

“If you come out, I’m gonna jump,” the man told the cops as they tried to talk him off the ledge.

Ladder Company 15, Loder’s old team, had arrived just as Rescue Company 1 pulled up to the scene. “Throw your aerial up on the side of the building,” Loder told them. “That way there if they chase him over here, he will see the aerial and he’ll go back.”

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

Boston firefighter Ed Loder, right, was awarded the Walter Scott Medal for Valor and four Roll of Merit awards, including one for a water rescue in the Charles River. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.

Loder took charge and ordered Ladder Company 17 to be posted on the other side to sandwich the man in between.

In the meantime, Loder went up the aerial ladder to get a better view of the rooftop and the distraught man.

“I’m gonna jump,” the man said once more.

“I looked at him and said, ‘What are you gonna do that for, you’re going to make a mess down there if you jump,'” Loder said.

The man ran to the edge only a few feet from where Loder was positioned. “We’ve been here for an hour playing with you — it’s lunch time, I’m hungry and want to go get a sandwich. How about you go inside the hospital and get something to eat?”

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

A screenshot from the Boston Globe newspaper showing Boston firefighter Ed Loder holding a man by his shirt with his fingertips while suspended 100 feet in the air.

“Fuck you,” the man hollered, as he climbed over the side and proceeded down a conduit pipe attached to the hospital building.

Arm by arm, the man took off his coat, threw it to the ground, and said for the final time, “I’m jumping!”

From the side of the aerial ladder, Loder reached out with both his arms and grabbed the man by his shirt. Dangling 100 feet in the air, Loder screamed at the aerial operator to lower the ladder.

“Instead of lowering the aerial, he hits the rotation on the turntable and slams me and the guy in the side of the building,” Loder said, explaining that the operator likely panicked during the split-second action. “He dropped the aerial down to maybe 10 to 15 feet off another roof that was there, and I let him go. I couldn’t hang on to him anymore.”

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

Paul Christian, left, Boston fire commissioner between 2001 and 2006, and Ed Loder wearing Liar’s Club golf shirts. Photo by Matt Fratus/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Liar’s Club

A row of cars with the doors ripped off and the metal frames crumpled are remnants of a previous fire academy training class. There in the parking lot sits a small and unassuming office trailer known as The Liar’s Club. Since 1968, retired Boston firefighters have been meeting here every Wednesday morning to share stories, reminisce, and — sometimes — tell a few lies.

Driving up to the Liar’s Club in Loder’s pickup, we didn’t get very far before the first young fire captain approached the driver’s-side window, wanting to shake Loder’s hand. With some 43 years on the job, Loder is the most decorated firefighter in Boston Fire’s nearly 400-year history. Not that he boasts about the glory.

Inside, beyond the coffee and donuts, an old retiree says, “You know he’s one of the most decorated in the fire service?” while Loder rolls his eyes in the background.

In the back room, nicknamed “Division 2” in homage to the two districts between which the city is split, I listen as Paul Christian, the former Boston fire commissioner, shares a story about the old days.

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

An infamous photograph snapped by a Boston newspaper photographer of Ed Loder wearing Sperrys on the job. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.

“Today they have to put bunker gear on, put the boots on, put the hood on, put this on, put that on, get up on the truck, put their seatbelts on,” Christian said, in reference to the new OSHA regulations. “When I came on the fire department, you had to run to the piece [fire truck] while you jumped on with your coat while you’re going down the street. You’re putting on your belt, and the best you could do was kick your shoes off and put your boots on.”

Sometimes they forgot — and a Boston news photographer was there to snap the picture to prove it. “I get a call from headquarters and they wanted to know who the guy was with the Sperrys on,” Loder said and laughed. “Of course everybody said that nobody knew nothing, but it was me.”

Loder just celebrated his 72nd birthday and continues to give back to the fire service, teaching classes to the next generation. All the medals and the accolades later, Loder maintains that he was just doing his job.

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


MIGHTY HISTORY

From K9 handler in Vietnam to VA volunteer

Marion Bales was a high school senior the day a Marine Corps vehicle pulled up in front of his parents’ house. His mother immediately broke down in anguish, imagining the worst about his older brother, who was serving in Vietnam.

“He had been wounded in the shoulder and it was pretty serious,” Bales said. “They flew him straight out of Vietnam to the Naval hospital in Great Lakes, Illinois. After about two weeks we learned that he was going to be okay. However, it was a very traumatic experience for my mother, and really, for all of us.”

Two years later, in December 1969, Bales was a 20-year-old electronic and mechanical equipment installer when he received his notice to report for an armed forces physical examination. For the young men of Bales’ generation, the country’s last military draft meant one thing – more personnel for the war effort in Vietnam.

“Within a week, I was on my way to Fort Leonard Wood for basic training,” Bales said. “I don’t remember a lot about that experience other than the rifle range and that they worked us hard, running us all day and sometimes at night.”

Bales with Vietnamese family he fondly remembers as one he “adopted.”

Next stop, Danang

From there, Bales went through Advanced Infantry Training at Fort Ord, California, followed by dog handler training at Fort Benning, Georgia. His next stop was Danang, South Vietnam.

“I flew over to Vietnam and they had me complete a two-week course on short-range canine patrols in Danang.”

For most of his tour, Bales and his black Labrador “Orange” (pictured above) were on-call for specialized patrols that required them to walk “point” ahead of the unit. Alone and more exposed because of his position, Bales and Orange were always inserted into these areas by UH-1 “Huey” helicopters.

“The pilots never set down because the units I was called in to assist usually were still in a firefight,” Bales said. “I’d have to jump with Orange in my arms, along with all my gear, from heights that could be 20 feet or more.”

When asked how he could make such jumps without injury, Bales explained, “There usually was several feet of elephant grass or something else that offered some padding. Otherwise you learned how to roll once you hit the ground and then you kept on going.”

Bales (right) and fellow Vietnam War Veteran Rick Rice (center) assist a Veteran at Truman VA.

And because people want to know how a black lab got the name Orange, Bales explains: “Orange came from a litter where each puppy was given a name that started with the letter O. There were eight dogs in this litter. I did eventually meet Orange’s sister Opal, who also was a war dog.”

“Truman VA is the best hospital I’ve ever seen”

Bales eventually finished his tour in Vietnam and, once discharged, resumed work as an electronic and mechanical equipment installer. He married, had six children, and eventually settled in his wife’s hometown of Salisbury, Missouri.

“After I retired, I volunteered at our local food bank. One day, Cindy Stivers, a Marine Corps Veteran and the Women Veterans Coordinator at Truman VA, came in and we talked about VA health care. That’s when I began to really think about VA.

“I’ve been receiving my care there for some time now and I think VA is tremendous. In my opinion, Truman VA is the best hospital I’ve ever seen and I’ve worked in a lot of them over the years installing equipment.”

After interacting with other Veterans, Bales began volunteering at the hospital. As an escort and ambassador, he has been part of Truman VA’s Voluntary Service program for the past ten years.

“I served as a Veteran and now I serve Veterans,” Bales said. “I encourage anyone who is interested in giving back to Veterans to contact their local VA’s Voluntary Service.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea’s dictator was cheered like a rock star in Singapore

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the man who has held Asia on the brink of nuclear war for years, was loudly cheered and celebrated as he made his way around Singapore on a night out.

Around Singapore, media outlets stood perched and ready to catch a glimpse of the young leader as he toured the city’s finer establishments. Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has not been seen outside since getting off his airplane, as he crams for June 12, 2018’s summit.


Video taken at the Marina Bay Sands hotel and shopping center shows Kim heading in and likely up to SkyPark, the famous rooftop of the iconic hotel.

SkyPark features swimming pools, bars, and restaurants and is a big tourist attraction.

Hear the enthusiasm in the room as he enters:

Kim has lived in North Korea much of his life, and didn’t leave the country between 2011 and early 2018, when he went to Beijing to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Kim was also photographed with Singapore’s minister of foreign affairs in what’s likely the first selfie of his life.

Kim lives under constant fear of assassination, as the administrator of a state that keeps untold thousands in political prisons while it seeks to threaten the world with nuclear weapons. He likely hasn’t had many nights out on the town like this.

Meanwhile, less than half a mile away, Trump is preparing for their historic meeting.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US military might be building Trump’s border wall

Stymied by the lack of funding for his promised US-Mexico border wall in the latest spending bill, President Donald Trump now wants the military to pay for the barrier.

The Pentagon confirmed on March 29, 2018 that Trump has spoken with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis about using military funds for the wall’s construction.


“The secretary has talked to the president about it,” Pentagon press secretary Dana White said, according to Military Times. “Securing Americans and securing the nation is of paramount importance to the secretary. They have talked about it but I don’t have any more details as to specifics.”

The $1.3 trillion spending bill, which Trump ruefully signed late March 2018, only included $1.6 billion for fencing and levees on the border and just $641 million for new primary fencing in areas that do not currently have barriers. The bill also limits that money to “operationally effective designs” that were already in the field by May 2017.

That amount is well short of the $25 billion in long-term funding Trump was pursuing in negotiations with Democrats (offering three years of protections for young immigrants in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program), and that stipulation means the prototype walls Trump has reviewed cannot be used.

Trump — upset about potential disappointment among his supporters and invoking “national security” — is now reportedly eyeing the $700 billion allotted for the Pentagon, The Washington Post first reported, a sum he touted as “historic,” to provide funding for the wall. Two advisers told The Post that Trump’s comment in a recent tweet, “Build WALL through M!” referred to the military.

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
Photo by James N. Mattis

During a press briefing on April 3, 2018, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not explicitly deny the report when asked about it, saying only the Trump administration was continuing to work on it.

After broaching the idea to advisers, Trump told House Speaker Paul Ryan that military should provide funding, three people familiar with the meeting told The Post. Ryan reportedly offered little response.

Senior officials in Congress told The Post such a move was unlikely, and a senior official at the Pentagon said redirecting money from the 2018 budget would have to be done by lawmakers. Setting aside money in the 2019 budget would require Trump to offer a budget amendment — which would still need 60 votes to pass the Senate.

Trump has also suggested to Mattis that the Pentagon pay for the wall rather than the Homeland Security Department.

Mattis has sought to distance himself from contentious issues, chief among them the border wall, that have wounded US relations with its southern neighbor.

During a September 2017 trip to Mexico, Mattis emphasized that US-Mexican military ties were strong and that the two countries shared common concerns.

“We have shared security concerns. There’s partnerships, military-to-military exchanges, that are based on trust and respect. I’m going down to build the trust and show the respect on their Independence Day,” Mattis said at the time. “Every nation has its challenges it deals with. And Mexico is keenly aware of these, and I’m there to support them in dealing with them.”

When asked about his role in the border-wall issue, Mattis said the US military had no role in enforcing the border.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Saudis ramp up oil production to hurt Iran and Venezuela

U.S. President Donald Trump says Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has told him Riyadh will ramp up oil production in response to turmoil in Iran and Venezuela.

The Saudi government confirmed the two leaders had spoken about global oil markets, but made no mention of any agreement for Riyadh to increase production.

The June 30, 2018 conversation comes as oil prices have ticked upward following Trump administration pressure on allies to stop buying oil from Iran.


In a post to Twitter, Trump said Salman had agreed to an increase, but did not indicate a time frame for the possible 2 million barrels.

“Just spoke to King Salman of Saudi Arabia and explained to him that, because of the turmoil and disfunction in Iran and Venezuela, I am asking that Saudi Arabia increase oil production, maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels, to make up the difference,” Trump said in a June 30, 2018 tweet.

Trump added: “Prices to high! He has agreed!”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

Warriors in their Own Words: the Wild Weasels cleared enemy skies over Vietnam

During the Vietnam War, the Republic F-105 Thunderchief — affectionately known as the “Thud” — was one of the U.S. Air Force’s primary strike aircraft. But amidst mounting losses from North Vietnamese surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery, the Thud took on a new role — the Wild Weasel.

The Wild Weasels of the United States Air Force were some of the most courageous pilots in Vietnam. In a deadly game of cat and mouse, they flew fighter jets like the F-100, F-105 and F-4s deep into hostile airspace to coax the enemy into opening fire with their surface-to-air missiles. Once the Weasels located the site, other fighter bombers were called in to destroy the installations. In this episode of Warriors in their Own Words, Jerry Hoblit, Bill Sparks, Mike Gilroy, and Tom Wilson tell dramatic stories of their days as Wild Weasels.


The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

F-105s take off on a mission to bomb North Vietnam, 1966.

(USAF)

A history of the Wild Weasels

The F-105 was originally conceived as a single-seat, tactical nuclear strike-fighter. In the early days of the war, these single-seat variants, F-105D’s, flew strike missions with Combat Air Patrol provided by F-100s to defend against MiG fighters.

However, during Operation Rolling Thunder in 1965, North Vietnamese air defenses improved with the addition of Soviet-made SA-2 Guideline missiles.

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

F-105 with Wild Weasel tail code carrying AGM-45 Shrike anti-radiation missile.

(USAF)

As American losses mounted from North Vietnamese SAMs and AAA, the decision was made to employ specialized F-100F two-seat fighters in a suppression role code-named “Wild Weasel.”

When the idea of flying directly into enemy air defenses was first briefed to the men flying the mission, an Electronic Warfare Officer gave the Wild Weasels their first motto by exclaiming,

“You gotta be sh*ttin’ me!”

After heavy losses in just seven weeks, it quickly became apparent that the F-100 was an insufficient aircraft to carry out the missions. The first Wild Weasel unit flying F-100’s was declared combat ineffective.

As luck would have it, Republic had produced two-seat trainer variants of the F-105 shortly before the end of the production run in 1964. These were quickly modified as the F-105F and rushed into the Wild Weasel role.

The newest Thud was also equipped to carry the first ever anti-radiation missile, the AGM-45 Shrike. These initial aircraft were designated Wild Weasel II.

Even with the improved F-105F, the tactics often remained the same as with the F-100. Using hunter-killer teams, a Wild Weasel aircraft would guide a flight of Thuds loaded with bombs and rockets to find the SAM sites and destroy them.

The Wild Weasel was essentially the bait.

Using their advanced radars and warning devices — or sometimes good ol’ drawing enemy fire — the Wild Weasels would “ferret out” the SAM sites, which then allowed the Thuds to come in and pulverize the position. This was often accomplished by simply following the missile’s smoke trail back to its launch site.

As the F-105F models were upgraded to G-models, known as Wild Weasel III, the Air Force began to change the tactics employed. The Wild Weasels would fly in ahead of a strike package to clear the area of SAMs, stay over the target during the bombing raid in order to attack any other SAMs or AAA that appeared, and then maintain their position until the bombers left the area, at which time they themselves would head for home as well.

This led to incredibly long, dangerous missions for the Wild Weasel crews–often three to five hours of intense flying in hostile air space. It also led to another motto for the Wild Weasels: “First In, Last Out.”

The Wild Weasel mission was exceedingly dangerous, but there was no shortage of brave, if not slightly crazy, volunteers willing to carry it out. Two Wild Weasel Thud pilots would be awarded the Medal of Honor for their gallantry in the air.

The first was awarded to Maj. Merlyn Dethlefsen for his actions on March 10, 1967.

Dethlefsen was flying number 3 in a Wild Weasel flight codenamed Lincoln assigned to protect a strike package of F-105Ds on a mission to hit the Thai Nguyen steel factory.

As his flight entered the target area, the lead engaged in a duel with a SAM site but was shot down while his wingman, Lincoln 02, was put out of action by flak. This left Dethlefsen and his wingman, Lincoln 04, to deal with the SAMs in the area. As Dethlefsen dove for an attack on the SAM site, he was jumped by two MiG-21 fighters.

Dodging two enemy missiles, he fled for cover in the enemy’s flak zone, betting that his pursuers wouldn’t follow. He again pressed the attack on the SAM and was again driven off by the fighters, his Thud absorbing several 37mm cannon shells.

As the strike package egressed from the area Dethlefsen decided to try one more time to destroy the SAM site. Leading his wingman in, he fired his AGM-45 and destroyed the radar. With the defenses down, the two Thuds pummeled the site with their bomb loads.

For good measure Dethlefsen rolled over and strafed the site with his 20mm cannon.

The second Medal of Honor was awarded to Lt. Col. Leo Thorsness for his actions on April 19, 1967. While leading a Wild Weasel mission of F-105’s, Thorsness and his wingman attacked and destroyed a SAM with missiles. Spotting another SAM, they proceeded to move in and destroy it with their bomb loads.

However, Thorsness’ wingman was shot down in the attack. The two crewmen bailed out and as they descended, Thorsness circled them to provide protection and maintain sight for the inbound rescue crews. As he did this, a MiG-17 approached.

Thorsness quickly responded and blasted the MiG with his 20mm cannon, sending it to the ground. As the rescue crews approached the scene, Thorsness peeled off to refuel; however, hearing of more MiG-17’s in the area, he quickly returned to the fight. Seeing the enemy fighters attempting a wagon wheel maneuver, he drove straight in and raked a MiG as it crossed his path.

Thorsness bugged out on afterburners at low-level to avoid the pursuing fighters. Eventually Thorsness was forced to return to base, almost out of fuel. He put his plane into a “glide” and landed at a forward air base with empty tanks.

Eventually high losses and improving technology would see many F-105’s replaced by the newer F-4 Phantom II in the Wild Weasel and strike roles, though F-105G’s continued to operate as Wild Weasels through the end of the war.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

Airman 1st Class Phillip Rock is part of his family’s legacy of military service — a legacy that, in fact, would not have continued if it weren’t for that military service itself.

Stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base, Rock is a B-2 Spirit weapons load crew member in the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. It is his first Air Force assignment and the most recent in his family’s military history.

“I was raised in Kayenta, Arizona, which is an hour away from the four corners,” said Phillip, who is three-quarters Navajo American Indian. “It is really the heart of the reservation.”


Raised by his grandparents, he learned much about his cultural heritage from them. He also learned where his family’s long military lineage began.

This Rock family tradition started with his great grandfather, Joseph Rock — Grandpa Joe — who served in World War II.

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

Airman 1st Class Phillip E. Rock, a 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron B-2 weapons load crew member, weaves a dream catcher on Nov. 15, 2018, in his dorm at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

“At first, I didn’t know much about what my great grandfather had done,” Phillip said.

Grandpa Joe died in 2004 at age 92 when Phillip was 5 years old. It wasn’t until he was nearly a teen that Phillip realized his great grandfather was a war hero.

One day, when Rock was 12 years old, he was flipping through TV channels with his grandfather, Ernest Rock Sr., in their living room. They stopped to watch a historical documentary about World War II.

Rock recalled asking his grandfather about his great grandfather’s role in the major world conflict which spanned across Europe and the Pacific.

“I said, ‘Isn’t that the war Grandpa Joe fought in? What did he do?'”

His grandfather told Phillip “He was a code talker.”

Western expansion, cultural repression

It was the early 1900s and Joseph Rock was a young boy living on a Navajo reservation in Arizona. As the country expanded westward, much of the tribe’s land was taken by the U.S. government. Joseph was sent to school, where his long hair was cut and his name was changed.

“He went up to a chalkboard, pointed at a random configuration of letters, and that’s how he became Joseph Rock,” Phillip said. “Four generations later, we still carry on that last name.”

Grandpa Joe was also punished in school if he spoke his native language — the same language that would later save countless lives.

By 1941, shortly after the U.S. had entered WWII, the Marine Corps began to recruit Navajo tribal members for a top-secret code-communications program that wouldn’t be declassified until two decades later.

At first, fewer than 30 Navajo Indians were recruited as code talkers. In total, only about 400 of the 44,000 American Indians who served in WWII were Navajo code talkers. Joseph Rock was asked to work among them, and he accepted.

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

Airman 1st Class Phillip E. Rock, a B-2 weapons load crew member assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, poses for a portrait on Nov. 15, 2018 in his dorm at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

“He was told if he served, the family would get some of their land back and a house,” Phillip Rock said. “None of that happened.”

But those promises weren’t what enticed Grandpa Joe to join the military. He wanted to serve his country, and did so honorably.

“My great grandfather was proud of his service,” Phillip Rock said. “It’s his legacy.”

Military recruitment

This was not the first time American Indians were recruited for U.S. military service, either as combatants or code talkers. During the first World War, American troops relied on messages transmitted in Cherokee and Choctaw tribal languages to pass secret information. However, the languages used were eventually all deciphered by enemy troops.

The Navajo language, though, is considered particularly linguistically difficult. And at that time, it had not been written down. The U.S. government knew it would be nearly impossible for a non-Navajo to learn.

So, in the early 1940s, Navajo code talkers used their language to create more than 200 new words for military terms and then committed them to memory.

“The enemy never understood it,” a Marine general was quoted as saying after the Navajo code was first used in WWII. “We don’t understand it either, but it works.”

The Navajo code is the only spoken military code that has never been deciphered, and Navajo code talkers are credited with saving thousands of Americans’ and allies’ lives.

Winning the war

Before he knew his Grandpa Joe served as a code talker, Phillip learned about his tribe’s role in WWII as a boy in school.

“We were taught that we should be extremely thankful for what they did,” Phillip said. “Without the code talkers, we wouldn’t have won the war.”

During the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945, Navajo code talkers worked around the clock sending and receiving thousands of messages. One Marine later stated, “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima,” according to the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Joseph Rock was one of those code talkers involved in the critical battle to claim the Pacific island.

During the battle, a grenade landed only feet away from Joseph Rock, who “watched it hit the ground,” Phillip said. Then, Joseph Rock saw one of his fellow Marines dive on top of it, giving his life to save Grandpa Joe.

“He wanted to save the life of a code talker,” Phillip Rock said. “It’s inspiring what people will do to continue with the mission. My Grandpa Joe owed his life to that man.”

Neither Joseph Rock nor the Rock family was ever able to find out who the Marine was, but know future generations of Rocks have their lives thanks to his valor.

“I owe my life to that man, too,” Phillip said.

The northernmost Confederate attack was a raid on Vermont

Traditional native american jewelry is laid out on the couch of Airman 1st Class Phillip E. Rock, a B-2 weapons load crew member assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. Each piece of jewelry was gifted to rock throughout his childhood.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

Culture and service

Since Grandpa Joe, many members of the Rock family have answered their nation’s call including his grandfather, his father, uncles and an aunt.

For Phillip, his great grandfather’s service as a code talker influenced Philip’s own decision to join the Air Force.

Phillip is the most recent member of his family to serve in the military.

“I feel like it was a prideful thing to carry on that lineage of service,” said Phillip. “It felt like the right calling. My Grandpa Joe was the first to wear this name on a uniform. I am very proud of this name. I knew I wanted to carry that on and wear it on a uniform.”

Meanwhile, Navajo principles have taught him respect, perseverance, and determination.

“My culture really shapes who I am,” Phillip Rock says. “I wear my culture on my sleeve and my name on my chest.”

This feature is part of the “Through Airmen’s Eyes” series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

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