These 10 invasions were planned but never happened - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

Strategists say the first casualty of war is the plan. In a few cases, the plan never reached the war stage. And if these 10 invasions happened, the world would be a dramatically different place.


1. War Plan Red: The U.S. Invasion of Canada

In the post-WWI era, fresh from battlefield victory in Europe, the United States was building its military to compete with those of the other world powers. It was a time of global imperialism, when the aspirations of any country could end up sparking a war anywhere, with anyone. To this end, the U.S. drew up a series of “Rainbow War Plans,” filled with possible war scenarios that were coded by color. The first on the list was War Plan Red: The U.S. War with Britain.

Related: These were America’s colorful plans for war with the rest of the world

In the age of the “Special Relationship” the U.S. enjoys with the UK, we tend to forget Anglo-American relations haven’t always been this close. Before the rise of the Soviet Union, the U.S.’ “special relationship” was more akin to its relations with Russia. Catherine the Great traded directly with the American Colonies despite the British ban on such trading and Russian ships traded with the colonies during the Revolution. The Russians kept other European powers out of the American Civil War.

War Plan Red did not involve any U.S. vs. UK action outside the Western Hemisphere. The authors believed capturing Canada would make Britain sue for peace. The first step would be an American invasion of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, followed by a move West into Quebec. Once the Province of Quebec falls, the Canadians would have been unable to move men and supplies in either direction. This would have been followed by thrusts to capture the Great Lakes area (which is also the Canadian industrial center) to prevent attacks on the American industrial centers in the Rust Belt regions. An attack from Grand Forks, North Dakota would capture the Canadian Central Rail system in Winnipeg, and a joint blockade an amphibious invasion was called to capture British Columbia in the West.

2. The Canadian Invasion of The United States

As if the Canadians knew something was up down south, they had an invasion scheme of their own. Literally called Defence Scheme No. 1, it called for immediate action as soon as evidence of an American invasion was uncovered. The Canadians believed the U.S. would strike Montreal and the Great Lakes regions first, then Westward into the prairies and into British Columbia.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened
This is what it looks like to me.

In 1930, Canadian intelligence developed its counter plan. It was designed to buy time for Canadians to mobilize for war and to receive help from Great Britain. Units designed for speed of movement would capture major cities in Washington State as others in the East would capture cities in Minnesota and the Great Plains States. French Canadian forces would move to capture Albany, New York while an amphibious assault would land in Maine. As the Americans began to push the Canadians out, the retreating troops would destroy food and infrastructure as they went.

The Royal Navy at the time considered Canada to be indefensible and would not have sent a large force to help… but the Canadians didn’t know that at the time.

3. Operation Downfall: The U.S. Invasion of Japan

Operation Downfall was the codename for the Allied invasion of Japan at the end of World War II. Japan surrendered after the United States dropped two atomic bombs and the Soviet Union entered the Pacific War, handily defeating Japanese forces on the Chinese mainland. Downfall would have been the largest amphibious operation in world history, a landing even bigger than the ones at Normandy the previous year.

The invasion was divided into two parts, Operations Olympic and Coronet. Olympic was the capture of the southern portion of the Japanese main island of Kyushu. Coronet used assets captured in Olympic to invade the main island of Honshu in the plains areas near Tokyo. The plan called for five million American troops with an additional one million British and Commonwealth forces. The Japanese are estimated to have mustered 35 million regular, reserve, and conscripted troops.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened
U.S. Troops of the 185th Inf., 40th Div., take cover behind advancing tanks while moving up on Japanese positions on Panay Island (Library of Congress)

The Japanese correctly predicted the U.S. war plan and their defensive operation plan was an all-out defense of Kyushu with little left for defenses anywhere else. A study conducted for the War Department at the time estimated at least 1.7 million American casualties because the study assumed Japanese civilians would join in the island’s defense.

4. The Soviet Invasion of Western Europe

The Eastern Bloc countries maintained a defensive posture for much of the Cold War. None of the Soviets’ war plans called for nuclear weapons until after Joseph Stalin’s 1953 death. It was after 1953 that the nuclear tensions began to ratchet up on the continent. NATO countries had their own individual plans for nuclear war, as well. The UK alone planned to drop at least 40 nuclear weapons on Eastern Europe. The American Single Integrated Operation Plan, first created in 1960, called for raining thousands of nuclear strikes on Communist countries, even if they weren’t at war with the U.S. For the West, the destruction would be so absolute, it didn’t matter what came after. For the Russians and their allies, the war didn’t stop at the nuclear exchange. Nukes only shaped the conventional battlefield.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened
Ethnic-Chechen Spetsnaz soldiers of Sulim Yamadayev’s Battalion Vostok in Georgia in 2008 (Russian Defence Ministry photo)

After the exchanges, Eastern armies were to pour West, capturing cities in West Germany and pushing all the way to France. Czechoslovak armies took the middle of Europe, through to the Pyrenees while Polish and Soviet armies took the Northern parts. They planned a five-to-one advantage in troop strength and hoped to be at the Atlantic Coast within 14 days.

5. Sino-Soviet War

This one was actually a “border conflict” between the two Communist countries that almost turned into a nuclear conflict. It started over a small island on the Ussuri River, 3/4 of a mile in area. The river is the border between Russia and the People’s Republic of China. In 1964, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev ceded the island to China but rescinded the recognition after Chairman Mao threatened to claim other Russian areas for China. By 1968, the Red Army was massed on the border.

At the time, the Chinese were numerically superior but technologically inferior to the Russians. Mao’s strategy of “man over weapons” essentially meant he would throw as many Chinese troops at the Soviets as it took – and the Soviets were ready to oblige him but not really sure if they could win. The Politburo in Moscow believed that if it came to war, the USSR would have to use nuclear weapons to win. Leonid Brezhnev even asked the U.S. to remain neutral if the Russians used nukes in the war.

6. The Soviet Invasion of Israel

The 1967 Six-Day War began with a massive Israeli pre-emptive strike against Egyptian airfields. The Israelis destroyed the Egyptian Air Forces on the ground within hours. With air superiority, Israeli forces moved into the Gaza Strip and advanced into the Sinai Peninsula inflicting heavy losses on the Egyptians while taking few of their own. In response, Egypt convinced Jordan and Syria to intervene, which resulted in the Israeli capture of the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Golan Heights.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened
Israeli soldiers, blowing the shofar at the Western Wall, Temple Mount, 1967. (Photo: Israeli Government Press Office) It was kind of a big deal for these guys.

In the days of the Cold War, the Israeli-Arab conflict extended far beyond the borders of the contemporary Middle East. The Soviet Union was the patron of the Arab countries in those days, a counterweight to the U.S. support for Israel. The Soviets were not happy about the rapid Israeli advance and warned the U.S. that if they didn’t do something about it, the Soviet Union would. The Russians prepared an amphibious invasion of Israel on the Mediterranean coast, with full air support. Strategic bombers and nuclear-armed naval forces were already en route to the Middle East when the Soviet Premiere delivered his threat to Washington.

7. The Mexican Invasion of The U.S.

In the days leading up to the U.S. entry into World War I, British intelligence intercepted a telegram from the German Foreign Secretary, Arthur Zimmerman, to the German ambassador in Mexico. The note instructed the ambassador to offer a German-Mexican alliance in case the Americans join World War I against Germany. The Germans would fund a Mexican invasion of territories lost during the Mexican-American war in the 1840s. Instead, the intercepted telegram was published in the U.S., causing a huge public furor and inflaming anti-German sentiment.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened
The coded version of the telegram.

The plan called for an invasion and annexation of Texas, New Mexico, California, Nevada, and Arizona, as well as parts of Utah, Colorado, and Oklahoma. The Germans hoped that, even if Mexico didn’t reconquer the territory, the declaration of war would keep American men and ships in the West and stem the flow of arms and supplies to the World War I allies.

8. The Kaiser’s Invasion of the U.S.

That wasn’t the first time Kaiser Wilhelm planned an attack on U.S. soil. The Kaiser disliked and distrusted Americans, believing American capitalism an immoral and corrupting practice. He also believed U.S. imperialism in the Pacific threatened German hegemony over the Samoas there. In 1897, he ordered the German General Staff to develop an invasion of the United States to stem its growing regional and economic influence. The Imperial German Navy would never be large enough to carry out any of the plans developed.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

The first draft plan called for the invasion of Hampton Roads, Virginia, in an operation that specifically targeted the U.S. Navy. After the decisive American victory in the Spanish-American War, the plan was changed to focus on invading via New York and Boston. The plan required sixty warships and 100,000 German troops. The German ships were to bombard and invade the largest cities on the Atlantic.

9. Confederate Invasion of Mexico and the Caribbean

150 years after the Civil War, it’s hard to remember that a Union victory in the Civil War wasn’t guaranteed. And in the years surrounding the war, Americans on both side of the slavery issue were anxious to expand American territory. That didn’t change just because there were now two Americas.

The Confederates never thought of their cause as lost, either. In their postwar plans, Confederate leaders made plans for expansion into Latin America and the Caribbean. They even attempted to destabilize areas of Mexico so they could take their battle-hardened army right to Mexico City.  They also planned to expand their slave territories to Brazil, where two Confederate explorers established colonies (New Texas and Americana) for 20,000 rebels after the South lost the war.

10. Napoleonic France Invades Australia

In 1800, L’Empereur sent a French expedition to British New Holland (now Australia) ostensibly to conduct surveys in geography and natural history. Two ships led by a Frenchman named Nicolas Baudin sailed for three years along Australia, Tasmania, and other islands in the region. They collected natural specimens that were sent back to France and uncovered some 2500 species of plant and animal. Baudin did not survive the expedition, dying on Mauritius in 1803.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

One of the explorers, Francois Peron, authored a confidential report for Napoleon that outlined what they saw as English encroachments on the territory, accusing the English of land grabs. He believed the French could use the land more effectively and Peron began to feed military and political information back to France.  Baudin himself may even have had a role in developing the invasion information, allegedly preparing a report on how to invade Sydney Cove. They believed 1,800 French troops back by Irish soldiers and convicts could topple British control of the entire area.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This soldier stayed awake for 40 years after being shot in the head

After the outbreak of World War I, young Paul Kern joined millions of Hungarian countrymen in answering the call to avenge their fallen Archduke, Franz Ferdinand. He joined the Hungarian army and, shortly after, the elite corps of shock troops that would lead the way in clearing out Russian trenches on the Eastern front. In 1915, a Russian bullet went through his head, and he closed his eyes for the last time.


Which would be par for the course for many soldiers – except Kern’s eyes opened again in a field hospital.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

Many, many other Austro-Hungarian eyes did not open again.

From the moment he recovered consciousness until his death in 1955, Kern did not sleep a wink. Though sleep is considered by everyone else to be a necessary part of human life. There are many physical reasons for this – sleep causes proteins in the brain to be released, it cuts off synapses that are unnecessary, and restores cognitive function. People who go without sleep have hallucinations and personality changes. Sleeplessness has even killed laboratory rats.

But for 40 years, Paul Kern experienced none of these symptoms. His biggest issue with being awake for 24 hours a day was the costs associated with being awake and functional for that extra eight hours.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

The face you make when you haven’t slept since 1915 and have time to do literally everything.

Doctors encountering Kern’s condition for the first time were always reportedly skeptical, but Kern traveled far and wide, allowing anyone who wanted to examine him to do so. The man was X-rayed in hospitals from Austria to Australia but not for reasons surrounding the bullet – the one that went through his right temple and out again – was ever found.

One doctor theorized that Kern would probably fall asleep for seconds at a time throughout the day, not realizing he had ever been asleep, but no one had ever noticed Kern falling asleep in such a way. Other doctors believed the bullet tore away all the physical area of the brain that needed to be replenished by sleep. They believed he would find only an early death because of it.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

Don’t let Adderall-starved college students find out about Russian bullets.

Kern did die at what would today be considered a relatively young age. His wakefulness caused headaches only when he didn’t rest his eyes for at least an hour a day in order to give his optic nerve a much-needed break. But since Paul Kern had an extra third of his days given back to him, he spent the time wisely, reading and spending time with his closest friends. It seems he made the most of the years that should have been lost to the Russian bullet in the first place.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents in just 8 days

The battle for Shal Mountain, named Operation Rugged Sarak, went from October 8-15, 2011. Shal Mountain sat above Shal Valley and controlled two important supply routes, one vital to coalition forces for resupply and one critical to insurgent smuggling between Pakistan and Afghanistan.


The insurgents controlled the mountain for years, but the men of Bastard Company, 2-27th Infantry Regiment, decided to finally take it from them after the insurgents used it to attack two convoys, killing one Bravo soldier in each of the attacks. The battle for the summit would rage for eight days.

Spc. Jeffrey A. Conn was the medic that responded to the second convoy attack as well as the medic on top of Shal Mountain during the fight for the summit. On the mountaintop, he would earn a Silver Star for saving the lives of at least nine U.S. and Afghan soldiers while also taking the lives of many insurgents — at least 12 in a single attack.

October 11

Conn began the climb up the mountain on Oct. 8 with the rest of first platoon. While a dozen men ran up the mountain carrying minimal gear to begin constructing an outpost that morning, Conn and the bulk of the American platoon arrived on Oct. 11 after fighting up the mountain with the platoon’s heavy weapons and special equipment. Americans on the mountaintop still only numbered 23.

The enemy had made multiple attempts to take the summit before the rest of the platoon arrived, but on the night of Oct. 11 they attacked hard to try and keep the new arrivals from digging in. Using the terrain to sneak up in the dark, insurgents closed to within five meters of the perimeter and began an attack that opened with 12 machine guns firing into the small base. RPGs and recoilless rifle rounds pelted the defenders as they took cover and attempted to return fire.

 

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened
A 101st Airborne Division medic engages targets in the Shal Valley in 2010. Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell

Conn climbed a Hesco barrier on the southern flank and began throwing grenades at enemy positions before initiating claymores positioned around the base. The platoon was ordered to collapse the perimeter. As Conn fell back, he saw RPGs striking the platoon’s Mk-19 fighting position, so he rushed to it and looked for wounded before moving to cover. Conn’s actions are credited with preventing the southern flank from collapsing and saving the lives of 30 Afghan and American defenders.

October 12

Enemy fire throughout the day had harassed the American forces, but the main effort to push the Americans from the mountaintop began in the late evening. Conn was nearly taken out in the opening salvo as RPGs and machine gun fire impacted within inches of him, according to his Silver Star citation. Conn moved first to the command and control position when he saw that the platoon’s radio was unmanned. He sent reports to the headquarters so they could coordinate the battle until he saw enemy fighters maneuvering their way into the outpost. Conn moved to a nearby 60mm mortar tube, put it in direct fire mode, and began engaging the fighters. He killed 12 of them.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened
A 101st Airborne Division medic scans his sector in the Shal Valley in 2010. Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell

On this day, another U.S. soldier struck two insurgents with a TOW missile, killing both of them. One was an Afghan commander whose death would become a rallying cry for the insurgents.

October 13

The following afternoon, the enemy launched its strongest attack of the battle after a funeral for the dead commander. Enemy elements managed to stage a base 100 meters from the OP, hiding in dips in the terrain. Enemy mortar and machine gun fire rained down onto the base. Two 82mm mortar rounds struck a fighting position on the northern flank, severely wounding five U.S. and three Afghan soldiers.

Conn rushed to the position from the opposite side of the OP, exposed to fire the entire way. He quickly stabilized the worst Afghan casualty. As the enemy focused on the new weak point in the flank and sniper fire pelted the ground near him, Conn engaged the assaulting forces with grenades before throwing smoke and pulling the casualties back to the casualty collection point. The casualty collection point gave little cover to the medic, but he stabilized his nine patients, the eight from the northern flank and another from elsewhere on the OP. All nine patients survived and Conn’s actions were again credited with preventing the collapse of a flank, saving the OP.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened
A 101st Airborne Division medic escorts a casualty off of a hilltop in the Shal Valley in 2010. Photo: Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell

Late that evening, amid accurate sniper fire from a nearby mountain, an air ambulance tried to evacuate some of the wounded. The flight medic, Staff Sgt. Robert B. Cowdrey, approached the helicopter from the front while bringing the casualties to the bird and was struck by a rotor blade. Conn arrived on site first, stabilizing the other medic and recovering the five other wounded on the flight line. The helicopter had left the landing zone amid enemy fire, and Conn kept the injured soldier alive for thirty minutes while waiting for another Medevac. Staff Sgt. Cowdrey later died of his wounds.

After the fierce attacks of that day, every member of the platoon showed signs of traumatic brain injury.

October 14

On Oct. 14, first platoon was finally being relieved of their duties on the mountain, but the enemy wasn’t ready to let them go. While the platoon sergeant was supervising the removal of equipment down the mountain, the insurgents sent ten suicide bombers under machine gun and sniper cover fire against the OP.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened
A 101st Airborne Division medic engages targets in the Shal Valley in 2010. Photo: US Army Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell

Conn took fire inside his firing position, but still further exposed himself by climbing out of it to check on other members of the platoon. After making a circuit to treat the wounded in their positions, he moved to the mortar pit and assisted in firing 60mm rounds against enemy positions while fully exposed to the continuing sniper fire. When the enemy came within range, he again threw fragmentation grenades into the advancing forces.

Combined with M4 fire from the platoon sergeant, this effort killed the suicide bombers before they could breach the OP. The enemy survivors soon began retreating into Pakistan.

In total during the Battle of Shal Mountain, 115 enemy fighters were confirmed killed and the U.S. lost two soldiers: the flight medic from the mountaintop and a wolfhound operator who was working near the middle of the mountain.

(h/t to Matt Millham of Stars and Stripes who wrote about this battle from the point of view of Staff Sgt. Anthony Fuentes, platoon sergeant for Spc. Conn. Staff Sgt. Fuentes also received the Silver Star for his leadership during the battle.)

NOW: 10 incredible Post-9/11 combat medics who risked their lives to save others

OR: 7 things you didn’t know about the First Battle of Fallujah

Articles

Congress passes Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act

Almost 42 years after the Vietnam War officially ended, veterans of that unpopular campaign in Southeast Asia will finally get some official recognition.


Thanks to the efforts of Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey and his colleague, Indiana Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly, Congress recently passed the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act, and it is expected to be signed into law by President Donald Trump soon.

On March 26, Toomey hosted a conference call with reporters to discuss his legislation.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened
Retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner was awarded a Silver Star for his service as a combat pilot flying F-105s in Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

The Toomey-Donnelly bill also designates March 29 as “National Vietnam War Veterans Day.” March 29 marks the anniversary of the day that combat and combat support units withdrew from South Vietnam.

The Senate approved the bipartisan bill Feb. 8, and it was approved by the House on March 21. It’s now been on President Trump’s desk since March 23 awaiting his signature.

“In many cases, Vietnam veterans did not receive the warm welcome they deserved when they came home,” Toomey said. “It’s time we put a heartfelt thank you to Vietnam veterans into law.”

He added that all Americans should be grateful to those who served in Vietnam.

Related: How to honor Vietnam War Veterans

Toomey was joined on the call with Harold Redding, a Vietnam veteran from York who came up with the idea for the legislation, and John Biedrzycki, a Vietnam veteran of McKees Rocks and past national commander-in-chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Redding said he worked on getting the legislation passed for 27 months. He thanked Toomey for his efforts in seeing it through.

“I can’t tell you what this means to me and all Vietnam veterans,” Redding said.

Biedrzycki said the legislation was long overdue.

“Every day is Veterans Day,” he noted.

Toomey said he would like to see more public recognition for Vietnam veterans, such as at civic events. Those veterans should be emphasized in our classroom as well, he believes.

“Teachers should teach about the Vietnam War,” the senator explained. “These were difficult times in our history.”

In a news release issued by Toomey’s office after the Senate approved the measure, Donnelly said, “This bipartisan bill would help our country honor this generation of veterans who taught us about love of country and service and who deserve to be honored for their selflessness and sacrifice.”

Here’s what other veterans groups had to say about the legislation:

— Steven Ryersbach, past state Commander/AMVETS Department of Pennsylvania: “It’s outstanding that Sen. Toomey is working to support and honor our Vietnam vets. Sen. Toomey’s overall work on behalf of veterans is commendable and we thank Sen. Toomey for all his efforts.”

— Tom Haberkorn, president of Pennsylvania State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America: ” The Pennsylvania State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America supports the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act, which recognizes the service and sacrifice of those who answered our country’s call and served, with honor, in Southeast Asia.”

— Thomas A. Brown., Pennsylvania VFW State Commander: “All Vietnam War veterans deserve high honor and respect that many of them did not get when they returned home from war. Designating March 29 of each year to say ‘welcome home’ and ‘thank you’ to our Vietnam War veterans is a strong signal that America appreciates the service of these special patriots of freedom.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Friendship in Death: The Nimitz Plot at Golden Gate National Cemetery

Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the World War II Commander of the Pacific Fleet, delivered remarks at Golden Gate National Cemetery on the 10th Anniversary of V-J Day, August 14, 1955. The remains of many men who died under his command had been repatriated and rested before him. Nimitz took the loss of life made by his decisions personally and carried the burden with him throughout his life. He spoke directly to his fallen men on this occasion and promised them that the survivors of the war would honor their memory by maintaining military strength to deter future calamity.

Over the next decade, Admiral Nimitz decided that, in death, he wanted to join his men at Golden Gate with a standard military funeral and regulation headstone. He took steps to assure that the shipmates closest to him during World War II could join him as well.


Admiral Nimitz was a humble and no-frills type of man; still, his funerary and burial decisions surprised some. He was the third of four admirals promoted to the rank of Fleet Admiral of the United States Navy during WWII. All were entitled to a state funeral and three accepted.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

Fleet Admiral Nimitz’s family standing outside of Golden Gate National Cemetery’s chapel, February 24, 1966. Mrs. Nimitz is seated in front of her son and daughters. (U.S. Navy Photo 1115073, NARA II, College Park, Md.)

When the Kennedy administration approached Nimitz—the last of the surviving Fleet Admirals—about planning his own state funeral and burial in Arlington, Nimitz balked. He told his wife Catherine that “He did not love Washington, he loved it out here, and all of his men from the Pacific were out here.”

Instead, Nimitz had only one special request: that the five stars of his Fleet Admiral insignia be placed in the space reserved for an emblem of belief on his headstone. His biographer, E.B. Potter, speculated that Nimitz, a religious man outside of denominations, made the decision to show that “He had done his best in life.”

There were spaces for six graves in Nimitz’s designated burial plot at Golden Gate. When asked if he had preference for who went into the other four graves, Nimitz said, “I’d like to have Spruance and Lockwood.”

Admirals Raymond Spruance and Charles Lockwood were two of Nimitz’s closest friends during the war and after. Their competency as warfighters and leaders contributed greatly to victory in the Pacific. Spruance delivered key victories, such as Midway, the Philippine Sea, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Lockwood commanded the successful U.S. submarine operations in the Pacific.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

Admiral Chester Nimitz (CINCPAC) gives a dinner party in Hawaii for First Lady Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt on September 22, 1943. (L-R): Rear Admiral Charles Lockwood, Mrs. Roosevelt, Admiral Nimitz, Vice Admiral Raymond Spruance. (NH 58521, Naval History and Heritage Command, WNYD)

As a bonus, another close friend and architect of all major Pacific amphibious landings, Admiral Richmond Kelley Turner already occupied a grave very close to the Nimitz plot. When Nimitz posed the idea to Spruance, he “took to the thing like a duck to water,” as Mrs. Nimitz recalled. Lockwood agreed with the plan as well.

A friend in death

Nimitz died February 20, 1966, with his wife Catherine at his side. He was laid to rest on the cold and blustery afternoon of February 24 (his 81st birthday). Admiral Spruance, recovering from the flu, respectfully stood at attention in his uniform throughout. Mrs. Nimitz found some humor in the day when an uninvited sailor who had served in the Pacific Fleet arrived at the grave dressed in his best cowboy boots and hat. He refused to leave because “This was his commander, [and] he was going to be there come hell or high water.”

While this circumstance would likely have annoyed many, this type of admiration from those who served under him embodied the leadership style of Nimitz. Two nineteen-gun salutes, a 70-plane flyover, and the playing of “Taps” concluded the service.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

Funeral of Fleet Admiral Nimitz. Procession about to begin journey from the chapel to the gravesite at Golden Gate National Cemetery, February 24, 1966. (U.S. Navy Photo 1115072-B, NARA II, College Park, Md.)

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


MIGHTY HISTORY

The fascinating origin of a favorite gloating phrase

You’ve just proven yourself to the doubters and in your moment of triumph you turn and ask just one question: “How do you like them apples?” This phrase has been used for decades and has been made popular by films like Good Will Hunting and Rio Bravo, but where does it come from?

While many claim that the origin of this phrase is unknown, others claim that it comes straight from the trenches of World War I.


These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

When developing the first armored fighting vehicles, the British didn’t want everyone to know what they were working on, so they called them ‘water tanks.’

(Imperial War Museums)

World War I was, at the time, the largest international conflict ever. As such, troops came together from all kinds of backgrounds. As they intermingled, they picked up on dialects from other cities, countries, and continents and, as a result, a large number of new phrases were born from adapting elements of these different languages. It was during this same war that the first armored fighting vehicle was dubbed a ‘tank’ and anti-aircraft fire was called an ‘ack-ack.’

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

You can still find these on the internet because why not?

(International Military Antiques)

The origin behind “how do you like them apples” actually has nothing to do with apples and everything to do with mortars. Specifically, we’re talking about the British-made 2-inch medium mortar, better known as the “toffee apple.”

This mortar used a smoothbore muzzle loading (SBML) system that fit a 22-inch shaft with a spherical bomb on the end, which would be exposed from the tube. This mortar, like others, was designed specifically for dropping warheads on foreheads in enfilade, but found use in other areas of the war.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

Hopefully, your calculations aren’t too far off.

(The Atlantic)

The spherical shape and low velocity meant that the warhead wouldn’t penetrate the ground prior to detonation, leaving shrapnel to devastate enemy forces. Unfortunately for its operators, the system had a fairly short range. Oftentimes, in order to land an explosion in enemy trenches, this system would need to be used from no man’s land — an extreme risk.

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Oh, Matt Damon.

In addition, to clearing out enemy infantry, these bombs could be used to cut barbed wire fences and destroy enemy machine gun emplacements.

Though some say this term was used during the first World War, many others will tell you it wasn’t used until the 1959 classic, Rio Bravo. In the film, after chucking some explosives, a character remarks, “How do you like them apples?” Since then, it’s appeared in (and was arguably popularized by) Good Will Hunting.

Articles

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own

Canadian sniper Pvt. Leo Major could have taken a ticket home after the Normandy invasions when he lost part of his vision to a phosphorous grenade blast or later that year when his back was broken in a mine strike. Instead, he stayed in theater and went on to single-handedly liberate a Dutch town from the Nazis by convincing them that a massive Canadian attack was coming.


Major’s unit approached the town of Zolle in the Netherlands in April 1945 and asked for two volunteers to scout for enemy troops, an easy observe and report mission. Major and his buddy, Willy Arseneault, volunteered to go.

Léo_Major,_Libérateur_-Canadian sniper liberated Zwolle Netherlands Canadian sniper Leo Major liberated a Dutch town on his own during World War II. (Photo: Jmajor CC BY SA 3.0)

They were told to establish communications with the local Dutch resistance and warn them to take cover if possible, since the morning’s attack would open with heavy artillery and the Canadians wanted to limit civilian casualties.

Arseneault and Major moved forward but quickly ran into trouble. They were caught by a German roadblock and Arseneault was killed in the ensuing confrontation. Arseneault killed his attacker before he died and Major used a fallen soldier’s machine gun to kill two and chase off the rest.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened
The German troops in Zwolle numbered in the hundreds but they were scared off by a single Canadian on a rampage. (Photo: German Bundesarchiv)

Major could have turned back at this point and reported the loss of his friend, or he could have carefully completed the mission and carried news of the German strength back to his command. Instead, he decided to go full commando and sow terror in the hearts of his enemies.

He captured a German driver and ordered his hostage to take him into a bar in Zwolle. There, Major found a German officer and told him that a massive Canadian attack was coming.

The Canadian then gave the German hostage his weapon back and sent him into the night on his own. As the rumor started to spread that Canadians were in the town and preparing a massive assault, Major went on a one-man rampage.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened
A U.S. Army Ranger candidate fires the Carl Gustav submachine gun. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. David Shad)

He tossed grenades throughout the town, avoiding civilians and limiting damage to structures but sowing as much panic as possible. He also fired bursts from a submachine gun and, whenever he ran into Germans, he laid down as much hurt as possible.

At one point, he stumbled into a group of eight Germans and, despite being outnumbered, killed four of them and drove off the rest.

He also lit the local SS headquarters on fire.

Major’s campaign of terror had the intended effect. The German forces, convinced they were under assault by a well-prepared and possibly superior force, withdrew from the city. Hundreds of Germans are thought to have withdrawn from the town before dawn.

German-SS-Troops World War II It took a lot to get SS troops to run, but Canadian Pvt. Leo Major turned it into a one-man job. (Photo: German Bundesarchives)

A group of Dutch citizens helped Major recover Arseneault’s body and the sniper returned to his unit to report that little or no enemy troops were present in Zwolle.

The Canadians marched into the town the next day and Major was recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He is the only Canadian to receive DCMs for two wars.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened
A U.S. infantryman receives the Distinguished Conduct Medal from King George V. The DCM is second only to the Victoria Cross in British Valor Awards. (Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps)

He was nominated for a capturing 93 German troops in 1944 but refused it because he though Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery was too incompetent to award medals. But Major received the DCM for capturing Zwolle. In the Korean War he received another DCM after he and a team of snipers took a hill from Chinese troops and held it for three days.

He became an honorary citizen of Zwolle in 2005 and died in 2008. Soon after his death, Zwolle named a street after their Canadian liberator.

Articles

This is the Dunkirk hero who deserted then changed his name to rejoin the army

In 1916, nine-year-old Paddy Ryan was caught in a shootout between the Irish Republican Army and British troops. One of the British men pushed Ryan to the ground, taking a bullet for the young boy. It inspired Ryan to join the Army.


Except Paddy Ryan wouldn’t join the British Army until 1930. But Alfonsus Gilligan, as Ryan was known at the time joined as soon as he could. And deserted shortly after.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

Deserters in the era of the second world war left for many reasons; few of them were actually for cowardice. Most of them were actually because months and years of endless combat pushed many of the frontline British troops past their breaking point.

The British Empire abolished the death penalty for desertion after World War I. In World War II Europe, deserters ran the black markets of occupied countries like France and the Netherlands. In Africa, deserters were often recruited into special operations forces like the British SAS.

Alfonsus Gilligan deserted because he wanted to avoid a court martial.

The 17-year-old wore his Irish Guards uniform to a public event in County Cork, Ireland — in defiance of British Army rules. The Irish, who just fought a war of independence against Britain, started a riot. Gilligan escaped unharmed, but was brought up on charges. He never returned to his London-based unit.

He spent a few years as an itinerant farmer and day laborer before he rejoined the British Army with a new name: Frank “Paddy” Ryan.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened
Frank Paddy Ryan in uniform with his wife Molly and son David taken in 1942. (via Birmingham Mail)

He and his fellow Royal Warwickshires deployed to France in 1940. He was part of the rear guard that held back the Nazis at Dunkirk, delaying them long enough for most of the men to make it off the beaches.

The Royal Warwickshire Regiment was overrun at Wormhoudt, in northern France, by the German army. They ran out of ammunition and surrendered with the expectation of proper treatment under the Geneva Convention.

Instead, a Nazi Waffen SS division called Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler took many of Ryan’s friends and brothers from the Royal Warwickshires, along with members of the Cheshire Regiment, Royal Artillery and a handful of French soldiers, to a barn near Wormhoudt, and then murdered them with grenades and rifle fire.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

This became known as the Wormhoudt Massacre. Paddy Ryan was not among those killed. He fought on along the Ypres-Comines Canal as they made their way to the beach, being evacuated and returning to England on June 1, 1940.

His daughter didn’t discover her father’s first life until after his death in 2000. It inspired her and her husband to explore his life in more detail.

MIGHTY HISTORY

British commandos blew up Nazi shipyards in this crazy daring op

In early 1942, things were finally starting to look up for the Allies in Europe. After the Miracle at Dunkirk, the British managed to regroup and deploy their forces elsewhere. The Blitz was over, and the English home islands were safe from invasion (for the time being). Most importantly, the Americans were in the war on the Allied side. The time was right to hit Nazi Germany where it hurt while making the North Atlantic just a little safer for the Royal Navy to operate.

The British set out to destroy the shipyards at St. Nazaire, France.


These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

An aerial view of the target.

The French port as St. Nazaire held one of the largest drydocks in the world. The legendary battleship Bismarck was on its way to St. Nazaire when the Royal Navy caught up to her and sunk her. Few other docks could accommodate ships of that scale. So to avoid unnecessary civilian casualties, the British decided to destroy them with a daring commando raid. There was just one problem, the Special Operations Executive believed the mission would require more explosives than they could reasonably carry into the dock.

And all the Navy ships that could destroy the facility were too heavy to get into the Loire Estuary. So instead of using people or guns to destroy the complex, they decided to essentially make one giant floating bomb.

The British needed to destroy the facility’s dock, the water pumping machinery, and any U-boats or other shipping in the area. To get the men and explosives close enough to the facility and have enough to actually do the job, the SOE decided to strip a Royal Navy destroyer, making it light enough to slip into the estuary and up the River Loire. After stripping it for weight, the ship would be packed with explosives. The plan was for the commandos to board smaller ships and disembark. Once in the facility, they would set explosives elsewhere in the complex, then blow them up.

All of them, including the giant ship bomb.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

The convoy of two destroyers and 16 smaller craft left England and set sail for France on the afternoon of March 26, 1942. After capturing two French fishing boats, they all arrived off the coast of St. Nazaire around 9 p.m. and made their way into the port under a German naval ensign. That’s when the RAF began making a bombing run that was supposed to distract the German defenders, but it only served to make the Germans more suspicious. By the time the flotilla of English ships was coming in range of the target, they were challenged by the German navy.

In an instant, all the defenders’ searchlights and guns were pointed at the ships. The Germans began to rake the ship with incessant fire, even after the British surrendered. The German fire only increased, so now the British began to shoot back. The HMS Campbeltown, the ship that was laden with explosives, increased her speed.

At 1:30 a.m. the Campbeltown rammed the gates of the dockyard facility, driving the hull into the gate. The commandos finally disembarked as 5,000 German defenders scrambled to make sense of what was happening. Two assault teams, five demolition teams, and a mortar group all spread out into the complex. They moved quickly to take out the various workings of the drydock and the ships there, and they were largely successful, but the effort was not without casualties. The Germans managed to kill many of the raiders.

By this time, escaping back to the ships was not an option. The commando teams’ new orders were to escape back to England however they could and to only surrender if they ran out of ammunition. Most of them did. They attempted to piecemeal an escape to a nearby old town and into the outlying woods. They were quickly surrounded and captured by the Germans. Only five managed to make it back to Spain and thus, England.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

The Campbeltown wreck was still in the dry dock months later.

The Campbeltown didn’t explode right away. It remained lodged in the drydock gates for more than 24 hours as the Germans tried to make sense of the Allied raid. At noon on March 28, 1942, the charges exploded, completely destroying the drydock, along with two tankers moored there. It killed 360 Germans and knocked the drydock out for the remainder of World War II.

Some 169 British troops died in the effort, along with 215 taken prisoner. The Nazis lost two tugs, two tankers, and the drydock in this daring raid but the more strategic importance of the raid was less than welcome. Hitler began to double his efforts to fortify the Western coast of France. By the time D-Day came around in 1944, the new fortifications would cost the Allies dearly.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These Coasties killed a German sub and saved their convoy

The U.S. Coast Guard has an under-recognized place in World War II history, fighting German spies before the U.S. entered the war and immediately taking on convoy escort duties, weather patrols, and anti-submarine missions after America declared war on the Axis Powers. One of the Coast Guard crews that bravely shouldered the load was the USCGC Campbell which, in icy Atlantic waters, took bold action to finish off a German U-boat that attempted to attack it.


These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

Crewmembers of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Campbell pose with their mascot, Sinbad, in World War II.

(U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office)

The Campbell was part of a class of 327-foot Coast Guard cutters specially designed for high-speed service on the high seas. It spent much of World War II protecting convoys and, in February 1943, was one of the escorts for Convoy ON-166. This was before the bulk of German submarines were chased from the Atlantic in “Black May,” and the wolf packs were on the prowl to cut off supplies to Europe and starve Britain into submission.

On February 21, one of those wolf packs found and engaged the convoy. Over a dozen subs fired torpedoes and shells into merchant vessels as the Coast Guard and Navy vessels rushed to protect them.

The Campbell’s involvement started with rescuing 50 merchant mariners from the water. It had to dodge a German torpedo during the rescue, and then it pressed the attack against U-753, heavily damaging it and forcing its withdrawal. It spent the rest of the night driving off German U-boats until it finally attempted to get back to the convoy.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

Crewmembers load a Mk. VII depth charge onto the HMS Dianthus, another escort of ON-166, during World War II.

(Imperial War Museums)

In the pre-dawn darkness, Campbell was 40 miles behind the convoy, essentially alone and attempting to catch up and help kill more German submarines. But then a shape emerged from the inky blackness. U-606 was bringing the fight to the Campbell and attempting to engage it before it could meet up with the convoy.

U-606 had three kills to its name, including two ships of ON-166. But it had been damaged while sinking those earlier ships, and attacking the Campbell was a greedy and potentially risky move. Attacking from the surface exposed its position to the American crew and would allow the Campbell to employ its gun crews as well as depth charges.

When the Campbell spotted the sub, it went one step further. Cmdr. James A. Hirshfield ordered a ramming maneuver, swinging the ship about to slam its hull against the submarine.

The Campbell’s bold maneuver came at a cost, though, as the side plating ruptured and salt water began to pour in. Cmdr. Kenneth K. Cowart supervised damage control while also helping to ensure that sufficient engine power was on hand for the continued maneuvering and fighting.

Meanwhile, on the deck, the men controlling the depth charges had managed to drop two during the ram, damaging U-606 further. And deck gun crews began pouring fire onto the stricken sub, attempting to disable or kill it before it could unleash its own deadly barrage against the cutter.

In this melee, an all-Black gun crew of a three-inch gun battery distinguished itself for bravery, accurately concentrating its damage on the sub’s deck and conning tower.

But the salt water took its toll, finally shorting out Campbell’s power. The German sub was defeated, and the cutter took five prisoners, but Campbell was liable to sink at any moment. Hirshfield ordered the prisoners, the merchant mariners, and all non-essential personnel off the ship.

He led the remaining crew through four days of damage control without engine power before finally receiving a tow back to port for repairs. The Campbell survived the war. Hirshfield received the Navy Cross for his actions, and Cowart and Cmdr. Bret H. Brallier received Silver Stars for their parts in saving the cutter.

Louis Etheridge, the man who led that all-Black gun crew on the three-inch battery, later received a Bronze Star for his work that February.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These were the helicopters of World War II

Think of a military helicopter. Think of it in combat. Is it a Black Hawk dropping off operators in urban combat? A Chinook picking troops up from a remote ridge or rooftop? Maybe you’re old school and you see a Piasecki H-25 or H-19 Chickasaw from the Korean War. But few people will think all the way back to World War II when German and American helicopters all served on the front lines.


These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

The Sikorsky R-4 helicopter was one of America’s only helicopters to see active service in World War II, acting predominantly as a rescue and transportation asset in the China-Burma-India Theater.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

America’s military helicopter program was largely carried by two companies, both prominent helicopter manufacturers today who, oddly enough, are now competing to create the Army’s next generation of vertical lift aircraft. Sikorsky’s founder, Igor Sikorsky, was a Russian-American immigrant who wanted to help his adopted country fight in World War II.

He received financial backing from friends to start manufacturing aircraft, predominantly fixed-wing planes, for the U.S. military. But, off to the side, he was developing new helicopter designs including the VS-500, an aircraft that used one large rotor blade to generate lift and another, smaller rotor blade mounted on a long boom to generate anti-torque. This is the same blade configuration now used on everything from the UH-60 to the AH-64 Apache.

The VS-300 prototype quickly gave way the R-4, a two-seater helicopter that would serve most predominantly with the U.S. Army but also the Navy, Coast Guard, and the Royal Air Force. It first began rolling off the production line in 1942 and was primarily used for observation and to ferry supplies.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

The German-made Flettner 282 helicopter was employed against Allied naval assets near the end of World War II, but was then captured by Allied troops. In this photo, it’s undergoing testing with the U.S. military.

(Public Domain)

But, the helicopter was also employed in two daring rescue missions in the challenging terrain of the China-Burma-India Theater. The helicopters could just barely make it through the high mountain passes that planes could easily fly over, but the rotary aircraft could land in small clearings that were impossible for planes to stop in or take off from.

Other helicopters were in development during the war. The Bell Aircraft Corporation, later known as Bell Helicopters and now Bell Flight, created the Bell Model 30 that would see limited use on the home front, but it would not be deployed overseas.

Meanwhile, Germany’s helicopter program was much more advanced than America’s or the Allies’. They debuted experimental helicopter designs before the war and even flew prototypes in front of adoring crowds for weeks in 1938.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

The Focke-Angelis Fa-223 helicopter was a German machine popular during the war. It had a heavy lift capability for the day that allowed it to re-position artillery in forward positions.

(U.S. Air Force)

This pre-war research led to the Fa-223, the “Dragon.” Five types were planned with missions from anti-submarine, to search and rescue, to cargo carrying. But it really predicted future developments when it was used to recover crashed aircraft and to move artillery batteries to inaccessible mountaintops where they would have greater range and better defenses.

Meanwhile, the Flettner-282 Hummingbird was designed to seek out enemy submarines at sea and other threats. It was completed late in the war with early models going through testing in 1943. But the first 24 were completed in time for limited deployments to the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Aegean Sea.

A number of other models were in experimental phases during the closing months of the war, but saw limited or no combat use before war’s end. But the American, German, and other designs that didn’t quite make it into the fight would prove influential for decades to come.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A navy of privately owned ships helped win the American Revolution

It’s no secret that the early American revolutionists were up against a serious enemy when it came to the British Navy. Not only was the British Navy, one of the most experienced in the world, but their fleet was massive. Compared to the small, inexperienced, and fledgling Navy of early America, we almost didn’t stand a chance.

That is until tens of thousands of citizen sailors stood up and answered the call for freedom.

Fed up with British society’s confines, these tens of thousands of sailors played a critical role in America’s quest for independence, but are largely forgotten from the history books. 

These so-called privateers accounted for more than 2,000 sailors in our early Navy and were all commissioned by both the Continental Congress and states. Together, the armada preyed on British ships on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, which severely disrupted the British economy and turned British public opinion against the war.

But who were these privateers?

A tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages allows countries at war to license private seamen to seize and plunder enemy vessels. It’s important here to note that privateers were different from pirates because pirates didn’t have legal authorization to plunder ships. Privateers had official letters from governments condoning their actions. Admittedly, the difference between pirates and privateers seems a little murky at best. But either way, the privateers at the helms of ships in the days of the Revolutionary War had one goal in mind: destroy as many British ships as possible.

Early America was as cash strapped as one would expect a fledgling colony to be. We were attempting to extricate ourselves from British rule, which was expensive. Early leaders knew that there’s no way our inexperienced Navy would ever be able to challenge Britain on the seas, but we did have one specific advantage. We didn’t really have anything to lose. 

So the Continental Congress decided to capitalize on that. It issued money to privateers as guerrilla-style naval disruptors and told them to do whatever it took to stop British ships. And that’s exactly what they did. 

Privateers were required to post bonds of up to 5,000 pounds as collateral to ensure that captives taken from British ships wouldn’t be mistreated. These sailors for hire also promised not to knowingly raid American or neutral ships. George Washington leased the ships and set out to man them with competent sailors up to the task.

The chance was once in a lifetime, and Washington sweetened the deal by offering one-third of all the goods the privateers captured and sold. In this appeal to the privateers’ financial self-interest, soon, Washington had more volunteers than he knew what to do with. Financial incentive coupled with a newfound patriotism for their fledgling country ensured helped awake the early spirit of capitalism, and for the first time in their lives, these sailors realized they might actually be able to make some money. 

Whalers, merchants and fishermen set out to convert their ships. By May 1775, there were over 100 New England privateers roaming the high seas, all with the same solitary goal in mind. Privateering became so popular that the Continental Congress started issuing blank commission forms for sailors to fill out themselves. 

Had it not been for the blossoming spirit of patriotism and the allure of cold hard cash, it’s possible that the Revolutionary War might have turned out very differently. Privateers helped to damage the British economy and undermine British policy, all helpful for the war effort. Ultimately, the privateers helped to capture over 2,000 British naval vessels. Faced with two fronts, one on British soil and one on American soil, the British Navy was very challenged to keep up with the constant barrage of privateers. Ultimately, this helped us win the war and gain our independence from Britain.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This two-line order to Eisenhower defines modern leadership

Future U.S. General of the Army and President Dwight D. Eisenhower was just a recently promoted and temporary brigadier general when the U.S. was dragged into World War II on December 7, 1941. One week later, he would have a meeting with Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George C. Marshall that would change the trajectory of his career and life.


These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

Army Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower speaks to paratroopers before D-Day invasions.

(U.S. Army)

It’s easy to forget that Eisenhower was a relatively junior officer with no battlefield experience at the start of World War II. Like future-Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr., Eisenhower saw the potential of tanks in World War I and helped create American armored doctrine and units. But where Patton was sent forward to lead the tanks into combat in France, Eisenhower was kept in America to oversee production and logistics.

This grated at Eisenhower, but he did his duty and rose to temporary lieutenant colonel during the war. When the armistice went into effect, and the Army contracted in size, he reverted to his permanent rank of captain, before quickly receiving a promotion to major.

For the next few decades, he would serve in staff and command positions, earning accolades of nearly all the officers he served with. He dabbled in aviation, though he never earned his military wings, and kept abreast of other military developments in order to prepare for future conflict.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall picked Eisenhower for a leading position on his staff and then in North Africa from a pool of over 400 qualified candidates, many of them with more experience than Eisenhower.

(Dutch National Archives)

In 1940, it was clear that the fighting in Europe would likely boil over, and Japan was already years into its own warpath in the Pacific. So, the Army held massive war games to test its readiness for war, and Eisenhower once again rose to the top, earning him a temporary promotion to brigadier general in September 1941.

So, in December 1941, Eisenhower was still untested in battle, had never commanded above the battalion level, and was younger, less experienced, and lower ranking than many of the officers that an Army chief of staff would reach out to for help. But Marshall, who had only met Eisenhower twice, knew that the man had a reputation for natural leadership.

So Marshall ordered Eisenhower to meet him, and the Army chief gave the younger officer a daunting task: Plan the war in the Pacific. When he closed the conversation, Marshall told Eisenhower two lines that would stick with him for decades:

Eisenhower, the department is filled with able men who analyze their problems well but feel always compelled to bring them to me for final solution. I must have assistants who will solve their own problems and tell me later what they’ve done.
These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

The Queen Mary in June 1945.

(U.S. Navy)

Eisenhower would later write that, after saying those words, Marshall “looked at me with an eye that seemed to me awfully cold, and so, as I left the room, I resolved then and there to do my work to the best of my ability and report to the General only situations of obvious necessity or when he personally sent for me.”

This relationship between the men would soon be tested. Eisenhower, trying to keep the unnecessary work off Marshall, made the decision to send 15,000 men to Australia on the British ship Queen Mary to reinforce allies there. He did not ask Marshall for guidance, and he ordered that the ship could proceed without escort, trusting secrecy and the ship’s speed to get the division to safe harbor.

When the ship stopped for fuel in Brazil, though, an Italian official spotted it and sent word to his superiors in Rome. Italy was an Axis power, and any valuable intelligence known in Rome would likely be passed to German U-boats quickly.

These 10 invasions were planned but never happened

General of the Army Eisenhower and Marshall greet pass crowds at an Army air field in July 1945.

(Abbie Rowe, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Eisenhower’s office received an intercepted copy of the message.

The Queen Mary just refueled here, and with about 15,000 soldiers aboard left this port today steaming southeast across the Atlantic.

Knowing that he could not recall the ship or send it an escort without creating more dangers, Eisenhower sat on the news and waited to see how it would play out. When the ship arrived safely in port, he breathed a sigh of relief and then went to his boss, prepared to confess and face the consequences. “I suspected—with obvious reason—that I might be ignominiously dismissed from the presence of the Chief of Staff, if not from the Army,” he later wrote.

Instead, Marshall heard the news and grinned, telling Eisenhower that he had received the same intercept at the same time, he just wasn’t going to burden Eisenhower with the worry until he knew how the gamble played out.

Marshall’s faith in Eisenhower proved well-placed, and the two men worked together even as Eisenhower’s meteoric rise made him Marshall’s peer instead of subordinate. (Eisenhower was promoted to General of the Army, a five-star rank, only four days after Marshall.)

In December of 1945, the war was over, and America was preparing for a turbulent peace. Eisenhower once again reported to the Army Chief of Staff’s office, this time to replace his old boss.