These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

The Medal of Honor is well-known as the U.S. military’s highest honor for acts of valor in the face of the enemy. It is bestowed for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.” Usually, only members of the military earn the award. But a few, rare civilians have, too. 


It’s kind of a big deal.

Created in 1861 as a Navy medal, there have been 3,513 Medals of Honor bestowed, with roughly half going to veterans of the U.S. Civil War. The medal is generally given only to U.S. military members, but in the history of the United States, eight civilians have received the honor for their actions on the battlefield.

A purge of Medal of Honor recipients in 1917 stripped the eight of their awards (with a total of 911 previous awardees) after Congress tightened the rules.  Seven were restored in 1989, and one more in 1977.

“Buffalo Bill” Cody

 

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

In 1872, Buffalo Bill was a scout for the U.S. Army during the Indian Wars. He received the medal for gallantry in combat after leading a cavalry charge against a band of Sioux warriors. He killed two of the warriors, recovered their horses, and then chased them off the battlefield. His medal was restored in 1989.

Amos Chapman Billy Dixon

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor
Billy Dixon during his days as an Indian scout.

Chapman was also a civilian scout for the U.S. Army during the Indian Wars of the late 19th century. He was a half-Native who also worked as an interpreter. While working with Lt. Frank Baldwin out of Fort Dodge, he and another civilian scout, Billy Dixon, along with four soldiers, were confronted by a joint force of more than a hundred Comanche and Kiowa warriors. The six retreated to a buffalo wallow, essentially a mid-sized hole in the ground. On the way there, Dixon was injured, so Chapman picked him up and carried him to the defensive position. He stopped to fight off attackers on occasion, but was shot in the leg a quarter mile from the wallow. He dragged himself and Dixon the rest of the way to the wallow. The six held out until weather forced the enemy withdrawal, three days later.

James Dozier

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

Another civilian scout during the Indian Wars, Dozier was awarded the honor for gallantry at the Little Wichita River, Texas in 1870. Dozier and another scout tracked a band of the Keechi to Bluff Creek. Dozier fired down on the Keechi from a higher position, wounding Chief Keesh-Kosh. Noticing that U.S. soldiers below were exposed to direct fire from a band of Keechi on a hillside, Dozier mounted his horse and attacked the band by himself. Dozier suffered serious injuries when his horse was shot out from under him, but was credited with the campaign’s success.

John Ferrell

Ferrell was a civilian in the service of the Union Navy during the Civil War. While acting as a Navy pilot near Nashville, Tennessee, an engagement with Confederates saw the flag of their ship, the Neosho, shot down. Ferrel and the ship’s quartermaster ran through the enemy fire to reraise the flag.

Martin Freeman

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor
Not this Martin Freeman.

Another U.S. Navy civilian in service to the Union during the Civil War, Freeman was at the Battle of Mobile Bay, Alabama. He was the pilot of the Union Flagship. He piloted the Navy’s ships into the bay under “terrific” enemy fire, from Fort Morgan, the CSS Tennessee, and a flotilla of Confederate gunboats. The boats were captured, the Tennessee surrendered, and the Fort’s guns were silenced.

Mary Edwards Walker

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor
Walker with her Medal of Honor

Walker received her Medal of Honor recommendation from General William Tecumseh Sherman himself. She worked as a contract surgeon at the battles of Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chattanooga, and Chickamauga. During battles, she would frequently cross enemy lines and treat civilians. Throughout the war, she was contracted as a surgeon by the Army of the Cumberland, the 52d Ohio Infantry, and the Patent Office Hospital in Washington, D.C. She would be arrested by the Confederacy as a spy in 1864 and spend four months as a POW. She received the Medal of Honor from President Andrew Johnson, and refused to give it back when Congress erased her award. She died two years later. President Jimmy Carter restored her status in 1977.

William H. Woodall

Woodall was a civilian employee of the Union Army during the Civil War. At the Battle of Namozine Church, while riding as a scout with Gen. Philip Sheridan’s Cavalry Corps, Woodall was with a group of scout spies dressed in Confederate uniforms when they captured Confederate General Rufus Barringer. Woodall captured the general’s headquarter’s flag.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 4 most poorly named military weapons

Some military vehicles are given names that accurately reflect what they do and how well they do it. Others, however, are not so fortunate — they’re given military monikers that simply don’t fit.

The following tools of war were either given names so lofty that it makes a mockery of their actual performance or a name so low-class that it’s a disgrace to the weapon.


These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

At Midway, the Devastator got devastated by Mitsubishi A6M “Zeke” fighters.

(U.S. Navy)

Douglas TBD Devastator

This plane’s name would have you thinking it’s something that can deliver a huge amount of firepower, sufficient enough to destroy whatever ship lays in its path. Unfortunately, this was far from the reality of the Douglas TBD Devastator.

At the Battle of Midway, a total of 41 Devastators attacked the Japanese carriers. Torpedo Squadron Eight, based on the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV 8) and accounted for 15 of those Devastators — all of which were wiped out. In total, only six Devastators survived. ‘Devastated’ is a much more fitting title.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

The KC-97 Stratofreighter was really an aerial refueling tanker, as seen in action with these A-7 Corsairs.

(USAF)

Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter

This plane found quite a bit of success in its lifetime: 811 were built by the United States and it saw plenty of peacetime work. It was introduced in 1951 and stuck around until 1978 with the Air National Guard. So, what makes ‘Stratofreighter’ such a poor name choice?

This plane wasn’t a transport — it was a tanker. This plane refueled the bombers and fighters who took the fight to the enemy. Really, this plane should have been called the ‘Stratotanker’ (a name later used by the KC-135) because there’s no ‘freighter’ involved.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

The only things mauled by the MIM-46 Mauler were the reputations of those who thought it was a good idea.

(U.S. Army)

MIM-46 Mauler

This missile was intended, as the name implies, to maul enemy planes that approached on close-air support missions. Well, as it turns out, the only mauling the missile did was in theory. In reality, it suffered from all sorts of problems, ranging from failing launch canisters to malfunctioning guidance systems.

Ultimately, the Army instead turned to the MIM-72 Chaparral and Navy went with the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow. The MIM-46 was test fired in 1961 and, by 1965, the Mauler mauled no more.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

This was what the M247 Sergeant York was supposed to be. Reality was very different.

(U.S. Army)

M247 Sergeant York

Sergeant Alvin York was known for his marksmanship, earning the Medal of Honor for heroic acts performed during World War I. The M247 Sergeant York, conversely, was anything but a marksman. When it came time to test this vehicle, which was equipped with a pair of 40mm cannon and the radar of the F-16, it couldn’t even hit a hovering drone. The radar simply couldn’t track anything.

Surely, Sergeant York rolled in his grave over sharing a name with this lemon.

What weapons do you think have unfortunate names? Let us know in the comments!

MIGHTY HISTORY

Remembering a legend: Marine correspondent, first to cover Vietnam War for Stars and Stripes, dies at 84

News of Gunnery Sgt. Steve Stibbens’ passing on Saturday spread fast through the ranks of current and former military journalists and war correspondents for whom Stibbens was a legend, friend, and role model.

“The retired ranks of the Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association have lost a fighter, and I have lost a friend,” wrote former Marine combat correspondent and retired Capt. Robert “Bob” Bowen in a remembrance posted on Facebook. “Gunnery Sgt. Steve Stibbens hung up his award-winning camera this afternoon, September [19], in Dallas, Texas. His heart gave out on him after 84 years.”


Stibbens, who enlisted in the Marines in 1953, forged a legacy as a trailblazing storyteller and award-winning photojournalist when he was sent to Vietnam in 1962 and 1963 as the first Stars and Stripes reporter to cover the conflict, years before the US committed large numbers of conventional forces to the war.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

Stibbens as an AP correspondent in Vietnam in 1967; and at top right in 1962 — along with his friend Paul Brinkley-Rogers — spending time with Philippine freedom fighter Emilio Aguinaldo and his wife, Maria Agoncillo Aguinaldo, at the Aguinaldos’ home in Cavite. In 1899, after the fall of Spanish colonial power in the Philippines, Aguinaldo was elected that nation’s first president. Photos courtesy of Steve Stibbens’ Facebook page.

“Steve roamed the Mekong Delta and the Central Highlands with Army Special Forces ‘A teams’ and advisers until the Marines arrived in 1965,” Stars and Stripes reported Tuesday.

Bowen said Stibbens was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device for his time covering the war for Stripes. From Stripes, Stibbens went on to cover the war for Leatherneck Magazine.

“When the Marines landed in Da Nang in March 1965, Steve was quick to follow,” Bowen wrote in his remembrance.

Stibbens’ work in Vietnam earned him the National Press Photographer Association’s coveted title of Military Photographer of the Year in 1964 and again in 1965.

No Marine would earn the prestigious title for another 28 years, until retired Gunnery Sgt. Earnie Grafton won in 1993 while assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific.

“Steve Stibbens is a legend in our community,” Grafton told Coffee or Die Magazine. “He was a trailblazer for all Marine photojournalists, and he set the standard for all of us to follow.”

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

A Steve Stibbens photo from Vietnam, June 12, 1965: “The strain of battle for Dong Xoai is shown on the face of U. S. Army Sgt. Philip Fink, an advisor to the 52nd Vietnamese Ranger battalion, which bore the brunt of recapturing the jungle outpost from the Viet Cong.” Photo from Joseph Galloway’s Facebook page.

President Lyndon Johnson selected Stibbens’ photo of a weary, unshaven Special Forces soldier as “The President’s Choice.”

Stibbens left active duty in 1966 and returned to Vietnam as a reporter for The Associated Press. He later reenlisted in the Marine Reserves and retired from the Corps as a gunnery sergeant after 20 years of service.

“Steve was one of a handful of Vietnam-era Marine combat correspondents that my later generation of military journalists looked to emulate,” said retired Capt. Chas Henry, a former Marine combat correspondent who served from 1976 to 1996. “He was the complete, dashing package: a writer who could grasp and succinctly describe human aspects of warfighting, a superb photographer, and a genuinely nice guy.”

Vietnam War correspondent Joseph Galloway, who co-authored We Were Soldiers Once … and Young — the bestselling account of the 1965 Battle of the Ia Drang Valley — posted his own remembrance on Facebook Saturday, calling Stibbens “a good friend and a fine photographer.”

Galloway honored his friend’s memory Monday, posting several old photos on Facebook, including one of Stibbens in 1962 with Filipino freedom fighter Emilio Aguinaldo, the country’s first president, and another showing “the strain of battle” on an Army sergeant in 1965.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

This Stibbens photo from 1963 shows the agony of an Army of the Republic of Vietnam Ranger after he lost his hand to a grenade booby trap in the Mekong Delta. Photo courtesy of Steve Stibbens’ Facebook page.

“Steve was fine company in a foxhole or a watering hole, and we will miss him greatly,” Galloway wrote on Facebook.

Stibbens’ daughter, Suzanne Stibbens, told Stars and Stripes that her father was not as well known as Galloway and some of his other contemporaries, but that didn’t bother him.

“In Saigon, he and Peter Arnett would go get coffee every morning,” she said, describing Stibbens’ friendship with the Pulitzer Prize-winning AP reporter. “My dad would ask for ‘café au lait with milk.’ They laughed and told him ‘au lait’ means with milk.”

Suzanne also told Stripes that Stibbens’ real name was Cecil and that he picked up the nickname “Steve” at boot camp after visiting a buddy’s Russian mother who couldn’t pronounce his name.

Stars and Stripes‘ Seth Robson called Stibbens’ early Vietnam reporting “hardcore combat journalism from the tip of the spear.” In a 1964 dispatch for the newspaper headlined, “Special Forces sergeant has nerve-wracking job,” Stibbens profiled Staff Sgt. Howard Stevens, a Special Forces soldier whose mission was to make soldiers of primitive Koho and Montagnard tribesmen in the mountains of Vietnam.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

Steve Stibbens. Photo courtesy of Steve Stibbens’ Facebook page.

“To say the least,” Stevens told Stibbens after a firefight between the tribesmen and Viet Cong fighters, “it’s a rewarding experience to take a man out of his loin cloth and train him to use modern weapons when the nearest thing to a machine he’d ever seen was an ax.”

Henry, who enlisted in the Marines as a private in 1976 and rose through the ranks, remembered Stibbens on Tuesday as more than just a gifted journalist.

“As a young Marine, I’d heard stories about Steve from my bosses, who had known him in Vietnam. I finally met him at a combat correspondent conference in Dallas, his hometown,” Henry said. “Steve was a larger-than-life kind of presence, but he was a character with character. Some guys who’d made names for themselves liked to talk about themselves. Steve made a point to get to know those of us newer to the field. And when we talked, he mentioned having been impressed with something I’d produced. And he described whatever it was with enough detail that I could tell he had actually seen or heard or read it. Those words, coming from someone whose work set such a standard, meant the world to me.”

Stibbens had a long career in journalism that included assignments as the AP’s photo editor in Dallas, a bureau chief at Gannett’s Florida Today in Vero Beach, Florida, and as a reporter at the San Diego Union, the Dallas Times Herald, Newsweek magazine, and Texas Business magazine, according to Stars and Stripes.

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


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Check out the awesome planning documents for D-Day

It’s easy now to think of Operation Overlord as fated, like it was the armies of Middle Earth hitting Mordor. The good guys would attack, they would win, and the war would end. But it actually fell to a cadre of hundreds of officers to make it happen and make it successful, or else more than 150,000 men would die for nothing.


These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor
(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

But the planners of Operation Neptune and Operation Overlord had an insane number of factors to look at as weather, moon and starlight, and troops movements from London to Paris would affect the state of play when the first Allied ships were spotted by Axis planes and lookouts. Planners wanted as many factors on their side as possible when the first German cry went out.

The map above allowed the planners to get a look at what sort of artillery emplacements troops would face at each beach, both during their approaches and landings and once they were on the soil of France.

Looking at all the overlapping arcs, it’s easy to see why they asked the Rangers to conduct the dangerous climbs at Point Du Hoc, why they sent paratroopers like the Band of Brothers against inland guns, and why they had hoped for much more successful bombing runs against the guns than they ultimately got.

Instead, paratroopers and other ground troops would have to break many of the enemy guns one at a time with infantry assaults and counter-artillery missions.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor
(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

Speaking of those bombers, this is one of the maps they used to plan aircraft sorties. The arcs across southern England indicate distances from Bayeux, France, a town just south of the boundary between Omaha and Gold beaches. The numbers in England indicated the locations of airfields and how many fighter squadrons could be based at each.

These fighter squadrons would escort the bombers over the channel and perform strafing missions against ground targets. Bayeux was a good single point to measure from, as nearly all troops would be landing within 30 miles of that city.

But planners were also desperate to make Germany believe that another, larger attacking force was coming elsewhere, so planes not in range of the actual beaches were sent far and wide to bomb a multitude of other targets, as seen below.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor
(U.S. Military Academy)

Diversion attacks were launched toward troops based near Calais, the deepwater port that was the target in numerous deception operations. But the bulk of bomber and fighter support went right to the beaches where troops were landing.

Bombings conducted in the months ahead of D-Day had reduced Germany’s industrial output and weakened some troop concentrations, but the bulk of German forces were still ready to fight. Luckily, the Allies had a huge advantage in terms of weather forecasting against the Axis, and many German troops thought the elements would keep them safe from attack in early June, that is until paratroopers were landing all around them.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor
(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

This map shows additional beaches between the Somme and the Seine Rivers of France along with the length of each beach. These beaches are all to the northeast of the targets of D-Day, and troops never assaulted them from the sea like they did on Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches.

But these beaches, liberated by maneuvering forces that landed at the D-Day beaches, would provide additional landing places for supplies until deepwater ports could be taken and held.

But all of that relied on actually taking and holding the first five beaches, something which actually hinged quite a bit on weather forecasting, as hinted above. In fact, this next two-page document is all about meetings on June 4-5, 1944, detailing weather discussions taking place between all of the most senior officers taking part in the invasion, all two-stars or above.

(Maj. Gen. H.R. Bull, the memo author, uses days of the week extensively in the memo. D-Day, June 6, 1944, was the Tuesday he was referring to. “Monday” was the June 5 original invasion date. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were D-Day+1, +2, and +3.)

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor
(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)
These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor
(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

This might seem like a lot of military brainpower to dedicate to whether or not it was raining, but the winds, waves, and clouds affected towing operations, the landing boats, fighter and bomber cover, and the soil the troops would fight on.

The fate of France could’ve been won or lost in a few inches of precipitation, a few waves large enough to swamp the low-lying landing craft, or even low cloud cover that would throw off even more bombs and paratroopers. So, yeah, they held early morning and late night meetings about the weather.

Thank God.

MIGHTY HISTORY

9 Americans who raised their own armies to conquer other countries

Individual Americans invading other countries used to be a real problem for the fledgling United States. In fact, there were so many threats to U.S. security from its own citizens raising armies that the feds passed various Neutrality Acts to make it illegal for an American to wage war against any country at peace with the United States.


Still, it happened so often there were two words for it, “filibustering and freebooting” – but one man’s freebooter is another man’s freedom fighter, right?

Here are just a few of those American freebooters, some of whom were already judged by a jury of their peers.

1. A former Vice-President tries to conquer the entire Louisiana Purchase

Aaron Burr was the third veep, serving under President Thomas Jefferson. After his tenure as VP, however, his career took a steep dive. Not one to let massive unpopularity affect his career as a political leader, Burr conspired to create his own independent nation in the middle of what was 40,000 acres of territory belonging to Spain and the United States.

 

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor
His previous notoriety came from killing the Secretary of the Treasury.

He created a group of farmers, planters, and Army officers, including the Army’s top general James Wilkinson, and equipped them for a fight. But before he could wage his little war, Burr was arrested and shipped back to Virginia to stand trial. Wilkinson provided the most damning evidence against Burr, who was acquitted anyway.

2. John Adams’ son-in-law sought to liberate Venezuela

A prominent Revolutionary War officer, William S. Smith rose in ranks due to both his station in life and his martial ability. He began his career as an aide-de-camp but was soon on the General Staff for both Lafayette and Washington. So he knew what he was doing when he secured funds, arms, and mercenaries to free Venezuela from Spanish rule. The ships and 60 of the men he sent were immediately captured by Spanish authorities.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

Smith was put on trial for violating the Neutrality Act of 1794, like many of the people on this list. Also like many of the people on this list, he was acquitted. He claimed Thomas Jefferson told him to do it, and it led to the landmark Supreme Court ruling that the President cannot authorize a person to do what the law forbids.Smith would later be elected to Congress.

3. Vermont tries to liberate Canada

The brother of famed Patriot leader Ethan Allen was less than successful in his own efforts to unshackle the New World from the British yoke. After the Revolution, Ira Allen traveled to France to gain support for leading an insurrection in Canada, seeking to create an independent “Republic of United Columbia.” Instead, he purchased 20,000 arms and 24 cannon but was captured at sea by the Royal Navy. Britain thought he was going to arm the Irish and put him on trial for that. The escapade bankrupted Allen, who died in Philadelphia hiding from his creditors.

4. Patriots from Georgia attempt to annex Florida

In the early days of the American experiment, everyone wanted Florida. Unfortunately, it was full of the people who owned it — the Spanish. Americans were constantly gauging the Floridians to see if annexation were possible. One such endeavor was led by George Mathews, a former Continental Army officer.

When the Spanish governor of East Florida reneged on a deal to cede it to the U.S., Matthews established an intelligence network and then a full-on insurgency in East Florida. His “Patriots of Amelia Island” were successful enough, but the U.S. had to deny the mission there because of the War of 1812. The insurgency soon collapsed and Mathews died in Georgia.

5. Trying to liberate Texas with Frenchmen

When he couldn’t fight the Spanish in Florida anymore becsause President John Quincy Adams purchased it from the Spanish, James Long set his sights on Texas. His original plan called for the use of Jean Lafitte’s pirate fleet. But Lafitte refused to help.

Instead, Long recruited dozens of former French soldiers and captured Nacogdoches, and proclaimed the first Republic of Texas, which lasted a month. Not to be outdone, he returned with 300 troops before being captured and shot by the Mexicans.

6. Doctor turned Lawyer turned journalist turned mercenary turned dictator

That’s one hell of a resumé – and yet William Walker did it all before turning 40.

In 1853, Mexico refused to give Walker permission to establish a fortified colony in Sonora, along the Mexico-U.S. border. He returned to San Francisco and built a 45-man army of slavery supporters from Kentucky and Tennessee to conquer Sonora and Baja California, forming the Republic of Lower California with his capital at Cabo San Lucas. After the Mexican government forced him out, he tried again to do the same thing, this time declaring the Republic of Sonora. When the Mexican Army intervened again and expelled Walker, he was tried for his illegal war in California but was acquitted in 8 minutes.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

Two years later, Walker turned up in Nicaragua, leading 60 “colonists” to support the government. His gang and a group of locals attacked a Conservative Party group who were in open civil war against Nicaragua’s Liberal government. He inflicted heavy casualties and later captured the Liberal capital. He ruled Nicaragua as head of the army, even being recognized by the U.S.’ Pierce Administration as the legitimate government. Fearing further conquests, nations of Central America formed an alliance to take down Walker, who surrendered to the U.S. Navy. He eventually ended up in the hands of the government of Honduras, who promptly executed him.

7. A Confederate diplomat in Mexico starts a rebellion

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor
John T. Pickett

 

John T. Pickett was sent to Mexico as an emissary of the Confederate government. He found the Mexican government to be less than receptive to the Southern cause and more welcoming to the North. Pickett was arrested after assaulting a member of the U.S. diplomatic party by Mexican authorities. Pickett attempted to raise a rebel army against the Mexican government but failed. He tried numerous times to negotiate a treaty to annex large parts of northern Mexico. He was again arrested by the government, thrown in jail for 30 days, and expelled from the country.

8. Naval officers want to conquer South America, found Confederate colonies instead

Matthew Maury, the founder of the U.S. Naval Academy, sent two officers on a mission to map the Amazon for shipping purposes. The officers, loyal to the Confederate cause (as was Maury), instead mapped it to conquer it for the Confederacy. When the South lost the Civil War, Maury helped 20,000 rebels flee to Brazil, where they founded the Confederate colonies of New Texas and Americana.

 

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor
A tradition they still celebrate.

 

9. Aiding independence movements everywhere

One American thought supporting independence movements worldwide all the time should be the extent of American foreign policy and acted on it whenever possible. William A. Chanler started his career as a freedom fighter in 1902 when Dutch investors tried to overthrow Venezuela for defaulting on its loans. Chanler created an outlaw army, recruited through Butch Cassidy, that landed in Venezuela and marched inland. The President of Venezuela, finally complied with the terms of his loan and Chanler’s army withdrew. He shortly after assisted the Libyans in fighting the Italians, Somalis fighting Italians, and he helped the overthrow of the Qing dynasty in China

MIGHTY HISTORY

America’s secret supersonic spy drones flew over China in the 1960s

While we tend to think of drones as a very modern addition to the battlefield, the truth is, America’s Defense Department has long been interested in the concept of unmanned aircraft. In fact, for a short window of time in the 1960s, America’s supersonic, high-flying drones were already attempting reconnaissance flights over China.

In May of 1960, the United States was at a crossroads. A CIA pilot named Francis Gary Powers flying America’s classified U-2 Spy Plane had been shot down over the Soviet Union at the start of the month. The ensuing international incident edged the world one step closer toward nuclear Armageddon, and President Dwight Eisenhower made the decision to cease all manned flights into Soviet Airspace as a result. With reconnaissance satellite technology under development but still years away from providing actionable intelligence, Lockheed’s famed Skunkworks set to work on another possibility: unmanned flights over the Soviet Union.


These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

D-21 Drone with additional rocket booster for launch from a B-52H

(WikiMedia Commons)

In October of 1962, legendary engineer Kelly Johnson, whose career included designing both the U-2 Spy Plane and the SR-71 Blackbird, set to work designing what would come to be called the D-21: a long-range, high altitude drone that leaned heavily on technology developed for the SR-71’s predecessor, the A-12.

The requirements Johnson was given by the CIA and U.S. Air Force were nothing short of extreme: the drone had to reach speeds of Mach 3.3–3.5, an operational altitude of 87,000–95,000 feet, and needed a fuel range of 3,000 nautical miles. Any modern-day engineer would tell you that such a project would still be daunting today, but Johnson had made a career out of accomplishing the seemingly impossible — often with little more than a hand ruler and scratch paper for calculations.

His D-21 design could meet all the requirements set out for him, but in order to achieve such high speeds at such high altitudes, he had to use a ramjet engine that couldn’t function until it was already flying high in the sky. As a result, plans were drawn up to deploy the drone from a variant of the A-12, dubbed the M-21 Blackbird.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

Just in case you didn’t think the SR-71 could ever look cooler.

(WikiMedia Commons)

With a wingspan of just over 19 feet and a length of nearly 43 feet, the D-21 looked a lot like someone had just hacked the end off of one of the A-12’s wings, making the M-21 a matching aesthetic choice, if nothing else.

The D-21 carried a single high-resolution camera that would snap photos over a pre-programmed flight path. It would then eject the film canisters, which would drift down via parachute and float in water. The plan was to capture these canisters in the air, with Navy ships positioned to retrieve them from the water as a backup. The drone itself would then self-destruct to avoid being captured and reverse-engineered.

The first three test flights of the D-21 from the M-21 Blackbird went smoothly, but on the fourth attempt, the drone experienced an “asymmetric unstart” passing through the bow wake of its M-21 mothership. The two aircraft collided in mid-air at the blistering speed of Mach 3.25. Both pilots managed to eject, but one ultimately drowned before he could be rescued. The decision was made to scrap the M-21 mothership strategy and instead deploy the D-21 from beneath the wings of the B-52H bomber.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

Modified D-21 drones on a B-52H Bomber

(WikiMedia Commons)

After a number of failures, Lockheed’s D-21 completed its first successful B-52H-launched flight in June of 1968 and soon, the program moved into operational reconnaissance flights over China.

In all, four D-21s were launched from B-52Hs and sent into Chinese airspace on reconnaissance missions. Two of the drones completed their flights, but either failed to eject their film, or the film was deemed irretrievable. The other two flights were either shot down or simply disappeared shortly after launch.

Despite their failures over China, the D-21 program was significantly ahead of its time. A Mach-3 capable drone with an operational ceiling of 90,000 feet was an unheard of proposition in its day and remains impressive even in this new era of unmanned aerial vehicles.

The program was ultimately canceled on July 15, 1971, with the B-52s converted for use in the program returned to operational service.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 military working dogs who saved the day, time and again

They’re your loyal companions, your four-legged best friends, the kind of pal that will be there with the love and enthusiasm you need on a bad day, and the joy and light on a good one. For many of us in the military community, dogs are the cornerstones of our lives.


Not only do they bring us joy at home, but dogs are also an important part of military squads and have been for hundreds of years. They’re useful in times of war and disaster, and service dogs often outrank their human counterparts! Why is that? One reason is because it ensures that the lower-ranking service member will always respect and honor their military dogs. Other lore suggests it’s because they’re just that important to unit morale and readiness. Either way, we love the fact that mil-working dogs are high ranking officers. Let’s take a look at some of the most well-known military service dogs.

America’s First War Dog, Stubby

Stubby started life as a wayward stray but found himself in an Army training center in New Haven, CT, during WWI. He ended up on the front lines for much of the war, and on his return from Europe, Stubby participated in several parades and even met three presidents.

What you might not know is that his frequently used moniker, “Sgt. Stubby” wasn’t accurate. In fact, historical biographies report that his rank might have been added posthumously.

Either way, Stubby earned a Purple Heart and more than a dozen awards for his effort in combat. Apparently, he was so well trained that he could sense incoming rounds and helped warn soldiers. There are even reports of Stubby attacking a German spy who tried to sneak into camp.

Stubby died in 1926, and his coat is on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Bak, Hero in Afghanistan

Working with his handler, Sgt. Marel Molina and the 93rd Military Working Dog Detachment, 385th Military Police Battalion, 16th Military Police Brigade, Bak was out looking for explosives in Afghanistan’s Jalrez district on March 11, 2013, when local forces opened fire on a blue-on-green attack.

Having been deployed since June 2012, Bak made six major IED finds. On that fateful day in March, Capt. Ander Pedersen-Keeland and Staff Sgt. Rex Schad lost their lives. Bak died later that day from his injuries.

Cairo, part of SEAL Team 6

Like other military working dogs, Cairo was trained to stand guard and alert team members of anyone approaching. The Belgian Malinois was also trained in crowd control, discovering booby traps and had the ability to sniff out bombs. As part of the perimeter security during the mission to Pakistan as part of the bin Laden raid, Cairo’s mission was to enter the building if the SEAL team couldn’t find bin Laden right away.

Lucca, the wounded warrior

This half-German shepherd, half-Belgian Malinois went on 400 patrols, and not a single Marine died under Lucca’s service. On a routine patrol, Lucca had already found nearly 40 explosive devices while an undetected blast went off. Cpl. Juan Rodriguez, Lucca’s handler at the time, ran past the knowing IED and applied a tourniquet to Lucca, carrying the dog back to the safety of a tree line. Lucca lost his left front leg as a result of the blast.

In total, Lucca served six years of active duty before retiring to California with Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Willingham. In 2016, Lucca flew to London to receive the Dickin Medal, the highest valor award for animals.

JJackson, Air Force Hero

As part of the tribute to those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan wars on display at the National Museum of the US Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, JJackson, or “JJ” as his handlers called him didn’t have any fancy pedigree to separate him from the rest of the military working dog recruits. But what he did have was heart.

JJ was the first on the field and the last to leave, proving time and again to his handlers that he was unwilling to quit. During one of his missions to Iraq, JJ found a man hiding in an abandoned bus that the platoon he was with had missed. For his time in service, JJ earned an ARCOM.

These five pooches prove that two legs aren’t better than four, and when in need, it’s great to have a dog around.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 things you didn’t know about the DEA

The Drug Enforcement Administration is the premier law enforcement agency on the front lines fighting the War on Drugs. The mission of the (DEA) is to enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States and bring to the criminals involved in the growing, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances appearing in or destined for illicit traffic in the United States.

This Federal Law Enforcement Agency recruits, trains, and deploys America’s elite agents into the world’s harshest environments to combat cartels and disrupt their operations. Due to the dangerous nature of their job, 85 agents have sacrificed their lives in service to the United States. Here are 6 things you didn’t know about these clandestine operators fighting the evils of narco-terrorism.


These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

No one:
Nixon: That’ll teach those hippies!

It was founded by President Richard Nixon

On July 1, 1973, President Nixon merged the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE) and over 600 Special Agents from the Customs bureaus into the consolidated force we know today.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

“Why is the DEA storming the lobby, Karen?”

They provide oversight of legal drugs too

The Drug Enforcement Administration licenses anyone who prescribes or dispenses drugs. However, the license must be renewed every three years. The DEA has strict rules on prescription authority and record keeping. Prescribing personnel who, in the view of the DEA, abuse their privilege, are subject to the full extent of the law and loss of said license.

To date, over 60 doctors and counting have been charged with pushing opioids and healthcare fraud by the Department of Justice. This greed is the root cause of today’s opioid epidemic exacerbated by secondary and tertiary problems as well.

You can rest assured, when medical professionals behave like drug dealers, the Department of Justice is going to treat them like drug dealers. – Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski
These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

Operation Albatross in Afghanistan, 2007

(usdoj.gov)

They were trained for combat by the Army

The drug trade also funds actual terrorists in the middle east, and their source of income had to be destroyed. The U.S. expanded its counter-narco mission in Afghanistan in 2005 with the DEA at the helm. The U.S. military provided air support and cargo planes to the DEA, as well as intelligence and logistics support.

The Army trained agents in spotting IEDs, combat maneuvers, and weapon systems.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

Leyenda means legend in Spanish.

(ALLEN HIRSCH)

Enrique S. Camarena was a Marine

If you’re familiar with the hit Netflix series Narcos, you’ll remember that one of the main characters in season 4 is Enrique S. Camarena, also known as Kiki. The series did not emphasize that he was a U.S. Marine. Oorah.

Prior to joining DEA, Special Agent Camarena served two years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He worked in Calexico as a fireman and then as a police investigator, and was a narcotics investigator for the Imperial County Sheriff Coroner. Special Agent Camarena was survived by his wife, Geneva and three children, Enrique, Daniel and Erik. – dea.gov

This special agent was part of the DEA’s Guadalajara Mexican cartel investigation. He was kidnapped and tortured by drug traffickers on February 7, 1985, for over 30 hours. He was also injected with drugs to ensure he remained conscious. He was a tough one, but even Marines aren’t immortal.

In the wake of his death, Operation Leyenda was formed to solve his murder and was the largest homicide investigation ever conducted by the DEA.

Kiki Camarena was posthumously awarded the Administrator’s Award of Honor, the highest award given by the DEA.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

“I don’t know but I’ve been told, Eskimo p-“

“-STFU CARL!”

They have Spec Ops all over the nation

Special Response Team (SRT) program was created in 2016. The SRT was designed to bridge the gap between tactical operations conducted by field agents and those requiring specialized tactics due to elevated mission risks. SRT operators are highly trained in breaching tactics and an array of weapon systems.

Considered one of the most covert outfits in federal law enforcement, very little is known about DEA SRT capabilities and its operator selection process. – dea.gov
These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

“This is your new partner, Special Agent Dogg.”

(Bob Bekian)

The DEA wants to double marijuana production…for research

The agency has increased the amount of marijuana from 978 pounds in 2017 to more than 2,500 pounds in 2018. In 2019, the agency proposed a cannabis quota to more than 5,400 pounds — that’s a lot of weed.

This move is to support federally-sanctioned research in preparation for nationwide legalization — whenever that will be is uncertain.

Articles

This is how Stalingrad’s most epic sniper duel ended

Snipers are considered one of the most dangerous warfighters in the battlefield — taking out targets from concealed and undisclosed locations while homing in on prey that has no clue that they’re in the crosshairs.


During the Battle of Stalingrad, the massive damage the city suffered provided insufficient cover for ground troops, but it was perfect for sharpshooters who could hide in the crumbled buildings and wrack up kills.

Out of all the snipers that were most feared, none came close to Soviet Red Army sharpshooter Vasily Zaitsev.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor
A German soldier during the battle of Stalingrad. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Related: This is the rifle Vasily Zaytsev used to wage a one-man war in ‘Enemy at the Gates’

Reportedly within 10 days of fighting in the streets of Stalingrad, Zaitsev’s body count reached about 40 kills. Once the Soviet press learned of the Siberian native’s incredible progress, they promoted it by releasing propaganda to anyone who would read it — even the Germans.

In response, the Germans sent their first-rate sniper, Maj. Erwin Konig into Stalingrad. Konig’s mission was to eliminate the Red Army’s most efficient marksmen and to display the Nazi’s superiority.

Word broke out that Konig was inbound after a German POW bragged to the Russian Army that it was only a matter of days before Zaitsev and the other snipers would be defeated. This news reached Zaitsev nearly immediately.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor
Vasily Zaytsev and his trusty Mosin-Nagant sniper rifle.

Also Read: This is the German general who inspired a terrifying ‘Wonder Woman’ villain

After a few days, there were no signs of Konig being in the area until three Russian snipers were wiped out within a small section of town. With a hunter’s caution, Zaitsev worked his way into the area where Konig claimed the three Russians lives for an epic duel.

On the second day of Zaitsev’s stalk, a political commissar joined him to report the news of the kill after it had occurred. But the political commissar soon saw something move down the street, and as he stood up to point it out to Zaitsev, Konig killed him with a single well-placed shot.

This kill helped Zaitsev zero in on Konig’s hide. He removed his glove from his hand and placed it on a stick. He then raised the glove up, and Konig accurately shot it — exposing his muzzle flash.

Zaitsev quickly aimed and fired scoring a direct kill shot. The story’s finale isn’t exactly what audiences saw in 2001’s feature film “Enemy at the Gates” starring Jude Law.

Check out Gun Crazy 81’s video below to hear how this epic duel between these historic snipers went down.

Youtube, GunCrazy81

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Det: Secret soldiers and unsung heroes of the troubles

Every country’s military has their own version of Special Forces. However, none of them are quite like the 14th Intelligence Detachment, ‘The Det,’ which was formed as part of the British Army Special Forces during a time known as The Troubles in Northern Ireland. The Det was tasked with mounting surveillance and intelligence gathering operations against the Irish Republican Army and their allies.

They worked in the shadows. No one knew who they were or what they did. They received no acknowledgement or fanfare. The world will never know who they were. But, this dedicated force of highly-trained plain-clothes operatives worked to gather the intelligence needed for the British Army and others to maintain their peacekeeping role between the IRA and the unionist paramilitary forces.


The Det was formed after the British Army’s intelligence unit, the Military Reaction Force, was compromised. The MRF was compromised when IRA double-agents were discovered and then interrogated. They spilled details about a covert MRF operation out of Four Squares laundry in Belfast. This led to an IRA ambush of a MRF laundry van, which killed one undercover soldier.

With the MRF compromised, the Det was set up in 1973. The Det was open to all members of the armed services and to both genders. For the first time, women were allowed to be a part of the UK Special Forces. Each candidate had to pass a rigorous selection process. Members of the Det were expected to have excellent observational abilities, stamina and the ability to think under stress, as well as a sense of self-confidence and self-reliance as the majority of surveillance and intelligence gathering operations were solo missions.

The IRA treated the conflict like guerilla warfare for national independence. They used street fighting, sensational bombings and sniper attacks, which led to the British government classifying their aggressions as terrorism. The Det’s main focus during this time was utilizing their unique talents and training to gather information on the members of the IRA so that the British Army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary could then intervene.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

The skills and training of the members of the Det included the disciplines of surveillance, planting bugs and covert video cameras, and close quarters combat. They were also experts in the use of pistols, sub machine guns, carbines and assault rifles. They were also trained in unarmed combat, as well as techniques to disarm and neutralize knife or gun-wielding assailants. It was important for each member to be adept in these skills in order to be able to protect themselves while undercover.

Along with this specialized training, the Det was also equipped with unique equipment much of which could be considered ahead of its time. This included a fleet of ordinary looking saloon cars called ‘Q’ cars. These vehicles were specially equipped with covert radios, video and still cameras, concealed weapons packs, brake lights which could be switched on and off, and engine cut off switches to prevent hijacking. All of these worked to aid in the surveillance missions of the operators. The Det also had their own flight of Army Air Corps Gazelles, which were referred to as ‘The Bat Flight.’ The Gazelles carried sophisticated surveillance gear which was uniquely suited to the operations of ‘The Det.’

From the time of its inception until the end of The Troubles the Det performed numerous operations, mostly following and observing suspected terrorists. These painstakingly planned intelligence operations often led to the arrest of the suspected terrorists and/or the discovery of weapons caches. Occasionally the members of the Det would find themselves in a firefight with terrorists, this was usually due to their cover being blown. Unfortunately, several Det operators tragically lost their lives in Northern Ireland.

The highly-trained members of the Det did not do what they did for glory. They didn’t do it for the accolades, as there were none offered. These elite members put themselves in danger because they believed in what they were working for. They wanted to do their part to protect their country and those they loved. They believed in justice. They believed in the greater good. They knew going into it that no one would ever know what they did or the sacrifices they made in the name of Queen and country. But, they went in anyway. They didn’t see themselves as heroic. But, the elite members of the Det can truly be considered the unsung heroes of The Troubles.

The Det has now been absorbed into the British Army’s Special Reconnaissance Regiment, with a mission to fight the global war on terrorism.

Articles

These are the creepy fake towns used for 1950s nuclear tests

Deep in the Nevada desert — approximately 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas — sits a small town where the human population on a non-work day is zero. But this town wasn’t made for real people to inhabit. Rather, it was specially built just to test atomic blasts that would consume the area with its crushing power and unbelievable heat.


In the 1950s, nuclear testing began at the Nevada National Security Site as technicians mounted the Apple-2 bomb on top of a detonation tower.

The tower stood 1,500 feet above ground level so that when the colossal explosion occurred, the fireball blast wouldn’t effect or damage the monitoring equipment.

Related: This failed nuclear engine might be able to power your city

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor
One of many of the detonation towers used during the nuclear testing. (Source: Smithsonian Channel / Screenshot)

The testing facilities’ employees manufactured and assembled shops, gas stations, and homes made of brick and wood —  dubbing these areas “Doom Towns.”

Inside these buildings, the workers staged the interiors with full-size mannequin families wearing various types clothing to witness how the different fabrics would hold up during the energy bursts and extreme heat. After denotation, the homes that were within 6,000 feet from ground zero lost rooftops, suffered broken windows and the several coats of paint blistered and scraped off in a matter of a few moments.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor
A single-story home before the nuclear test located near ground zero before the blast. (Source: Smithsonian Channel / Screenshot)

By contrast, the homes that were located near the initial blast zone were completely incinerated and their ashes sailed into the wind.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor
The same single-story home during the nuclear blast. (Source: Smithsonian Channel / Screenshot)

The test site contained 28 clusters and stretched 1,360 square miles and now supports the Stockpile Stewardship Program. This video from the Smithsonian Channel shows us what it was like to live through doomsday.

Also Read: EOD airmen can build and defuse anything from a pipe bomb to a nuclear weapon

 

(Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)
MIGHTY CULTURE

Why troops in Vietnam could write on their helmets

One of the enduring images of the Vietnam War is one of the Army or Marine Corps’ infantry troops, sitting out in the jungle or around a rice paddy, wearing a helmet covered in graffiti. Maybe it’s ticking off the number of days he’s been in country. Maybe it’s announcing to the world that the wearer is a bad motherf*cker. Or it could be simply the troop’s blood type and drug allergies.


Truth be told, troops in Vietnam didn’t “get away” with writing on their issued helmets, and neither do the troops who do it today.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor
Some things never change.

As one might imagine, it would be considered counter to good order and discipline to write on one’s helmet cover. The helmet is, after all, a uniform item, usually owned by the government. To deface it would be defacing government property while at the same time violating the rules of wearing your uniform properly. But none of this ever prevented the troops from doing it.

Some troops in Vietnam only ever wore their helmets when doing perimeter duty or moving materiel from one area to another and didn’t really have the downtime with their helmets to make any sort of writing on it. For those who did write on their helmet covers, they’ll tell you there were more important things happening than worrying about what was written on their helmets.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor
What are they gonna do, send them to Vietnam as punishment?

Of course, the difference between troops back then and troops today is that yesteryear’s combat troops could be draftees, which means they’re not the professional army the United States uses as the backbone of its military power. Even so, those who wrote on their helmets were not allowed to wear the helmet with its cover on while in the rear. The MPs would make sure of that. In any case, soldiers were required to wear a cap while in the rear, and the helmet would go back on only when they went back into the sh*t, where no one cared what they wrote anyway.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

Vietnam veterans say the graffiti depended on which outfit you were moving with, and was usually okay as long as it didn’t defeat the purpose of camouflage in combat. Others say that as long as the graffiti didn’t disparage the Army, the United States, or the chain of command, it didn’t matter what you wrote or how you wrote it.

If a new NCO or lieutenant was coming into Vietnam for the first time and all he cared about was helmet covers, his troops would call him “dinky dao” anyway.

MIGHTY HISTORY

See how an individual scout survived the massacre at Little Bighorn

The soldiers fighting at Little Bighorn in 1876 were facing long odds. The initial attack seemed to favor federal government forces, but they quickly found that the Native forces were much larger and stronger than originally suspected. Scout William Jackson, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe, also known as Sikakoan, recalled the fighting in an Army historical document. It’s as dark as you might expect, but also (surprisingly) funny at times.

Let’s take a ride:


These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

Reenactors near the Little Bighorn River in Montana.

(Leonard J. DeFrancisci CC BY-SA 3.0)

The story starts with the 7th Cavalry having already engaged the massive force of Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne warriors under Sitting Bull. Jackson was with Maj. Marcus Reno when they hit the first Native American camp with three companies of soldiers. The men were tasked with driving off ponies belonging to the Sioux, but the men spotted more camps further downriver and realized their assault was doomed.

Reno pulled the men back into a stand of timber and prepared for defensive fighting. They held well for a while, even as the Native forces began receiving reinforcements and eventually reached about 1,500 warriors.

But repeated charges by the Native forces eventually caused Reno to pull the men back, but the orderly retreat turned into a panicked rout as repeated attacks broke up the Federal formations.

Multiple men sacrificed themselves to protect the rest of the force. Bloody Knife, one of the scouts, a half Sioux-Ree, reportedly said, “Boys, try to save your lives. I am going to die in this place.”

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

Bloody Knife, an Arkira-Sioux Native American who worked with federal troops in the 1870s. He was killed during the battle, and Scout William Jackson claimed that he died protecting the federal withdrawal.

(U.S. National Archives)

Jackson and a few others were able to get away. And here is where we get our first bit of a comedic break. A Native leader walked up to the forces surrounding the Federal troops, and he chastised them for suffering the Federal soldiers for so long. According to Jackson, he:

“…came up and began to scold his people saying that there were only white people in the brush and that they were very easily killed. He urged the rest to follow him and armed only with a sword started to run into the brush, but when reached the edge of it he fell.”

Yeah, dude was talking mad sh*t right up until he got himself shot. But the Federal forces were still in a tough spot. They were outnumbered, surrounded, and out of water and food.

Luckily, the lieutenant had brought a bottle with him into the bush. Unfortunately, it was a bottle of coffee because of course, the LT was riding around with coffee. Probably telling everyone about how this “Go-Juice” had gotten him through junior year, too.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

Reenactors near the Little Bighorn River in Montana.

(Leonard J. DeFrancisci, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Still, the lieutenant was the hero for sharing his drink with everyone, so he tried to follow this up by making a cigarette with his rolling paper and loose tobacco. That was when one of the enlisted men pointed out that, when hiding from Native warriors in the brush, it’s generally best to not give away your position with smoke.

L-Ts gonna L-T.

As darkness came on, one soldier, Gerard, offered to ride for help, but the lieutenant shot it down. The men could still hear the sounds of the larger battle, and it was clear that it wasn’t going well for the 7th Cavalry, so it was unlikely anyone could help them. And the officer didn’t want to split up his tiny, four-man force on such a longshot.

Lt. De Rudio said, “Fight right here till you die and all stick together.”

About 11 o’clock, by Jackson’s estimate, the Native activity around the men had died down, and they decided to try and escape down the riverbank. They were able to slip past the sentries, but it was a close-run thing. The men did run into a war party, but Jackson could luckily speak Sioux and talked the way through.

The men made their way across a river and into another stand of timber. In these trees, they heard the sound of snorting horses and saw the light as someone raised a lit match to a pipe and the tobacco brighten as someone drew on it.

Gerard got hopeful and called out, “There! Didn’t I tell you the soldiers were in the timber? Hold on, boys, don’t shoot! It’s us; Gerard and De Rudio!”

Unfortunately for him, as well as Jackson; De Rudio; and Tom O’Neill, the other survivor, these weren’t federal troops. They were native warriors.

These 8 civilians received the Medal of Honor

A painting depicting the Battle of Little Bighorn where famous U.S. Army officer George C. Custer, a brevet major general at the time, was killed.

(Short Allison)

The warriors gave chase, and the men were forced to split up. Jackson and Gerard got away while De Rudio and O’Neill were unable to. After a few minutes, Jackson and Gerard heard five to six gunshots and realized they would likely never see their friends again.

For the entire next day, the two men tried to get to friendly lines but kept finding themselves cut off by Native warriors maneuvering on the besieged federal troops. It wasn’t until after dark, over 30 hours after they were originally isolated, that Jackson and Gerard were able to return to federal lines.

After telling their story a time or two, they were given some hardtack. They were eating it when they got a pleasant surprise.

A sentry yelled a challenge to two people walking up the camp. When Jackson and Gerard looked for the source of the commotion, they were surprised to see De Rudio and O’Neill. Those men had killed three Natives pursuing them and then escaped into a woodline. They hid in a fallen, rotten tree for an entire day, even as Native warriors searching for them used that very log as a seat and then jumped their horses over it.

The four survivors were happy to learn that the camp they were in belonged to Maj. Reno who had also survived the fighting. Reno asked Jackson to please go get a doctor from Custer’s main camp.

It was during this mission that Jackson learned what had happened to Custer and the bulk of the men under his command. He found a slaughter on the battlefield. The survivors eventually made it out, but Federal forces had taken one of their worst losses in history.

(Scout William Jackson’s full statement is available here. It should be known that some accounts of the battle differ in the details. For instance, other accounts claim that Bloody Knife was killed near Maj. Reno before the retreat, and that Bloody Knife’s death may have been the event that pushed Reno to give the withdrawal order.)

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