These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas - We Are The Mighty
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These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

American troops have never shied away from taking the fight to the nation’s enemies, no matter the season.


But it’s a particular downer when U.S. forces are deployed to battlefields during the holidays. Here are six of the worst places the American military had to fight during Christmas.

1. Valley Forge (1777)

Just a year earlier, on Christmas Day 1776, Washington had led his troops across the Delaware and won a decisive victory at the Battle of Trenton.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Washington at Valley Forge. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

When Washington marched that same army into Valley Forge on December 19, 1777, the 12,000 Continentals were weary, under-fed, and under-equipped. Only about one in four still had shoes after the many long marches had literally worn them right off their feet.

The weather was also bitterly cold, which combined with the other problems facing the army led to over 2,500 soldiers dying due to starvation, disease, and exposure.

The bright spot of the army’s stay at Valley Forge was the training received by the Prussian drill master Baron Von Steuben. Thanks to his efforts, the Continentals began 1778 a much more professional fighting force than they had been.

2. The Winter Line (1943)

Central Italy may not be known to most for terrible winters. But for the American and Allied troops facing the German Winter Line at the end of 1943, it was far from favorable.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Fighting in the Italian Alps during Christmas during World War II. (Photo from 10th Mountain Division history page)

Stiff German defenses in the Apennine Mountains had brought the Allied advance to a standstill with tremendous numbers of casualties. To make matters worse, bitter winter weather had moved in dumping snow on the weary troops and dropping visibility to near zero.

Despite the weather conditions and determined German resistance the men of the 36th Infantry Division, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and the 1st Special Service Force fought on — particularly on Christmas Day, when the 1st Special Service Force captured a strategic hill on the Winter Line with heavy casualties.

3. Bastogne (1944)

When American troops think of a terrible Christmas this one usually tops the list.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Photo: US Army

The Battered Bastards of Bastogne (the 101st Airborne Division, elements of the 9th and 10th Armored Divisions, and other support elements) had arrived to hold the key crossroads against the German onslaught just in time for Christmas 1944.

As the Battle of the Bulge progressed, the paratroopers and soldiers were surrounded, short of supplies, and desperately lacking in winter gear to battle the freezing temperatures they had to endure. Despite the conditions they faced when the Germans requested the Americans’ surrender Gen. Anthony McAuliffe simply responded with “Nuts!”

After fending off a German attack on Christmas Day the defenders were relieved by elements of Patton’s Third Army.

4. Basically anywhere in Korea (1950)

Christmas 1950 in Korea was an ignominious affair. After the brilliant victory at Inchon and the drive towards the Yalu River, China had entered the fray and handed the UN Forces their first defeat since breakout of Pusan.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

In response, MacArthur launched the Home-by-Christmas Offensive to bring a quick conclusion to the war. But the Chinese were ready for it and decisively defeated American forces.  The 1st Marine Division had narrowly avoided annihilation at the Chosin Reservoir, but many other units weren’t so lucky.

For the Eighth Army in Korea morale was low and the temperatures were even lower. Not only were they not going to be home by Christmas, but New Year’s didn’t bring better tidings either.

Another Chinese offensive sent the demoralized Americans reeling and recaptured the South Korean capital of Seoul. Christmas 1950 was one of the lowest points in the war for the Americans.

5. Operation Linebacker II (1972)

By the end of 1972 the war in Vietnam was supposed to be all but over. President Richard Nixon’s program of Vietnamization had allowed large numbers of U.S. troops to withdraw from the country.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
A U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52F Stratofortress drops bombs over Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo))

However, negotiations in Paris were not going well for the Americans, so Nixon ordered a massive bombing campaign against the North in order to extract concessions from North Vietnam. Massive formations of B-52’s escorted by fighters took to the skies over North Vietnam in what became known as the Christmas Bombings.

From December 19 to December 29, 1972 the bombers flew 729 sorties against targets around Hanoi and Haiphong.

Unfortunately these bombings claimed 16 B-52s and numerous fighter aircraft, with the surviving crewmembers being interred as POWs just in time for Christmas. In all 43 airmen were killed and another 49 captured with a total of 28 aircraft lost to enemy action in the span of just over a week.

For a war that was drawing to a close flying into highly-contested airspace was a miserable way to spend the war’s last Christmas.

6. The lonely Combat Outposts of Afghanistan and Iraq (2001 – present)

As the War on Terror approaches its 15th Christmas with who knows how many more ahead, the soldiers stationed in the remote reaches of those war torn countries have to be included on any list of worst places to spend Christmas.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Gilliand Hudson, a carpenter with FLOUR, acts as Santa Claus and poses alongside U.S. soldiers with 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, on Forward Operating Base Clark, Afghanistan, Dec. 25, 2013. Hudson dressed as Santa Claus to spread holiday cheer for soldiers away from home for the holidays. (U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Amber Stephens / Released)

With the unprecedented length of these wars, there are likely American troops spending yet another Christmas overseas. In World War II even the first units to deploy would have only spent three Christmas’s in a combat zone; there is a good chance that thousands of troops have spent more than that at this point since 9/11.

Those holidays are even more difficult at the tiny combat outposts in the middle of nowhere. If the troops are lucky, there might have been something resembling a Christmas dinner flown in that they can eat while standing guard in a cold little shack or tower.

If they aren’t so lucky, Christmas dinner is just another MRE and the best gift they can hope for is a quiet day.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War

In 1861, President-elect Abraham Lincoln escaped the Baltimore Plot with the help of his bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon and detective Allan Pinkerton, eluding assassins. Lincoln’s tough guy had an assortment of weapons, according to the June 1895 edition of McClure’s Magazine, including a pair of heavy revolvers, brass knuckles, a Bowie knife, and a slung-shot. The slung-shot was a crude weapon with a weight tied to a wrist strap, popular among street gangs of the era.

The man responsible for protecting the life of the president carried some peculiar weapons, and the American Civil War that followed featured some unusual weapons as well.

The Arkansas Toothpick

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Pvt. John L. Wood, Company D, 3rd North Carolina Volunteers Regiment, showing an “Arkansas Toothpick,” a weapon similar to the Bowie knife, and sheath with initials J.L.W. Photo by Charles Rees, 1861, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Arkansas Toothpick, similar to the Bowie knife, was a heavy dagger with a pointed and straight blade ranging from 12 to 20 inches long. It was versatile, used in service for throwing, thrusting, and slashing. The large-bladed weapon was carried in a holster across the back. It was said to be heavy enough for chopping wood and sharp enough for shaving and combat.

Ketchum Grenade

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Though deadly in its time, the Ketchum hand grenade might remind kids today of a Nerf foam football. Photo courtesy of the civilwarvirtualmuseum.org.

The Ketchum grenade has a strong resemblance to the Nerf foam footballs that wail through the air when thrown. Only, when these hit the ground, they explode — or at least, that was the idea. Patented in 1861 by New York inventor William F. Ketchum, the grenade was used by the Union Army. These Ketchum grenades, however, were largely ineffective. If the nose of the grenade didn’t strike the ground, it didn’t detonate. Confederate soldiers even used blankets to catch them.  

Calcium Floodlights

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Equipped with calcium lights, the Union Navy was able to keep up the bombardment of Fort Sumter around the clock. Photo courtesy of the Hampton Roads Naval Museum.

First appearing in lighthouses and theaters in the 1830s, calcium floodlights were repurposed during the Civil War in 1863 in an operation to retake Charleston Harbor. Using the lights, Gen. Quincy Adams Gillmore bombarded the Confederate stronghold at Fort Wagner around the clock. The calcium lights, or “limelights,” were chemical lamps that used superheated balls of lime, or calcium oxide, to create an incandescent glow and turn the night into day. The Union engineers not only illuminated their artillery targets but also blinded the Confederate gunners and riflemen. The limelights also spotted Confederate warships, blockade runners, and ironclad fleets.

Coal Torpedo

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Weapons of the Civil War included the coal torpedo. This example was prepared as a model, with a partial coal dust coating and the plug left out. It was found in Jefferson Davis’ office by Union Gen. Edward Ripley when Union forces captured Richmond in April 1865. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The coal torpedo was an improvised explosive device (IED) developed by Confederate spy Thomas Edgeworth Courtenay to carry out acts of sabotage. These nasty little bombs appeared to be ordinary clumps of coal. The hollowed-out iron artillery shells were loaded with several ounces of gunpowder, sealed with beeswax, and covered in coal dust. Dozens of saboteurs were given orders to place them in Union coal stockpiles in hopes they would be brought aboard Union steam-powered warships. 

Rear Adm. David Dixon Porter, a commander of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, recalled the havoc a coal torpedo could create aboard a ship. “When the torpedo was thrown into the furnace with the coal, it soon burst, blowing the furnace-doors open and throwing the burning mass into the fire-room, where it [began to burn] the wood-work,” he wrote.

The concept for coal torpedos as weapons didn’t end with the Civil War. Eddie Chapman, a double agent working for the British during World War II, was provided an explosive device by his German handlers. It was, as the coal torpedoes were, disguised as coal. He was ordered to get it into the coal bunker of a ship. Instead, Chapman turned it over to authorities.

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

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This is why there are no urinals on the Navy’s newest supercarrier

The United States Navy commissioned the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) this past weekend. The ship is noted for many advanced technologies on board, but what is also notable is what the ship doesn’t have.


According to a Navy Times report, though the Ford has a compliment of America’s most advanced fighters, it’s missing urinals in the men’s head.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Tugboats maneuver the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) into the James River. | US Navy

The Navy claimed that the elimination of the urinals increase flexibility when it comes to shifting berthing arrangements for the crew on board the $13 billion vessel. However, there are some drawbacks to this new arrangement, according to experts.

Chuck Kaufman, president of the Public Restroom Company, is among those critical of the design change. The Public Restroom Company specializes in designing public restrooms that have been used in parks, rest areas, playgrounds – just about anywhere.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) | US Navy photo

“[A toilet is] by far a less clean environment than a urinal. By far,” Kaufman told the Navy Times, citing the fact that men tend to miss normal toilets more often than they miss urinals.

“What is a problem is [with a water closet] you have a very big target and we can’t aim very quickly,” he added, noting that the only way to ensure men didn’t miss was to make them sit down. Furthermore, Kaufman explained, toilets take over twice the space of urinals. The Navy Times noted that about 18 percent of the Navy’s personnel are women.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
USS Gerald R. Ford in the drydock. (WATM archive)

The Gerald R. Ford replaced the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65), which was taken out of service in 2012.

The ship will carry out its first deployment in 2020, according to a report from USNI News and incorporates almost two dozen technological improvements over the Nimitz-class carriers currently in service,

Articles

Hear the poignant and heartbreaking stories of those who bury the fallen

When service members overseas make the ultimate sacrifice, a team of people goes to work to get them home and to rest with dignity. While each service provides personnel to escort their own fallen warriors home, the mortuary affairs airmen at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware receive the bodies and help ensure that they are buried with the full and proper honors.


These men and women opened their doors to Air Force journalists from Airman Magazine to show what it takes to do this important job that no one wants to have to do. From comforting children to preparing the final uniforms, these are stories of those who serve at Dover.

Watch:


Articles

12 leadership lessons in the words of Robert E. Lee

Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee didn’t want to fight the Civil War. He thought the dissolution of the Union would bring about the end of the American experiment.


Yet he led the Confederate Army through all four years of the American Civil War.

For many, Lee’s decision to resign from the U.S. Army and fight for his home state of Virginia demonstrated a flaw in his character.

Some see him trading the principles of American freedom to fight to uphold the institution of slavery. But where Lee saw secession as an act of democracy, the North saw it differently, and Lee chose to fight for that reason alone.

“If Virginia stands by the old Union,” said Lee, quoted in Smithsonian Magazine, “so will I. But if she secedes (though I do not believe in secession as a constitutional right, nor that there is sufficient cause for revolution), then I will follow my native State with my sword, and, if need be, with my life.”

No matter how one may feel about Lee’s service or legacy, he was a towering figure, a hero of the Mexican war, and one of the best leaders to come from West Point.

There are many books that provide key lessons in leadership from his life that we can apply every day.

1. The importance of ambition.

“It is for you to decide your destiny, freely and without constraint.”

2. Know what you’re up against.

“It behooves us to be on the alert, or we will be deceived. You know that is part of Grant’s tactics.”

3. Your confidence in yourself and the confidence others have in you are both key to success.

“No matter what may be the ability of the officer, if he loses the confidence of his troops, disaster must sooner or later ensue.”

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

4. Courage is remembered.

“I recollect the distance [Lee traveled] amid darkness and storm… traversed entirely unaccompanied. Scarcely a step could have been taken without danger of death; but that to him, a true soldier, was the willing risk of duty in a good cause.”

– Gen. Winfield Scott, remarking on Lee’s action in the Mexican War

5. Always finish what is expected of you.

“Duty… is the sublimest word in our language. Do your duty in all things, you cannot do more – you should never wish to do less.”

6. Plan for the long term.

“The life of humanity is so long, that of the individual is so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.”

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Colonel Robert E. Lee

7. Expect to fail at times.

“We must expect reverses, even defeats. They are sent to teach us wisdom and prudence, to call forth greater energies, and to prevent our falling into greater disasters.”

8. Integrity above all else.

“I think it better to do right, even if we suffer in so doing, than to incur the reproach of our consciences and posterity.”

9. Hire the right people, then inspire them to greatness.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Lee in 1869, the year before his death.

“You must inspire and lead your brave division that it may accomplish the work of a corps… our army would be invincible if it could be properly organized and officered. They will go anywhere and do anything if properly led.”

10. Be magnanimous in competition. Anything less breeds contempt.

“Madame, don’t bring your sons up to detest the United States. Recollect that we form one country, now. Abandon all these local animosities and make your sons Americans.”

– Lee in a letter to a Confederate widow after the war

11. Loyalty begets loyalty.

“Lee was a phenomenon… the only man I would follow blindfolded.”

– Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

12. Reward discipline in subordinates.

“In recommending officers and men for promotion you will always, where other qualifications are equal, give preference to those who show the highest appreciation of the importance of discipline and evince the greatest attention to its requirements.”

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Robert E. Lee’s death mask (Museum of the Confederacy)

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This is what made ancient Roman gladiators so fierce

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  The sport of gladiator fighting in the arenas of ancient Rome was just as popular as boxing and MMA are today. Gladiator combat was slightly more gangsta, though, seeing as how those warriors fought to the death during brutal tournaments.

Some historians believe the gladiator games started as ceremonial offerings for the funerals of wealthy aristocrats. At the height of the sport, the fighters were mostly made up of prisoners of war, slaves, and sentenced criminals, but they could even be pitted against animals like tigers or crocodiles.

The Coliseum in Rome was even home to aquatic battles, when the arena was flooded and fighters attacked from boats.

They lived in privately-owned schools that doubled as their training and prison grounds. Reportedly, after Spartacus led an uprising in 73 B.C., the empire began to regulate the gladiator schools to prevent further rebellions.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Gladiators from the Zliten mosaic.

During the games, each gladiator fought with various weapons and levels of armor.

A “Secutor” was a heavily armored fighter who competed using a short sword. A “Retiarius” battled his foes wearing light armor, a trident, and occasionally a weighted net. The “Vremea” wore a helmet with a stylized fish on the crest.

The gladiators ate a high energy diet consisting of barley, beans, oatmeal, dry fruit, and ash, which was believed to fortify the body. Very few of them fought in more than 10 battles or made it past the age of 30 before getting killed.

The Roman empire housed more than 400-arenas and displayed over 8,000 gladiator deaths per year. Learn more about their fighting in the video at the top.

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Go behind the scenes with the military side of “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas


“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” was an ambitious project for Tina Fey to undertake for a couple of reasons: First, it’s a drama and not a comedy. Second, she plays a journalist embedded with the U.S. military in Afghanistan, which means the movie tees up a lot of military details that Hollywood has a history of getting wrong — much to the chagrin of the military community.

But fortunately for Ms. Fey, the production team behind “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” knew a few things about making a movie that deals with military subjects, not the least of which was understanding how to navigate the Pentagon’s approval process.

“Because of this script we had a need from the beginning to get the U.S. military to support the project,” producer Ian Bryce said. “The military does quite well to make these movies great.”

Bryce approached the Department of Defense’s director of entertainment media, Philip Strub, a guy he’d worked with before on other military-related movies. Strub had some reservations about whether “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” ultimately presented the U.S. military in the right light.

“But we talked it through,” Bryce said.

Ultimately Bryce was able to convince Strub that “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” was an accurate, positive portrayal of the American military experience, and so the effort got the green light from the Pentagon for direct U.S. military support. The crew wound up using Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico to replicate Bagram Air Force Base as well as the surrounding lands to replicate the wilds of Afghanistan.

The movie features Air Force pararescue airmen and their assets including H-60 helicopters and CV-22 tiltrotors. And although access to the real people and machinery made the shoot easier (and provided a greater guarantee of accuracy), Bryce pointed out that it still took a great deal of coordination to get the job done while honoring the fact that making movies wasn’t the U.S. Air Force’s primary duty.

“We recognized and embraced the fact that we were guests on a military facility,” Bryce said. “They are doing much more serious stuff.”

Watch:

The digital HD version of “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” has just been released  and contains special features including an interview with the author of the original book, in-depth looks at life in Afghanistan and how war correspondents cope with stress, and deleted scenes. Look for the Blu-Ray version on June 28.

Check out more about “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” here and here.

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The hero of 73 Easting explains why the US needs new tanks

Twenty-five years ago, H.R. McMaster lead Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment into battle at 73 Easting in Iraq, and kicked some Republican Guard butt.


Now, he is sounding some alarm bells.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
M1 Abrams tanks conduct live fire training. (Photo from U.S. Army)

According to an Army release, McMaster — now a lieutenant general and Army Training and Doctrine Command’s deputy commanding general for futures — gave the keynote address at a function held by the Association of the United States Army’s Institute of Land Warfare where he urged the development of new armored vehicles. The Silver Star recipient noted that Germany’s Puma, the Swedish CV90, and the British Ajax all featured more advanced technology than that on the M2/M3 Bradley.

Also Read: The Army went old school and named this new Stryker the ‘Dragoon’

That could put American troops at a disadvantage if the long-range precision firepower (systems like the Excalibur GPS-guided artillery round and the Joint Direct Attack Munition) is taken off the table. How might that happen? An enemy force could hide among civilians, or avoid the wide open spaces that make for easy target location.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

McMaster noted that new armored vehicles might seem expensive, but in reality, they are cheap compared to big-ticket items in the Defense budget. The $362 million price tag of a Freedom-class littoral combat ship, for example, is enough to buy about 40 M1A2 Abrams tanks. This is important since in an environment where air power and naval power won’t be factors, an armored vehicle will be needed to get in close to decide the battle.

That said, it should be noted that the M1A2SEP Abrams of today is not like the tank that first entered service. The armor is even tougher than that on the tanks that served in Desert Storm (one famous incident involved main gun rounds from a T-72 bouncing off, even though they’d been fired from less than 400 yards away). The radios are better. A planned M1A3 will be about two tons lighter than current M1A2SEPs, and will feature no loss in lethality or protection.

The Bradley, though, has outlasted two efforts to replace it. First, the Future Combat Systems’ M1206 proposal got the chop for budget reasons. Then, the Ground Combat Vehicle didn’t even get a number in the M series.

McMaster notes that if nothing is done, “the Bradley and Abrams will remain in the inventory for 50 to 70 more years.”

“We are gravely underinvested in close-combat overmatch, gravely underinvested in land systems broadly, gravely underinvested in combat vehicles in particular,” he said.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

Articles

HOAX: This fugitive Mexican drug lord just threatened to destroy ISIS

A blogger took the world by storm with a fake story about notorious drug cartel leader and infamous prison fugitive Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán reported sent an email directly to self-proclaimed caliph and leader of Daesh (aka ISIS), Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, threatening a military response if the terrorist organization continues disrupting Sinaloa Cartel shipments to the region.


These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
El Chapo after his 2014 incarceration (photo by Day Donaldson)

How El Chapo would have Baghdadi’s personal email address is not known, and went unquestioned by many (including WATM) but the encrypted email was said to be leaked from a blogger known to have ties to El Chapo’s Sinaloa Cartel, one of the three main drug cartels operating in Central and South America.

According to CartelBlog, the Middle East is an emerging market for cocaine, ecstasy, and other party drugs, which does not sit well with ISIS ideology, so the terrorist group’s fighters would have to destroy drug shipments whenever they’re discovered. Except drug use is one of many ways ISIS pays the bills. If anything, ISIS would capture Sinaloa shipments because they’re competition.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

Part of the email was purported to read:

“You [ISIS] are not soldiers. You are nothing but lowly p*ssies. Your god cannot save you from the true terror that my men will levy at you if you continue to impact my operation. My men will destroy you. The world is not yours to dictate. I pity the next son of a wh*re that tries to interfere with the business of the Sinaloa Cartel. I will have their heart and tongue torn from them.”

The terror group gained notoriety for its brutal torture acts, barbaric fighting, and ruthless killings, all of which were perfected by drug cartels when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was a teenager.

But how awesome would it actually have been to see ISIS get a taste of its own medicine.

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Two heroic soldiers are finally getting the Medal of Honor they were cheated out of 97 years ago

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas


Two U.S. Army soldiers will finally be awarded the nation’s highest military award, nearly a century after they displayed incredible bravery during World War I.

Sgt. Henry Johnson, a black soldier assigned to the “Harlem Hellfighters” of the 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment, and Sgt. William Shemin, a Jewish soldier with the 47th Infantry Regiment, will receive the Medal of Honor (posthumously) on Tuesday. Ninety-seven years after they were denied the award due to discrimination, the pair of soldiers will finally be recognized in a ceremony at The White House.

While serving as a sentry in the Argonne Forest with another soldier on May 15, 1918, then-Pvt. Johnson came under heavy enemy fire after a raiding party of 12 German soldiers came upon his position. Despite receiving significant injuries, Johnson held off the Germans using grenades, a rifle, a knife, and even his bare hands.

“The Germans came from all sides,” Johnson told an interviewer after the war, according to The Daily Beast. “Roberts kept handing me the grenades and I kept throwing them, and the Dutchmen kept squealing but jes’ the same, they kept comin’ on. When the grenades were all gone I started in with my rifle.”

Johnson exposed himself to enemy fire and held back the German forces until they retreated, according to the U.S. Army.

On Aug. 7, 1918 in an area southeast of Bazoches, France, Sgt. Sgt. Shemin left the safety of his platoon’s trench and repeatedly crossed an open area to rescue wounded soldiers, despite the threat of heavy machine gun and rifle fire. Then after his officers and senior non-commissioned officers were wounded or killed, Shemin took command of the platoon and “displayed great initiative under fire” until he was wounded himself on Aug. 9, according to the U.S. Army.

Staten-Island Live has more:

Why did it take almost a century for Shemin to be recognized with the highest U.S. military award for valor in combat? Perhaps because of widespread discrimination in the military during that period of history; Shemin was Jewish.

“Anti-Semitism was a way of life in the Army in World War I,” said Mrs. Roth, who has been waging the campaign on behalf of her father’s honor since 2002. “They’re making a wrong right, 97 years later. The discrimination hurts, but all has been made right.”

Their recognition comes as a result of a 2002 move by Congress to review combat actions of Jewish and Hispanic veterans and ensure “those deserving the Medal Of Honor were not denied because of prejudice,” the White House explained to CNN. The act was later amended to review all possible cases of discrimination.

In March, President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to 24 soldiers who had been denied the award due to prejudice, NBC reported.

NOW: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

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Time-tested U-2 cameras are getting new life on drones

A major defense corporation has announced that their RQ-4 Global Hawk drone has successfully flown test missions carrying the Optical Bar Camera broad-area synoptic sensor, an imaging device originally deployed on the U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane.


These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
An RQ-4 heads back to its hangar. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christopher Boitz)

Northrup Grumman has been testing the RQ-4 with new sensors in an attempt increase the types of missions for which the aircraft can be deployed. The SYERS-2 intelligence gathering sensor, another item commonly deployed on U-2 missions. The SYERS-2 collects multiple sources of energy and can detect teams burying explosives or dismounts on the move, even from high altitude.

Adding U-2 equipment to the Global Hawk makes a lot of sense because the two aircraft are both focused on high-altitude, long-endurance surveillance. The drone can fly for 30 or more hours on a mission with ground-based pilots and sensor operators switching control in shifts.

With the new cameras, the RQ-4 could become an even more valuable eye in the sky for the Air Force. And it might allow the Global Hawk to take over some of the U-2’s missions at a fraction of the cost.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
A U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane comes in for a landing. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt Aaron Oelrich)

“The successful flight of the Optical Bar Camera is another significant step in the evolution of Global Hawk,” said Global Hawk’s Northrup Grumman Program Manager, Mick Jaggers. “It’s the result of our focus on increasing capability, reducing sustainment costs and fielding the open mission systems architecture that enables faster integration of cutting edge sensors at lower costs.”

Northrup Grumman is also looking at testing the MS-177 multi-spectral sensor on the RQ-4. The MS-177 has similar imaging capabilities to the SYERS-2B and is often deployed on the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, the JSTARS.

The MS-177 does provide a significant advantage over the SYERS-2B. While the SYERS is a “wet-film” camera that requires film processing before the image can be analyzed, the MS-177 uses an electro-optical sensor, which allows digital files to be sent to the ground station while the drone is still in flight.

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History’s 4 wildest benders by senior officers

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Photo: morberg/CC2.0


Sometimes the hardest drinking sailors and soldiers are the ones supposed to be keeping everyone else in check. Here are four times when officers led the barroom charge:

1. The guy in charge of 450 nukes got too drunk for the Russians in Moscow.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Photo: US Air Force

It takes a lot too be considered too drunk in Moscow, but Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Carey took a trip there in Jul. 2013 and managed it. Among other incidents during the trip, he allegedly went to a Mexican restaurant to meet two suspicious foreign women, got extremely drunk, and tried to convince the restaurant band to let him play with them. Carey was later fired from his position.

2. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant (may have) drunkenly rode through Army camps.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Mathew B. Brady

The famously-alcoholic Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was in a steamship on the Yazoo River in 1863 when he ran into journalist Sylvanus Cadwallader. Cadwallader later described working with Grant’s security detail and aides to unsuccessfully stop his drinking by confining the general to his wardroom.

Grant reportedly escaped to the shore and then to another ship, finding alcohol in both locations. He later drunkenly led the newspaperman and others on a chase through a federal army encampment, kicking up campfires and strewing equipment in his wake. Historians have cast doubt on the story though, pointing to other accounts that said sickness confined Grant to his room on the trip.

3. A Confederate general got so drunk during a battle that he couldn’t attack.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Kurz Allison

Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Cheatham’s drunken escapades would be tame if it weren’t for the setting. He drank to excess and rode his horse, whooping and hollering until he fell off. Not a big deal, except that he did it in front of his men while he was supposed to be leading them into battle.

At Stone River, this resulted in Cheatham’s two brigades being late to the attack, allowing Union Forces on the run to regroup and re-establish their lines. The recovered Union forces later managed a stunning artillery barrage that caused 2,000-3,000 casualties in four hours.

4. A Navy admiral was fired for drunkenly wandering a Florida hotel naked.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Photo: US Navy

Rear Adm. David Baucom was one of the Navy’s top logistics officers until he was fired for wandering around a Florida hotel naked and drunk on Apr. 7, 2015 during a conference.

Baucom had been drinking heavily the night before, continuing until he banged his head on a stool, peed his pants, and had to be escorted back to his room. He woke naked and attempted to enter his bathroom but used the wrong door, exiting the room and becoming trapped outside. Two female hotel guests spotted him looking for a towel to cover up with before a peer got him back to his room.

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Watch these chefs try to turn Army food into gourmet cuisine

The standard U.S. Armed Forces field ration is, above all other considerations, designed to make you emotional.


Sure, an MRE needs to be nutritious. Obviously, it also needs to be lightweight, packable, durable, quick, and easy to prepare. It’s got to have a long shelf life because who knows when it’ll be called up for active duty. And at the end of the day — and not just because it’s the end of the day — the damn thing ought to taste good.

After years of research and development, laboratory refinement, and testing in the field, the military has the MRE dialed to within an inch of its life. Private, does your dinner have “Vegetable Rotini” stamped on its olive drab shrink wrap? Yes? Then, by God, you can trust that when you just add water, the thing you find rehydrated on the end of your spork will resemble a rotini (Vegetable Class) to the highest degree achievable by military science.

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas
Our host finds his feelings at the bottom of the feed bag. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl trusted in the prowess of the military’s culinary industrial complex. After all, he named his show after its signature offering.

When he visited the labs and testing facilities of the United States Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, MA, he was excited to spend some quality time covering familiar territory. What he didn’t count on was the depth of the emotional response that many of his interview subjects had to meals they’d eaten as soldiers in the field. And it turns out, that response is no accident.

We want it to be a quality meal that we provide to them. We don’t know if that’s going to be their last meal.

 –Stephen Moody, Director, Combat Feeding Directive

Watch host August Dannehl and fellow veteran Mike Williams, currently the Executive Chef of West Hollywood restaurant Norah, transform the military’s utilitarian ration MRE into a mouthwatering “Jambalaya Risotto with Duo of Duck.” 

Meals Ready to Eat can be seen on KCET in Southern California, on Link TV Nationwide (DirecTV 375 and DISH Network 9410), and online at KCET.org.

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