This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Paul A. Yost, Jr., later a Commandant of the Coast Guard, was leading a group of 13 swift boats during the insertion of Navy Underwater Demolition Team-13 and some Vietnamese marines when his column came under attack from a Viet Cong ambush that managed to heavily damage multiple boats, kill American and Vietnamese troops, and isolate the last boat.


 

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
(Photo: Naval War College Museum)

When Yost found out that his last boat was trapped in the kill zone and his other ships weren’t in shape to recover it, he took his command boat and one other back into the kill zone to rescue the sailors who were still under attack.

The 13-boat movement was part of Operation Silver Mace II, which was put into action to break up Viet Cong operations in that section of Vietnam. The boats were to drop off the ground forces and then provide support from the river. The first five boats reached the insertion points for their marines and completed their mission without incident.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
(Photo: Naval War College Museum)

The other eight boats continued upriver. When they went to drop off their marines, a U.S. Marine major assigned as an advisor went to Yost and asked that the Vietnamese marines be dropped another mile upriver because the going was hard and no Viet Cong activity had been spotted. Yost agreed.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Riverine craft make their way up a narrow river in Vietnam. PCF-23 was one of the craft involved in Operation Silver Mace II. (Photo: Naval War College Museum)

Just to be safe, Yost ordered the two Seawolf attack helicopters assigned to him be launched. They were based on a ship 15 minutes away, meaning they would arrive as the boats got to the more dangerous parts of the river.

But Yost’s superior, Navy Capt. Roy Hoffman, ordered the helicopters to sit tight, possibly to ensure that they wouldn’t run out of fuel before they were needed. Yost wasn’t told of the change.

A short time later, everything went sideways. The eight boats were proceeding upriver when PCF-5, the lead boat, was suddenly hit with a claymore mine from the riverbank. More claymores, rockets, and machine gun fire rained down on the boats.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
(Photo: Naval War College Museum)

Yost was in the second boat and ordered it to push through the kill zone, and the rest of the column followed.

The rear boat, PCF-43, was the slowest and needed maintenance, according to then-Lt. j.g. Virgil A. Erwin III — a boat commander during the operations. In addition to its maintenance issues, it was weighed down with 800 pounds of explosives, 10 UDTs, and all of their gear.

That boat was unable to keep up with the rest of the column as they pushed through the kill zone, and it was left as the sole target for a few fatal seconds during the ambush. The corpsman on board was hit with a rocket and killed just before another rocket struck the cabin, killing the boat commander and severely wounding the two others in the cabin.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
(Photo: Naval War College Museum)

The boat ran out of control and beached itself, hard, on a mudbank. It hit so hard that it slid most of the way out of the water, leaving the engine’s water intake above the waterline and making it impossible for the boat to propel itself back off.

As the engine overheated, the UDT members jumped from the boat and established a defensive perimeter behind it, using the wreck as cover from the Viet Cong fire coming from a mere 20 feet away.

The closest boat, PCF-38, attempted to assist PCF-43, but their steering gear was damaged and they were forced to head back upriver. Once they reached the lead perimeter, they alerted Yost to the state of PCF-43.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
(Photo: Naval War College Museum)

Yost took his craft, PCF-31, and the former lead boat, PCF-5, back downriver. Once they reached the ambush site, 5 and 31 began pouring .50-cal. rounds into the jungle and forced the Viet Cong fighters to take cover. As 5 kept the fire up, Yost and 31 pulled up to the stricken 43 and began evacuating the wounded and dead.

The two crafts escaped with 15 survivors and the bodies of the two men killed in action.

Just a few hours later, PCF-43 exploded. The most likely cause was that the engines, which typically were cooled by water flowing through the engine for propulsion, had overheated and set fire to the leaking fuel. The fuel ignited the explosives and the whole thing burned hot until the boat itself exploded.

Yost was later awarded the Silver Star for his part in the fight. In 1986, he became the 18th Commandant of the Coast Guard.

MIGHTY HISTORY

OORAH: The Marine Battle Cry Origin Story

Walk onto any Marine Corps base and you’ll hear all sorts of celebratory grunts. These almost words coming from the mouths of new Marines and seasoned NCOs sound like Errrr and Yut. Echoing across the well-trimmed grounds, humming through the DFAC, in the hallowed halls of Marine history, one grunt stands out. Oo-rah is the tried and true, battle-tested and history provided Marine call that defines the service. 


It’s no secret the military has way too many slang words and acronyms to count. Most are impossible for the civilian ear to understand. But there are some that translate just fine. One of those is the Marine battle cry, “oo-rah.” Anyone who’s heard it knows it has only one meaning.

Used as a motivational tool to push recruits and Marines beyond their limit, the classic grunt actually stems from another traditional sound.

Related: Here’s where the term ‘Bravo Zulu’ comes from

Although they are a few theories about how the legendary shout started, several sources point to a single origin — aboard a Naval submarine.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators

Many historians believe that “oo-rah” came from, of course, Marines, assigned to 1st Amphibious Reconnaissance while traveling aboard a submarine in 1953.

When a sub is about to submerge, “dive, dive” is called out over the intercom system followed by a klaxon alarm, which makes a very distinct “aarugha.”

Click play below to hear the klaxon alarm.

(Lord Sandwich | YouTube)

Also Read: Here’s how ‘Taps’ got its name

Reportedly, aboard one of the submarines used during the Korean War was Gunnery Sergeant John R. Massaro, who shortened the sound into “oo-rah,” shouted as Marines dove out of the vessel.

As the grunt become more popular, it spread quickly throughout the Marine Corps. Soon, it became one of the ways Marines responded to various questions.

The symbolic grunt oo-rah has since become one of the most recognized sounds used in the military today.

As for its accredited originator, Gunnery Sergeant John R. Massaro, he served in the Marine Corps for 31 years and retired as the 8th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps in 1979.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time a President actually fought in Iowa

When most people think of Iowa, they think about cornfields, hog farms, Field of Dreams, and politics. Generally overlooked is the Battle of Credit Island, an island in the Mississippi River, which would host one of the westernmost skirmishes of the war of 1812.


This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators

The Louisiana Purchase

(iowaculture.gov)

After the United States made the Louisiana Purchase in 1804, the country faced the challenge of establishing control of the Mississippi River. At the time, St. Louis was the northernmost city on the river, and all the territory north of there, the upper Mississippi, was generally controlled by natives. The United States attempted to gain more control in 1808 by establishing Fort Madison (in present-day Fort Madison, IA).

This fort would be abandoned in 1813, however, as it was regularly attacked by Sauk tribes. This led to the U.S. establishing Fort Shelby (located in present-day Prairie du Chien, Wisc). Fort Shelby, however, was captured in 1814 by the British, just months after its establishment, during the Siege of Prairie du Chien.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators

Zachary Taylor 12th President of the United States.

(iowaculture.gov)

American troops would attempt to retake Fort Shelby, mounting an attack with armored keelboats. However, one would become grounded near East Moline Ill., where it was burned by Sauk Indians, forcing another retreat. One more effort would be made to reclaim the fort using armored keelboats, and this time, Major Zachary Taylor would lead the excursion.

Taylor led eight armored vessels up the Mississippi, but due to inclement weather stopped for the night in the vicinity of Pelican Island (a small island just to the north of Credit Island, near modern-day Davenport, Iowa.) Overnight, Sauk warriors waded to Pelican Island, and at daybreak attacked Taylor’s sentries, killing one. The Americans mounted their defense, repelling the natives, only to come under attack from accurate cannon fire, from a nearby British canon. The British and the native warriors would fire on Taylor’s flotilla for the next 45 minutes, with good effect, until Taylor ordered a retreat downriver.

30 to 40 British troops and approximately 800 Native Americans would repel Taylor’s 334 soldiers, and end their ambitions to recapture Fort Shelby. The Americans would not gain control of the upper Mississippi region until after the war in 1815.

The war would come to an end the following winter of 1815 with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, which would normalize relations between Britain and the United States and restore borders to their pre-war status. As for Taylor, he continued to climb the military ranks, serving next in the Black Hawk War, the Second Seminole War, and later in the Mexican-American war. He would be elected 12th President of the United States in 1848, but died of illness in 1850.

Articles

These are the 6 worst carriers (or classes) to ever set sail

Some aircraft carriers are legends – either from long service like that of USS Enterprise (CVN 65) or with an unmatched war record like that of another USS Enterprise (CV 6).


They have either heroic sacrifices, the way USS Yorktown (CV 5) did at Midway, or they simply take a ton of abuse as USS Franklin (CV 13) did.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) transits the Arabian Sea during her last deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jared King)

But some carriers just stink. You wouldn’t wish them on your worst enemy… or maybe you would, simply to make the war easier. There’s arguments on both sides of that. Here are the carriers that would prompt such an internal debate.

6. USS Ranger (CV 4)

When America was down to one carrier in the South Pacific in 1942, re-deploying America’s first purpose-built carrier, the USS Ranger (CV 4) was not considered as an option.

That tells you something about the ship. Her combat career was relatively brief, and she eventually was relegated to training duties. Still, she had a decent air group (mostly fighters and dive-bombers), so she is the best of this bad lot.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
USS Ranger (CV 4) at sea. (US Navy photo)

5. Admiral Kuznetsov Class (Kuznetsov, Liaoning, and unnamed Type 001A)

If you’ve read a lot of WATM, then you know about the Kuznetsov Follies. The crappy engines (the Russians send tugs along with her in case of breakdown), the splash landings, and the fact the Russians ended up using her as a glorified ferry all speak to real problems. In her favor, though, is the presence of 12 long-range anti-ship missiles on the lead ship, and she can fly MiG-29K and Su-33 Flankers off her deck. China’s versions carry J-15 fighters, but not the missiles.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
‘Admiral Kuznetsov’ in her natural habitat, a dry dock, in July 2015. | Christopher Michel/Flickr photo

4. Kiev class (Kiev, Minsk, Novorossiysk)

The Russian Kiev and her sisters are on here for a crap air wing.

The Yak-38 Forger was one of the worst planes to ever operate from a carrier. The Kiev gets a higher ranking largely because she had a lot of firepower, including eight SS-N-12 Sandbox missiles as well as a lot of SA-N-3 Goblets and point-defense systems, which were arguably more of a threat to the enemy than the planes she carried.

Yeah… that kinda has the whole purpose backwards. Now, a modern version with F-35Bs or even AV-8B+ Harriers and the Aegis system could be interesting.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
The Soviet aircraft carrier Kiev, showing off elements of the crap air wing, including the Yak-38 Forger. (US Navy photo)

3. HTMS Chakri Naruebet

The Chakri Naruebet from the Thai navy is on the list not so much for inherent problems, but because of substantial air wing neglect during the reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (aka Rana IX). Worse, the Thais officially call her an “offshore patrol helicopter carrier.”

They did buy some second-hand AV-8S Matadors from Spain. But most flunked the maintenance, and soon Thailand had one flyable jet. At least the Kievs had heavy firepower to make up for their crap air wing!

That said, his successor, King Vajiralongkorn, was a former fighter pilot, and hopefully will be able to turn things around.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Photo: PH3 Alex C. Witte/US Navy

2. Ise Class battleship/carrier hybrid conversions

Okay, in some ways, this is understandable. After the Battle of Midway, Japan needed carriers in the worst possible way. Ise and Hyuga are perfect examples of getting those “carriers” — in the worst possible way.

Initially built as battleships with a top speed of 23 knots, they got turned not into full carriers, which might have been useful. But a half-battleship/half-carrier holding 22 seaplanes (okay about 50 percent more than Hosho) that they could launch and recover wasn’t totally awful.

Remember that’s seaplanes, not Zeroes for fighter cover or strike planes. Granted Japan had the A6M-2 Rufe, a seaplane Zero, but this was a rush job, and it showed. At least they each had eight 14-inch guns.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
The HIJMS Ise was a failed battleship/carrier hybrid. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

1. HIJMS Hosho

This was the world’s first purpose-built aircraft carrier. But let’s be honest, the Japanese boat was a dog. It had a top speed of 25 knots, and it carried all of 15 planes. During the Battle of Midway, it had eight biplanes.

By comparison, USS Langley (CV 1), America’s first aircraft carrier, could carry 36 planes. Even with a top speed of 15 knots, she would have been useful escorting convoys in the Atlantic – if America hadn’t turned her into a seaplane tender to satisfy an arms-control treaty Japan violated anyhow.

Are there any bad carriers we missed? Let us know in the comments!

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion

Throughout the bloody and horrific history of human warfare, there are tons of stories of heroism in the face of great danger. Troops all over the world have been willing to risk life and limb to ensure the safety of others and that’s worth celebrating. Everyone knows about war heroes like John Basilone, but how many of you know about Susan Travers? If you don’t, you should.

Susan Travers, quite simply, was one badass woman. She left behind a pampered life and a wealthy family to do something great. One thing led to another and she eventually became the only woman to ever be allowed to join the prestigious French Foreign Legion, which only allowed male foreign nationals.

Here’s how she went from the daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral and heiress to being one of the most badass women in all of history:


This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
A Finnish ski patrol, lying in the snow on the outskirts of a wood in Northern Finland, on the alert for Russian troops, January 12, 1940.
(Imperial War Museums)
 

The Winter War

Travers initially joined up as a nurse, but quickly realized she didn’t like the sight of blood or sickness and subsequently became an ambulance driver with the French Expeditionary Force. She was sent to Finland to assist during their Winter War against the Soviets, but everything changed when France fell to the Nazis.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Parade of the 13th DBLE through Roman ruins in Lambaesis, Algeria.

 

General De Gaulle’s Free French Forces

When the Nazis took France, Travers went to London to get in the fight. There, she was attached to the 13th Demi-Brigade of the French Foreign Legion. It was there she shed her disgust for blood and gore and became accustomed to the rough life of a warfighting badass. She earned the nickname “La Miss” from her male comrades. This was when she started driving for higher-ups.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
General Dwight D. Eisenhower with Gen. Pierre Koenig, Military Commander General of Paris, and Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley. August 27, 1944.
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

 

1st Free French Brigade

After spending several months as a driver for senior officers and demonstrating her extreme aptitude for navigating the most dangerous conditions, including minefields and rocket attacks, she was assigned as the driver for the Commanding Officer of the 1st Free French Brigade, Colonel Marie-Pierre Koenig.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Free French Foreign Legionnaires “leap up from the desert to rush an enemy strong point”, Bir Hacheim, June 12, 1942.
(Photo by Chetwyn Len)

 

Fort of Bir Hakeim

It was in May, 1942, when Rommel’s Afrika Korps geared up to attack the Fort at Bir Hakeim. Koenig ordered all the women to evacuate, but Travers refused to leave, becoming the only woman among at least 3,500 men. Rommel assumed the fort would be taken in 15 minutes but, instead, the Free French held out for fifteen days.

Eventually, their supplies ran low, and Koenig led a breakout, trying to evade minefields and German tanks. Being the Colonel’s driver, Travers truly led the breakout; however, the convoy was discovered when one of the convoy’s vehicles ran over a landmine. Travers stepped on the gas.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Susan Travers in Northern Africa.

 

A “delightful feeling”

Upon discovery, the convoy fell under heavy machine gun fire, and Travers just kept laying on the accelerator. She’s quoted as saying,

“It is a delightful feeling, going as fast as you can in the dark. My main concern was that the engine would stall.”

She broke through the German lines, creating a gap through which the rest could follow. After they made it to Allied lines, she discovered the vehicle had at least 11 bullet holes in it and sustained severe shrapnel damage. After that, Koenig was sent to Northern Africa to continue the fight while Travers remained with the Legion, seeing action in Italy, Germany, and France. She was eventually wounded when she drove over a landmine.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
In 2000, she published her memoirs.

 

French Foreign Legion

In May of 1945, Travers applied to become an official member of the French Foreign Legion. She “failed” to mention her gender and they accepted her into their ranks. This made her the first — and only — woman to ever join the French Foreign Legion.

She eventually was sent to Vietnam during the First Indo-China War and, by the end of her career, earned the Medaille Militaire, the Croix de Guerre, and the Legion d’honneur (the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits).

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Australian Navy enlisted a little girl as its mascot

In November 1920, a little girl was playing in the bushland of Tasmania when she slipped and fell to the ground. Nancy Bentley surprised a snake which proceeded to bite her wrist, threatening her life. Because of the remote location where she was bitten and the fact that she was a woman, the Royal Australian Navy enlisted her into the service as a mascot to save her life.

Yup. Really.


This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators

The light cruiser HMAS Sydney which once had a living human girl as its mascot.

(Public domain)

The problem was this: The closest doctor was in the town of Sorrell, and it was unlikely that Nancy’s father could get her there in time. So dad desperately rowed out to the HMAS Sydney, a light cruiser conducting exercises on the coast.

The ship’s medics were willing to assist the injured girl, but regulations from the crown and instructions from admirals ordered the commander, Captain Henry Cayley, to prevent women from boarding the ship. He felt he needed to create some official pretext to explain the little girl on his ship. But women, even little girls, were forbidden from serving in the standard ranks of the navy.

So Cayley turned to the office of mascot, an official rank in many military forces at the time that was typically assigned to animals adopted by the unit or crew. Basically, a crew could acquire or purchase an animal and then use the “wages” assigned to the mascot to feed and house it. Understandably, the rules regarding this rank were lax since, you know, it was typically for dogs and cats.

So Cayley ordered that Nancy be admitted onto the crew with service number 000001 and given a rating of “mascot” on November 15. Her terms of enlistment were even more lax. She was to remain in the navy “till fed up.”

The ship’s medical staff gave her rudimentary treatment and sent her to Hobart, Tasmania, for further treatment. She was also allowed to see a movie at the town’s theater after her treatment before the ship carried her back home. In all, she spent eight days in the navy.

“I was the crew’s official mascot and everybody from the Captain down gave me VIP treatment,” Nancy said in 1970.

She was well-reviewed by the navy. Her character was reviewed as “very good,” and she was “exceptional” in her naval duties.

It would take another 21 years before women were allowed into the actual ranks of the Royal Australian Navy as World War II required manpower that only women could provide.

Nancy’s story is now available as a children’s book, and her image adorns a trophy given to the oldest commissioned ship in the Royal Australian Navy.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time U.S. F-15s stumbled into an Iraqi trap and won

It became clear just hours into Operation Desert Storm that the U.S. was leaps and bounds ahead of the Iraqi Air Force — the first aerial clashes resulted in the U.S. downing three enemy aircraft while suffering no losses. But U.S. pilots knew that Iraq had significant air defenses and fighter aircraft that had to be taken seriously.

And that’s what made it so scary for the Air Force and Marine Corps F-15 pilots who realized that they’d stumbled into a sophisticated trap on the second day of the assault.


This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators

The F-15 is a stunning fighter that claims over 100 aerial kills with zero losses to enemy fire.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Hughel)

Marine Corps Capt. Charles Magill was leading a flight of eight F-15s protecting a larger strike package headed into the contested airspace to destroy threats on the ground. The eight F-15s in the lead got a call from the E-3 Sentry aircraft on the mission.

Two MiG-29 Fulcrums were near the target area.

Magill decided to take three other F-15s with him to destroy the threat, leaving four behind to protect the main strike package.

www.youtube.com

Four-against-two odds, especially when the team of four has F-15s versus enemy MiGs, is a good setup — but the F-15s had been tricked. As they pursued the MiGs, the ground suddenly erupted with surface-to-air missiles, all locked on U.S. jets and racing to their targets.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators

MiG-29 were useful and capable fighters, even if they lacked all the capability of American F-15s.

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Ammons)

The American pilots were forced to jettison their external fuel tanks and take evasive actions. They deployed flares, put the planes through gut-wrenching turns, and, ultimately, avoided every missile fired against them. This left them in suddenly-safe skies once again — except for the two MiGs that had lured them. The Americans still smelled blood and decided to continue the pursuit.

As they drew close, the MiGs took a sudden turn towards the Air Force and Marine pilots, making the Americans think that the MiGs were prepared for a knockdown fight.

But, it turned out, the Iraqis had spotted a lone Navy F-14 Tomcat and were maneuvering to attack it, allowing the F-15 pilots to pursue the MiGs in turn. Magill took his shot immediately after Air Force Capt. Rhory Draeger. Magill, worried that his first missile had malfunctioned, took a third shot.

Draeger’s first missile flew true and shredded the Iraqi jet, while both of Magill’s missiles also made contact. The first missile tore the right wing from the Iraqi jet and the second missile flew into the resulting fireball and exploded. The strike package was safe once again to attack Iraqi ground targets and Operation Desert Storm continued unabated.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The ‘Angel of the Battlefield’ changed how wounded and missing troops are treated

Everyone wants to make a big deal of the fact that women now get to serve on the front line in combat units. But women participating in American wars goes all the way back to the beginning of the Civil War in 1861. As a matter of fact, women have been pitching in and helping fight for a lot longer than that.


One woman changed the way Americans handle our wounded and missing troops forever.

It was in the Civil War that Clarissa (Clara) Barton paved the way for nurses in the military and provided soldiers care, both behind and on the front lines of battle — for both the North and the South.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Clara Barton’s calling was saving lives. Period.

Clara was born in North Oxford on Dec. 21, 1821 and started studying to be a nurse at the young age of 11 while helping care for her sick brother. She decided at this young age that her calling was to help others, in any way that she could.

When she was 15, Clara continued to flourish in her humanitarianism by becoming a teacher and opened a free public school in New Jersey. Her passion for helping others extended far beyond herself. She was willing to risk her own life to help those in need of care.

In 1862, Clara provided aid in field hospitals during the Civil War, putting herself in harm’s way on numerous occasions to care for injured soldiers and bring them supplies. Barton garnered the nickname “Angel of the Battlefield” because of her remarkable compassion for the soldiers she tended.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
An etching of Barton at work.

Extraordinarily, she recounted an instance where a bullet nearly took her life, stating that she “felt her sleeve move, [as] a bullet had gone through it and killed the man she was tending.” Surprisingly, the near-death experience didn’t shake her convictions or her need to help.

Related: 22 female war heroes you’ve never heard of

Clara’s work didn’t end with the Civil War. In 1865, she was appointed by Abraham Lincoln to go out and search for missing soldiers on the battlefield. She called this initiative, “Friends of the Missing Men of the United States Army.” She was able to identify a total of 22,000 soldiers that would have remained lost if not for her efforts.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Barton was unafraid of hazardous duty.

Impressively, Clara also founded the American Red Cross at the age of 60 in 1881 after her trip to Europe, where she aided in the works of the International Red Cross. Clara’s passion for helping those in disastrous situations made the American Red Cross what it is today. She spearheaded the organization for 23 years until she resigned as president at age 83 in 1904.

Today, Clara Barton’s memory lives on within the good works of The American Red Cross, in not only disaster relief, but in providing our military personnel services overseas and at home, in war and peacetime.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This tank-jet hybrid was used to put out oil fires set by Saddam’s retreating troops

“Big Wind” is a 92,600-pound beast made from a tank chassis and two turbojet engines that are powerful enough to blow out oil fires like candles on a birthday cake.


While it looks ridiculous and would be nearly useless in a tank fight, this modified military hardware fought some of the largest fires set by Saddam Hussein‘s withdrawing army in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

When oil wells are on fire, the pressure under the earth’s crust keeps the oil rushing to the surface until the well is capped. Crews can’t cap the well until the fire is put out.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
We’re talking about some big fires too. Photo: US Navy Lt. Steve Gozzo

“Big Wind” does this by interrupting the flow of oil into the air. A small crew moves the tank into position at 3 mph. The larger the fire, the closer the tank has to get. The largest fires burn at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and require the tank to pull within 30 feet.

Once there, the crew begins pumping water into the exhaust of the idling jet engines before ramping up the jet power. The result is a thick, fast-moving steam that cuts through the oil and smothers the fire. The fire, robbed of oxygen and separated from its fuel, quickly goes out. The “Big Wind” stays in position for another 20 minutes, spraying steam on the hot oil to cool it down.

Then, oil workers begin the dangerous job of capping the well.

See “Big Wind” in action in this video:

Articles

5 of the most legendary soldiers of United Kingdom’s Special Air Service

In the world of special operations, the UK’s Special Air Service (SAS) is as good as they come. They are the British government’s elite counterterrorism unit, specializing in rescuing hostages, covert reconnaissance and generally taking the fight to unsuspecting bad guys all over the world. 

Formed during World War II, they were the blueprint for the U.S. Army Delta Force, Israel’s Sayaret Matkal, and almost any other special operations force the world over. After World War II, the elite SAS served in nearly every UK military action around the world, from hunting down communist rebels in Malaya to the Troubles in Northern Ireland and from the Falklands to the Global War on Terror. 

In that time, the SAS has experienced its share of victories and setbacks, but its story only grows with each mission. With each mission there are always standout soldiers who overcome incredible odds in the face of the enemy – and become legends even among special operators. 

1. Lt. Col. David Stirling

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Stirling (Wikimedia Commons)

As an officer in the No. 8 Guards Commando, Stirling first saw action at the capture of Rhodes,  and the Battles of Crete and Litani River. It was while fighting these pitched battles that he realized a small team of special soldiers could be much more effective, doing extreme damage with minimal casualties. The story of how he pitched the idea of creating the Special Air Service is worthy of an article of its own, but by 1941, the SAS was operating in North Africa.

Using stripped-down Jeeps and a new kind of demolition bomb, Stirling and his new SAS were wreaking havoc on Axis airfields across North Africa. German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel dubbed Stirling the “Phantom Major,” and was able to capture the British officer. After a series of escape attempts with mixed success, Stirling was finally captured for good and sent to Colditz Castle in Germany, where he spent the rest of World War II.

2. Sgt. Talaiasi Labalaba

In 1972, the SAS were sent to Oman to train the Sultan’s soldiers to fight a communist insurgency from neighboring Yemen. Defending a small fortification near the port city of Mirbat were nine SAS troopers with small arms and a Browning machine gun. The SAS soon realized that 300 communist fighters were making their way toward the house, but they weren’t close enough for the British troopers’ small arms to be effective.

 Sgt. Talaiasi Labalaba ran out of the house to a 25-pounder artillery gun some 200 meters away and began to fire it at the oncoming human wave. While operating the gun was a six-man job, Labalaba managed to fire off a round every minute by himself, as bullets whizzed by. After an hour of firing the gun, Labalaba was wounded and another trooper, Sekonaia Takavesi, came to his aid. Labalaba and Takavesi fought on for two and a half hours, until the gun was out of ammo. 

Labalaba and two others were killed in the defense of Mirbat, but they held their ground because of Sgt. Labalaba’s skill with artillery.

3. Lt. Col. Robert Blair “Paddy” Mayne

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
Paddy Mayne (Wikimedia Commons)

Mayne was an early member of the Special Air Service, one of the UK’s most decorated soldiers of World War II and picked up where David Stirling left off. Initially the head of an anti-aircraft battery, the Irishman was transferred to the Royal Ulster Rifles and then No. 11 Scottish Commando. There, he invaded Vichy-held Lebanon and Syria. His skills in combat saw him transferred to what was then called the “parachute unit,” but would soon be known as the Special Air Service. 

His first combat with the SAS came during night raids in North Africa, destroying aircraft, fuel supplies, and ammo dumps in 1941. He was soon placed in command of the SAS, fighting behind enemy lines in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, and even into Germany. His exploits in the war earned him four Distinguished Service Orders, the French Legion d’Honneur on Croix de Guerre.

4. Lt. Jock Lewes

Jock Lewes is many things, but first and foremost, he’s the SAS trooper who discovered that explosives used by Stirling and his men in North Africa weren’t as effective as they needed to be. The bomb he developed used diesel oil and plastic explosives to make sure Axis planes and vehicles could never be used again. The Lewes Bomb, as it came to be called, was used throughout the war to devastating effect.

Lewes was one of the first men to volunteer for Stirling’s new SAS unit and was killed by enemy aircraft while raiding an Axis airfield in Libya in 1941.

5. Staff Sgt. John McAleese

Scotsman John McAleese is one of the UK’s most decorated soldiers of all time. He’s one of the rare SAS soldiers who saw fame while serving, as the world watched the UK’s response to terrorists taking over the Iranian Embassy in London. For six days, the British government lay siege to the embassy. On the sixth day, they killed a hostage and the SAS were called in. 

The world watched live as McAleese and his blue team followed the red team into the embassy by blowing their way into a first-floor window. In 17 minutes, the SAS killed all but one of the terrorists, losing only one hostage. McAleese also served in the Falklands War and earned medals fighting the Irish Republican Army during the Troubles. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

These special-purpose vehicles were designed to kill tanks

Prior to World War II, the United States Army — and many other armies — simply thought of tanks as having one purpose: to support the infantry. They really weren’t intended to deal with other tanks; a different vehicle had that job.


Those vehicles were known, aptly, as tank destroyers. The Achilles, which served with the British Army in World War II, was one such tank destroyer. This vehicle was a modified version of the American M10 Wolverine. The big difference between the two vehicles was that the American version had a three-inch gun, while the British Achilles had a quick-firing (or QF) 17-pounder gun (which referred to the weight of the shell fired).

 

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
A M10 Wolverine tank destroyer fires its three-inch gun during fighting near St. Lo. (US Army photo)

Primary armaments aside, the two vehicles were a lot alike. They had top speeds of 25 miles per hour, could go 200 miles on a tank of fuel, packed a M2 .50-caliber machine gun as a secondary weapon, and had a crew of five. The Wolverine held 54 rounds, while the Achilles had 50.

The 17-pounder gun of the Achilles was able to kill just about any Axis tank in a fight. The tank destroyer was intended to move fast and hit enemy tanks hard, using their speed to get into a good position to hit the enemy tanks and then scoot from the firing position. This was a good thing for the Wolverine and Achilles since there was one thing they lacked: armor.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
German troops check out an Achilles that was knocked out. Tank destroyers could dish it out, but taking it was a different matter. (Bundesarchiv photo)

 

The real problem, though, was that, all too often, the tanks supporting the infantry, like the M4 Sherman, ended up fighting the German tanks. Eventually, Shermans received tank-busting guns, like the 17-pounder and the three-inch gun.

Today, the tank destroyer concept centers around faster, lightly-armed vehicles that carry anti-tank missiles, as opposed to guns. Today’s tank is still seen as an infantry-support vehicle, but it is also capable of killing enemy tanks.

Watch this video from the Smithsonian Channel to learn more about the Achilles.

 

(Smithsonian Channel | YouTube)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Navy’s next ship will be named for this Korean War hero

On December 1, the Navy will commission a new Arleigh Burke-class destroyer named for Capt. Thomas Hudner, a pilot who landed his plane in contested territory to save his wingman who was shot down during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.


This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators

A Corsair fires rockets at Okinawa in World War II.

(U.S. Navy Lt. David D. Duncan)

Hudner would later receive the Medal of Honor for his actions, and now an entire destroyer crew will serve on a ship named for him.

Hudner’s wingman was Ens. Jesse L. Brown, the Navy’s first black aviator. They were piloting F4U Corsairs in support of Marines on the ground during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. Chinese forces had joined the war after the U.S. and democratic Koreans had nearly won it. And so, previously victorious U.S. forces were conducting a fighting withdrawal south.

Aviators had to fight tooth and nail to buy time for the withdrawing ground forces. Corsairs and other planes were sent to drop bombs and fire rockets at enemy armor and formations, then strafe for as long as they could, then re-arm, re-fuel, and re-attack.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators

Ensign Jesse L. Brown, the Navy’s first black aviator, died after being shot down in December, 1950.

(U.S. Navy)

On December 4, 1950, Hudner, Brown, and four other pilots were searching for camouflaged Chinese troops in the snowy mountains. They finally found them when the snow started blinking with the muzzle flashes of Chinese riflemen firing at them.

With the Corsairs flying so low, the rifles were actually an effective anti-aircraft weapon, and Brown’s Corsair started streaming vapor. It was oil from the damaged engine, and Brown’s plane wasn’t going to make it. The ensign was going down 17 miles behind enemy lines.

The crash was rough, and the pilots in the air were worried that Brown died on impact. That was, until they saw him move. Still, Hudner was worried about Brown on the ground, exposed to the elements, especially when Brown didn’t emerge from the cockpit.

So, Hudner crash-landed his own plane.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators

Lt. j.g. Thomas Hudner received the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman for his attempted rescue of Ens. Jesse Brown.

(U.S. Navy)

Hudner rushed to Brown’s Corsair, only to find him trapped inside. He attempted to get him out while taking breaks to pack snow around the engine and prevent a fire. When he was unable to get Brown out, he radioed for a rescue, but even then, they couldn’t save him.

Brown died in the cockpit, and Hudner was nominated for the Medal of Honor, which he would later receive for his efforts.

The new destroyer which will bear his name is of the Arleigh Burke Class. These guided-missile destroyers use the Aegis Combat System, which can fire all sorts of missiles and rockets to target enemies on land, on the sea, under the water, and in the air. They often pop up in the news during ballistic missile tests because they can shoot down missiles in flight and even hit satellites in space.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators

Members of the 1804 Concord Independent Battery render honors as the future Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116) arrives in Boston, Massachusetts on November 26, 2018..

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua Hammond)

But they’re also often used in Tomahawk missile strikes. The USS Higgins, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, fired 23 missiles from the North Arabian Gulf into Syria during that large strike in April.

While the destroyers cost over four times as much as littoral combat ships, smaller vessels with a similar mission set and armament, the destroyers’ eye-watering billion cost per ship is generally considered well worth the price. That’s partially because the Aegis system on the destroyer is so much more capable, but also because the Arleigh Burkes are thought to be much more survivable than the LCS variants.

The USS Thomas Hudner will be the 66th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer in the U.S. Navy.

Articles

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI

It was a warm Sunday afternoon on May 20, 1917, as nurses and doctors of Chicago’s Base Hospital Unit No. 12 gathered on deck of the U.S.S. Mongolia to watch Navy gunners conduct target practice.


Laura Huckleberry, one of the nurses standing on deck, had grown up on a farm near North Vernon, Indiana, and graduated from the Illinois Training School for Nurses in 1913. With Huckleberry were her roommates, Emma Matzen and Edith Ayres, also graduates of the Illinois Training School Class of 1913 and Red Cross Reserve Nurses selected for coveted spots in the hospital unit.

Also enjoying the Atlantic breezes while lounging in deck chairs or standing at the ship’s railing, the group included Scottish-born Helen Burnett Wood, a nursing supervisor at Evanston Hospital. Wood’s mother had protested her daughter’s decision to join the unit, but the 28-year-old Wood had written just before the ship sailed to tell them not to worry.

But Wood’s mother’s worst fears soon materialized.

“We watched them load and fire and then Emma said, ‘Somebody’s shot,'” Huckleberry later wrote of the event in her diary. “I turned and saw two girls on the deck and blood all around.”

Related: These 6 women earned the Silver Star for valor in war

Pieces of flying shrapnel struck Ayres in the left temple and her side, while Wood’s heart was pierced. Both were killed instantly. Matzen suffered shrapnel wounds to her leg and arm. As doctors and nurses attended to their fallen comrades, the ship turned around and returned to New York. The wounded Emma Matzen was taken to the Brooklyn Naval Yard Hospital, then transferred to New York Presbyterian Hospital and later to convalesce at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.

These three women became the first American military casualties of World War I. But it was unclear whether they were entitled to military benefits. Before their bodies were shipped home, Ayers and Wood were honored by the American Red Cross in a memorial service at St. Stephen’s Church. Their coffins, placed side by side, were draped with the Allied flags as New Yorkers paid their respects.

Although technically not buried with full military honors, the two nurses were honored in their local communities in elaborate public services described as “similar to those accorded the sons of Uncle Sam who fall on the field of battle.”

In honor of their martyred patriot, 32 autos in a “slow and solemn march” accompanied the hearse carrying Edith Ayers’ casket from the rail junction to Attica, Ohio. Area schools were closed for two days and most of the community paid their respects as her body lay in state in the Methodist Church. The burial concluded with a 21-gun salute from the 8th Ohio National Guard as a delegation of Red Cross nurses and representatives of the governor and the state of Ohio stood in silence.

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators
A gun on the U.S.S. Mongolia. | Public Domain photo

Wealthy financier and former Evanston mayor James Patten, whose wife was a friend of Helen Wood, telegraphed his New York representative to have the body shipped to Chicago at his cost. Evanston Hospital, Northwestern University and First Presbyterian Church officials took part in planning the memorial services after obtaining the consent of relatives.

More than 5,000 people lined the streets of Evanston to view her funeral escort, which included a marching band, 50 cadets from Great Lakes Naval Station, Red Cross nurses, hospital and university officials and other dignitaries. Following church services, a contingent of Red Cross nurses accompanied grieving family and friends to the gravesite.

Part of the ambiguity about the military status of these nurses came from the fact that they were enrolled by the American Red Cross before being inducted into the U.S. Army. They also served without rank or commission. Although the Army and Navy had formed nursing corps before the war, this was the first time they had inducted women in large numbers.

The Senate Naval Affairs Committee investigated the incident, determining that it resulted from the malfunctioning of the brass cap on the powder cartridge case and ordering changes to naval guns to prevent recurrence of such mishaps. But as U.S. war casualties mounted, these women were soon forgotten.

Emma Matzen recovered from her injuries and rejoined her unit in France later that year. In 1919, she returned home to Nebraska, where she and a sister, also a nurse, ran a small hospital. Each adopted infant girls who had been abandoned at the hospital; both girls later became nurses as well. Matzen moved to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, in 1949 where she did private duty nursing until she was 87. She was the only female among the 49 residents in her local VA Hospital; she died in 1979 at the age of 100.

Until the mid-1940s, the Edith Work Ayers American Legion Post in Cleveland was an all-women’s group comprised of former WWI Red Cross nurses and volunteers. The Attica Ohio Historical Society has honored her during annual Memorial Day ceremonies. Ayers’ graveside, although also without mention of any military service, has an American Legion marker. An Attica high school student, with the endorsement of the American Legion, has applied to the Ohio History Commission for a plaque to be placed in Attica in honor of its native daughter.

In Northesk Church near Musselburgh, Scotland, Helen Wood’s name is the first listed on a Roll of Honor of the congregation’s WWI deceased. In 2014, the flag which draped her coffin and her Red Cross pin were displayed in a WWI exhibition at the local museum. But Helen Wood is buried thousands of miles away in Chicago’s Rosehill Cemetery. Among the grand tombstones of famous Chicagoans and war veterans, Wood’s simple headstone makes no mention of her military death. Her wartime sacrifice is recognized only by a marker provided long ago by the Gold Star Father’s Association.

On the centennial of the accident aboard the Mongolia, a public wreath laying ceremony will be held at Helen Burnett Wood’s grave site in Rosehill Cemetery May 20. Part of “Northwestern Remembers the First World War”, a series of exhibits, lectures, and commemorations from Northwestern University Libraries will also be part of the remembering of America’s first casualties of WWI.  Support of the event is provided by the Pritzker Military Museum Library.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information