This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds

At the height of the second World War, the U.S. military was devising a means to fire bomb Japan (and Japan was doing the same for the U.S.). Still a few years out from the Manhattan Project being completed, the First Lady’s dentist friend, Lytle S. Adams, came up with a disastrous and inhumane plan — attach tiny napalm bombs to a million Mexican free-tailed bats.


It was called the “bat bomb.”

The Mexican free-tailed bat is one of the most abundant mammals in North America. Known for having the fastest horizontal speed of any animal, the species was also considered because female bats could carry much more weight than themselves (because they need carry their babies until they can fly.)

They can also be induced into hibernation, making them easy to handle. And instinctively, bats seek out dark places during the daytime. So without a cave, they’ll take shelter in buildings.

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds
Look at this little guy. Why would you consider weaponizing this?

“This man is not a nut. It sounds like a perfectly wild idea but is worth looking into,” a President Roosevelt’s memorandum concluded. So Project X-Ray was given a cautious green-light.

The idea was to strap timer-detonated napalm packets onto the bat, fill a case with around forty bats, drop the bomb over a Japanese village at night, and by the time morning arrived, the bats would detonate the mostly paper and wood buildings.

At first, it didn’t work. The lightest they could make an incendiary device was two pounds. Still thirty times the weight of the bat. They would fall like rocks.

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds
Poor little guy. He just wants to serve his country.

Louis Fieser, the inventor of napalm, was then attached to the project. With his new weapon, he could shrink the individual capsule of napalm down to half an ounce. Since napalm is a liquid, it would also be more devastating when it seeped into the cracks. So testing began again.

Related: 5 insane military projects that almost happened

With the new light-weight devices, it still didn’t work. Explosive-carrying bats burnt down much of Carlsbad Army Airfield. They broke free of their handlers and incinerated the test range when they roosted under a fuel tank and the General’s car. This didn’t stop them from testing the bat bomb. It was just further proof that it could work.

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds
Wow. The explosive carrying bats blew stuff up. Didn’t see that one coming.

The project was then tossed to the Marine Corps; and it still didn’t work. Millions of dollars were tossed into the project and over 30 demonstrations later, the atomic bomb was finished. There was no more need for the bat bombs.

Bats: 3

Mad scientist dentists: 0

(KingCitaldo125, YouTube)

Also read: These animals fought like animals on the battlefield

MIGHTY HISTORY

The only legal pirate ship of the 20th century was the Goodyear blimp

There’s a lot to unpack in this headline – the legality of pirates, why there would be pirates in the 20th century, how they came to be flying the Goodyear Blimp of all things, and what would be the best way to be a pirate when your only ship is an unarmed airship that proudly displayed your tire company of choice.

First, let’s talk about legal piracy.


This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds

Definitely not your torrent collection. If you don’t know what torrents are, then you’re probably good.

Know that “piracy” is always illegal, and the only time it’s not against the law is when we agree to call it something else. In the old days – that is the old days of wooden sailing ships – ships known as “privateers” sailed the high seas. These were privately owned and operated ships that were allowed to board and capture this ship of a particular nation, claiming it and its cargo as prizes. A privateer is not a pirate for one simple reason: the privateer carries a Letter of Marque.

A Letter of Marque is issued by one country, listing the specific assets available to the privateer, the enemy nation from which those assets can be seized or destroyed, and the authorization for the privateer to do it in the name of the issuing country. Famous privateers include Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh (who raided Spanish gold ships for the English) and the Goodyear Blimp Resolute.

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds

Wait, what?

(U.S. Navy Photo)

For the first time since the War of 1812, the President, through Congress, issued a Letter of Marque to a civilian ship. In this case, the letter of marque allowed the private-owned airship to search for Japanese submarines in the Pacific Ocean, and allowed its crew to be armed without violating any laws of armed conflict.

And it was. The Resolute was based in Los Angeles and was used in regular patrols of the Pacific Ocean, searching for Japanese submarines operating along the United States West Coast. Its crews’ only armament was small arms, but there was little chance of the airship successfully boarding and capturing a Japanese submarine. The airship would just have radioed the location of the submarine to ships who could come do something about it.

Too bad there would be no chance of taking prize money.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time New York built a battleship in Union Square

New York City struggled to meet its recruitment goals during the spring of 1917. The United States had recently entered World War I, which had been raging in Europe since 1914, and the military needed volunteers. While New York City had a population of around 6.5 million at the time, it lagged behind its goal of 2,000 recruits to the United States Navy by under half.

So New York City’s Mayor, John P. Mitchel, decided that he needed a gimmick to spark young men’s interest and convince them to volunteer for the war. What better way to draw attention to the Navy than to construct a battleship in the middle of Union Square? Teaming up with the Navy on the project, the Mayor’s Committee on National Defense raised approximately $10,000 (about $187,000 today) to fund the ship and hired Jules Guerin and Donn Barber to design the appropriately named USS Recruit, basing the design loosely on the USS Maine.


With work rapidly completed by the U.S. Navy, the USS Recruit, also known as the Landship Recruit, was built on the island of Manhattan. Construction finished for a “launch” on May 30, 1917, with the ship being christened by Olive Mitchel, the Mayor’s wife.

The wooden battleship mockup measured over 200 feet long and had a beam, or width, of 40 feet. While not actually armed for battle, the ship featured wooden replicas of two cage masts, six 14-inch guns inside three twin turrets, and ten 5-inch guns. It also had two 50-foot masts, an 18-foot tall smokestack, a main bridge, and a conning tower.

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds

The Landship Recruit contained ample space for the job of recruiting and training sailors, with multiple waiting rooms and physical exam rooms, complete with full amenities. Doctors, officers, and sailors lived aboard the ship in their separate quarters.

As for the latter, the initial complement was thirty-nine sailors-in-training from the Newport Training Station and their commander, Captain C.F. Pierce. The crew maintained a similar routine to the one of a crew at sea. As reported by Popular Science Magazine in August of 1917,

The land sailors arise at six o’clock, scrub the decks, wash their clothes, attend instruction classes, and then stand guard and answer questions for the remainder of the day. There is a night as well as a day guard. From sunup to eleven o’clock all lights of the ship are turned on, including a series of searchlight projectors.
This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds

In addition to recruiting volunteers for the Navy and training new sailors, the USS Recruit served as a public relations tool. Citizens were invited onto the ship to learn about then modern battleships, and the sailors aboard routinely answered the public’s questions during their guard duty. Both patriotic and social events were also held on the battleship with the sailors acting as hosts. One patriotic event, according to a contemporary account from The New York Times, was the presentation of a recreation of Betsy Ross’s American flag. Other events were just social in nature, such as dances held for New York’s social elite. There were reportedly even Vaudeville shows held on board.

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds

World War I ended in November of 1918 when both Austria-Hungary and Germany agreed to an armistice while the terms of peace could be negotiated. However, the USS Recruitcontinued its recruitment mission until March of 1920. It had helped the Navy recruit an astounding 25,000 new sailors (enough to man the USS Maine, which the Recruit was loosely modeled after, a whopping 45 times over) during its three years of operation.

At this time, the Navy announced that it would move the wooden battleship from Union Square to Luna Park on Coney Island and maintain it as a recruitment site there.

The New York Times described the “sailing” of the Recruit in an article on March 17, 1920:

Yesterday when 10 o’clock came around and with it ‘sailing time’ all of the ceremonies were put on. The crew of eighty men lined up on the quarterdeck and the ship was formally abandoned while the Stars and Stripes and the commissioned pennant were hauled down. The ship’s band struck up ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ as the colors were lowered to the deck.

The ship was then carefully dismantled over the course of a few days, with the pieces shipped off to Coney Island. Though The New York Times estimated that it would take just two weeks for the Navy to complete the move of the battleship, it was never rebuilt.

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds

Out of sight, out of mind, no contemporary news source seems to have bothered to cover why the ship, which was supposed to be immediately rebuilt, was not. What happened to the pieces of the dismantled ship is also a mystery to this day. A search through the Navy archives for the period in question likewise turned up nothing insightful concerning the ship’s demise. Presumably it was simply decided at the last minute that rebuilding and maintaining the ship was an unnecessary expense given the Navy’s recruitment needs at the time. Alternatively, perhaps the 1920 New York Times piece simply got it wrong, news outlets, even then, not exactly known for their accuracy on the details of reports for various reasons, such as often having to rush submissions.

Bonus Facts

  • While this was the end of the Union Square battleship, it would not be the end of the name in the U.S. Navy. The USS Recruit (AM-285) was launched in 1943 and served during WWII before being decommissioned in 1946 and ultimately sold to the Mexican Navy in 1963. Following this, another landlocked ship was built, the USS Recruit (TDE-1), at the San Diego Naval Training Center in 1949. Built to scale at two-thirds the size of a Dealey-class destroyer escort, the ship was made of wood with sheet metal overlay and was used to train tens of thousands of recruits over the coming decades. It was, however, decommissioned in 1967, funny enough, because it could not be classified in the Navy’s new computerized registry. However, commissioned or not, it was in continuous service from 1949 to 1997 (with a complete re-model in 1982) when the base it is on was closed. While no longer being used, the ship still stands, with some thought to perhaps turning it into a maritime museum at some point.
  • The Camouflage Corps of the National League of Women helped the original USS Recruit to better resemble battleships in combat in 1918, painting it a camouflage pattern (designed by artist William Andrew Mackay).

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This attack plane turned the enemy into grease spots

When you hear “Sandy,” maybe you think about Olivia Newton-John’s character in Grease, unless you’re in the Search-and-Rescue community. Even then, most people don’t associate the word with one of the best attack planes of all time. But the Douglas A-1 Skyraider was also a “Sandy” — and one that turned many enemies of the United States into…well…grease spots.


This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds
An A-1 Skyraider in 1966, when four planes assigned to USS Intrepid shot down at least one MiG-17. (U.S. Navy photo)

“Sandy” was the callsign A-1s operated under when they escorted the combat search-and-rescue helicopters. You may have seen Willem Dafoe’s character in Flight of the Intruder talking to “Sandy Low Lead.” Well, he was talking to a pilot flying a Skyraider when he called in an air strike on his own position.

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds
An A-1 Skyraider escorts an HH-3C rescue helicopter as it goes in to pick up a downed pilot in Vietnam in 1966. (Photo from the National Museum of the USAF)

The A-1 had been started in World War II, when it was called the BT2D-1. The Navy, though, was realizing that the air wings on the carriers needed to change. Part of the reasoning was the presence of the kamikaze, which required the presence of more fighters. The Navy even put a plane it rejected, the Vought F4U Corsair, on carrier decks. As such, the plan was to replace the SB2C Helldiver and the TBF/TBM Avenger. The plane later became the AD.

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds
An Air Force A-1E Skyraider loaded with a fuel-air explosive bomb. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Skyraider had 15 hardpoints, allowing it to haul 8,000 pounds of bombs, rockets, torpedoes, or gun pods. It also packed two or four Mk12 20mm cannon. The latter weapons helped the Skyraider score five air-to-air kills, including two MiG-17 “Fresco” fighters over North Vietnam.

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds

 

Some of those “Sandys” were Air Force, incidentally — one of a number of Navy bombers used by that service. The Air Force had wanted a version of the plane, which proved excellent at close-air support, since 1949. The Air Force used the A-1 over Vietnam, as did Vietnam, Cambodia, and a number of countries in Africa. The last A-1s were retired by Gabon in 1985.

The A-10 has become a primary airframe flying the “Sandy” CSAR missions, which is one of the reasons the hog is so beloved.

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What is known about Blackbeard’s (still) buried treasure

There is no doubt that the most well-known and infamous pirate of all time is Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. He terrorized the Caribbean for years before his eventual death in 1718. Three hundred years later, his massive, hidden fortune is still lost to history.


Despite how they’re portrayed in pop culture, pirates did not leave maps laying around with an “x” marking the spot — probably because that’s a terrible plan. If anything, they would know a general location and remember where it was buried. When it comes to massively successful pirates like Blackbeard, however, a single treasure chest buried six feet deep wouldn’t be nearly enough.

 

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds
Sorry to any Robert Louis Stevenson fans… but, no.

In fact, as far as we know, only one pirate, Thomas Tew, used an actual treasure chest to stow his prize. That particular cache of wealth was valued at around $102 million in today’s money. According to Blackbeard’s ledger, his wealth was evaluated at a (comparatively) paltry $12.5 million. If you think that’s suspiciously low for a pirate of his stature, you’d be correct. His ledger also notes that his real treasure “lay in a location known only to him and the devil.”

In terms of a suitable hiding spot, it’s more than likely stowed in a cave similar to Dungeon Rock in Massachusetts, where pirate Tom Veal hid his treasure. Knowing that Edward Teach often docked in the Carolinas, that’d be a logical start for treasure hunters. Ocracoke Island, North Carolina was his most common hang-out spot, but if it hasn’t been found there over the last three hundred years, you can be sure it’s not there.

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds
And believe me: Every tourist who goes to this island thinks they’ll be the one to finally find it.

Weeks before his death, Blackbeard knew his time was coming to an end. The Spanish and British were hot on his tail and, if he hadn’t already, he wouldn’t have had the time to consolidate all of his Caribbean treasures. He went down with his ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, off the coast of Ocracoke Island.

Many ships have been discovered off the shore, but none have identified as Queen Anne’s Revenge. Although Blackbeard’s ship was boarded, no Englishman was recorded as becoming extremely wealthy after the raid there’s little reason to believe that there was a large sum of money on his ship.

As far as anyone knows, it’s still out there somewhere…

MIGHTY HISTORY

An ensign took command of a destroyer at Pearl Harbor and took the fight to the Japanese

Destroyers, in general, don’t get as much love as they deserve for their contribution to World War II. The USS Aylwin is not different, even though her crew managed to do what few others could, which was to take the fight to the sucker-punching Japanese Navy and naval air forces during and after its attack on Pearl Harbor.

Despite having only half the necessary crew and being commanded by an Ensign, the Aylwin was out on patrols immediately.


This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds

The Aylwin was moored at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, with other ships from her Pacific squadron. Like most ships, roughly half of its crew were out on liberty or leave when the Japanese arrived in Hawaii. She had only one boiler going, strong enough to power only a few of the ship’s systems. That’s when the Utah was hit by a torpedo.

Even with only half her crew and being under the command of Ensign Stanley B. Caplan – that’s an O-1 for you non-Navy folks – the Aylwin was returning fire within three minutes of the Japanese attacks. A few minutes after that, her remaining boilers were lit. And a few minutes after that, Aylwin was making her way into the channel and into the open sea. This destroyer wasn’t going to be a sitting duck if she could help it.

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds

As she left the harbor, Aylwin maintained a deadly, continuous rate of fire that would have dissuaded even the most daring of pilots from pressing their attack on the destroyer. Pearl Harbor, at that moment however, was a target-rich environment for both sides. The skies were filled with Japanese planes, and the grounds and harbor area were littered with military targets, planes, ships, and more. Zero after Zero came after the U.S. ship but were chased away as Ensign Caplan and his men fired everything they had at their pursuers. The machine gunners on the decks of the Aylwin claimed to have downed at least three enemy fighters.

Caplan and company began an immediate combat patrol, looking for enemy submarines in the area, as were her standing orders in case of such an attack. An unknown explosion and an attempt to depth charge an enemy submarine were the most notable events of the next few days. For 36 hours, Ensign Caplan knew what it meant to be the captain. The ship and the rest of its crew joined the task force around the USS Lexington and headed to Wake Island by Dec. 12.

The Aylwin would survive the war mostly intact, but with 13 battle stars for her contributions to the fighting at Midway, Attu, and Okinawa, just to name a few.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how you bailed out from a World War II fighter

These days, when things go south while in a fighter, pilots are trained to reach for the loops that trigger their ejection seats. You just give it a yank and the ejection seat takes it from there, launching you from the stricken plane and setting you up for a safe(ish) landing on the ground (hopefully far from people you’ve just bombed or strafed).

Easy as pie — but it’s still something you don’t wanna do.


But in World War II, the process was very different. Today’s ejection seats use technology that didn’t exist in that era, so much of the process had to be handled manually, which was extremely hazardous.

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds
The pilot of a MiG-15 uses an ejection seat to make his escape from a plane that has been shot down.
(USAF)

 

When future president George H. W. Bush’s Grumman TBF Avenger was hit by enemy over Chichijima, the other two men on board were immediately killed and he had to bail out. In the chaos, Bush ejected improperly and collided with the plane’s tail — luckily, his injuries were minor compared to what could’ve happened. He drifted to the ocean below tethered to a parachute and was eventually rescued.

The method of properly ejecting from a World War II-era fighter varied depending on the plane. What worked for a P-38 Lightning wouldn’t work for a F4U Corsair. But, in general, the procedure was to slow the plane down as much as possible and manually open up the canopy. That’s when things got real tricky.

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds
This gun-camera footage shows a Nazi pilot trying to bail from a FW190.
(USAF)

A pilot’s natural instinct is to use their foot to jump from the side of the cockpit, but that would expose him or her to the slipstream — and that means a collision with the tail. Instead, pilots must use their hands on the side of the cockpit and roll over the “wall.” Then, the pilot waits to clear the plane (usually with a ten count) before pulling the ripcord, deploying a parachute.

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MIGHTY HISTORY

A World War I legionnaire wrote this ‘Rendezvous with Death’

In 1916, an American poet, Harvard graduate, and soldier of the French Foreign Legion was killed while attacking in the first wave at Belloy-en-Santerre, part of the opening of the Battle of the Somme. Alan Seeger had written a prophetic poem that would be published a year later titled, I Have a Rendezvous with Death.


This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds

Alan Seeger as a young Harvard student. A few years after this photo, he would join the French Foreign Legion.

The young Seeger graduated from Harvard in 1910 where he studied with poetry legends like T.S. Eliot. He spent two years living the Bohemian life in New York City’s Greenwich Village, crashing on couches and living off friends’ generosity. But New York didn’t live up to his expectations and, in 1912, he departed for Paris.

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The City of Lights filled him with admiration despite the large amount of misery that came with living in crowded and filthy quarters in the city. When war broke out between Germany and France, Seeger joined the French Foreign Legion to protect his beloved city.

The young Seeger was a fatalist and romantic, and he wrote a number of poems that glamorized the idea of dying in war, especially for his adopted country.

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds

Alan Seeger as a legionnaire.

After training, Seeger was sent with others to the front where, in June 1916, the French were tasked with assisting the British attack a few days into the Battle of the Somme.

Seeger took a spot in the first wave of his unit’s attack and wrote a letter to a friend where he wrote of his gratitude for the assignment.

“We go up to the attack tomorrow. This will probably be the biggest thing yet. We are to have the honor of marching in the first wave. I will write you soon if I get through all right. If not, my only earthly care is for my poems. I am glad to be going in first wave. If you are in this thing at all it is best to be in to the limit. And this is the supreme experience.”
This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds

Soldiers waiting for H-Hour during in operation in the Battle of the Somme.

But time passed without the men being ordered forward. On July 4, they were told that general offensive was about to begin, but they would only be in reserve.

Then, a few hours later, a voice called out. “The company will fall in to go to the first line.”

Seeger fell in with the troops front and center. A friend on the left wing later described what he saw.

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds

The Battle of the Somme and its overall campaign cost over 1.5 million lives.

Two battalions were to attack Belloy-en-Santerre, our company being the reserve of battalion. The companies forming the first wave were deployed on the plain. Bayonets glittered in the air above the corn, already quite tall.
The first section (Alan’s section) formed the right and vanguard of the company and mine formed the left wing. After the first bound forward, we lay flat on the ground, and I saw the first section advancing beyond us and making toward the extreme right of the village of Belloy-en-Santerre. I caught sight of Seeger and called to him, making a sign with my hand.
He answered with a smile. How pale he was! His tall silhouette stood out on the green of the cornfield. He was the tallest man in his section. His head erect, and pride in his eye, I saw him running forward, with bayonet fixed. Soon, he disappeared and that was the last time I saw my friend. . . .”

Seeger was killed that afternoon, cut down during the battle that is the bloodiest in British military history, and a costly one for every other nation that took part.

Seeger’s poem, published after his death, was panned as being outdated, but went on to become a favorite with many veterans, including John F. Kennedy, who would ask his wife to recite it for him often.

I Have a Rendezvous With Death

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air—
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath—
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows ’twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear…
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

MIGHTY HISTORY

See the moment a military working dog is reunited with handler

Let’s be honest, “dog reunites with handler” videos are basically a genre by this point, and we know you’re here for the adorable doggo.

So, feel free to check out the video, and we’ll drop all the typing stuff below it for anyone who wants to read it.


Military Dog Is SO Happy To Finally Be Home With His Dad | The Dodo Reunited

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Bakka was a military working dog assigned to Korea where he worked with handlers on a U.S. air base, but a leg injury ended his career when he was a 7-year-old, too old to be a good candidate for surgery. So, the Air Force put him in the queue for adoption, and a recent handler stepped up to try and get Bakka to his home in Boise, Idaho.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Dustin Cain was deployed to Korea for a year and was paired with Bakka, a young German Shepherd. But Cain, knowing that he’d be returning to his family stateside in a year, was apprehensive about developing a deep bond with Bakka as his duties as a handler would be coming to an end.

But it’s hard to keep your distance from a great dog, especially when every work day is focused on conducting missions with the dog and ensuring its welfare. And so the end of Cain’s tour in Korea was bittersweet. He was returning to his family, but he would have to leave Bakka behind. But, Cain explains in the video, he did hold out hope to be reunited with the dog in the future.

And so, when he learned that Bakka was getting a medical retirement and needed a safe home, he cleared it with his family and invited the dog to Idaho, an over 5,000-mile trip. Luckily for the pair, the military is increasingly pushing to pair dogs with their handlers after service, and other organizations like the American Humane Society move mountains to help get the dogs to their new forever homes regardless of distance.

This allows a retired dog to reunite with a handler it’s likely already emotionally bonded to, but it also helps ensure that former military working dogs are cared for by people who understand their needs. The dogs are usually bred for service and trained from youth to perform work and protect their handlers, so not all domestic situations are good for them.

And that’s why it’s so great that Bakka and Cain were able to find each other. Bakka was not only headed to a home with a loving family, but he was greeted by a handler he already knew. He even hopped into the back seat and took the normal position he had held on patrols with Cain.

If you want to help make reunions like this happen, there are all sorts of nonprofits that are working to pair retiring dogs with their former handlers, including the American Human Society which helped get Bakka and Cain together. And they could use your help, because, while military working dog handlers are supposed to get the first chance to adopt working dogs, that doesn’t always happen.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Remembering the USS Indianapolis (CA 35) on its 75th Anniversary

In the first minutes of July 30, 1945, two torpedoes fired from Japanese submarine I-58 struck the starboard side of USS Indianapolis (CA 35). One ripped off the ship’s bow, followed by another that hit crew berthing areas and knocked out communications.

In the dead of night, chaos ensued. It took only 12 minutes for the decorated warship that had carried President Roosevelt in the interwar years and earned ten battle stars for its World War II service up to that point to begin a descent to the bottom of the Philippine Sea.

Around 300 crew died in the initial blasts and went down with the ship. Between 800 and 900 men went into the water.


Indianapolis had completed a top-secret delivery of atomic bomb components to Tinian, an island in the Northern Marianas, days earlier. Unbeknownst to crew at the time, this mission would in the weeks to come contribute to the end of the war.

At the time of its sinking, the ship was returning unescorted to the Philippines to prepare for the invasion of mainland Japan and to resume its role as flagship of Admiral Raymond Spruance and the Fifth Fleet. Damage prevented transmission of a distress signal and misunderstood directives led to the Navy not reporting the ship’s failure to arrive.

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds

Shortly after completing a top-secret delivery of atomic bomb components to Tinian, the USS Indianapolis was struck by torpedo and sank 75 years ago today.

Surviving Sailors and Marines were adrift for four days before the pilot of a U.S. Navy Lockheed PV-1 twin-engine patrol bomber located them. It was by pure chance that, on the afternoon of August 2, that the bomber spotted an oil slick while adjusting an antenna.

A massive air and surface rescue operation ensued that night and through the following day. Out of 1,195 crew, 316 survived the ordeal; four additional Sailors died shortly after rescue.

The survivors faced incomprehensible misery. Some found themselves scattered miles apart in seven different groups. Some were fortunate to have gone in the water near rafts and floating rations. Others, including the largest group of around 400 men, had nothing but life vests and floater nets. Men suffered from exposure, dehydration, attacks by hallucinating shipmates, exhaustion, hypothermia, and sharks.

Hallucinations were contagious as many dived underwater thinking that they were entering their ship to drink ice cold milk, only to guzzle sea water and initiate a horrible death. Others swam off alone to reach hotels or imaginary islands. Crew supported each other as best they could, some at the expense of their own lives. The captain of the ship’s Marine detachment swam himself to death circling his group to keep them together. The crew’s beloved chaplain succumbed to exhaustion after providing days of last rites to dying shipmates. Rescue crews had to fire at sharks feeding on the dead with rifles in order to recover bThe crew that went down with the ship or died in the water are memorialized on the Walls of the Missing in the American Battle Monuments Commission’s Manila American Cemetery. At last count, fifty survivors rest at NCA locations. Interments at Riverside National Cemetery in California and Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minnesota contain the largest groups of these Veterans.

The few remaining Indianapolis survivors, now in their 90s, will be celebrated at a virtual 75th anniversary reunion this July. A Congressional Gold Medal has been struck for the event.

On this anniversary, we reflect on the service and experience of Indianapolis‘s final crew, give thanks to those still with us, and remember those who passed. Their ordeal compelled the Navy to make safety improvements, such as mandatory movement reports and improved lifesaving equipment and training – all of which undoubtedly saved the lives of countless Sailors and Marines. Additionally, their successful final mission hastened the end of World War II.odies for identification and a proper burial at sea.

Today

The crew that went down with the ship or died in the water are memorialized on the Walls of the Missing in the American Battle Monuments Commission’s Manila American Cemetery. At last count, fifty survivors rest at NCA locations. Interments at Riverside National Cemetery in California and Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minnesota contain the largest groups of these Veterans.

The few remaining Indianapolis survivors, now in their 90s, will be celebrated at a virtual 75th anniversary reunion this July. A Congressional Gold Medal has been struck for the event.

On this anniversary, we reflect on the service and experience of Indianapolis‘s final crew, give thanks to those still with us, and remember those who passed. Their ordeal compelled the Navy to make safety improvements, such as mandatory movement reports and improved lifesaving equipment and training – all of which undoubtedly saved the lives of countless Sailors and Marines. Additionally, their successful final mission hastened the end of World War II.

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

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A piece of the White House was stolen by the Freemasons

Nearly 20 years after America was born, an Irish architect named James Hoban began laying down the first piece of stone for what would become The White House during an elaborate Freemason ceremony.


Less than 24 hours later, the first piece of stone that was laid down vanished and no one appeared to know its whereabouts. Since then, the search for the stone continues as various participants have attempted to locate the historic piece of foundation.

Although the formation of the Freemason’s fraternity is a fiercely guarded secret, their history dates back to 1390 when they were first referenced in a Regius Poem.

A commonly accepted theory is the group emerged from the stonemasons guild amid the middle ages.

Also read: The 10 most famous ghosts in the White House closets

In the late 1940s during President Harry Truman’s administration, the White House underwent major renovations as crew members brought in metal detectors in hopes to locate the stone by picking up its metallic minerals and many believed they may have discovered its location.

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds

President Harry Truman — Freemason

When Truman got wind of the search, he ordered them to halt the exploration immediately, which caught everyone off guard. In response, Truman then sent pieces of the White House to several various Freemason locations throughout the country.

Watch the History Channel‘s video to see how many have tried to unlock the mystery.

(History Channel, YouTube)

Also Read: The 5 weirdest books on Osama Bin Laden’s bookshelf

Fun Facts: George Washington, James Monroe, and Andrew Jackson were some of the 14 U.S. Presidents who reportedly claimed the title of being a part of the Freemasons.

8 signers of the Declaration of Independence and 9 signers of the U.S. Constitution were known Freemasons.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Britain’s highly successful balloon attack against the Nazis

In perhaps one of the oddest British strategies against Nazi Germany, British troops launched almost 100,000 hydrogen-filled latex balloons into Nazi-controlled territory to set fires and short out power wires as part of Operation Outward.


This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds

Women’s Auxiliary Air Force members recover a kite balloon.

(Royal Air Force)

Operation Outward was the result of an accident. Barrage and observation balloons in World War I got more coverage than in World War II, but the floating sacks of hydrogen were widely used in both conflicts. You can actually spot them in some of the more famous D-Day photos from later in the day or over the days and weeks that followed.

(The 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion was the only Black combat unit that came ashore on D-Day, though plenty of Black logistic and engineer units were there on June 6.)

But in September 1940, a few British barrage balloons broke free during a storm and drifted across Scandinavia, pissing the Scandinavians all the way off. The steel tethers these balloons dragged behind them had a pesky habit of shorting out power lines and otherwise damaging infrastructure.

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds

A U.S. Army Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, known as JLENS.

(U.S. Arny)

Ya know, about like what happened when that JLENS aerostat (blimp, basically) broke free in October 2015.

But when it happened in the Scandinavian countries in 1940, the Brits were all, “Wait, what’s bad for the goose is bad for the gander, so let’s apologize to Scandinavia but then do the same thing, on purpose, to Hitler’s Third Reich. Screw those guys.”

The British relied on a couple infrastructure advantages for this plan. Britain’s electrical grid was more developed, and therefore more susceptible to disruption, but it also featured faster circuit breakers. This meant that Britain’s grid, if hit with balloons trailing wires, would suffer relatively little damage. Germany’s, with slower breakers, had a real risk of losing entire sections of the grid or even power plants to balloon disruptions.

So, even if it led to a balloon trading war, Britain could expect to hold the upper hand. And so weather balloons were filled with hydrogen, fitted with either spools of wire or incendiary devices, and floated over the channel into Germany.

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds

An “incendiary sock” like those used to burn German towns.

(UK National Archives)

The wires were relatively thin. Experimentation showed the designers that they didn’t need the thick steel of normal tethers to short lines, cause electrical arcs, and damage German power distribution. The electrical arcs were the real killer, draining power from the grid, overworking the components of the power generation, and weakening the transmission lines so they would later break in high winds.

The incendiary devices were filled with wood shavings and paraffin wax.

Both types were made to fly over the channel at a little over 20,000 feet, then descend to 1,000 feet and do their work. They needed winds of about 10 mph or more to be as effective as possible.

And they worked, well. The idea wasn’t to cripple Germany in a single blow, but to cost them more in economic damage and defensive requirements than it cost Britain to deploy them. And, thanks to the low-cost materials Britain used, Britain only had to pay around the U.S.equivalent of .50 per balloon. Shooting a balloon down could cost much more than that in ammo, and that was if it was shot down by air defenders. If fighters had to launch, the fuel and maintenance would be astronomical.

And balloons that weren’t shot down could easily do hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage. In 1942, a balloon launch overloaded a power plant at Böhlen so badly that the plant was completely destroyed. And while the power was off in this and other events, German units were made less ready for combat, and German wartime production was slowed.

Assessments found during and after the war painted a picture of constant disruption on the German side. In occupied France, there were 4,946 power interruptions during the program, most of them caused by the balloons. In 11 months from early 1942 to early 1943, Germany had 520 major disruptions of high-voltage lines.

And at a cost of .50 a balloon plus the wages of balloon launchers, mostly members of the Women’s Royal Navy Service, the more than 99,000 balloons launched were a hell of a deal.

MIGHTY HISTORY

George Washington was nearly impossible to kill

History would have been much different if George Washington was born a 90-pound weakling. As it was, he was an abnormally large man, especially for the American Colonies. At 6’2″ and weighing more than 200 pounds, he was literally and figuratively a giant of a man. This might be why nine diseases, Indian snipers, and British cannon shot all failed to take the big man down.


It’s not just that the man was fearless in battle (even though he really was). Washington suffered from a number of otherwise debilitating, painful ailments and diseases throughout his life that would have taken a lesser man down — but not the man who founded the most powerful country ever to grace the Earth.

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds
“Let them take cover in the woods! We’ll fight the indians in straight lines, in tight formations. That’ll show them who’s boss.” It didn’t show them who’s boss.

 

He should have died at the Battle of the Monongahela

Near what we today call Pittsburgh,a British force under General Edward Braddock was soundly defeated by a force of French Canadians and Indians during the French and Indian War. Braddock died of wounds sustained in the fighting, but Washington survived despite having two horses shot out from under him. When all was said and done, he also found four musket-ball holes in his coat.

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds
“C’mon guys… let’s make this quick. Suuuuuper quick.”

 

He had dysentery the whole time

During much of the French and Indian War, Washington reported bouts of dysentery, an infection that causes (among other things) persistent diarrhea. He suffered from this while dodging bullets at the Monongahela River. The discomfort from it actually made him sit taller on his horse.

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds
“This is way easier when you don’t have dysentery!”

 

He trotted 30 yards from enemy lines

During the 1777 Battle of Princeton, Washington rode on his horse as bullets fired from British rifles 30 yards away whizzed around him. When troops worried about their leader getting shot, he simply said, “parade with me my fine fellows, we will have them soon!”

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds
America would get two more epic swings at German troops.

 

Trenton was cold as hell.

Crossing the Delaware was actually much more dangerous than the stories would have you believe. Giant chunks of ice were in the dark water that night and each threatened to overturn the longboats. Washington set out with three boats to make the crossing, and only his made it. Falling into the water likely meant a slow, freezing death for any Continental, even if they managed to get out of it.

Two Continental soldiers who survived the crossing stopped to rest by the side of the road and were frozen by morning.

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds
Paintings: the Presidential Snapchat filter.

 

He had six of the most lethal diseases of his time.

Normally, if you’re reading about someone in the 1700s contracting tuberculosis, dysentery, pneumonia, malaria, smallpox, or diphtheria, it’s because that’s how they died. Not only did Washington survive all of these conditions, he knew how to inoculate his army against smallpox, claiming the British tried using as an early form of biological warfare. It was the first mass military inoculation in history — and it worked.

In the end, Washington was felled by what modern doctors think was a case of epiglottitis, an acute bacterial inflammation of the little flap at the base of the tongue that covers the trachea.

Like the Rebel Alliance finding an exhaust port in the Death Star plans, life found a way to take down one of history’s greatest. It took 67 years and a whole lot of trial and error.

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