At the turn of the 19th century, the United States was by human standards barely a teenager. But held to the much stouter standards of statehood established by European nations that had seeded it, the U.S. was, to use the vernacular, “barely a glint in its pappy’s eye.”
To be sure, America had made good on the democratic ideals that had fueled its revolution and its Declaration of Independence. And it had managed to greatly expand its territory through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. TheCorps of Discovery Expedition, led by the U.S. Army under Capt.s Lewis and Clark, made those new lands a known realm under the Jefferson administration, while mapping the enticing, yet contested Oregon Territory into the realm of the possible.
But 14 years as a nation was, in the eyes of the world, still considered just an experiment under laboratory conditions. How would these “United States” hold up to real-world, geopolitical pressures? The burden of proof belonged to the U.S., and it knew it. The pressure to prove itself incited the sequence of conflicts that we now refer to as the War of 1812.
The War of 1812 was fought on two fronts, representing the two major proving grounds of American legitimacy — the new frontier west of the Mississippi and the open ocean, through which the growing U.S. merchant marine traded the vast natural resources of North America with the wider world. On both fronts, Great Britain was testing its former colonies’ resolve.
Locked into the churn of the Napoleonic Wars, the British were enforcing a naval blockade of France, catching U.S. trade ships in the crossfire. To make matters worse, Great Britain was unapologetically pressing American merchant sailors into service in the Royal Navy, a policy that inflamed the American public and lead to skirmishes like the Chesapeake-Leopold Affair (not pictured below.)
Great Britain was also keen to interrupt American expansion on land, fearing that a Canadian landgrab was imminent. To that end, they provided military support to Tecumsah’s Confederacy, a powerful Native American resistance group in the Old Northwest who sought to block the U.S. from taking further territory from the continent’s original inhabitants.
In spite, or perhaps because, of British military action around its northern and western borders, the U.S. began a concerted, and largely fruitless, effort to invade and capture Canadian territory. At sea, the U.S. Navy engaged in a long series of back and forth battles with the Royal Navy off the U.S. coast. Victories accrued on both sides and public sentiment waxed and waned as both sides claimed the advantage, but the result after 2 years was more or less a draw.
In the face of a stalemate, Great Britain was forced to weigh its distaste for America’s increasingly credible claim of self-sovereignty against the obvious advantages of reopening trade relations. However, the calculus changed when Napoleon’s abdication in Europe suddenly freed up Great Britain’s naval resources, allowing it to redouble its efforts against America. The Royal Navy blockaded the U.S. to near bankruptcy in 1814 and British forces invaded and burned Washington, D.C.
This seemingly clear-cut British victory concluded with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent in December of 1814. But news of the peace travelled slowly in the Age of Sail and out-of-the-loop British forces, attempting to invade Louisiana in January 1815, were roundly defeated at the Battle of New Orleans, giving the U.S. the right to declare a face-saving, buzzer-beater victory.
In the end, everybody got something they wanted from the War of 1812. The British succeeded, at least temporarily, in checking American enthusiasm for territorial expansion, as well as re-establishing itself as the reigning naval heavyweight champion of the world.
But the U.S. had managed to hold its own against global superpowers. Showing a determinist grit beyond its years, it stood up for its right to pursue a national agenda on the international stage. In effect, it had proven to Pappy that it was mature enough to call its own shots.
It seems like so many dictators just love movies. We all do, but absolute power takes it to a whole new level. Gaddafi had a channel set up just to play his favorite movie – his one favorite movie. Kim Jong-Il kidnapped his favorite actors and actresses to star in North Korea’s movies. Then, of course, the next natural step for these guys is directing movies.
Kim Jong-Il made several films. Benito Mussolini pitched to Columbia pictures. And even Saddam Hussein made a $30 million war epic. But Joseph Stalin was the Soviet Union’s “ultimate censor.”
At the time, global Communism was still very much a growing threat, one Stalin wanted to continue to spread around the world – under Soviet leadership.
He saw how much power and influence films – and the stars in them – held over large audiences. He saw it in Nazi German propaganda during the Second World War and he used it effectively himself to further his own personality cult.
So when he saw John Wayne’s power as an virulent anti-Communist on the rise, he ordered the actor killed and then sent (allegedly) more than one hit squad to do the job. He saw the Duke as a threat to the spread of Communism around the world – and especially in America.
Obviously not one to let a thing like Communist assassins get him down, Wayne and his scriptwriter Jimmy Grant allegedly abducted the hitmen, took them to the beach, and staged a mock execution. No one knows exactly what happened after that, but Wayne’s friends say the Soviet agents began to work for the FBI from that day on.
But there were other incidents. The book also alleges KGB agents tried to take the actor out on the set of 1953’s Hondo in Mexico. A captured sniper in Vietnam claimed that he was hired by Chairman Mao to take the actor out on a visit to troops there.
Stalin died in 1953. His successor, Nikita Khrushchev, met privately with John Wayne in 1958 and informed him that the order had been rescinded. Wayne told his friends Khrushchev called Stalin’s last years his “mad years” and apologized.
The entire time Wayne knew there was a price on his head, he refused the FBI’s offer of federal protection and didn’t even tell his family. He just moved into a house with a big wall around it. Once word got out, though, Hollywood stuntmen loyal to the Duke began to infiltrate Communist Party cells around the country and expose plots against him.
One of U.S. Special Forces’ most legendary figures died suddenly and tragically on April 29, 2019. Eldon Bargewell, a 72-year-old retired Major General, was killed after his lawnmower rolled over an embankment near his Alabama home. His 40-year military career saw him serve everywhere from Vietnam to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and probably every hotspot in between.
Bargewell as an enlisted recon troop in Vietnam.
He first joined the military in 1967, going to Vietnam for a year, going home, and then volunteering to return to Vietnam – in the same recon outfit he left a couple of years earlier. He was working areas outside of Vietnam, technically in Laos, monitoring NVA supply routes.
In an action for which he received the Distinguished Service Cross, he was hit by an AK-47 round in the side of his face but still managed to carry on the fight. Deep inside enemy territory, his unit was hit with two RPG rounds as a hail of enemy bullets overcame them. In minutes the entire recon team was wounded. Bargewell, carrying a Russian-made RPD machine gun (because he wanted to ensure he killed the enemies he shot), broke up an onslaught of charging NVA soldiers, numbering anywhere from 75-100 men.
“Very few people come through the path Eldon Bargewell did,” said Maj. Gen. William Garrison, commander of the Special Forces effort to capture a Somali warlord in 1993. “Starting out as a private, working his way as a non-commissioned officer, and then getting to the highest levels of leadership. Very few people can do that. He is the type of man, soldier, leader that we all want to be like.”
Major General Eldon Bargewell, U.S. Army.
The NVA sent wave after wave of men toward the Army Special Forces’ perimeter, and each was gunned down in turn by Bargewell and his 7.62 RPD. With the dead and wounded piling up, including Bargewell himself, the Americans needed to get out of the area in a hurry. They anxiously awaited the helicopters that would lift them to safety. When they finally arrived, Bargewell refused to be evacuated.
“He wouldn’t go up,” said Billy Waugh, Bargewell’s then-Sergeant Major. “He had the weapons that was saving the day… he was the last out and that’s what saved that team.” And it really was. Bargewell went through half of his 1000 rounds protecting the perimeter and defending his fellow soldiers as they boarded the helicopter. That’s when 60 more NVA bum-rushed him.
Bargewell went up with the next helicopter.
“His selfless sacrifice touched so many,” said Lt. Gen. Lawson MacGruder III, one of the Army Rangers’ first commanders and a Ranger Hall of Famer. “In just about every conflict since Vietnam.”
After returning from Vietnam, he went to infantry officer candidate school, earning his commission. From there he commanded special operations teams in Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam, the Middle East, El Salvador, Panama, Desert Storm, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, and Afghanistan. In his last deployment, he was the director of special operations at Headquarters Multi-National Force-Iraq in Baghdad. He retired in 2006, the most decorated active duty soldier at the time.
In 1941, the U.S. Army Air Forces started an experiment that would help change the face of warfare: They invited 13 black cadets and officers to train as pilots and additional students to train as navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, and other support staff to Tuskegee, Alabama.
The Tuskegee pilots faced long odds. The American military was segregated for all of World War II — and many people at the time thought that black people lacked the mental capabilities necessary to pilot sophisticated planes. It would take a sequence of overwhelming successes for the brave Tuskegee Airmen to deconstruct that fallacy.
They got some lucky breaks, like when first lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited the school and accepted a black instructor’s offer take her on a flight over the base, but their real chance to prove themselves came overseas, when Tuskegee-trained pilots were assigned to fighter, pursuit, and bomber units in Europe, There, they faced off against Italian and German pilots.
Their first taste of combat came in May, 1943, when the 99th Pursuit Squadron was sent against Italian fighters over Tunisia. They tangled with Italian fighters — neither side suffered losses. But their efforts in the sky were part of what forced the Italian garrison at Pantelleria to surrender on June 11.
The first shootdown by a member of the 99th came later that month when Lt. Charles B. Hall flew an old P-40 against a German fighter and downed it. Despite this early success, the 99th came under political fire as its partnered fighter squadron complained about their performance.
The complaining commander failed to note, however, that the 99th was excluded from mission briefings, was intentionally based dozens or hundreds of miles further from the front lines, and that they were forced to fly older planes.
Despite the political pressure at home, where publications like Time Magazine repeated criticisms with little investigation, the 99th was sent to Italy and allowed to continue flying.
It was here that the men really began carving their place in history. As the critics sharpened their knives, the 99th sharpened their skills. Over the plains and hills of southern Italy, they escorted bombers and provided cover for beach landings and infantry assaults.
In Italy, their partnered fighter group folded the Tuskegee fliers into operations, allowing the black pilots to fly on more equal footing. In just a week of fighting in January, 1944, the 99th shot down 12 German fighters.
Then, three black fighter squadrons arrived in Italy as the 332nd Fighter Group and the 99th was soon folded in with them. The 332nd was assigned to escort heavy bombers and was given new P-47s and P-51 Mustangs for the mission.
It was in these operations that the planes were given their distinctive “Red Tail” paint job and that the pilots would make history.
The primary job of the 332nd was to protect bombers going deep into German territory, a mission that required them to fly past hostile air defenses and then grapple with enemy fighters, often while outnumbered, in order to ensure that the bombers could deliver their ordnance and successfully return home.
And the 332nd was great at it. They were so good, in fact, that a legend arose that the 332nd never lost a bomber under their protection. They actually did lose 25 aircraft over 200 missions, but that was leaps and bounds ahead of the norm in the 15th Air Force where an average fighter group lost 46 bombers.
The Tuskegee men’s success was so well known that bombers’ would sometimes specifically request the 332nd for dangerous missions, but they were never told that their escorts in the “Red Tails” were black. In fact, the 332nd flew the deepest escort mission the 15th Air Group ever flew, a 1,600-mile round trip to bomb a tank factory in Berlin.
Over the course of the war, Tuskegee pilots flew over 15,000 combat sorties, downed 111 German aircraft, and destroyed over 1,000 railcars, vehicles, and aircraft on the ground. They even once damaged a large torpedo ship so badly that it had to be scuttled.
The 332nd’s performance was widely reported in the closing days of the war, and it led to a larger discussion in the mid- to late-1940s about whether it made sense to keep the military segregated.
Military segregation had previously been questioned in the 1920s, but a racist and later discredited report released in 1925 had claimed that black pilots were naturally inferior. The combat performance of the 332nd combined with the valor of the 92nd Infantry Division made those erroneous claims even harder to believe.
The U.S. military was officially integrated in 1948. The 332nd still flies and fights today with black and white pilots working side-by-side as the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group.
For World War I pilots, the most terrifying song that relates to their experience may not be Seven Nation Army but 99 Luftballoons, because going against barrage and observation balloons in the Great War was terrifying.
Barrage balloons over London in World War II.
Pilots with the balls and skill to attack these balloons were known as balloon busters, and ones that had shot down more than five of the balloons were known as balloon aces. And yes, shooting down a balloon counted as a “kill,” same as shooting down a piloted enemy plane.
But what made them so hard to shoot down? After all, they were just a bunch of floating bags of air. Pop ’em with a needle and get on with your day, right?
First, military balloons weren’t made of cheap Mylar or latex. Many in World War I were made of tightly woven fabric, though vulcanized rubber and Thiokol rubber were prominent in World War II. All of these materials could take plenty of hits without splitting, meaning bullets that passed through them caused them to leak instead of to pop.
A row of spherical barrage balloons used for suspending aerial nets
(Australian War Memorial)
So they couldn’t simply be popped, and it often took a lot of rounds to bring one down. But if a fighter did manage to slay the beast, he wasn’t out of danger yet. While American balloons in World War II were sometimes filled with helium, none of the early Great War combatants had access to that gas, and hydrogen was the preferred gas for barrage balloons anyway.
Why? Well, for the same reason it was bad for the Hindenburg. Observation balloons had people in them, people who would’ve loved helium instead of hydrogen over their heads. But barrage balloons were empty, and filling them with hydrogen meant that, when destroyed, the balloons had a tendency to go out in massive fireballs. This was a huge threat to the fighters attacking it.
It also meant that fighters had one advantage though: Incendiary rounds were very effective against the balloons. But in World War I, pretty much only the British had incendiary rounds in planes. Everyone else was slinging cold metal. And incendiary rounds didn’t stay hot forever, generally traveling only 300 to 400 yards while still burning. You did not want to be 300 yards from an exploding balloon and still flying towards it as you would have to be to effectively shoot at it.
Barrage balloons and their crews in World War II.
(Royal Air Force)
Fine, fine, fine. The balloons were hard to shoot down and, when shot down, might explode in a big fireball and kill the attacking fighter. Fine. Just fly around them, right? Let the Germans have their balloons over their lines, maybe bring in some air defense artillery to shoot at it. But let the fighters avoid them.
Nope. For two reasons. First, those observation balloons were an enduring threat from the moment they went up until the moment they went down. Artillery observers sat in them and reported troops positions and movements to their friendly artillery for hours, allowing German crews to hit English, French, and U.S. positions all day. They had to be killed.
American pilot Frank Luke poses with his 13th confirmed kill.
So observation balloons and barrage balloons were lethal, terrifying, and absolutely had to be destroyed, and some of America, England, and France’s top aces proved their mettle by flying at the things, especially in World War I. In fact, some of the top decorated fighter pilots of World War I had few wins against human-piloted planes, but a dozen or more against balloons.
Will Coppens, a Belgian pilot, personally awarded a medal by King Albert I had only shot down two enemy planes in his career, but he had taken down an astounding 35 enemy balloons. The next highest scoring pilot after him was Frenchman Leon Bourjade with 27. So, yeah, Coppens earned that medal from his king.
America’s top balloon buster was Frank Luke, a mouthy pilot who was looked down upon by his peers when he arrived in France. He claimed his first fighter kill in August 1918, but no one else had witnessed the feat, and he was written off as a blowhard. So, after hearing how hard balloons were to take down, he attacked one on September 12 and, after three passes, destroyed it right before it reached the safety of the ground where the observers could clamber out.
German observation balloons allowed for intelligence gathering and highly accurate artillery fire, and barrage balloons created persistent threats to enemy fighters.
(State Library of New South Wales)
Luke bagged another two balloons two days later. His wingman that day, 1st Lt. Joseph Wehner, formed a team with him that specialized in balloon busting and turned the whole thing into a traveling show, sending invitations to VIPs to witness German balloons blowing up at set times and places. But it was too bold to last, and Wehner was shot down on September 18 while taking down his fifth balloon, giving him balloon ace status in death.
Distraught, Luke went off the deep end, taking more and more risks in flight to the point that his superiors grounded the already famous pilot who, by that point, had 11 victories against balloons and four against fighters, making him America’s ace of aces. On September 29, he stole a plane and dropped a note to the ground that told observers to watch German balloons over the Meuse.
Luke flew into the teeth of the enemy, dodging ground fire and eight enemy fighters as he took down one balloon after the others, destroying all three in the area before he was shot down. He survived the wreck and pulled his pistol, fending off a German patrol and killing multiple members of it until a German round drilled him in the chest.
He was awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses and the Medal of Honor for his heroics in September 1918, going to his grave as America’s best-ever balloon buster with 14 kills against balloons and four against fighters.
World War II sniper rifles were often updated World War I models made better with new telescopic sights and upgrades to make them more easily employed in combat.
These relatively minor improvements to the weapons made the snipers much more dangerous in combat, and sharpshooters were able to make an outsized impact on the conflict, tying down enemy units and picking off key players. Here are four of the weapons used by the major powers in Europe:
Like most World War II rifles, the Lee-Enfield No. 4 was simply an updated World War I design. But the No. 4 was lighter, more reliable, and more infantry friendly than its predecessors. The British military fielded a sniper version with a 3.5x telescopic sight. The Australians used the older No. 1 model for their sniper conversions.
Mental torture, starvation, and daily physical beatings were just a few of the dreadful aspects American POWs had to endure on a daily basis during their stay at the “Hanoi Hilton.”
Although prisoner leadership secretly spoke of escape between one another, the odds of a successful attempt was near impossible. But what the prisoners didn’t know was that the CIA had already approved a plan to have a sub-transport take SEAL Team One to an island off the coast of North Vietnam to intercept them upon escape.
After sending a coded message to Washington, the Hanoi prisoners asked for “an unmistakable signal from the heavens” to show President Nixon supported the mission.
So on May 2nd, 1972, three S-71s delivered that message. As they approached the Hanoi prison, they flew so close to the sound barrier that the ensuing roar alerted the prisoners of their presence, and the message was received.
Some of the Hanoi prisoners never thought the rescue mission would get approved, which caused conflict among them as they questioned whether they should take the chance.
For the next three days, the SEAL Team would monitor the coast, awaiting their American brothers.
After several intense discussions, the prisoners came to a final decision whether they should embark on the daring escape: they voted no — and with good reason.
If the attempt failed, the remaining prisoners might face even harsher punishment, and they couldn’t allow that. They made the right decision.
Towards the end of the war, Nixon ordered a bombing run to force the enemy to accept the peace terms. After the aerial attack had ceased, the North claimed the Hanoi POWs had all been killed, but with a smuggled transmitter, the brave prisoners sent out a coded message that reached the White House which read:
“Vietnamese lie, we’re okay.”
The incoming message sparked Nixon to continue the bombing raids. Then, in early 1973, the North accepted Nixon’s terms, ending the Vietnam war and the strong-willed Hanoi prisoners finally came home safely.
The United States Navy has a history of honoring women – one that goes way back to 1776, when a row galley was named for Martha Washington (George’s wife). Currently, seven Navy ships named for women are in active service with the United States Navy, and an eighth is on the way. Here’s a rundown on these ships:
The destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70) has a five-inch gun, two Mk 41 Vertical Launch System with a total of 90 cells for BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-66, RIM-161, and RIM-174 Standard missiles, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets. She also has eight RGM-84 Harpoons in two Mk 141 launchers, two Mk 15 Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS), four .50 caliber machine guns, and two triple mounts for Mk 32 torpedo tubes.
In January, 2008, the Hopper was one of several U.S. Navy warships that had close encounters with Iranian speedboats.
2. USS Roosevelt (DDG 80)
This Arleigh Burke-class destroyer is named in honor of both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt. Eleanor Roosevelt was First Lady for 12 years, then served as a diplomat and spokesperson for the United Nations.
The destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) has a five-inch gun, two Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) with a total of 96 cells for BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-66, RIM-161, and RIM-174 Standards, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets, two Mk 15 Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS), four .50 caliber machine guns, two triple mounts for Mk 32 torpedo tubes, and the ability to carry two MH-60R helicopters.
According to a 2006 US Navy release, the Roosevelt and the Dutch Frigate De Zeven Provincien took part in an attempted rescue of a South Korean fishing vessel captured by pirates. In 2014, the DOD reported the destroyer took part in delivering a rogue oil tanker to Libyan authorities.
3. USNS Sacagawea (T AKE 2)
This Lewis and Clark class replenishment ship was named for Sacagawea, the Native American woman who guided the expedition lead by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark across the Louisiana Purchase. A previous USS Sacagawea (YT 326) was a harbor tug that served from 1925 to 1945.
The 41,000-ton replenishment ship USNS Sacagawea carries ammo, food, and other supplies to keep the United States Navy (and allies) fighting. The ship also can transfer some fuel to other vessels. She can carry two MH-60 helicopters to help transfer cargo and have as many as six .50-caliber machine guns.
In 2013, the Sacagawea took part in Freedom Banner 2013 as part of the Maritime Prepositioning Force.
4. USNS Amelia Earhart (T AKE 6)
The first woman to make a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, Amelia Earhart was one of the few women who earned a Distinguished Flying Cross. Earhart disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 under unknown circumstances. DANFS notes that a Liberty Ship was previously named for the famous aviator.
The 41,000-ton replenishment ship USNS Amelia Earhart carries ammo, food, and other supplies to keep the United States Navy (and allies) fighting. The ship also can transfer some fuel to other vessels. She can carry two MH-60 helicopters to help transfer cargo and have as many as six .50-caliber machine guns.
DANFS notes that on Nov. 20, 2014, the Amelia Earhart collided with USNS Walter S. Diehl (T AO 193).
5. USNS Mary Sears (T AGS 65)
Mary Sears was the first Oceanographer of the Navy during World War II. According to the website for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, her research on thermoclines saved many American submariners’ lives by enabling our subs to hide from enemy forces.
Fittingly, the U.S. Navy named the Pathfinder-class oceanographic research vessel USNS Mary Sears in her honor. The 5,000-ton vessel has a top speed of 16 knots, and carries a number of sensors for her mission. In 2007, the Mary Sears helped locate the “black boxes” from a missing airliner.
6. USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10)
Former Arizona Democrat Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — whose husband is astronaut and Navy Capt. Mark Kelly — served for five years before resigning her seat in the aftermath of an assassination attempt.
The Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords has a 57mm gun, four .50-caliber machine guns, and a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile. The vessel can carry two MH-60 helicopters and MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicles.
The ship just entered service in December, 2016, and had a cameo in Larry Bond’s 2016 novel, Red Phoenix Burning, where it was rammed by a Chinese frigate, suffering moderate damage.
7. USNS Sally Ride (T AGOR 28)
Sally Ride was the first American woman in space, flying on two Space Shuttle missions (missing a third after the Challenger exploded during launch), who died after a battle with pancreatic cancer in 2012.
A sister ship, the USNS Neil Armstrong (T AGOR 27), named for the first person to walk on the moon, is operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts.
8. USS Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG 123)
Lenah Higbee was the first woman to receive the Navy Cross – being recognized for her service as Superintendant of the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps in World War I. She was recognized with a Gearing-class destroyer in 1945, according to DANFS, that saw action in the last months of World War II.
The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee will have a 5-inch gun, two Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) with a total on 96 cells for BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-66, RIM-161, and RIM-174 Standards, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets, two Mk 15 Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS), four .50 caliber machine guns, two triple mounts for Mk 32 torpedo tubes, and the ability to carry two MH-60R helicopters when she enters service. MarineLog.com reported in January that construction of the destroyer had started.
U.S. Army Rangers are some of the most storied warriors in history. The 75th Ranger Regiment traces its lineage back to World War II where it served with distinction in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. Modern Rangers are masters of warfare, using advanced technology and their extensive training to overwhelm their enemies.
But how would a battalion of 600 modern killers do in the Civil War? We started thinking of what this might be like, inspired by the Reddit user who wrote about a battle between the Roman Empire and modern-day Marines. Ironically enough, some of the world’s best infantrymen would make the biggest difference in the Civil War by becoming cavalry, artillery, and doctors.
The Cavalry Ranger on the Civil War battlefield
Rangers who suddenly found themselves at the start of a Civil War battlefield would be able to choose a side and then straight up murder enemy skirmishers. Most Civil War battles opened with small groups of skirmishers taking careful, aimed shots at one another. Rangers equipped with SCAR rifles that can effectively fire up to 800 meters or M4s that are effective past 600 meters would have a greater range than most of their enemies. And the Rangers’ ability to fire dozens of rounds per minute vs. the enemy’s four rounds would be decisive.
But, their enemy would be firing using black powder. Once the artillery and infantry opened up, everything near the front line would quickly be covered in too much smoke for the Rangers to sight targets. Also, the huge disadvantage the Rangers faced in terms of numbers is unavoidable. Attempting to kill each enemy infantryman would quickly eat away at the Rangers’ irreplaceable ammo. So, the Ranger infantry couldn’t fight for long as infantry. Their skills as shock troops would still be invaluable.
The Rangers could jump in their vehicles and begin maneuvering like ultra-fast, mounted cavalry. Riding in Ranger Special Operation Vehicles or Humvees, the Rangers would quickly breach enemy lines and fire on reserve troop formations, communications lines, and unit leaders. The Rangers heavy and light machine guns and automatic grenade launchers would decimate grouped soldiers. Riflemen could dismount and begin engaging the tattered remnants that remained.
Enemy command posts would be especially vulnerable to this assault, giving the Rangers the ability to cut the head off the snake early in the battle.
Alternatively, they could simply wait out the first day and attack at night, sneaking up to the enemy camp on foot using their night vision and then assaulting through to the enemy commanders. This would conserve needed fuel and ammo, but it would increase the chances of a Ranger being shot.
Rangers and indirect-fire
Mortarmen in the Rangers would quickly become a terrorizing force for enemy artillery batteries. Civil War artillery was moved with horses, fired with smoke-creating black powder, and fired only a few rounds per minute. Depending on the artillery piece, their range was anywhere from 500 to 5,000 meters. But, relatively rare rifled cannons could reach over 9 kilometers.
The Ranger mortars would have maximum ranges between 3,500 meters for the 60mm and 7,200 meters for the 120mm mortars. They would have a slight range disadvantage against some guns, but they would have a huge advantage in volume of fire, stealth, and mobility. The mortars could be mostly hidden in wooded areas or behind cover and fired safely, as long as the overhead area remained clear. Since modern mortars create much less smoke, enemy artillery batteries would be unlikely to see them. If the enemy were able to find and engage the mortarmen, the mortars could rush to another firing position and begin engaging the artillery battery again. In a fight of Ranger mortars vs. any single battery, the Rangers would quickly win.
But, the Rangers would be at a huge numerical disadvantage. By doctrine, Ranger battalions are assigned four 120mm mortar systems, four 81mm systems, and 12 60mm for a total of 20 mortars. Meanwhile, 393 guns faced off against each other Gettysburg. The Rangers would have to rely on mobility to stay alive and concentrate their fire when it was needed by friendly infantry.
After the ammo and fuel runs out
Of course, a modern Ranger battalion eats through ammunition, fuel, and batteries. The Rangers would dominate a couple of battles before their vehicles would need to be parked for the duration of the war. The ammunition could run out in a single battle if the men weren’t careful to conserve.
When the rifles and vehicles ran dry, the Rangers would still be useful. First, their personal armor would give them an advantage even if they had to capture repeating rifles to keep fighting. Also, all Rangers go through Ranger First Responder training, an advanced first aid for combat. Ranger medics go through even more training, acquiring a lot of skills that are typically done by physician’s assistants. This means any Ranger would be a great medical asset for a Civil War-era army, and Ranger Medics would outperform many doctors of the day. Just their modern knowledge of germs and the need for sterilization would have made a huge difference in cutting deaths due to infection.
Even without supply lines, 600 modern Rangers would have been extremely valuable to a Civil War general. They’d have single-handedly won early battles and remained strategically and tactically valuable for the duration of the war.
But would Rangers ultimately change the outcome of the Civil War? Unless you have a time machine, we’ll just have to settle for debating that in the comments section.
Throughout World War II, the Nazi occupiers of France housed Jews and captured Resistance fighters in the supposedly escape-proof Fort Montluc prison, a nineteenth century fortress in Lyon.
But there was one escape.
Leading that escape was Andre Devigny, a former French army lieutenant whose escape made him a legend in the Resistance.
André Devigny, a real-world Houdini.
Devigny was one of the leaders of the Réseau Gilbert, an intelligence network that helped refugees escape occupied France, gathered intelligence for the Allies, and sabotaged German installations and material as the opportunity arose. He was betrayed by a German infiltrator and arrested Apr. 17, 1943, taken to Lyons, and turned over to Klaus Barbie, chief of the Gestapo there.
Known as the Butcher of Lyons, Barbie is believed to have personally tortured men, women, and children. Some estimates hold him directly responsible for the deaths of up to 14,000 people.
Devigny was tortured for two weeks, including use of the baignoire, a World War II form of waterboarding, before being imprisoned in handcuffs in the 10-square-foot cell 107 at Fort Montluc. He was allowed into the courtyard for exercise one hour a day. On Aug. 20, he was again brought before Barbie, who told him he would be executed on Aug. 28.
By this time, Devigny had learned to remove his handcuffs with a safety pin. He had also been able to remove three wooden slats at the bottom of his cell door using a soup spoon he ground down to a point on the cell’s concrete floor. He got to the point where he could remove or replace the three slats in less than two minutes.
When his death sentence was announced, he knew the time to act had come.
Returning to his cell from meeting with Barbie, however, Devigny discovered he had been given a roommate. Perhaps he was a spy sent to watch him or perhaps he was what he said he was, an 18-year-old deserter from the Vichy-created French militia. In either case, he would have to be included in the escape.
On Aug. 24, a moonless night, the two men removed the cell’s wood slats, slipped out of the cell, and climbed up a heavy, metal rod that operated a roof transom, exiting on to the prison’s flat roof. Devigny threw a parcel containing a second grappling hook and rope over the parapet, hooked a grappling hook he was carrying — all items he had been able to make in cell 107 — and climbed down the rope to a courtyard. The 18-year-old followed.
Once in the courtyard, the two men could hear a sentry approaching and stepped back into the shadows. As the sentry passed, Devigny grabbed the man around the throat from behind forcing the German to the ground where he used the sentry’s own bayonet to kill him. Devigny and the 18-year-old then crossed to the prison’s inner wall and, using the second grappling hook and rope, climbed up and over the wall on to a covered gallery atop the prison infirmary. From there, they scaled the building’s sloping roof and were able to see the outside wall and the brightly-lit fifteen-foot roadway between the walls.
The roadway was being patrolled by a sentry on a bicycle. At 3 a.m., after timing the guard’s rounds several times, Devigny tied an end of his rope to the infirmary chimney, threw the grappling hook out and over the outside wall, and launched himself hand over hand with the 18-year-old following.
The two men made it, jumped down from the outside wall, and were free.
Devigny and his former cellmate then separated, and Devigny eluded German search parties and dogs by spending five hours hiding in the Rhone River and along its muddy banks. He was finally able to work himself to the home of a doctor friend in the city where he was given clothes and papers and guided to Switzerland.
Devigny returned to the war and was eventually awarded the Cross of the Liberation by then-French President Charles de Gaulle.
The Resistance liberated Fort Montluc in August 1944, almost exactly one year after Devigny’s escape.
Former First Lady Barbara Bush, wife of 41st President George H. W. Bush, passed away in Houston, Texas, on April 17, 2018. The mother of 6 and grandmother of 17 was 92.
Only two women in American history have both served as First Lady and raised a son who would become president. The first was Abigail Adams, First Lady to President John Adams and the mother of John Quincy Adams. The second was Mrs. Bush, whose son George W. Bush would serve two terms as Commander in Chief beginning just 8 years after his father left office.
Yet Mrs. Bush’s legacy extends far beyond her role as the matriarch of one of America’s most consequential political families. She served as a close and trusted adviser to her husband during the first Bush Administration, and she tirelessly championed the cause of literacy throughout her life. The New York Timesreports that Mrs. Bush attended more than 500 events related to literacy just counting her husband’s time as Vice President in the Reagan Administration alone.
(George H.W. Bush Library photo)
“Amongst [Mrs. Bush’s] greatest achievements was recognizing the importance of literacy as a fundamental family value that requires nurturing and protection,” President Donald J. Trump said in a statement. “She will be long remembered for her strong devotion to country and family, both of which she served unfailingly well.”
(George H.W. Bush Library photo)
The outpouring of deeply personal remembrances in the hours following Mrs. Bush’s death is a testament to both her force as a public figure and her warmth as a friend. “When I first met Barbara Bush in 1988 as she entertained spouses of congressional candidates at the @VP Residence, her sage advice and words of encouragement touched my life in a profound way,” Second Lady Karen Pence wrote on Twitter. “Since becoming Second Lady, she has become a trusted friend. I will miss her.”
(George H.W. Bush Library photo)
Those sentiments weren’t limited to public officials. “You were a beautiful light in this world and I am forever thankful for your friendship,” Houston Texans defensive end J. J. Watt wrote.
Remembering Barbara Bush
(George H.W. Bush Library photo)
Mrs. Bush’s far-reaching work and plainspoken style made her a bipartisan symbol for women’s empowerment. She also embraced the value of accessibility in a First Lady. When she famously wore fake pearls to her husband’s Presidential Inauguration and throughout her time in the White House, her deputy press secretary quipped it was because “she just really likes them.”
(Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)
Acutely aware of the public spotlight cast on First Ladies, Mrs. Bush served as America’s first hostess “with respect but without fuss or frippery,” Vanessa Friedman writes in The New York Times.
(Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)
The Bush family shared personal tributes of their own. “Barbara Bush was a fabulous First Lady and a woman unlike any other who brought levity, love, and literacy to millions,” former President George W. Bush wrote. “To us, she was so much more. Mom kept us on our toes and kept us laughing until the end. I’m a lucky man that Barbara Bush was my mother.”
(George H.W. Bush Library photo)
First Lady Melania Trump will attend Mrs. Bush’s funeral in Texas on April 21, 2018. President Trump has ordered that all U.S. flags at Federal locations fly at half-staff until sunset of that day.
“Throughout her life, she put family and country above all else,” Mrs. Trump said in a statement. “She was a woman of strength and we will always remember her for her most important roles of wife, mother, and First Lady of the United States.”
Some of the iconic photos of the combat in the Pacific theater feature the Douglas SBD Dauntless. This dive-bomber was the plane that won the Battle of Midway in June 1942, fatally damaging three Japanese carriers in a span of five minutes. What may not be as famous, however, is the SBD’s successor.
The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver was in the works at the start of World War II but didn’t really see combat until November 1943. While the SBD was a popular plane — proving to be not only a capable Japanese ship killer, it was also a deadly air-to-air combatant in the hands of pilots like Stanley “Swede” Vejtasa — it was relatively old, having entered service in 1938.
That replacement was the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver. This far-more-modern plane could carry a greater payload and was faster than its predecessor. The problem was, however, that the plane wasn’t the easiest to fly, which helped it earn a dirty nickname — one that claimed it had some canine ancestry.
Yes, they called it the “Son-of-a-Bitch Second Class.”
Despite the moniker, the SB2C became a very good plane in its own right. Not only could it carry a heavy bomb in its bomb bay, rockets could also be carried under the wings when necessary. This is very useful when you want to suppress the enemy’s anti-aircraft fire. The SBD, despite its superb track record in combat, couldn’t do that. The SB2C also had two 20mm cannon that were forward firing, giving it a far greater punch than the SBD could provide with two M2 .50-caliber machine guns.
The dive-bomber, though, was in its twilight. One big reason was that fighters like the F6F Hellcat and Vought F4U Corsair were both capable in air-to-air combat and very proficient in dropping bombs. On a carrier deck, space is limited, and the multi-role fighters proved to be better, more efficient investments than dive-bombers. Still, the Helldiver played its part in bringing victory over the Axis in World War II.
Learn more about this plane with a nasty nickname in the video below.
The Sherman tank of World War II is both legendary and infamous. It was selected for World War II by Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. himself, America’s first tank officer and a pioneer of armored strategy.
The traits for which Patton loved the Sherman, its speed and agility, ease of transport, and decent gas mileage, made it a general’s tanks. The tanks could reliably be manufactured in large numbers and easily be deployed into transport.
The war in Europe was therefore a nightmare for the tank crews who fought their way east from Normandy. They fought in cramped quarters, had to desperately vie for close shots on the flanks and rears of German tanks, and often had to reinforce their own armor with items stolen off the battlefield.
Get a look at what the crews in World War II Shermans had to live with in the video below: