Few military units have ever had the effect on world history as did the Praetorian Guard. From the foundation of the Roman Empire until the reign of Constantine in 306, the Praetorians protected – and sometimes controlled – the leader of the most powerful empire on Earth.
Like other elite guard units to come, the Praetorian were loyal to the Emperor personally, not necessarily to Rome. At least, that’s how it started under Caesar Augustus.
Over the centuries, the unit began to slowly corrupt. It soon became comprised of members of noble families who conspired against the Emperor, even assassinating a number of them.
They weren’t limited to the role of a mere guards.The Praetorian Guard fought in wars, in the Colosseum and other games, were a secret police force, and acted as volunteer firefighters for Rome. They would assist the regular firefighters in fighting larger fires.
After a number of assassinations, the Praetorian took their meddling in government a little too far. They were bound to butt heads with some Roman Emperor – without being able to kill him first. That emperor was Constantine I.
The Praetorian Guard backed a pretender to the Roman throne. You can tell the pretender to a throne as opposed to the real Emperor because the pretender is usually filled with knives, spears, or poison.
Constantine defeated armies belonging to the General Licinius and Senator Maxentius and – unfortunately for the Praetorian – they backed Maxentius. Constantine liquidated and disbanded the Praetorian Guard, burned their barracks, and sent survivors to the far reaches of the Empire.
1. The first female enlisted Marine joined in 1918
In 1918, Opha May Johnson was the first known female to enlist in the Marine Corps. After her, 305 brave women decided they to would swear the oath and join the beloved Corps, serving in the Reserves during World War I.
2. FDR was the president who created their Corps
In 1943, Congress allowed President Franklin Roosevelt to ink into law the creation of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve.
An outstanding achievement.
3. The first female enlisted Marine Reservist joined in 1943
After the Marine Corps’ Women’s Reserve was officially created, Lucille McClarren, from Nemacolin, Pennsylvania, was the first female to join the reserve unit. Before joining, Pvt. McClarren worked as a stenographer for the War Department in Washington, D.C.
4. They served in ancillary combat positions to support the fight
The new female Marines were limited to non-combat related roles and took up occupations in clerical positions. However, many of them worked their way into the fight and earned ancillary combat position like mechanics, radio operators, parachute riggers, and welders — just to name a few.
Today, females have earned their right to work and fight alongside their male counterparts on the frontlines. They’ve displayed extreme dedication to the Marine Corps in various infantry roles and continue to prove that they are capable of much more than history has given them credit for.
Check out the Marines’ video to witness the incredible impact females have had on the Corps’ history for yourself.
But that’s what happened to Sigurd the Mighty, a man born as a commoner who went on to be a great military leader under Olaf the White, a Viking sea king.
It all started when Sigurd’s older brother, Earl Rognvald of Moeri, lost a son while serving King Harald in the invasion of islands of Shetland, Orkney, and Hebrides. Harald expanded Rognvald’s holdings by granting him the Orkney and Shetland islands, but Rognvald wasn’t interested in ruling those islands. So he returned to Norway and passed the title and lands of the Earl of Orkney to his brother, Sigurd, in 875.
Sigurd was pretty lucky to get an earldom all to himself, and he appears to have taken the responsibility seriously. He led troops during multiple campaigns and became known as Earl Sigurd the Powerful.
(Peter Nicolai Arbo, Public domain)
But he had trouble controlling the lands he had captured for the king. He built a stronghold in the Moray area of Scotland to project power, but the Norse were not popular that deep into Scottish land. So a local leader, Maelbrigd, became a thorn in Sigurd’s side.
Sigurd sought to end his struggles with Maelbrigd once and for all. The men agreed to meet in honorable combat with 40 men each. But Sigurd didn’t trust Maelbrigd to fight honorably, so he did that classic thing where he cheated first. He brought 40 horses, but he put two men on each horse. Maelbrigd, on the other hand, did fight honorably.
The 80 men of Sigurd’s force won. Big surprise. And Sigurd told them to strap the heads of their enemies to the horses to celebrate. Sigurd, of course, strapped Maelbrigd’s head to his own horse.
But Sigurd had a sore on his leg. And Maelbrigd’s teeth rubbed against that sore and infected it. In one of the most unlikely kills in history, Maelbrigd killed his foe from beyond the grave with a mouth full of bacteria.
Sucks to be Sigurd.
By the way, you can learn more about the struggle between the Norse and Scottish for Orkney and the surrounding lands in The Orkeyinga Sagaavailable here.
The word hero is defined as someone who is admired for their courage and noble qualities. Patrick “Paddy” Brown was all of that and more. He was murdered on September 11, 2001.
Paddy grew up in Queens, New York, raised by a father who was an FBI agent and former minor league baseball player, and a mother that taught music. As a kid, he’d loved the firehouse and felt at home there. Paddy joined the Boy Scout Explorer Post which specialized in fire service when he was a teenager. As he got older, Paddy joined the New York Fire Patrol and was assigned to Fire Patrol 1. He was well on his way to becoming a full-fledged firefighter.
But war came calling.
At 17 years old, Paddy enlisted in the Marine Corps with his father’s permission. Feeling the need to be a part of something bigger than himself led him to putting his firefighting dreams on hold. After arguing his way out of a clerk position, he was moved to the 3rd Engineers Battalion and immediately deployed to Vietnam.
It was there that he would crawl through the tunnels constructed by the Vietcong, being one of the first to search and clear them. Paddy completed and survived two full tours of Vietnam, making it home at the rank of Sergeant. For his time in service he was awarded the Combat Action Ribbon and Vietnam Service Medal.
Paddy came home to a country divided over the war and found himself lost. Paddy turned to alcohol to push down his demons, unable to find hope or good in his surroundings. He confided in fellow firefighter Tim Brown that he recognized he was traveling down a dangerous path and needed to course-correct. Paddy replaced alcohol with boxing and eventually became an AA sponsor. Soon, Paddy was back at the New York Fire Patrol with the goal of becoming an FDNY firefighter.
On January 28, 1977, Paddy graduated and was assigned to Ladder 26 in Harlem, officially a part of the FDNY. It wasn’t long before he began making a name for himself with frequent rescues. By 1982, he was being recruited to Rescue 1 and 2 – units filled with the best of the best in the FDNY. By the time he hit 10 years as a firefighter, his personal awards and recognitions for heroism were astounding. Paddy achieved the rank of Lieutenant on August 8, 1987.
All of this was done quietly. Tim shared that when Paddy would wear his dress uniform, he would often leave off some of his medals to avoid making people feel inadequate, because he had so many. Despite not wanting attention, a daring rope rescue in 1991 would make him known everywhere. By 1993, he was promoted to Captain and on October 21, 2000 he was assigned as Captain of Ladder 3.
September 11, 2001 changed everything.
Paddy was on duty when he witnessed the first plane hit the World Trade Center. He quickly called the dispatcher to tell them what he saw and Ladder 3 was immediately tasked with responding. When he made it to the North Tower, he ran into Tim in the lobby and gave him a hug. Tim shared that there was something in his eyes and voice as he headed up the stairwell.
Paddy knew he’d never make it out.
As the South Tower collapsed, the North Tower swayed. Ladder 6 was told to evacuate, as was Ladder 3, which Paddy was leading. His last known words are as follows: “This is the officer of Ladder Co. 3. I refuse the order! I am on the 44th floor and we have too many burned people with me. I am not leaving them!”
Not long after that radio call, the North Tower collapsed. Tim had just narrowly survived the collapse of the South Tower himself when he watched the North Tower fall.
In that moment, Tim shared, he knew all of his friends were dead.
Paddy and Michael.
Paddy’s brother Michael, who was a doctor and former FDNY firefighter, spent weeks searching for him in the rubble and ash. On November 10, 2001, a day that should have been spent celebrating both the Marine Corps’ and Paddy’s birthdays, a memorial service was held for Paddy, instead. The lines stretched around the block, with people coming to mourn the loss of a hero. Paddy’s family was overwhelmed with incredible stories about their hero that they had never known before.
They wouldn’t find Paddy’s body until December 14, 2001.
In 2010, Michael wrote the book What Brothers Do, about both his search for Paddy and his journey to discovering who Paddy really was. The book is being relaunched and has a new urgency to its message of what makes a true hero. Michael was diagnosed with cancer, caused by searching in the ruins of the towers. His hope is that the story of Paddy and all of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, will never be in vain.
For every purchase of What Brothers Do, a portion will be donated to the Tunnel To Towers Foundation. Click here to grab your copy today.
For 241 glorious years, the Marine Corps has courageously fought in every clime and place where they could take a rifle. Known for being “the first to fight,” the Corps was born in a small brewery in the city of brotherly love called Tun Tavern on November 10th, 1775.
On that day, two battalions of American Marines were created and would be known as the fiercest fighting force the world has ever seen.
The Marine Corps birthday is a prized and celebrated tradition throughout the Corps, regardless of where it’s celebrated. Here’s a few facts about the Marine Corps birthday you may not know about.
1. First to be commissioned
Captain Samuel Nichols was commissioned as the first Marine officer by the Second Continental Congress on November 5th, 1775, but he wasn’t confirmed in writing until November 28th, 1775. Soon after, Nicholas took office setting up a recruiting station at Tun Tavern, the birthplace of the Corps.
There isn’t an official record of the first enlisted Marine, though. Imagine that.
2. Did somebody say cake?
During the cake cutting ceremony every Marine Corps birthday, the first three pieces are presented to the guest of honor, the oldest living Marine present, and the third is handed to the youngest Marine present — a perfect way to display brotherhood and connection. This tradition is also part of the Marine Corp birthday celebration on the battlefield if possible.
There’s even a formatted script to maintain uniformity.
A lesser know fact is the Marine Corps was disbanded in 1783 after the Revolutionary War and didn’t exist for 15 years. It would make its return on July 11th, 1798, and brand its self as the Corps we’ve come to know today.
5. You could take a celeb to the Ball
Let’s face it; it’s your best shot.
Service members have made it a trend and a mission to go on social media to ask their favorite celeb crushes to escort them to the once a year birthday bash. It works for some people.
Why not you? Here’s TMR to tell you a few steps how:
WATM wishes every Marine a happy and safe birthday. SEMPER FI MARINES!
WATM author Tim Kirkpatrick entered the Navy in 2007 as a Hospital Corpsman and deployed to Sangin, Afghanistan with 3rd Battalion 5th Marines in the fall of 2010. Tim now has degrees in both Film Production and Screenwriting. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s no doubt that Amish communities in America have a distinctive look. Amish men wear a long, flowing, ZZ-Top-level beard that can make other hirsute pursuits just look pitiful in comparison. While they may not be the only ones sporting long, long whiskers these days, they’re likely the only bearded men you’ll see whose mustache areas are clean shaven — and the U.S. military is the reason why.
Among devoutly Christian Amish men, sporting a beard is like living the Bible. In the days and locales where the stories in the Christian Bible take place, beards were commonplace. When a young Amish boy gets married, he stops shaving his beard area and grows a facial homage to his biblical forebears, letting everyone in the community know this boy is now a man.
But they never stop shaving the mustache area. The Amish, a form of Mennonite, have many traditions and beliefs that separate them, not just from society, but also from other Mennonite and Christian groups. One such core beliefs is the growing of a beard.
Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard. – Leviticus 19:27
Another core tenet of Amish beliefs is pacifism and the rejection of military service – and the mustache is just one indicator of military service.
In order to separate themselves physically from those who would engage in military service (while letting the world know they were married, because the Amish don’t exchange wedding rings), they decided to grow beards but shave their lips.
British Army officers in the Crimean War.
It should be noted that the Amish prefer the term “nonresistance” as opposed to pacifism, because they are dedicated to avoiding confrontation in all areas of life, not just in military service.
Mustaches may not be as in vogue as they once were among military service members and regular troops are always clean shaven — almost everywhere in the western world — but still the old Amish tradition of keeping a clean upper lip lives on.
You may have noticed a select few Marines and sailors walking around in their uniforms with a green rope wrapped around their left arm — it’s not just for decoration.
That green rope is called a “French Fourragere,” and it was awarded to the members of the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments for their heroic actions during the Battle of Belleau Wood from the French government in WWI.
This rite of passage extends to Marines who serve in those respected units today to commemorate their brothers in that historic battle.
The Fourragere is authorized on all service uniforms, and dress coats or jackets where medals or ribbons are prescribed.
During the bloody summer months of 1918, the Marines and the Germans fiercely fought one another just northwest of the Paris-to-Metz road. For weeks, German Gen. Erich Ludendorff had his troops attack U.S. forces with artillery, machine guns, and deadly gas.
Although the Marines sustained thousands of casualties during the skirmish, the infantrymen charged their opposition through the wooded area with fixed bayonets.
It’s reported the French urged the Marines to turn back, but the grunts proceeded onward frequently engaging the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.
By June 26, 1918, the war-hardened Marines confirmed that they secured the woods from German forces and took many prisoners.
And the French Fourragere reminds Leathernecks in this storied units of their World War I bravery.
“You’ve probably been wondering what it was like to make my first trip into combat,” writes Pfc. Jim “Pee Wee” Martin, a paratrooper with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne. Martin made the jump into Normandy on June 6, 1944, along with thousands of other Allied troops. “… the sky was full of orange and red blossoms of fire… I stepped out to meet a ladder of flak and tracers.”
The words in Pfc. Martin’s letter to his wife and family are brought to life by Academy Award-nominated actor Bryan Cranston. The images of paratroopers flying the most important one-way trip in history are restored in full 4K video by the team over at AARP, dedicated to preserving the words and deeds of America’s aging Greatest Generation.
When the U.S. military entered World War II, American businesses geared their entrepreneurial efforts toward supporting the war effort as a means of survival. This meant the majority of raw materials were used to produce weapons, ammunition, armor, aircraft, and other necessary equipment. Zippo Manufacturing Company had a decade of experience selling their flip-open lighters to the consumer market, but during the war they exclusively produced Zippo lighters for American service members.
The classic Zippo design garnered respect among the millions of Americans serving overseas. These steel-cased lighters had a black crackle finish and no customization, engravings, or art work on them but were durable and could function no matter what elements troops found themselves in. An ad in 1942 wrote, “Zippo Windproof LIGHTERS have acted as rescue beacons for men in open boats, as a guide through dense dark jungles and as a means for lighting fires for food and warmth.”
Ernie Pyle, a famous war correspondent and newspaperman, developed a special relationship with George Blaisdell and personally received a shipment of 50 Zippos prior to the D-Day invasion. “And another 100 will be sent to Ernie every month for the duration,” Blaisdell added.
Pyle famously penned a letter to Blaisdell on Oct. 29, 1944: “If I tried to tell you how much these Zippos are coveted at the front and the gratitude and delight with which the boys receive them, you would probably accuse me of exaggeration,” he wrote. “There is truly nothing the average soldier would rather have.”
Following Pyle’s tragic death in the Pacific in 1945, Blaisdell immediately sent 600 Zippo lighters engraved with “In memory of Ernie Pyle” to the captain of the USS Cabot to hand out to the crew who counted Pyle as one of their own.
Post-World War II, the increasingly popular Zippo lighters became available to the general public once again. The connection between Zippo and the U.S. military didn’t stop there, and during the Vietnam War Zippo emerged as the most popular item carried in the pockets of American service members. Unlike the cigarette lighters from previous wars, these Zippos were personal mementos specifically customized with unit logos, maps of Vietnam, and both humorous and crude slogans.
“You had people who were discontent people who wanted to express heartfelt emotions,” said Bradford Edwards, a Vietnam-era Zippo collector and artist. “And here was a small canvas that may be the last thing some of these guys had to say.”
One soldier’s Zippo had the logo for the United States Army Air Defense Center in Fort Bliss, Texas, on the front, while the lid reads, “When I die bury me face down so the whole world can kiss my ass.” On the back, the case reads, “5th Special Forces Group – 1st Special Forces Viet Nam 69-70” with an engraving of a U.S. Army Special Forces green beret. The lid reads, “Nha-Trang Viet Nam.”
During the Vietnam War, Zippos were sold at the PX or by locals operating the street side black markets. Their popularity in wartime culture surged with “Zippo Tracks” being adopted as a nickname for flame throwing tanks, and “Zippo Raids” used to describe the actions of soldiers burning down hooches or villages.
Although Zippo remained a treasured collector’s item, during the 1980s a surge of fake lighters saturated the market. Zippo continues to produce military-themed lighters to commemorate their storied legacy, although the artwork is more general. The Zippo/Case Museum in Bradford, Pennsylvania, is home to Zippo and Case Knives flagship stores, where collectors and tourists alike can take a deeper dive into the history of Zippo and their involvement with American service members.
Uniforms for female personnel started off on the right foot. In the early days of WWII, the WAVES uniforms were designed by a former editor from Vogue who knew the wife of the then-Under-Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal. Mrs. Forrestal had been a fashion editor at Vogue and wanted the ladies to look sharp. And they did. Even the coveralls back then were flattering.
But things went south from there with a low point around the ’70s to the ’90s where confusion reigned and no one was sure if women’s uniforms should make them look like actual women. We ended up in a sea of polyester and high-waist pants that are not kind to any shape or size. Today, the battle rages on with efforts to make everyone look the same (which really means women pay for extra uniform items to look like men), and the average service member is left wondering why we spend so much on uniform changes but can’t seem to afford non-asbestos filled buildings. So, here for your viewing enjoyment is a list of the worst uniforms, and proposed uniforms, for each service branch.
(U.S. Army photo)
Army: “Sea foam” green
What is this uniform and why did they make poor, unsuspecting Army Nurse Corps personnel wear it? In the words of Nancy Kerrigan, “Whyyyyyyy!?” Are you a nurse, a flight attendant? No, you are a soldier… in sea foam green… with gloves. One can only ponder the thought process of whoever signed off on this idea, but we hope they were colorblind because there is just no excuse for this kind of optical assault.
(Naval History and Heritage Command photo)
Navy: “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of a decent uniform”
We know the 1970s were all about the big collars, which can be the only reason why the Navy sought to bestow upon its female members the biggest, baddest necktie/neckerchief that ever was. We’re talking Bozo-like proportions here, people. Other notable elements of this ensemble include the shapeless, short sleeved blouse favored by polyester-wearing middle management business men and the beret, which no one really knew how to wear and which only women with bangs liked because it sat further back on the head.
Air Force: “Just cinch it”
The Air Force always gets made fun of, so it’s a head scratcher to think why they thought these new dress jackets would work. To be fair, this was a proposed uniform change in 2008 that was not a priority for the incoming Air Force Chief of Staff; but even so… yikes. The male version looks fine, but that belted style seems to work well on men (see every Marine in dress uniform, ever.) But on females, this uniform is ill-fitting and makes them look like some sort of Goth Dudley Do-Right. Also why is it dark blue? Something tells me the Navy was not pleased.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
Coast Guard: Flying the not-so-friendly skies of fashion
Did you know the Coast Guard was an airline in the 1970’s? Wait, it wasn’t? Well what else could one think when looking at this collection of uniforms? The jumper is a nice touch. Nothing says, “I’m a strong, intelligent woman; treat me with respect” like a Catholic school uniform-inspired jumper; and we see the Coast Guard also got on board with the beret craze, though not successfully, we might add. What we can’t figure out is why we never knew that Patty Hearst was once in the Coast Guard…
(U.S. Marine Corps History Division photo)
Marine Corps: Semper Fabulous
You know what’s annoying? All of the female Marine Corps uniforms throughout the ages have been nice. Seriously, Google it. The uniforms are not bad, not even during the 1980s and 1990s when all the other service branches were moving to uniforms that made everyone look like a postal worker. From the beginning, these ladies looked sharp and fit and we can’t find anything wrong with them. Marines, looking spiffy throughout the ages. Oorah!
While women made strides during World War II and Korea to be integrated into the military, Vietnam felt like a step backward as the military initially resisted sending women into any career field to Vietnam.
Then, when the military realized they needed to rely on women from the medical career field, it was still a slow process to add more women to the fight. But as the years passed more women were sent overseas. Many women chose not to serve in the military but were civilians supporting various humanitarian agencies and covering news. While the primary field of the women who served overseas was nursing, there were a number of women outside the medical career field who made an impact on the war and helped lead changes for women in the military.
US Army Women
The first Army nurses arrived in Vietnam in 1956. Their primary job was to train the South Vietnamese nursing skills. The nurses would remain and grow in strength with approximately 5,000 women serving from March 1962 to March 1973. Five Army nurses died during the conflict, including Lieutenant Colonel Annie Ruth Graham and First Lieutenant Sharon Ann Lane.
In 1964, Gen William Westmoreland asked the Pentagon to provide Women’s Army Corps (WAC) members to help the South Vietnamese train their own women’s Army corps. In 1970, when WAC was at its peak, there were 20 officers and 130 enlisted women serving in Vietnam.
US Air Force Women
The Air Force leadership resisted sending women overseas. When the first Air Force Nurses arrived in Vietnam in 1966, it was out of demand and lack of men in the nursing career field. Once the door opened for women to be overseas as nurses, the door for other career fields opened up as well. Women quickly began to take over the duties that their male counterparts had been assigned. In 1967, the first Women in the Air Force (WAF) members served at the headquarters in Saigon. One of the first women in the Air Force to reach the rank of General, Brig Gen Wilma Vaught, ret, was deployed for Vietnam and served in Saigon for a year.
One Air Force nurse died. Captain Mary Therese Klinger died in a C-5 crash that was supporting Operation Babylift which worked to transport babies from orphanages to America for asylum and adoption. She was the last nurse and the only U.S. Air Force Nurse to die in Vietnam.
US Navy Women
The U.S. Navy Nurse Corps began to play an important role during the Vietnam War in 1963. And then in 1964 five Navy Nurses were awarded Purple Hearts after being injured during a bombing on Christmas Eve. They were the first women to receive Purple Hearts during Vietnam.
Only nine women outside the Nurse career field served overseas during Vietnam. The first, in 1967, was Lieutenant Elizabeth G. Wylie. She worked in the Command Information Center as part of the staff of the Commander of Naval Forces in Saigon. She would spend three to six days each month in the field taking pictures and gathering information. She was never under hostile fire and loved, “the opportunity to see the heart of the Navy at work.” In 1972, Commander Elizabeth Barrett became the first female Naval Line Officer to hold command in a combat zone.
Many women volunteered to go overseas but were not given a chance. Women were used within the Navy to backfill positions both at home and in Europe to allow more men to go overseas. Without them directly supporting the war effort, the Navy would have struggled to continue on.
US Marine Corps Women
Women Marines had a small presence in Vietnam. It wasn’t until March 1967 that the first woman Marine arrived in Vietnam. Master Sergeant Barbara Dulinsky was the first to arrive in-country and worked at Military Assistance Command, which was headquartered in Saigon. In total, women Marines in Vietnam normally numbered between eight to 10 enlisted members with one to two officers. There were a total of 28 enlisted women and eight officers between 1967 to 1973.
Military women were not the only women who went overseas to support the war effort. Civilian women worked for a number of organizations to support the war. The Red Cross, USO, Army Special Service and Peace Corps all relied on women to meet their mission. Other women came to Vietnam as foreign correspondents for news organizations. Georgette “Dickey” Chappelle was a writer for the National Observer and was killed by a mine while on patrol with U.S. Marines outside of Chu Lai in November of 1965. In total, 59 civilian women died during the conflict.
One thing to note about the women who served in Vietnam was that all of the women who served overseas were volunteers. They ranged in age from freshly graduated college students in their 20s to seasoned career women in their 40s. Finding the service records and the history of military women and civilians in Vietnam is like trying to piece together a puzzle with lots of missing pieces. Women did not expect special recognition and were just looking for a way to be a part of the fight. They didn’t stand out or request to be excluded; instead they fought to be part of the effort and we can’t forget their contribution and the lives lost.
There was a reason that the Nazis thought the original D-Day invasions were a feint: Aside from the misdirection operations conducted by the Allies, the geography of the beaches made it seemingly impossible to fully supply a large invasion force.
It was seemingly impossible, even with landing ships and Higgins boats, to move enough beans and bullets over the sands.
A line of U.S. Liberty ships deliberately sunk off the coast at Omaha beach to form a breakwater for the Mulberry harbor there.
But the Allies had a secret. They didn’t need to fully supply the invasion for months using only the landing craft, and they didn’t need to race to a port and try to wrest it from fierce defenses. Instead, they had a plan to build their own port, complete with two man-made harbors, in a matter of days just after D-Day. These “Mulberry harbors” would tip the logistics battles in favor of the landed forces.
The inspiration for Mulberry harbors came from the failed Dieppe Raid, which pitted about 6,000 troops against the heavily defended port at Dieppe, France, and resulted in 2,000 Canadians being taken prisoner.
The Allies realized that taking a deepwater port would be a tall order. While the plan for Operation Overload included a follow-on operation against the port of Cherbourg, to be completed in eight days, military planners realized they needed a Plan B.
A sectional concrete breakwater for the Omaha Beach breakwater is floated towards the French shore, June 1944
That Plan B ended up being Mulberry harbors, sort of the Ikea solution to deepwater ports. The British needed eight months to build the concrete sections and prepare them for deployment. On June 6, when they got the word that the landing forces were likely to succeed in taking the assigned beaches, a fleet of ships took off towards France carrying these concrete sections.
But the British engineering plan was ambitious. It called not just for a few large piers, but two entire artificial harbors. For those who aren’t familiar with naval activities, this meant that the engineers had to construct what was, essentially, a massive horseshoe stretching hundreds of feet into the ocean to shelter the piers from the worst ocean currents.
The Mulberry artificial harbor at Arromanches, France, September 1944.
(British Army Sgt. Harrison)
Each harbor had multiple piers with a combined length of six miles. The concrete caissons that made up the piers required 330,000 cubic yards of concrete, 31,000 tons of steel, and 1.5 million yards of steel shuttering.
But it was hardly a charmed undertaking. The American forces controlled one harbor and the British, Canadian, and Free French forces controlled the other. The British piers were anchored to the seafloor, but the American ones were not, and a June 19 storm demolished the American harbor.
The Americans’ harbor was harder hit than Port Winston. The Utah Beach Gooseberry lost several blockships that were torn open, and the Mulberry harbor off St. Laurent was devastated. The breakwaters were overwhelmed by waves, two blockships broke their backs, and only 10 out of 35 Phoenix caissons remained in position. The piers and bombardons were wrecked, and the harbor was eventually abandoned. When the gale finally blew itself out on June 23, Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley, commander of the U.S. 12th Army Group, went down to the beach to see the damage for himself. “I was appalled by the desolation, for it vastly exceeded that on D-Day,” he said.
This was a huge problem because Cherbourg — slated for liberation on June 21 — was still in German hands. The decision was made to shift what pieces were still functional in the American harbor to the British one and shut down the U.S. effort, doubling the necessity of taking the French port.
The harbors were designed for 90 days of hard use, but the British installation actually functioned for a full eight months. The American harbor was used, without the broken piers, for most of the rest of the war as well.
A lot of crazy sh*t happened in the Iran-Iraq War. The backbone of the Iranian Air Force at the time was the beloved F-14 Tomcat, a plane the Iranians still fly. Purchased by the Shah of Iran before the rise of the Islamic Republic, Iran’s Air Force consisted of dozens of the two-seat fighter aircraft, which gave them an edge in the air war against neighboring Iraq.
But tech can only take you so far. And it was the skills of Iranian pilots that allowed the IRIAF to claim three kills with one missile.
Iranians are really good behind the stick of the Tomcat. In fact, the highest scoring ace in a Tomcat is an Iranian named Jalil Zandi. According to the U.S. Air Force, Zandi is credited with 11 kills in an F-14 — an amazing achievement for any fighter pilot. But he was in good company during the Iran-Iraq War because his fellow pilots were keeping the skies clear of any offending Iraqi aircraft.
The Iran-Iraq War was in full stalemate by the end of 1981 and the fighting on the ground was so brutal, it might literally have been illegal. Iraq invaded Iran in 1980 for a number of reasons, mostly to take advantage of political instability following the fall of the Shah, but also to keep Shia Islamic Revolution from being exported to neighboring countries.
Before the Iraqi ground troops crossed the border, however, Saddam’s air forces attempted to destroy the Iranian Air Force while it was still on the ground. They missed and it cost them big time. From that point on, Iraqi MiG and Sukhoi fighters were flying the highway to the danger zone every time they flew into Iran – Tomcats were on patrol.
Iranian F-14 Tomcats carrying Phoenix missiles.
In the opening days of the war, Tomcats took their toll on the Iraqi Air Force, downing fighters and bombers alike. Their most deadly weapons, Phoenix missiles, carried an explosive payload that was much larger than other anti-aircraft missiles. They were designed to take down Soviet-built Tupolev bomber aircraft, the same kind the Iraqis were trying to fly over Tehran.
By 1981, the war on the ground had devolved into an exchange of chemical weapons against human wave attacks. The war was just as brutal in the air, but the Tomcats gave Iran a decisive edge. A single F-14 in the area was enough for Iraqi pilots to scatter and head for home. What happened on Jan. 7, 1981 was a clear example of why.
Iranian pilot Asadullah Adeli and his Radar Intercept Officer Mohammed Masbough responded to reports of unidentified aircraft headed toward Kharg Island in the Persian Gulf. The Tomcat determined the intruder was actually three Iraqi MiG-23s, presumably headed toward an oil rig near the island. Iranian ground radar couldn’t see all three, but authorized Adeli and Masbough to engage the MiGs anyway.
“They were flying really low,” Adeli recalled. “Even though it was night, they were flying at around 2,000 feet.”
Masbough told him to target the one in the middle, just hoping to damage the other two enough that they might break off. That’s almost what happened. The American-built Phoenix missile’s explosive delivery was so powerful, it downed all three enemy aircraft. The wreckage of all three MiGs was found on Kharg Island the next day.