This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King - We Are The Mighty
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This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King

In the early hours of Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service, killing 2,403 service members and launching President Roosevelt’s decision to enter World War II.


Although the event was catastrophic, only two ships were beyond repair — USS Oklahoma and Arizona. The Oklahoma was eventually refloated to the surface, but the battle damage was too overwhelming to repair and return to service.

However, the USS Arizona took four devastating direct hits from 800kg bombs dropped from high altitude Japanese planes. One of the bombs ripped into the Arizona’s starboard deck and detonated. The explosion collapsed the ship’s forecastle decks, causing the conning tower to fall thirty feet into the hull.

Related: This American admiral planned the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1932

Talks of constructing a permanent memorial started as early as 1943, but it wasn’t until several years later that the effort would take shape. After the creation of Pacific War Memorial Commission, plans of how to commemorate the ship’s memory began rolling in.

Admiral Arthur Radford ordered a flag to be installed on the wreck site and have a colors ceremony conducted every day.

In 1950, requests for additional funds were denied by the government, as their top priority was to focus on the war efforts in Korea.

This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King
USS Arizona after being struck by Japanese in Pearl Harbor.

In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower inked Public Law 85-344 allowing the PWMC to raise $500,000 for the memorial construction. But after two years of fundraising, only $155,000 in total proceeds had been collected — they needed a lot of help.

Little did they know, they were about to get it.

Tom Parker read about the PWMC’s struggling endeavor and came up with a genius plan. Parker just happened to be Elvis Presley’s manager and was looking for ways to get his client back on top after being drafted by the Army in 1957 — Elvis was discharged from service in 1960.

Reportedly, Parker approached Elvis to perform at a benefit to help boost the memorial campaign — and his music and acting careers.

Elvis, who was not only patriotic but loved the idea of performing for a cause, agreed to help with the campaign. The PWMC agreed to Parker’s plan, and a performance date was set — March 25, 1961.

This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King
The flyer for Elvis’ fundraising performance.

Also Read: 5 times the US was attacked at home during WWII (besides Pearl Harbor)

Although the performance brought in $60,000 in revenue, the campaign was still well short of its goal. But from the publicity of Elvis’ show, donations from outside sources rolled in, and the PWMC finally raise the $500,000 they needed.

On May 30, 1962, the USS Arizona Memorial officially opened thanks to Elvis and the PWMC.

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This WWII double agent earned highest honors from both sides

Before he received his code name of GARBO, Juan Pujol Garcia was a chicken farmer and hotel manager in Fascist Spain. He started his espionage career with no training, no contacts, and surrounded by intelligence agents from all sides. By the end of World War II, he would be awarded the Iron Cross Second Class from Hitler himself and made a member of the Order of the British Empire by King George VI. He was a bold double agent who greatly contributed to the success of the D-Day invasions, but the Nazis never realized they’d been had.


This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King
Pujol’s Republican Spain Service Photo, circa 1931

As Spain was torn apart by its civil war from 1936 until 1939, Pujol developed a distaste for both Fascists and Communists after being mistreated by both sides, though he had done his compulsory military service to Spain in 1931. When World War II broke out, he and his wife approached the British government to offer their services as informants. When they were rejected, Pujol created a fake identity for himself as a virulently pro-Nazi Spanish official and his spy career was born.

He considered the fight against the Nazis as one “for the good of humanity.”

Instead of going to Britain to recruit more agents as his orders from Berlin would have had him do, he moved to Lisbon, where he started feeding his Nazi handlers terrible intelligence from open sources — all true, but useless —from tourism guides to England, encyclopedias and reference books, magazine ads, and even news reels. The Nazis accepted him and trained him based on how impressive-looking his reports were.

This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King
Pujol in his later years

He soon had a fake network of his own agents and would blame them for faulty information. But it was when the Germans started hunting a fake convoy, created by Pujols, that British intelligence became interested in him. It was the British who dubbed him GARBO. He and his handler expanded their fake network, eventually having the Nazis pay for 27 spies that didn’t exist. His reports were so long and grandiose he soon had to start transmitting to Berlin via radio. This did nothing to shorten the British effort to flood German intelligence with information that they would stop trying to infiltrate the British government.

His primary goal was deception. When Operation Torch came about, Pujols sent his Nazi handlers a letter, backdated via airmail, a warning about the invasion of North Africa. It was designed to arrive just too late to be of use but convince the Wehrmacht of his credibility. They took the bait. His finest hour came as part of Operation Fortitude, the massive Allied deception operation aimed at fooling the Germans about the D-Day landings. The Germans told Pujols they were concerned about the buildup for an invasion of Europe. Between January and June 1944, Pujols transmitted 500 times (four times a day) with planned snippets of information that would lead Hitler to believe Pas de Calais was the main target for the Allied and that Normandy was a diversion.

This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King
The inflatable tanks and trucks of the U.S. First Army Group

SEE ALSO: That time Hitler was duped by a ghost army

His deception kept 19 Nazi infantry divisions and two armored divisions at Pas de Calais, allowing the Allies to establish a beachhead in Hitler’s Fortress Europe. Even after the landings, his broadcasts to Berlin managed to keep those units from moving for a full two months. British intelligence’s official history of D-Day maintains that had Rommel moved those units to Normandy, they would “have tipped the balance” and the Allies might have been pushed back into the English Channel. The way he managed the Germans even won him more credibility and he was rewarded by Hitler himself, via radio, with an Iron Cross.

This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King
Pujol’s Venezuelan passport

After the war ended, Pujol feared reprisals from surviving Nazis. He faked his death from Malaria in Angola in 1949 and went underground, running a bookstore in Venezuela. He died in Caracas in 1988.

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Here’s what’s next for the A-10

The A-10 is a Cold War-era ground-attack plane known for its iconic gun designed to shred tanks and for its tough titanium armor designed to take hits and keep flying.


That durability is noticeable not only on the battlefield, but also increasingly on Capitol Hill, where supporters of the Thunderbolt II, popularly known as the Warthog or simply Hog, have seemingly succeeded in dissuading Air Force officials from renewing attempts to retire the snub-nosed plane.

The Air Force’s fiscal 2018 budget request released this month calls for keeping its fleet of A-10s — which stood at 283 as of Sept. 30 — in service for at least five more years.

To recap: The service — facing financial pressure driven by spending caps known as sequestration — made multiple attempts in recent years to retire the Warthog to save an estimated $4 billion a year and to free up maintainers for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the stealthy fifth-generation fighter jet designed to replace the A-10 and legacy fighters.

In 2016, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the A-10 retirement would be delayed until 2022 after lawmakers complained that doing so would rid the military of a “valuable and effective” close-air-support aircraft.

Related: Watch the effects of an A-10’s GAU-8 cannon on an enemy building

However, fiscal 2017 budget request documents showed the Air Force still planned to remove A-10 squadrons in increments between 2018 and 2022 to make room for F-35A Lightning II squadrons coming online.

This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King
Many servicemembers across the military doubt the F-35’s ability to replace the A-10. | US Air Force / WATM

Members of Congress, notably Arizona Republicans Sen. John McCain, a former Navy pilot, and Rep. Martha McSally, who flew A-10s during her Air Force career, fiercely opposed the move, and included language in the bill that would prohibit retirement of the Warthog until the Air Force could prove the F-35 is able to perform similar missions as effectively on the battlefield.

In October, Air Force Materiel Command chief Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski said the depot line for the A-10 was cranking back up as part of an effort to keep the Cold War-era aircraft flying “indefinitely.”

The planes, which entered service in 1976 and have deployed to the Middle East, Europe and the Pacific, have played an outsized role in the air campaign that began in 2014 against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, helping provide close-air support for Iraqi and U.S. partner forces on the ground. (A-10 fans describe the distinctive sound its seven-barrel 30mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon makes when firing as “brrrt.”)

So the retirement push appears to have dissipated — at least, for now.

Indeed, the Air Force’s budget request for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 includes modest funding for A-10 modifications in coming years. The service over the past decade worked with Boeing Co. to replace the wings on 173 of the aircraft as part of a program scheduled to wrap up this year.

Also Read: This pilot landed his F-15 with only one wing

For fiscal 2018, the service asked for $6 million in procurement funding to upgrade the A-10 with the latest version of the satellite-based transponder known as the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, or ADS-B, to comply with a Federal Aviation Administration rule for the new technology, according to budget documents.

In addition, the service requested $17.5 million in research and development funding to test the ADS-B Out software on the A-10 squadrons through 2022, budget documents show.

This work “extends the viability and survivability” of the aircraft, according to an Air Force spokeswoman who spoke to Military.com on background because she wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the budget request. “As long as we can continue to fund these fleets, they will be survivable and lethal.”

Through the wing replacement program and maintenance work, the Air Force wants to preserve the longevity of the aircraft, potentially by doubling its life from 8,000 flight hours to 16,000 flight hours.

In an interview with FlightGlobal earlier this year, then-Air Combat Commander Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle suggested new wings on the plane could keep it flying into the 2030s.

The spokeswoman couldn’t say whether this program would be expanded into future years.

“This is exactly why we need long-term budget stability and flexibility — no longer reacting to make tradeoff decisions year to year,” she said. “We’re not in the position right now, but we don’t know” what could happen next year.

Articles

These are the only 2 subs that sank enemy ships in combat since 1945

Submarines were very proficient ship-killers in World War II. Nazi U-boats hit 3,474 Allied ships. Allied submarines in the Pacific sank 1,314 ships from Japan’s navy and merchant marine.


But since 1945, submarines have had a mostly dry spell. In fact, most of the warshots fired by subs since then have been Tomahawk cruise missiles on land targets – something Charles Lockwood and Karl Donitz would have found useful.

There are only two submarines that have sunk enemy ships in the more than 70 years since World War II ended.

This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King
PNS Hangor deploys in the early days of the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

1. PNS Hangor

The sub that provides the first break in the post World War II dry spell is from Pakistan. The Pakistani submarine PNS Hangor — a French-built Daphne-class boat — was the vessel that pulled it off during operations in the Arabian Sea during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War.

According to Military-Today.com, a Daphne-class vessel displaced 1,043 tons, had a top speed of 16 knots, and had 12 22-inch torpedo tubes (eight forward, four aft), each pre-loaded.

On Dec. 9, 1971, the Hangor detected two Indian frigates near its position. The submarine’s captain dove deep and got ready to fight.

This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King
INS Khukri, a Blackwood-class frigate that holds the distinction of being the first ship to be sunk by an enemy submarine since World War II. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

India had sent two Blackwood-class frigates, INS Khukri and INS Kirpan, out of three built for them by the United Kingdom to patrol in the area. These frigates were designed to hunt submarines. Only this time, the sub hunted them.

According to Bharat-Rakshak.com, the Hangor fired a torpedo at the Kirpan, which dodged. Then the Khukri pressed in for an attack. The Hangor sent a torpedo at the Khukri, and this time scored a hit that left the Indian frigate sinking. The Kirpan tried to attack again, and was targeted with another torpedo for her trouble.

The Kirpan evaded a direct hit, and Indian and Pakistani versions dispute whether that frigate was damaged. The Hangor made her getaway.

It didn’t do India that much harm, though. India won that war, securing the independence of what is now Bangladesh. Pakistan, though, has preserved the Hangor as a museum.

This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King
This 2006 photo HMS Conqueror (on the right in the foreground) show her awaiting scrapping. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

2. HMS Conqueror

Just over 10 years after PNS Hangor ended the dry spell, HMS Conqueror got on the board – and made history herself. The Conqueror so far is the only nuclear submarine to sink an enemy warship in combat.

The Conqueror, a 5,400 ton Churchill-class submarine, was armed with six 21-inch torpedo tubes. With a top speed of 28 knots, she also didn’t have to come up to recharge batteries. That enabled her to reach the South Atlantic after Argentina’s 1982 invasion of the Falklands, touching off the Falklands War.

This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King
The General Belgrano underway prior to the Falklands War. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In a sense, the Argentinean cruiser ARA Gen. Belgrano — formerly known as USS Phoenix (CL 46) — really didn’t stand a chance. GlobalSecurity.org notes that the 12,300 ton cruisers were armed with 15 six-inch guns, eight five-inch guns, and a host of lighter anti-aircraft guns.

As the Gen. Belgrano approached the exclusionary zone declared by the Brits, the Conqueror began to track the cruiser. Finally, on May 2, 1982, she got the orders to attack. The Conqueror fired three Mark 8 torpedoes and scored two hits on the cruiser. The General Belgrano went down with 323 souls.

The Conqueror’s attack sent the rest of the Argentinean fleet running back to port. The British eventually re-took the Falkland Islands. The Conqueror is presently awaiting scrapping after being retired in 1990.

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This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I

Great thinkers through history have written for centuries that there is nothing more wasteful of potential talent than war. Young men and women who might have gone on to do great things are mowed down senselessly in wartime, and what we may have gained is forever lost to speculation. Few embody this more than Henry Moseley, a physicist killed by a sniper at the age of 27 during World War I.


Born into a privileged family with both parents being highly educated scientists themselves, Moseley attended the standard progression of private schools, including Eton, as any English boy of social rank would be expected to. He demonstrated his brilliance from an early age, and eventually studied under the famed Sir Ernest Rutherford, considered by many scientists to be the father of modern nuclear physics.

At Oxford, Moseley personally built X-ray spectrometers to study atomic structures. During this process, he also invented the first atomic battery, which is used to this day to power pacemakers and other specialized devices that need compact, long-lasting power sources.

This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King
Henry Moseley before enlisting in the British Army. (Photo: Oxford archives)

During his research, Moseley built on a number of theories proposed by other scientific giants like Dmitri Mendeleev, the creator of the periodic table of elements. The periodic table was riddled with inconsistencies, and it was Moseley who refined it using the number of protons to classify elements by atomic number rather than atomic mass, giving much more precise measurements. He even used this method to predict the existence of elements that had not been discovered yet. Moseley’s Law, concerning the X-rays emitted by atoms which could be used to quantify their structures, is one of the greatest breakthroughs in the history of physics.

Moseley was considering where to move forward with his burgeoning career when World War I broke out in 1914. To the considerable dismay of his family, friends and colleagues who tried their best to convince him to stay, he decided to enlist in the British Army. He considered it his duty to go. He joined the Royal Engineers as a telecommunications specialist, which put his considerable skill with technical equipment to good use.

Moseley eventually deployed to the disastrous Gallipoli campaign in Turkey, where he served as a communications officer. Intended to knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war, the campaign turned into a slaughterhouse for British and Commonwealth forces and is considered one of Winston Churchill’s greatest mistakes.

During the Battle of Suvla Bay, Moseley was transmitting orders over a radio telephone when a Turkish sniper shot him in the head on Aug. 10, 1915. The scientific community had lost one of its most promising members in a ditch at the Dardanelles. Moseley clearly felt that he was fulfilling an obligation to his country.

This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King
British troops advancing at Gallipoli in August 1915. (Photo: British Ministry of Defence)

Following his death, the British government made it policy that distinguished scientists would not be allowed to sign on for combat duty. His loss was felt keenly by many of his colleagues. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Robert Millikan said in 1923:

“In a research which is destined to rank as one of the dozen most brilliant in conception, skillful in execution, and illuminating in results in the history of science, a young man but twenty-six years old threw open the windows through which we can now glimpse the subatomic world with a definiteness and certainty never even dreamed of before. Had the European war had no other result than the snuffing out of this young life, that alone would make it one of the most hideous and most irreparable crimes in history.”

Henry Moseley is buried in a military cemetery in Turkey near where he died. He has a fellowship in his honor at the University of Oxford.

What he may have accomplished if the war had not come along, we will never know. But he died doing what he thought needed to be done. He is remembered as a man who expanded our understanding of the universe while showing great courage.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Mattis was obsessed with a certain day in history

Everyone who is a fan of veteran Marine Corps General and onetime Secretary of Defense James Mattis knows of his affinity for reading, for consuming as much knowledge on a subject as he can before giving his opinion. His lifestyle of eschewing a family in favor of a lifetime of learning and dedication to duty even earned him the moniker “The Warrior Monk.” This well-known devotion to knowledge makes it all the more interesting to discover Mattis was “obsessed” with the date August 1914.


This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King

From the Iraq War to the Trump Administration, Mattis is always the man for the job.

In journalist Bob Woodward’s book, “Fear: Trump in the White House” one Trump Administration official who spoke highly of then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis told Woodward that the former general was “obsessed with August 1914… the idea that you take actions, military actions, that are seen as prudent planning and the unintended consequences are that you can’t get off the war train.”

Specifically, Mattis was “obsessed” with historian Barbara Tuchman’s World War I history book, “The Guns of August,” which has a spot on every reading list he ever published for the troops.

In June 1914, as we should all know by now, Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot by an assassin in Sarajevo. Austria-Hungary issues an ultimatum to Serbia as European allies began to muster their troops throughout the continent during July of 1914. At the end of July, the Austro-Hungarian Empire declares war on Serbia, shelling Belgrade just days later. As July turns to August, Serbia’s ally Russia begins to mobilize for war. That’s when Germany demanded Russia stop preparing for war, which Russia ignored.

On Aug. 1, 1914, Germany declared war on Russia. Russia’s allies began preparing for war in response to their mutual defense treaties. Germany then declared war on France and invaded neutral Belgium, forcing Great Britain and its Empire to declare war on Germany. Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia. By Aug. 7, 1914, much of the world was at war. By the end of August, the fighting had spread to Africa and the Chinese mainland. What started as a regional dispute that could have been mediated led to millions of lives lost in a brutal, industrialized war machine.

This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King

German defenders of Tsingtao, China, who were fighting against the Japanese invaders because a Serbian shot an Austrian archduke in Bosnia.

In this context, Mattis was trying to keep the United States and NATO out of a war with Russia, which (according to Woodward’s book) seemed like a real possibility if the Trump Administration had enacted some of its more sweeping changes to American defense policy. Mattis was also trying to convince Trump that the U.S. needed to be in NATO, and if NATO didn’t already exist, it should be created – because Russia could not win a war against NATO, in Mattis’ opinion.

Russia had privately warned Mattis that if a war broke out in the Baltics, the Russians would use tactical nuclear weapons against NATO forces. Mattis and Gen. Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, began to think Russia as an existential threat to the United States. Even so, Mattis was determined to keep Russia and NATO from sliding into a similar war via a web of alliances.

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This Iraq War vet and congressman treated the wounded during Alexandria shooting

Moments after Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the U.S. House Majority Whip, was shot in the hip during an attack on a practice for the upcoming Congressional baseball game, an Iraq War vet was treating his wound.


“You never expect a baseball field in America to feel like being back in a combat zone in Iraq, but this morning it did,” Rep. Brad Wenstrup tweeted. The Ohio Republican congressman later told an aide the only difference between the Alexandria shooting and Iraq was being “without his weapon.”

This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King
Maj. Gen. Mary Link, commanding general for Army Reserve Medical Command, stands next to Congressman Bill Pascrell from New Jersey’s 9th district; Congressman Josh Gottheimer, from New Jersey’s 5th district; Dr. Ihor Sawczuk, Hackensack University Medical Center President; and Col. Brad Wenstrup (far right), commander of 7457th Medical Backfill Bn. (U.S. Army photo)

According to a report by WLWT.com, Wenstrup began to treat his wounded colleague after Scalise dragged himself off the field. Wenstrup had seen wounds like that before he had ever entered politics.

According to the official biography on his web site, that is because Rep. Wentrup is also Col. Wenstrup in the U.S. Army Reserve – and he’s has served in the Army Reserve since 1998, after his sister had a battle with leukemia. During a tour in Iraq with the 344th Combat Support Hospital, Wenstrup was a combat surgeon, which he described as “the worst thing that ever happened to me, and the best thing I ever got to do.”

This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King
U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup of Ohio, right, a Sunset Parade guest of honor, exchanges greetings with a U.S. Marine Corps gunnery sergeant during a parade at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va., June 18, 2013. A Sunset Parade was held every Tuesday during the summer months. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tia Dufour/Released)

According to a profile at the University of Cincinnati’s website, Wenstrup was the chief of surgery at Abu Ghraib, the location of a scandal over prisoner treatment. He treated Iraqi civilians, detainees at the prison, and wounded troops.

“I remember one Marine we lost on the table, and the anesthesiologist saying, ‘I had breakfast with him this morning.’ Or having to tell a group of Marines their buddy didn’t make it. Those were the tough days,” he told the college’s magazine.

This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King

He had good days, too, including helping to treat a four-month old girl who had pneumonia. Eventually, the doctors figured out the girl also needed gluten-free formula, and raised over $400 to help make arrangements for a U.S. company to send the girl’s father the right baby food.

“Those were the good days,” he said.

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The first secretary of war may have been America’s greatest blue falcon

Secretary of War Henry Knox was a hero of the American Revolution, the father of the American artillery corps and the namesake of a major U.S. base.


Too bad he was a huge blue falcon, otherwise known as a “buddy f-cker.”

This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King
Henry Knox, painted here without his distinctive blue wings. (Portrait: Public Domain)

Veterans of the Revolutionary War were promised large land bounties in exchange for their service, but crazy rules were placed on the land bounties that limited soldiers’ abilities to actually settle on it or farm. Most vets were forced to sell the land cheap to speculators.

Since they couldn’t move to or farm their actual lands granted by bounty, many vets began going to plots that they believed to be unowned or free. They build farms and improved this land with the belief that they could buy it or use their land bounty to claim it down the road. Land speculators, including Henry Knox, found out about the improved lands and bought them out from under the veterans.

Then the speculators evicted the settlers or charged exorbitant rents. In Henry Knox’s case, this meant that he was buying up land in Maine and throwing out men who had previously served under him.

Joseph Plumb Martin moved to Maine on rumors of free land. But Knox bought the deed to his land and started charging huge rents. Knox fought Plumb and other veterans in court and sent surveyors to assert his claims.

This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King
Henry Knox shows his true colors. (Portrait: Public Domain. Graphics: WATM Logan Nye)

Martin and others who’d been blue falconed by Knox went bankrupt. Martin later testified that he had, “no real nor personal estate, nor any income whatever, my necessary bedding and wearing apparel excepted, except two cows, six sheep, one pig.”

In Henry Knox’s defense, some of the lands the veterans were living on belonged to his wife’s family before the war. Knox’s father-in-law was a land speculator and loyalist who wanted America to stay a part of Britain. When the Revolution turned against him, he and his family — but not Knox and his wife — fled the colonies. Knox’s wife then inherited much of the land and Knox enforced her claims.

But, other land was purchased out from under veterans and Knox didn’t hesitate to kick his former soldiers out.

And this wasn’t the only time Knox had “b f-ed” his troops.

While most soldiers at Valley Forge were fighting starvation and cold, Knox was partying at Washington’s table, eating lavish meals and watching entertainment.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The story of the legendary Black Samurai

The Black Samurai, despite sounding like a name that’d be more at home in a movie or a comic book than the real world, is a genuine nickname given to a mysterious man from feudal Japan, otherwise known only as Yasuke.

The rank of samurai was, of course, considered one of great prestige and it came with a number of perks including a salary, land, a stipend of rice, servants and the ability to kill commoners who offended them without consequence. In regards to that last one, kiri-sute gomen (literally: authorization to cut and leave) was a right granted to samurai that allowed them to kill anyone of a lower rank (even other samurai of lower rank) for any perceived slight against their honor. While this has little to do with the story of Yasuke, we couldn’t not mention the fact that samurai had the ability to basically murder people without consequence, so long as a given set of restrictions was honored, such as doctors and midwives were exempt to a certain extent, that the blow had to come directly after the affront and not later, a witness to the slight was required for proof a slight was in fact made, etc. etc. But in the general case, samurai were of such high standing that dishonoring one in front of a witness was a great way to end one’s life.


Given the highly regarded position samurai enjoyed, it was seldom an honor doled out to foreigners and, as such, there are less than a dozen confirmed examples of a person outside of feudal Japan being allowed to call themselves samurai. Amongst this select group of foreigners, Yasuke not only stands out for being speculated to have been the first, but also because he was the only one who was black.

This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King

Little is known about Yasuke’s past, so little in fact that we know neither where he was born nor his original name. It’s mostly agreed that Yasuke hailed from somewhere in Africa, though which area exactly has never been conclusively established, with Mozambique mentioned most in accounts of his life. This is thanks to the Histoire Ecclesiastique Des Isles Et Royaumes Du Japon written in 1627 by one Francois Solier where he claims Yasuke was from that region. However, it’s not clear what his own source for that information was and he wrote it almost a half century after the last known direct documented evidence of Yasuke.

Whatever the case, originally believed to have been a slave captured sometime in the 1570s by the Portuguese, Yasuke was bought by and became the servant of an Italian Jesuit and missionary called Alessandro Valignano. Valignano was famed for his insistence that missionaries to Japan become fluent with the language, requiring a full two years of study in Japanese, which helped his group stand out and be more successful than others. As for Yasuke, he travelled with and served Valignano for several years until the pair made port in Japan around 1579.

Upon arriving in Japan, as you might expect Yasuke immediately became a subject of intrigue and curiosity, both because of his apparently extremely dark skin and his intimidating stature. Variously described as being between 6 feet 2 inches and 6 feet 5 inches tall, Yasuke towered over the Japanese populace of the period, with males only averaging about 5 feet tall at the time. Beyond his height, he is said to have possessed a powerful, chiselled physique. According to legend, Yasuke’s very presence inspired both terror and curiosity in locals to such an extent that several people were supposedly crushed to death in an attempt to make their way through a large crowd that had gathered to see him. Other stories tell of people breaking down the doors of the places Yasuke was staying just to catch a glimpse.

Yasuke: Story of the African Samurai in Japan

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Whether any of that is true or not, sometime in 1581 while visiting Japan’s capital, Yasuke came to the attention of a man who is considered one of the people ultimately responsible for the unification of Japan, famed Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga. Nobunaga apparently insisted on meeting the mysterious dark-skinned stranger who was causing such a commotion in his city. Upon meeting Yasuke, according to an account by Jesuit Luis Frois, Nobunaga apparently ordered Yaskue to be roughly scrubbed with brushes to prove that his dark skin was real and not artificially done with ash, charcoal, or the like.

It’s from this first meeting that one of the only known accounts of Yasuke’s appearance comes from, with this fateful meeting documented in the Lord Nobunaga Chronicle:

On the 23rd of the 2nd month March 23, 1581, a black page (“kuro-bōzu”) came from the Christian countries. He looked about 26, 24 or 25 by Western count or 27 years old; his entire body was black like that of an ox. The man was healthy and good-looking. Moreover, his strength was greater than that of 10 men…. Nobunaga’s nephew gave him a sum of money at this first meeting.

Presumably thanks to Valignano requiring missionaries to Japan to learn Japanese, it appears at this point he also required it of Yasuke, as Nobunaga was said to have greatly enjoyed conversing with Yasuke and was intrigued to learn about his homeland. He ended up liking Yasuke so much that he eventually took him as his own, or rather officially Valignano gifted him to the warlord.

Nobunaga, who was known to have a fondness for other cultures, which is in part why he was allowing Christian missionaries to operate in the area, gave his newly found confidant the name Yasuke. Although technically still a slave in the sense that he had to serve Nobunaga, Yasuke quickly rose in stature in the eyes of Nobunaga, with Yasuke ultimately given a house, salary, and servants of his own. During his rise, he apparently served as Nobunaga’s weapon bearer and bodyguard and was otherwise seemingly treated as an equal by his peers. Yasuke was also eventually given a katana from Nobunaga, apparently conferring the title of samurai upon him as only samurai were permitted to carry such a weapon at the time. It’s also noteworthy that he wore the traditional armor of the samurai when in battle. Yasuke also had the frequent extreme honor of dining with Nobunaga, something few others were allowed to do.

This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King

Oda Nobunaga.

Yasuke’s time with Nobunaga was cut short, however, when the warlord was betrayed by one of his generals, Akechi Mitsuhide, a year later in 1582. In a nutshell, Nobunaga was at the Honnō-ji temple in Kyoto, taking with him only a contingent of 30 pages and guards. For reasons unknown, though perhaps just a simple power grab, Mitsuhide chose to betray Nobunaga at this point, surrounding the temple and attacking. Yasuke is known to have been there and fought alongside Nobunaga, but ultimately when defeat was imminent as the temple burned around them, Nobunaga chose to commit ritual suicide rather than be captured.

Legend has it, whether true or not isn’t known, that one of Nobunaga’s last acts was to order Yasuke to carry Nobunaga’s head and sword to his son and heir, Oda Nobutada.

Whether he actually did this or not, it is known Yasuke managed to escape and joined Nobutada who himself was under attack at the time by a separate contingent of Mitsuhide’s soldiers at nearby Nijō Castle.

Nobunaga’s son was eventually defeated, committed ritual suicide, and Yasuke was captured by Mitsuhide’s men. Apparently unsure what to do with the foreign samurai, or even whether they should consider him a true samurai or not despite that he wielded the sword and wore the traditional armor, they chose not to kill him and instead left it to Mitsuhide to tell them what to do.

In the end, while there is some contention, it would seem Mitsuhide decided to dishonor Yasuke by not allowing him to commit ritual suicide and instead had him returned to the Jesuits. Whether Mitsuhide did this out of pity or contempt for Yasuke is a matter of contention, though it’s noteworthy that there was little in the way of racism towards black people in Japan at the time because so few black people ever visited the country anyway.

From here, as unlikely as it’s going to sound, Yasuke, the giant, Japanese speaking black, now ronin, samurai who supposedly caused crushing crowds wherever he went, disappeared from history, even in the Jesuit’s own accounts. This has led some to speculate that he did not stay with the Jesuits and even some speculation that, if becoming a samurai wasn’t enough, that he became a pirate after this, meaning his moniker could have potentially been not just The Black Samurai, but the ultimate in badass nicknames- The Black Pirate Samurai, though there is unfortunately no hard documented evidence that he actually became a pirate.

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

Also read:

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  • MIGHTY HISTORY

    How a civilian aircraft in distress set a world glider record

    Air Transat Flight 236 was on its routine route from Toronto, bound for Lisbon, Portugal. It was a day like any other for the experienced crew – at least it started off like a normal day. By the end of it, 306 people would be saved from extreme danger, and two pilots would set a world record, all while pretty much arriving at their destination.


    Flight TS236 was a late-night flight from Toronto to Lisbon, taking off just before 9 p.m. Eastern Time on Aug. 4, 2001. It took off without incident, fully fueled and flew pretty much normally for the first four hours of its flight. But what the pilots didn’t know was the fuel line to their number two engine had ruptured and was leaking fuel the entire time. Still, everything on the instruments read normal – until they didn’t.

    The first sign of trouble came with a high oil pressure warning and a low oil temperature warning. With there being no obvious cause of the oil warnings, the seasoned pilots determined it must be a false warning. They reported the situation but continued with the flight. An hour later, they got another warning. This time, the plane was warning them of a fuel imbalance. Easily remedied, the pilots began to transfer fuel from the left wing to the right, pouring the fuel right out through the leak.

    Ten minutes later, they radioed a fuel emergency.

    At the controls of TS236 were probably the best pilots to be in this situation. First Officer Dirk de Jager was just 28 years old had nearly 5,000 hours at the stick of an airplane, and hundreds of those were with the Airbus 330 he was copiloting. Captain Robert Piché was 48 and had more than 16,000 hours in an aircraft. Luckily for everyone aboard, Capt. Piché was also an experienced glider pilot. He would need those skills in the coming hours.

    Five hours after taking off from Toronto, engine #2 on Air Transat Flight 236 flamed out due to lack of fuel. Three minutes later, its other engine flamed out. To make matters worse, without their main power source, the plane’s flaps, brakes, and spoilers were without power. Falling at a rate of 2,000 feet every second, the pilots reasoned they had a good 15 minutes or so before they would have to ditch in the ocean. But luck was on their side, they were coming up on Lajes Field Air Base in Portugal.

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    Capt. Piché actually had to do a number of turns to lower his altitude before coming into Lajes Field. Almost seven hours after taking off, the plane touched down, and it touched down in a rough way. With no brakes, the landing gear locked up, the tired deflated and the landing gear took massive damage from the impact. A number of the passengers and crew sustained some injuries, but everyone was alive – and in Portugal.

    TS236 glided powerlessly and with no fuel for almost 20 minutes, flying some 75 miles, setting the world record for the longest glider flight. The Airbus 330 Piché landed that day is still in service and is now known as the “Azores Glider.”

    Articles

    This is how Kim Jong Un picks Pyongyang’s traffic cops

    North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un — already notorious for a “Hangover”-style blackout — has now managed to pull a page (or two) from the playbook of disgraced former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes.


    According to a report from the Washington Free Beacon, the dictator requires that applicants to the highly-respected Pyongyang traffic cop corps must be between 16 and 26-years-old, at least 5-feet, 4-inches tall, a high school graduate, and not married.

    Attractiveness and health are also job requirements. Successful applicants will get about 3,500 North Korean won per month – a good salary by North Korean standards but which amounts to about $30.

    This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King
    A Pyongyang traffic cop in the rain. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

    The status of those women goes beyond their high pay. They reportedly are given preference for careers and post-graduate studies, free housing and health care, and about 60 percent more food than the average North Korean citizen.

    Men in North Korea compete fiercely for the affections of the Pyongyang Traffic Girls, or “PTGs,” and there is even a website devoted to them.

    Why these women get such solicitude is unknown. The London Daily Star reported that speculation centers around an incident three years ago when one traffic cop reportedly saved the life of the “tubby tyrant.”

    The cop was reportedly named a Hero of the Republic, the highest honor North Korea can give, but the North Korean government has refused to explain the circumstances, leading to speculation that the incident involved either a traffic accident or an assassination attempt.

    The traffic cops man about 50 posts in the North Korean capital.

    MIGHTY HISTORY

    This is why Fidel Castro froze the body of an American airman

    Lieutenant Thomas “Pete” Ray, a member of the Alabama Air National Guard, was shot down during the disastrous 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. When he was found by Cuban soldiers on the ground, he was shot along with his flight engineer Leo Baker. Unlike Baker, Ray’s body was frozen for the next 18 years.


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    At the time of the invasion, the CIA denied any American involvement. The agency also denied recruiting civilians in the Alabama Air National Guard to provide air support and hit Fidel Castro’s field headquarters with Napalm. But survivors of the failed venture say they definitely were involved.

    Castro wanted to prove the Americans were not only responsible but they were providing real support to the invasion. That’s why he kept the airman on ice. But the U.S. government would not take responsibility and so could not repatriate Ray’s body.

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    The flag of assault brigade 2506, who invaded the Bay of Pigs in 1961.

    The CIA would have to admit they were involved. Which meant they would have to admit their failure. Cuba told the world it had Ray’s body, so the body was no secret. The Cubans, according to the LA Times, were puzzled. In December 1979, the cuban government learned that Ray’s daughter was attempting to negotiate the release of her father’s body.

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    Ray’s body was held for 18 years. The CIA denied involvement in the Bay of Pigs invasion until 1998 when they admitted U.S. pilots were shot down. But the agency never owned up to knowing where Ray’s body was. The LA Times forced the CIA to admit that Ray was one of theirs.

    The CIA waited until the events surrounding the death of Ray and other members of their secret air force were declassified. They also revealed that Ray was awarded the CIA’s highest honor, the Distinguished Intelligence Cross, and his name was added to the Book of Honor in the foyer of CIA headquarters.

    Articles

    South Korea wants North Korea to host some 2018 Winter Olympics events

    South Korea’s sports minister, Do Jong-hwan, suggested that North Korea host some events at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic games in an attempt to engage Kim Jong Un and promote peace, the Guardian reports.


    The idea reflects a larger effort by South Korea’s newly elected President Moon Jae-in, who seeks to revive the old “sunshine policy” whereby South Korea makes overtures of friendship and unity to the North to ease military tensions.

    Moon has also pushed for both Koreas to host the 2030 World Cup, saying “if the neighboring countries in north-east Asia, including North and South Korea, can host the World Cup together, it would help to create peace.”

    This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King
    President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

    North Korean athletes have made limited appearances at global sporting events like the World Cup and the Olympics, with two gold medals in Rio’s 2016 games. In soccer, the North Koreans haven’t fared as well.

    Do said the Winter Games could go down as the “peace Olympics,” and help to “thaw lingering tensions” between the North and South, according to the Korea Herald.

    But building stadiums and holding games in North Korea would raise two major questions: How sound is investment in a nation that continues to threaten its neighbors and enemies with an ever-evolving nuclear missile program, and would international travelers feel at ease visiting the country that just released a US detainee in a coma?

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